All Things Under the Sun

Lakshmi Krishnan and Sujatha Rajagopalan, senior teachers from the Temple of Fine Arts, Singapore, jointly explore their new work Surya – An Awakening, with their fellow dancers. A sneak peek into the process behind the work

Surya, your latest production, is a search, a seeking. What triggered this idea?

It had been a long time since the full strength of our Bharatanatyam dancers had come together as one. Our dancers and students were all growing individually, one by one finishing their Arangetrams and continuing their learning journeys, training and explorations.

But during the years of the pandemic there were many restrictions, and we couldn’t be together in the same space. That’s how Surya began – with a desire, an idea of wanting to be together in the same space and share the energy that comes with being together.

In coming together, we experience warmth, energy and vigour. All the same things we receive from the sun. In Surya, the production, we awaken once again the spirit of moving together, getting things done with newfound ardour, sincerity, light and love.

In most of your productions, there is a notion of seeking, of finding; why is this integral to your dance and to your journey as an artiste?

I think the idea of seeking is fundamental to every student of the arts and to myself as a life-long student as well as a teacher to other students. The idea of seeking is also something that is very close to the Temple of Fine Arts, as well.

Our Founder established the Temple of Fine Arts and set us on a journey to seek and share beauty, love, light, art just for the love of it. And it is never done alone.

Yes, the seeker seeks, but there is always the sublime who helps to shine light on the path, to help us across to the other side of the river; whether it is providence or a teacher or the energy of the group that acts as our boatman.

Surya is an idea dancers have dabbled with often. What sets this apart? And how?

Ours is an inward journey through three items. Our search for the question of what the sun means to us happened during the process and it is interesting because the search and quest for answers has been a true one, and not just for the show.

With Surya, we are trying to go deeper into the subject. Yes these are things we have done before or subject matters we have explored, but when we go deeper we also awaken our senses to new discoveries and revelations. Both for ourselves as choreographers and for our dancers who have different levels of experiences, who are all awakening to the nuances and depths of Bharatanatyam in different ways.

Surya is a performance in Bharatanatyam inspired by the traditional solo margam repertoire structure, but explored through a group ensemble. It has been very fulfilling to work together with this group of young adults and dancers, to listen to their thoughts and see how the different imageries and meanings of lyrics have now unfolded.

Take us through the process of how an idea translates into form and expression? Typically how long do you work on a production?

A production takes a long time, from inception to bouncing around ideas, back and forth with storyboarding, music, and iterating through dance. It typically takes about a year.

For Surya, most of the items had already been choreographed as solo pieces of work, and were completely re-looked and re-worked for 11 bodies to create so much more depth, imagery and meaning.

We also had the challenge of working with 11 dancers at a time when the Temple of Fine Arts was moving its premises and there was a shuffle in rehearsal space availability. Our dancers worked closely with us, we worked closely with our dancers, and we are very proud of what we are sharing on stage in a few weeks to come.

What about lighting, costume, etc. what role do they have to play?

The lighting will serve to enhance the thought process of the dance and to also help bring out imagery and formations to elevate the experience. We have kept costumes simple but the colour schemes will go with the theme of Surya.

Are your creations truly collaborative in nature? How does that elevate the whole process and experience?

We are blessed to be working with a group of mature young dancers, who are encouraged to contribute ideas for group choreography. The safe space we have created for them has enabled them to actively be involved in giving suggestions to do different aspects of the choreography be it formations, imagery or even movement. In this way we have seen them actively grow over the past few months and it has been a rewarding experience for us, to say the least.

We have collaborated with our musicians at the Temple of Fine Arts to also enhance the experience of music for the ensemble work. Our dancers have also taken interest in costuming, designing brochures and posters, publicity and marketing. We have allowed them this platform to grow by collaborating, to enter the space, to bring in their expertise in these areas.

We are also working with a professional lighting designer. Having been a dancer himself and worked on several dance productions with us in the past, he serves to enhance the experience by understanding the choreography better.

It is a gratifying experience for us to see our dancers being involved in the full process of the production, so that they are growing in a more holistic way as artistes.

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Supported by

Devata: Guardians of Dance

BLK D Goodman Arts Centre

#01-24 90 Goodman Road Singapore 439053