Blog

By Seema Hari Kumar

With the welcoming transition into phase 3 declared by Singapore government, the Darshana Series presented by Apsaras Arts made its return to the live stage after a year-long hiatus. Darshana was conceived as an intimate dance series providing soloists an opportunity to connect with their audience and experience ‘sahrdaya’ or ultimate unison between the artiste and rasika. This objective of the Darshana series came to fruition so poignantly with “Sakhi – a solo presentation by Meera Balasubramanian” on 20-21 Feb 2021 at the Stamford Arts Centre Black Box. Centred around the timeless theme of friendship, Sakhi dwelled on the important role a friend plays as a peer, mentor, guide, messenger and companion in one’s life.

The Singapore government’s announcement to enter Phase-3 on 28 Dec 2020 sparked a ray of hope to artistes, arts groups and connoisseurs who have been starved of physical audiences and a live theatre experience the past year.
With this transition, the Darshana Series presented by Apsaras Arts made its return to the live stage after a year-long hiatus. Darshana was conceived as an intimate dance series providing soloists an opportunity to connect with their audience and experience ‘sahrdaya’ or ultimate unison between the artiste and rasika.

This important objective of the Darshana series came to fruition so poignantly with “Sakhi – a solo presentation by Meera Balasubramanian” on 20-21 Feb 2021 at the Stamford Arts Centre Black Box. The avid reception to the live show was evident when the intended Show on 20 Feb 2021 got sold out within days of tickets going live on sale, prompting a second seating the following day. This makes it the first Darshana performance to be staged over two days.

The first Show was presided by Mr Rajan Krishnan, CEO of KTC Group and Chairman of the Hindu Advisory Board; and the second Show featured Ms Kuntha Chelvanathan, Global Procurement Capability Leader at Ernst & Young.
Centred around the timeless theme of friendship, Sakhi dwelled on the important role a friend plays as a peer, mentor, guide, messenger and companion in one’s life. Meera’s choice of portraying the varying degree of congeniality between the nayika and her friend was apparent with the clever choice of performance items. Beginning with a message that a magical swan brings to Damayanthi, Meera depicted a heroine in anticipation in her opening sequence choreographed by Vikas Parayalil. In the centrepiece of her margam that evening, Meera performed the “Swamiyai Varacholadi” varnam, a classic composition by Sri Thendayathupani Pillai in raagam Purvikalyani. In this item, the heroine grows increasingly impatient about seeing her Lord Kumarasamy and implores her sakhi in a myriad of ways to bring Him to her. Choreographed by Smt Rama Vaidyanathan, the varnam showcased a multitude of sancharis that were interpreted so intelligently to entertain whilst breathing new life into this traditional treasure.

Following the varnam, the audience were treated to another jewel from Swathi Thirunal’s compositions – “Kaminimani”, set to ragam Purva Kamodari. Choreographed by Smt Bragha Bessell, this padam is interlaced with the covet sakhi’s lies and the all-knowing nayika’s play-along act, best showcasing Meera’s strength in abhinaya. The evening concluded with a thillana in Bahudari composed by Dr Lavanya Balachandran with lyrics penned by Prof Raghuraman to aptly describe the friendship and intimate relationship the dancer had with her dance, ending the repertoire on a celebratory note. Meera’s choice of featuring four different choreographers’ works in one programme was commendable and reflected a broader reality of the friendship and collaboration that take place in the arts industry, one that was especially felt deeper during these pandemic times.

Meera Balasubramanian was also conferred with the Neila Sathyalingam Memorial Endowment Award during the Remembering Neila Sathyalingam Festival on 7 Feb 2021.

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