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June-July round-up of the virtual stage: From preparation for the re-opening of the studios in compliance with safe distancing measures to the continuation of digital performances online, from in depth interviews to the launch of digital live shows; from solo performances to group choreographies, here is a digest of the activities by Apasrasa Arts teams across the world!

On 27th June senior Bharatanatyam dancer and mental health doctor, Deva Priya Appan was interviewed by Simon Lim in The Sensitive Man Podcast, Episode 4 on Classical Performing Arts. Deva Priya Appan spoke at length about her dance journey. She shared her international dance tours to Australia and South African and her recent concept performance, Duality with fellow dance, Seema Hari Kumar in February 2020, as part of the memorial anniversary of Apsaras Arts founder, Mrs Neila Satyalingam. She spoke about the concept ideas showcased which included conflict and harmony in their repertoire and discussed the way Bharatanatyam costumes are created and the accentuation of the eyes in make-up and how accessories enhance movement. Through this podcast, she competently explained the essence of Bharatanatyam through rhythm and expressions. She also shared about the importance of mental health and how happiness and wellness can be achieved. Deva Priya also emphasised the pressing need to promote culture and heritage in society and how our identity can be shaped through the practice of dance.

On 5th July, on the occasion of Guru Purnima, Apsara Arts released a dance video of Ādi Shankarāchārya's Guru Ashtakam performed by our company dancers Seema Hari Kumar, Maanasa Sri Ganesh, Periyachi Roshini, Nagalakshmi Palaniappan and Janani Arun Kumar and choreographed by Mohanapriyan Thavarajah. A meaningful project as we reflect on the universal idea of the preceptor of wisdom and knowledge, the Guru.

Watch the performance here:

On 11th July, Soumee De performed at the Nritya Mohana Festival – an international online concert curated by Kathak Gurukul of Kolkata, Sahana Dance Institute, this is a month-long festival in July to tide over the lockdown restrictions with positivity generated by Indian classical dancers around the globe. Soumee started her performance with an invocation to Goddess Parvathy, Srimata Srimaharagni Srimat Simhasaneswari. Soumee has choreographed this Mangalacharan to the music composed by the talented Singaporean artiste, Chitra Poornima and this piece has been set to Raagam Revathi. Soumee’s next presentation was a pure dance item called Pallavi, which means “to elaborate.” In a tapestry of melody, rhythm and footwork – this Pallavi was set to Raag Meghand Jhampa Taal, composed by Pradeep Kumar Das and choreographed by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra. Soumee concluded the recital with an abhinaya item on an Oriya poem written by poet Benudhara. “She Shyama Chhabi Chhataka” is an old village poem voicing a young Gopi and how she can resist the sweet torment of Lord Krishna’s charming presence. Based on Raag Madhura Gurjari and Aadi Taal, music has been composed by Guru Gopal Chandra Panda and choreography by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra.

On 12th July, Mohanapriyan Thavarajah performed live at the “Alangkara” online festival of Indian Classical Dances presented by Shruti, Adelaide. Mohanapriyan presented a thematic Bharatanatyam repertoire entitled “Thandav- the masculine dance of Lord Shiva.” He began with an invocatory piece on Lord Shiva’s imagery through Ravana’s Shiva Thandava Shotram. The verses describe his matted hair as the forest, with flowing wet locks that dampen his neck. Therein hangs the divine snake like a garland and his drum playing incessantly. This continuous beat brings Shiva into a trance, launching into a vigorous Tandava dance, showering his blessings of prosperity on the universe. His next piece was on the composition of Adi Shankaracharya’s Kalabairavashtakam which describes the attributes of Bharaiva – the fierce form of Shiva. This choreography brought out different episodes such as Bhairava’s harsh penance as he wanders the earth with Brahma’s skull as his begging bowl. This KalaBhairavashtakam is recited by priests in the famed Kalabhairava Temple in Benares before they bless devotees with a tap of the Lord’s staff. The concluding piece was an unusual interpretation invoking the spirit of ultimate bliss and the boundless joy found in the universe for every sincere seeker. This piece, composed by Dr Rajkumar Bharathi, combines two words in Sanskrit – “Anantam” (Boundless) and “Aanadnam” (Bliss). Here, the choreography represents the pure state of boundless bliss within every being. Mohanapriyan said “This festival organised by Mr Srirama and his team was a wonderful opportunity and was organised with a professional touch – from engaging the artistes ahead of the performance, organising a tech-run and ensuring a smooth festival. Presenting at such digital festivals gives hope to artistes like myself that we will return soon to the theatres.” The festival also featured performances by 2 Apsaras Arts alumni, Sangeetha Venkitt Karthik and Somi Lindsay, from Apsaras Arts at Adelaide.

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