In Sights

Sharing, Learning, Caring

The 11th edition of the Indian Performing Arts Convention (IPAC) Singapore edition, curated by Apsaras Arts, which unfolded in September, and presented in collaboration with Esplanade Theatres on the Bay (Singapore), witnessed unique programs on music and dance for practitioners, teachers, students, researchers, scholars, composers, choreographers, and arts enthusiasts. Read on for glimpses from this event…

IPAC 2022, a week-long intensive curated by Apsaras Arts Dance Company and convened by its Artistic Director, Aravinth Kumarasamy, and presented in collaboration with Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, opened to an eager group of students and rasikas awaiting an immersion in the arts, following a long period of forced gestation.

The inaugural performance was a concert by Bombay Jayashri Ramnath, Patri Satish Kumar and HN Bhaskar titled Sringara. Through various compositions across ragams, rhythm and poetry, the artistes celebrated hues and shades of love through their music.

Day 1 of IPAC began with masterclasses by the artistes – Priyadarsini Govind, Rama Vaidyanathan, Bragha Bessell, Anjana Anand and Mohanapriyan Thavarajah. The evenings, dedicated to lec-dems, opened with one by Bombay Jayashri Ramnath whose topic, Bhava in Singing, really set the tone for the events to follow. Jayashri emphasized the importance of music touching the soul. Technique, she said, “is merely a vehicle to achieve perfection in the art form where rasaanubhava is the ultimate purpose”.

Session 2 was a presentation by Priyadarsini Govind titled Where Lyrics Dance. Priyadarsini outlined the journey of a composition from the word to the visual. She spoke about her long-term collaboration with musician, Rajkumar Bharathi who has composed music for her work over several years now. Adding his thoughts Rajkumar Bharathi said: “When I see lyrics, they speak to me along with the music. The music is set depending on the mood rather than a deliberate use of a traditional structure or the choice of a raga.”

Day 3 of IPAC started with a masterclass on Bharatanatyam by Anjana Anand where she discussed the significance of Alarippu. She pointed out that it is a composition which introduces to the viewer the technique of Bharatanatyam in a nutshell and embedded within it are the spiritual and philosophical significance of Natya. The evening lec-dem was helmed by Shivangi Dake Robert whose subject was Play of Rhythm in Kathak. She was accompanied by Lalit Kumar on the tabla and Swarup Loganathan on the harmonium. Shivangi took the audience through various compositions in Teen Taal in both the Vilambit and Dhrut Kala.

Day 4 began with a continuation of teachers training. Anjana Anand’s session dealt with the construction of a Jathi. She introduced them to the concept of Tala Dasa Pranans, Konakkol and Yati patterns which are the building blocks of a Jathi.

Priyadarsini Govind furthered her sharing of abhinaya technique with a few lines from a composition where the teachers were able to apply the techniques learnt.

The evening lecture demonstration was on Nayikas of different age groups. Anjana based her demonstration on a recently choreographed work Ula depicting women of different ages admiring the Lord taken out on procession. This session was followed by a surprise impromptu presentation by the faculty of IPAC. Bombay Jayashri sportingly sang a different song for each dancer ranging from Ganga to Krishna. It was an example of how a musician and dancer work together to communicate through sound and movement.

Day 5 was the last day of teacher’s training, Mohanapriyan Thavarajah introduced the concept of Prayoga to the participants. Rama Vaidyanathan conducted a session on choreography for teachers of dance, in which she covered the different aspects of choreographing for both solo and group work.

The evening lecture demonstration by Veena B Kannan on Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Vivadhi Ragas was the last music lecture demonstration for IPAC 2022 and it was a treat! Kannan spoke about the versatility of the Veena and the need for reviving interest in this bhava laden instrument. His ability to bring out the various gamakas through the instrument was a rasa filled experience.

After a two-year break, thanks to the pandemic, the Intermediate and Advanced students returned to IPAC with renewed enthusiasm. Day 6 began with Anjana Anand and Mohanapriyan Thavarajah leading the students through Adavus and Prayoga before the main repertoire classes. Each batch then worked with the senior faculty Bragha Bessel and Rama Vaidyanathan on their respective Nrtta and Abhinaya compositions.

The evening saw a packed Avai (performance blackbox) for two awaited lecture demonstrations by Dr Padma Subrahmanyam and Bragha Bessel Dr Padma Subrahmaniyam’s lec-dem was an eye-opener for many as she dealt with a very important topic, Interpreting Lyrics. Using myriad of examples from complex philosophical poetry, Shringara and even humor in poetry, Dr Padma unravelled the very essential aspects of dance and choreography through her lec-dem accompanied by live music by Dr Gayathri Kannan (Vocals) and Nellai Balaji (Mridangam).

Bragha Bessel chose the topic, Goddesses in Love. She took the audience through a range of poetry from Sangam to Annamayya to Mirabhai. Each composition was the voice of the Goddess in love with her consort. Woven into two Shringara compositions, Shringara was Bragha’s trademark humour.

The students continued their sessions with the faculty on Day 7. In the evening, Malavika Sarukkai gave a thought-provoking lec-dem on the topic, Creative Detailing. Taking examples from her work over the last few decades, she spoke about the creative process where music, lighting, poetry and music were woven together to create a production which communicated with the audience at many levels. Using traditional vocabulary, her work integrated ideas which inspired her as an artiste who is engaged with the world around her.

Surupa Sen held a masterclass for students where the focus was Motivation and Application of Torso Inflections in Odissi. Students had an opportunity to try the various Mandalas and torso inflections specific to Odissi. For Bharatanatyam dancers, the Tribhangi and fluid movements of different parts of the torso were an eye-opener.

The Esplanade Theatres performance opened with Mahati Kannan presenting Krishnaya Thubhyam Namaha, an iconic work of her guru and grand aunt, Dr Padma Subrahmanyam. Mahati moved through multiple roles with ease and danced with a command and grace that kept the audience spellbound.

On Day 8, the evening performance hosted at Esplanade Theatres studio had Malavika Sarukkai present her new work, Anubandh: Connectedness. With her trademark energy and precision, she took the audience through our connection with our primordial relationships with the Panchabhoothas and the disconnectedness and loneliness experienced in the pandemic. With state-of-the-art music, production and sound design by Sai Shravanam, awe-inspiring light design by Niranjan Gokhale, creative collaboration by Sumantra Ghosal, it was an evening that transported rasikas to another realm.

The final day of IPAC saw participants polishing the repertoire items taught to them. The evening lecture demonstration by Rama Vaidyanathan introduced them to Stillness in Dance. The need for a dancer to find repose in moments of movement just as Nataraja exhibits a serenity through his frenzied Tandava was the core of this session. Rama Vaidyanathan chose two compositions to illustrate her talk. The first was a beautiful verse by Tirumoolar where she described the quietness experienced by the restless mind and how it is her dance which brings her as an artiste to this awareness. The second was a bhajan where Radha experiences moments of completeness when she identifies herself with Krishna.

The evening performance at Esplanade Theatres was by Surupa Sen who presented a solo work Vinati, songs from the Gita Govinda. With short, poetic explanations before each composition, Surupa lit the stage with her fluid yet controlled movements and aesthetic aharya. Surupa took the audience through a myriad of emotions through the voices of Radha, Krishna and the Sakhi. Lynne Fernandez’s lighting complemented Surupa’s storytelling and created an ethereal ambience which drew the audience in as the evening progressed.

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Devata: Guardians of Dance

BLK D Goodman Arts Centre

#01-24 90 Goodman Road Singapore 439053