by Vidhya Nair
It has been a busy month for Apsaras Arts team over the months of May- June. From in depth interviews and discussions to cross-border experimental collaborations like “Twogether”; from insightful dialogues at the Spotlight Series to solo performances by company dancers in support of worthy cause. Here is a chronology of highlights of the virtual events from our diary over the last 30 days.
On 17th May & 31st May – Shukran: A Tribute to Singapore’s Migrant Workers. An initiative by Kathak dancer, Sunena Gupta to create community awareness and outreach through dance. Apsaras Arts’s Kathak dancer/choreographer, Shivangi Dake Roberts performed a segment in episodes 3 and 5. In her segments, she presented invigorating pieces. With her swift movements and crisp turns, these meaningful nritya pieces evoked a variety of moods and expressions. This series gave opportunities to many Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Odissi practitioners to express strength and unity through dance and the fundraising objectives were exceeded. Do watch the episodes here: https://youtu.be/uQStizN00O0
On 18th May Mohanapriyan Thavarajah was featured at the Home Sketches series @Aalaapconcepts Instagram channel.
Aalaap’s theme of Home Sketches featured six dancers reflecting on the idea of home. A place of refuge, an abstract space filled with emotion, feelings and memories. In this session Mohanapriyan Thavarajah engaged in a conversation with Aalaap’s Akhila Krishnamurthy where he hared his memories of growing up in Srilanka, his education in South India and his professional move to Singapore which led to his eventual growth as a dancer while learning to live as a global citizen. For him, wherever dance takes him, it becomes home, a journey which started since he was 14. He felt that he could immediately relate to the Nadanar story for this interpretative performance whose dream destination was to reach Chidambaram where the god of Dance Lord Nataraja resides. This journey was fraught with difficulties being a leather-maker navigating the strict Brahminical society and the perils of the caste system. Ultimately, he proved that he is the beloved to Lord Shiva and there was no one who could stop him from reaching Chidambaram. He immerses himself in his Bhakti for the infinite dancer, Lord Nataraja, reminding us that true love and devotion to ones’ mission can lead us on the path to a blissful heaven. Priyan used verses from Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s Nadhanar Charithram to create this interpretation of home. Many who watched this performance found it profoundly meaningful and a soulful interpretation of Home.
On 22nd to 27th May Apsaras Arts in collaboration with @Aalaapconcepts presented a series of duet performances called “TWOgether Season II”.
In this season six pairs of dancers from Singapore and India presented duets showcasing the differences and similarities of the different classical dance forms. Bharatanatyam and Odissi dancers from Singapore (Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, Seema Hari Kumar, Nikita Menon, Asvhini Sundaram, Soumee De) and France (Anusha Cherer Duchesne) faced Mohiniattam (Annie Sajayan), Manipuri (Sinam Basu Singh), Kuchipudi (Bhavna Reddy), Odissi (Vrinda Chaddha), Kathak (Souvik Chakraborty) , Kandyan (Geeth Premachandra) dancers from India and Srilanka.
Each performance was unique as the duos presented a combination of two or three dance sequences that showcased aspects of their dance forms- nritta, nritya, abhinaya, cultural influences. Over the thirty minutes , of discussion-demonstration, the audiences learnt about the the beauty and uniqueness of each of their dance forms and practices. In this experimental split-screen showcase, the dancer duos leveraged the communication in a way that gave us the impression they were indeed in one room (instead of being miles apart)! Do watch the series on the IGTV channel of @Aalaapconcepts.
During the interaction with the audiences, the dancers cited the key challenges they faced which in overcoming the challenges of technology, time lag in music and expressions, getting to know a new acquaintance across borders, understanding each other’s practices and collaborating within 5 days timeframe, adapting to each other’s time-zone. However, each appreciated the opportunity this season offered them to sharpen their own skills and adaptability in times of uncertainty. Many audience members asked about their creative process within the week and their approach to bring synergy to their ideas. The dancers shared that this “twogetherness” imposed greater clarity of collaboration an a disciplined commitment to prepare credible pieces within the short preparation window, helped them overcome the impasse. They also felt that this initiative broke down barriers of distance and helped them reach out to fellow dancers in similar mental and emotional frame during the Covid19 lockdown, bridging this physical gap through dance. From the Singapore audience perspective, it was a rare opportunity to learn up and close about the intricacies of artforms like Mohiniattam, Manipuri and Kandyan dancers. This collaborative concept allowed for intimate interaction with these dancers – their thought process and their willingness to adapt and find camaraderie with a performer based overseas. Hear more about the experiences of the dancers in this video.
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On 6th, 7th and 12th June, Apsaras Arts company dancers, Kshirja Govind, Kritika Rajagopalan and Maanasa Sri Granesh performed on Instagram channel @samarpanaforartsandwellbeing as part of Bloom, Samarpana’s Art-heals series which showcases young talented artistes. The dancers, who performed several jathiswaram and abhinaya pieces, appreciated this opportunity to use dance as a medium to express themselves and keep up their dance practice. Kshirja, an undergraduate who has been actively performing from a young age finds much relief from school stresses and freedom of expression as a dancer and is constantly working on her own choreography. Kritika who moved to Singapore last year from Chennai teaches young students at Apsaras Arts and is finding new paths to her dance journey in ensemble works. Maansa Sri Ganesh has been with Apsaras Arts dance company for the past 3 years and has performed for several of the comoany’s iconic productions and tours. These dancers offer their performances to the cause of raising funds for other artistes who need financial support during this COVID19 pandemic.