Photo: Malcolm Johnson

Balbir Singh was born in the Punjab and came with his parents to England as a child, growing up in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

With a love of language and literature, and an instinctive urge to move, Balbir’s restlessness found expression in sport, particularly long distance running, swimming and cycling.

Though he began studying law, a chance meeting led him to the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, (NSCD) in Leeds, a change in direction that would prove to be a turning point for Balbir.

On graduating from NSCD, another chance encounter led Balbir to discovering Kathak, the classical North Indian Dance form, which until that point had been a closed book for the young contemporary-trained dancer.

Balbir’s discovery of Kathak immediately felt like coming home – though not for the expected reasons.

In fact, it was not Kathak’s cultural provenance, but its precise and mathematical use of numerically defined rhythms that entranced him. Balbir had always had a tendency, sometimes bordering on an obsession, with numbers and letters. Here at last was an outlet for his seemingly limitless capacity for finding pattern in the shapes and numbers of everyday life.

This, coupled with what he himself describes as a compulsive desire to stay busy, led Balbir further into Kathak choreography as a way of making sense of the myriad thoughts and ideas spontaneously suggesting themselves to him.

Ancient as the Kathak tradition is, the art form is nothing if not dynamic. Indeed throughout this formative period, Balbir was encouraged by his guru, leading Kathak pioneer and powerhouse Padmashri Guru Padma Shri Guru P P MBE to explore new ways of combining the Kathak and contemporary sensibilities to express his emerging artistic vision.