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Aavaratna News Letter April 2020 Edition

Quintessence- An Odissi dance duet

Performed on 21st March 2020 by Kalaivani Kumareswaran and Aarthi Subash
Presented by Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, Singapore for its Raaga Series.

Before the country was gripped with the cancellation news across all entertainment venues, the Odissi dance lovers got an opportunity to watch a captivating duet performance by two illustrious and beautiful dancers from Temple of Fine Arts, Kalai Kumareswaran and Aarthi Subash and choreographed by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra. The performance opened with one of the most familiar embodiment of duality- Ardhanariswara. As the dancers depicted duality, of Shiva and Shakti as opposing forces of Grit and Grace; they seamlessly delivered the message together in unison- as if they were one. The dance performance was inspired by the author Darlene Broke’s online magazine Grace and Grit project which is dedicated to raise and inspire strong, passionate women. While the opening left an indelible impact of this concept, what followed rest of the evening was a traditional repertoire that didn’t seem to have much relevance to the Grace and Grit project. As Odissi performances are rare treats for the Singapore audience, it was enjoyable to watch some of the most celebrated choreographies by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. “Ahe Nila Saila” - a song by Salabeg, a Muslim devotee of Lord Jagannath was performed by Subash; Hamswadhani Pallavi by the duo; followed by Shri Ramachandra by Kumareswaran and finally Mokshya by the duo. As a regular rasika of Raga series, we hope that seasoned dancers who are given this opportunity challenge themselves in presenting new thoughtful works that sets the example for the next generation of traditional dancers to not only execute what has been taught in class but to make it yours.

From the backstage chatter, we understand that the production has multiple lessons learnt from  business continuity perspective in the wake of COVID19. From live music to recorded music due to travel restrictions; from staging one show to repeating it twice due to social distancing measures; from ticket sales to technical support; the success of Quintessence was in its adaptive execution.

 

Abhinaya- Musical Expressions of Dance

Performed on 15th March 2020 by Vaishnavi Anand and Srividya Sriram.
Presented by Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, Singapore for its Raaga Series.

It was a novel attempt to present a Carnatic music concert using the content from various classical dance repertoire. Legendary composer-musician Dr Rajkumar Bharathi from India, who has been appointed by Esplanade to mentor Singapore based musicians as part of the Raaga Mentorship series, selected this repertoire for this performance and painstakingly trained the musicians for this presentation. With his experience and his eye for details, his mentorship made this experimental work an enjoyable experience.

The concert featured a variety of items: Mallari (a temple processional music, which has been often adopted as an invocatory performance by Bharatanatyam dancers), two Jatheewarams  and two Pada Varnams (one traditional and the other modern), a padam from the Mohiniattam tradtion, followed by an item in kuchippudi repertoire from its renowned Bhama Kalapam; and concluded with two thillanas of two composers of different eras.  Kudos to the musicians who pulled off this dance music concert in the absence of a dancer who usually performs to the music played by the musicians. The selection of repertoire items, juxtaposing  traditional compositions with modern ones, was an intelligent choice, in educating the audience in a delightful way.

As most of the musicians in the team may not have had the experience of accompanying a dancer, the process of engaging the audience to visualise the dancer while listening to this concert, was clearly a challenge. We particularly missed the cross rhythmic interaction between the percussionist and the dancer, which is a predominant feature in any repertoire.

Having Bhavani Prasad an experienced Veena artist from India as a guest musician enhanced the performance quality and aesthetics.  Engaging a learned stalwart like Dr Rajkumar Bharathi for mentorship is refreshing. However, we hope Esplanade opens up this door for locally trained musicians to learn from the experts from India as part of the Raga series.

 

Goddesses of Words- Angry Indian Women

Performed on 15th March, 2020 by Grace Kalaiselvi

The Angry Indian Women, is the second play in the Goddess of Words series featuring poems from Singaporean writers, Pooja Nansi and Deborah Emmanuel. Performed to a packed audience at the Play Den at Arts House as part of Textures 2020, the highlight of this performance was stories from personal experiences of the performers.

The play featured three actors dressed in pure white who gradually turned red, as the vermillion smeared on the stage consumed them. This theatrical tool and others like use of gold masks, high stools, sharp lighting and flute effectively created subtle yet dramatic moments that both endeared and startled the audience. Many of the themes discussed by the actors empathised with the experiences of Singaporean women of Indian origin. Suppression of anger from childhood, treatment by others in the context of race, culture, sex were well executed by the three actors. The play sheds light on the deep emotions which manifest itself into anger, frustration, depression and dark humour. For some audiences, this play was illuminating, being unaware of the inner feelings of Indian women. Director, Grace Kalaiselvi used  theatre to to convince the audience that their lives matter and the angry voices of the Indian Woman deserves to be heard. This work bears a deeper discussions across all members of Society, regardless of race, origin, culture or sex.

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