Ten Bollywood professionals, 30 community performers and a whole lot of sequins came together for an uplifting show that had the Mela’s main tent packed to capacity, with neck-craning room only. The narrative (boy meets girl, dad hates boy, boy proves himself, big wedding) was as clear as mud, helped little by the narrator’s intermittent banter, but I suspect nobody cared. Each costume change was more glamorous than the last, each dance routine a dazzling whirl of fast choreography. Most of the time, separating the professionals from the amateurs was impossible – although the pleasure written across the faces of the local talent was a good indicator.
Over in the World Dance Feste tent, things were a little more hit and miss. On the upside, the programme was truly diverse, taking us from Chinese, Indian and Spanish dance to hip hop and tango. Seeing community and youth groups share a stage with professional dance companies is also a welcome feature each year – and, to be honest, it was the former rather than the latter that brought the most joy.
Etta Ermini Dance Theatre’s disappointing “battle” between a breakdancer and BMX rider featured a few impressive bike tricks – but in an era of wall-to-wall circus and hip hop, Roadworks was below par. Canadian Moi & Lesautres also felt an odd fit, with their “reinvented flamenco” show, La Otra Orilla, too leftfield and slow for a Mela audience.
Fresh from her appearance on the BBC’s Young Dancer of the Year programme, Vidya Patel was a wonderfully fresh presence on stage. Winner of the south Asian final, but ultimately losing out in the grand final, it’s clear to see why she so impressed the judges. With a strong grasp of Kathak technique, the Birmingham teenager delivered two brief solos in both a traditional and contemporary style, leaving us wanting more.
But the biggest smile on this reviewer’s face came from Edinburgh choreographer Ashley Jack and her all-female streetdance crew, Mini Jackers. Drawn from an invitation only dance class, the group is populated by young teenagers pumped full of a desire to entertain. Great music, strong choreography – a true delight.