Travel Diaries

A trip to the learning campus – Monash @ Melbourne, Australia for IPAC 2022, was for Apsaras Arts and its team, the possibility of learning and creating memories, aplenty

After curating and convening the Indian Performing Arts Convention (IPAC) in Singapore annually for 11 years, it was exciting for Apsaras Arts to travel to Melbourne, Australia to present IPAC’s edition in Australia.

Last year in 2021, through the pandemic, the Convention forayed into Melbourne as a hybrid event with in-person delegates meeting the faculty from India, virtually. It was very special for Apsaras Arts this year to have all the delegates and faculty arrive in-person at the Ian Porter Center for the Arts at the Monash University, Melbourne.

For team Apsaras Arts it is like the opening of a new horizon to bring the 11-year- old annual Convention from Singapore across seas to an international destination. The team from Singapore consisting of faculty and artistes – Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, Seema Hari Kumar, IPAC manager Sanakri Elavalahan, volunteer Madumitha Abhirami led by the convenor, Aravinth Kumarasamy arrived in Melbourne, along with faculty from India – Rama Vaidhyanathan, Bragha Bessell, Lalgudi GJR Krishnan, Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, performing artiste – Mandolin U Rajesh, and lighting designer Gyandev Singh, who were all welcomed at the airport by M Ravichandira, Apsaras Arts’ collaborator from Australia along with his team of volunteers.

At the Monash University, Tom Gutteridge and his team began preparing for the Convention nearly three months ago, and on the opening day, it was all set to give the delegates and the faculty a week-long experience of IPAC filled with moments of fun, learning and memories.

Every day, the sessions began with masterclasses from the morning and went on until the sun came down with a lec-dem helmed by artistes from Australia alongside visiting artistes from India and Singapore. From Thursday to Sunday during the weekend, the IPAC performances were presented at the state-of-the-art Alexandra Theatre.

The IPAC 2022 Australia’s opening concert was Confluence. In a rare appearance on Australia’s stage, Indian star ‘Mandolin’ U Rajesh created magic with a collaboration across cultures and celebrated with his music, the confluence of musical traditions. In this exclusive Australian concert, ‘Mandolin’ Rajesh was joined together with a group of leading Australian musicians whose love of and engagement with India’s Carnatic music tradition goes back decades. Led by musical director Adrian Sherriff, together with Sandy Evans, Paul Grabowsky, Jonathan Dimond and Ravi M Ravichandhira, this virtuoso band had – leading upto the performance – worked intensively with Rajesh to create a unique concert experience.

On the second day IPAC presented a double-bill of two Bharatanatyam performances from Singapore. With Seema Hari Kumar in Mohini and Mohanapriyan Thavarajah in Parama Padam, these performances were preceded by a music concert – The Five Gems of Lalgudi. It was a unique opportunity for the audience to listen to the extraordinary Lalgudi Pancharathna Kritis performed by an ensemble featuring vocalists from Melbourne, trained by Lalgudi GJR Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi. It was truly an unmissable opportunity to watch this legendary production live in Melbourne in the intimate environs of The Count’s Jazz Club at Monash University.

On Day 3, this violin-duo, Lalgudi G J R Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, brought to Melbourne audiences an afternoon of beauty, serenity and virtuosity. In their music, the audience experienced the richness of their repertoire and the brilliance of their improvisation skills, set against the backdrop of the weighty classicism.

The gripping tête-à-tête between the siblings combined with the medley of ragas in the second half left listeners craving for more. The third day concluded with a performance titled New Dimensions to the Margam by Bharatanatyam exponent, Rama Vaidyanathan who presented a fresh set of compositions that she explored and those that went beyond the parameters of the Margam. Each composition reflected the inevitable phenomenon of how creativity and tradition go hand-in-hand. The presentation consisted of original dance choreography as well as an original musical score, showcasing the versatility and adaptability of the Bharatanatyam dance form.

On the final day of IPAC Australia, the grand finale was a concert featuring IPAC delegates – artistes from across Australia. Presented by the Alexandria Theatre, Monash University, the performance was the culmination of a week-long dance intensive and a celebratory concert performance of iconic compositions of Indian classical music and of repertoire from dance. Delegates were mentored by visiting IPAC international faculty like Rama Vaidyanathan, Bragha Bessell and Mohanapriyan Thavarajah.

For team Apsaras Arts, the trip to Melbourne was truly memorable; the opportunity to meet and interact with delegates who had travelled from Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth, joining their peers from Melbourne who had come in large numbers, this was indeed a special Convention.

The visit also gave the team an opportunity to attend inspiring lecture demonstrations by Australian artistes – Dr Chandrabhanu, Anandavalli, Jayashree Ramachandran, and Ramnath and Gopinath Iyer. In addition, IPAC IPAC Australia also honoured the Lifetime Achievement Award – Natya Aachaaryamani – on veteran Bharatanatyam gurus, Dr Chandrabhanu and Shanthy Rajendran. in recognition of their contribution to the arts landscape of Australia.

Every evening, the visiting faculty from India and Singapore also enjoyed enjoying delicacies at some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants that served a slew of cuisines from across the world. On the last day of the Convention, the team went to see the beautiful tulips at a flower show and to a farm to see Australia’s native animals.

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Devata: Guardians of Dance

BLK D Goodman Arts Centre

#01-24 90 Goodman Road Singapore 439053