The Plight of Refugees


Agathi draws inspiration from Apsaras Arts Artistic Director Aravinth Kumarasamy’s own experience as a refugee in his youth, as well as the lives of refugee children all over the world. Boldly reimagined in collaboration with Wild Rice artistic director Ivan Heng, this production poignantly shines the spotlight on the people who find themselves caught between countries and trapped in the headlines.

Displaced for reasons of political turmoil or natural calamity, the refugee embarks on a journey to seek acceptance – rebuilding a life, a home and an identity, while battling prejudices and overcoming trauma. Agathi brings storytelling to new heights through a unique fusion of theatre, poetry and Bharatanatyam, the oldest classical dance tradition in India.

Creative team

Artistic Director: Aravinth Kumarasamy

Music Composer: Aravinth Kumarasamy, Chithrapoornima Sathish

Choreographer: Mohanapriyan Thavarajah

Costume Designer: Mohanapriyan Thavarajah


“Agathi was not just a dance-theatre work, it was also a social commentary on current affairs across the world. It threw the spotlight on the circumstances that make people flee their homes, natural calamities and politically motivated displacements, and brought awareness of the injustice of it all, especially the latter. Music and dance reinforced their impact. The well- trained dancers worked within a tight framework of movements to bring out the mood, but what was most impressive was their seamless contribution

to the intensity of the narrative.”

RUPA SRIKANTH, The Hindu, India

“Agathi was a fresh and riveting dance theatre

presentation, with the journey of refugees at its core. Stripping away the layers of policy and politics, it lays bare the sheer humanity of it all – the shock, the suffering, and then the fortitude and the acceptance. It takes an immense amount of talent to choreograph chaos in the degree of realism that Agathi presented.

NIDHI PANICKER, IndianLink, Australia

“It was a brilliant evening getting to watch a contemporary theme portrayed in Bharatanatyam, brilliant choreography, excellent singing and moving; poignant lyrics that reflect real plight and finally

the pleasure watching an artistic dance treatment to popular numbers… It was a refreshing and a much- needed welcome relief that Apsaras Arts, Singapore has dared to take Bharatanatyam to talk about an issue that keeps nudging at us all at some corner of our nice and cosy living – the refugee crisis that keeps hogging the frontpages of our newspaper and increasingly becoming a deciding factor in the politics and policies of many a country around the world.”

VIJAYSAGAR SUBBAIYAA, Writer of The Life and Times in Chennai, India

“In a path-breaking production, Agathi attempts successfully to dissect the psyche of a refugee who loses his livelihood, people, nation and ultimately himself

to the machinations of man and nature. Fantastic performances by the seven dancers, the professional supporting cast of musicians and technicians from Apsaras Arts made this 90-minute production very meaningful, yet an enjoyable ride!”


“The production is at its most powerful when it allows bharatanatyam alone – with its lovely alchemy of music, poetry and dance – to carry the narrative weight. The dancers’ elegant mudras (hand gestures) in the opening sequence, combined with their lightly stepping postures, instantly conjure the bovine animals of the song. One needs no words to understand the body language in these sections. There are a couple of beautifully memorable sequences. In the most dynamic scene, six dancers link hands to form a rickety lifeboat, their swaying bodies depicting the vessel’s perilous journey through storm- tossed oceans. In another scene, the dancers answer the musical lament of a homesick refugee, “Won’t you sing to remove my misery/ Won’t you play the harp and add happiness to my life/ Won’t you dance to show me life’s beauty”, by gathering around to play instruments and dance. In art, there is solace for even the most lost of souls.

ONG SOR FERN, The Straits Times, Singapore

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