Digital Performances

We are delighted to share details from our digital performances this August.  Pibare Rama Rasam – thoughtful dance initiative dedicated to lord Rama curated by N. Srikanth Natarajan & Aswathy Nair. In this series of performances that was live streamed through Rasanubhava Official YouTube channel, 31 male dancers from different parts of the world came together to perform for 31 days of the month of Aadi(katkadaka Maatham). In Kerala it is  known as Ramayana Maatham where devotees practice chanting of Ramayana through out the month for the well being of every one. On august 6th, Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, Resident choreographer and principal dancer presented the immortal lullaby “Mannupugazh” composed by a prince of the Chera dynasty who became a saint-poet called Kulashekara Azhwar. He was one of the twelve saints of the Bhakti cult of Vaishnavism called Azhwars. This lullaby is addressed to Lord Rama who is also known as Lord Sowriraja Perumal in the temple of Thirukannapuram. The lyrics denote the experience of the poet seeing Lord Rama as a child and singing the melodious lullaby to put him to sleep. Through this Lullaby, Mohanapriyan dances the glory of Lord Rama and seeks peace and harmony in the silence of Lord Rama’s sleep. Gratitude to the creative team who transformed this experience from Vision – Music – Dance – aesthetics – Video. Click here to enjoy the humble offering: Ananya Samarpana Festival is held from 13 Aug – 12 Sep 2021 hosted by Shruti Laya Dance School where Apsaras Arts was featured on the premiere paid online showcase on 15th Aug 2021. Our senior company dancers Deva Priya Appan and Seema Hari Kumar presented an adaptation from their thematic performance – Dvayam: Perspectives of Duality. Where there is two, there arise conflict, union, discord and harmony. The concept of duality is age old for where there is light there is darkness, where there is man there is woman. In a 40-min segment, Priya and Seema explore these many facets of duality and its outcomes of Coexistence through an Ardhanareeswara stotram; parallel love for Krishna that sages Aandal and Meera had; and the philosophy of duality as espoused in the Bhagavad-Gita through their concluding Thillana. THIRUMAYILAI KURAVANJI  Review by Harish Chandhar  The Indian Performing Arts Convention (IPAC) presented a Digital Performance of the ‘Thirumayilai Kuravanji’ under the IPAC Australia 2021 series of lectures, workshops and dance intensives. The film screened was a recording of a pre-pandemic live performance presented by team ‘Parashah’ in collaboration with Natyarangam (the dance wing of Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai) in 2019. The dance production is based on a work of Yazhpanam Veeramani Iyer and the music was composed by senior musician Suguna Varadachari. The main intent of this article is to present my observations and impressions from watching the performance and attending the post screening discussion. The ‘Thirumayilai Kuravanji’, as several other Kuravanji Natakam’s, has a standard storyline – A Nayika (here, Karpagambal) who falls in one-sided love with her Lord (here, Kapaleeswarar of Mylapore), a Thozhi (friend) in whom the Nayika confides her love, a Kurathi (fortune teller) who foretells the success of the Nayika’s love and puts an end to her anxiety. Many temples of the Tamil land each have a Kuravanji dedicated to their Lords with a similar theme. The happiness of watching and enjoying such an easily predictable story lies in the beauty of poetic Tamil, the vivid imagery of landscapes, detailed descriptions of situations, liveliness of characters and the subtle humour involved in each scene. The literary work of ‘Thirumayilai Kuravanji’ is a marvel in itself. The use of simple language yet maintaining the poetic quality of Tamil, makes it easily accessible to the audience. Starting with a description about the temple procession of Mylapore, an Ammaanai song about a game played by Karpagambal with her friends, a song addressing the cool breeze, the moon and Manmatha (Cupid) who torment the heroine by reminding her of her lover, a Ninda-Stuti song sung by the heroine’s friend accusing the Lord for troubling the heroine, a song by the Kurathi describing her ancestry and the greatness of her country, a Mangalam song to celebrate the happy end as predicted by the fortune teller – each song is so detailed in imagery and so suitable for interpretation in dance. This work brings together several genres of traditional poetry that once existed in the Tamil land. The music is a big support to the production. It was revealed in the post screening discussion that the composer Suguna Varadachari chose to tune the verses in the ragams as mentioned by the author Veeramani Iyer himself. Along with popular Kavadi and Kummi tunes, the music had other songs tuned in a simple yet classic manner which allowed emphasis on the clarity of Tamil lyrics. One needs to commend the commitment of the composer to honour the author’s visualisation of his own work.  The performance of the Kuravanji reflected the artists’ intent to stick to the traditional approach of the literary work, and yet add in their own innovative touches. Apart from a traditional approach to monologues and conversations between the characters, there were other additions like a well choreographed Alarippu performed by a group, the Nandi Chol accompanying the procession of Kapaleeswarar, the Pinnal Kolaattam as a celebratory end to the performance. Though not within the framework of Kuravanji natakams, these additions blended well into the performance and made it a contemporary take on a traditional piece of literature. POST SCREENING DISCUSSION  The Kuravanji – a discovery! Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, reminisced about how she became acquainted with the work ‘Thirumayilai Kuravanji’. In 1957, the well known author Kothamangalam Subbu had written a novel called ‘Thillana Mohanambal’ which used to be released as a weekly series in a popular magazine (It was this novel that was later adapted into a famous film of the same name starring Sivaji Ganesan and Padmini in lead roles). In the book, there is a scene where the heroine Mohanambal performs an item of the Kurathi

Appointment Announcement- Sankari Elavalahan as Company Manager at Apsaras Dance Company

We are excited to share the announcement of the appointment of Sankari Elavalahan as the Company Manager of Apsaras Dance Company. Sankari Elavalahan embarked on her arts journey as a bharatanatyam student at the tender age of 5 with Apsaras Arts. Sankari has completed a formal Bharatanatyam training under the tutelage of Mrs Neila Sathyalingam and staged her graduation debut performance Arangetram “Aadal Kaaneero”, themed based on popular dance music compositions that were featured on Tamil films. Sankari has served various government organisations such as Civil Aviation Authority Singapore (CAAS), Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), National Library Board (NLB). While she was working full time, she continued to be part of the arts scene as a dancer and Image Stylist for theatre drama productions. She is also a professional Make-up artiste graduated from Cosmoprof Beauty Academy in 2011. Sankari joined Apsaras Arts in 2017 as the company’s Admin Assistant. The following is the brief details of her achievements. Performance Artiste: Sankari has spent her growing years being part of Apsaras Arts performances and productions namely, Chidambara Ragasiyan, Sivagami and Aalam. She was also initiated at the age of 13 by Mrs Neila Satyalingam to join the People’s Association Indian Dance Company. Trained in semi-classical, folk (devarattam and kalaripayat) Neo- bharatam, Bollywood and Hip- Hop styles, Sankari has represented the troupe locally and internationally at several arts festivals, Chingay and National Day parades, community events and  conferences. Sankari was the appointed Vice- President (2005-2006) of Temasek Polytechnic Indian Dance Group which won Best Arts Group of 2006 during her tertiary education. Arts Administrator: Sankari has been responsible for the overall administration of the Apsaras Dance Company and Apsaras Arts Academy since 2017, managing administration and logistics functions. She has also headed the event management of the company’s events including the annual Indian Performing Arts Convention (IPAC), DARSHANA and NADOPASANA series. Sankari, has been responsible for the company’s international tour arrangements. She has also been assisting in the Company’s fund raising initiatives over the years. Make-up Artiste: Sankari has served as the dance company’s make-up artiste over the years for the performances in Singapore and on international tours, including for digital films and television programs. Her talent in bringing out the natural beauty of the dancers while adapting the make-up style to suit the theme and narrative of each dance production has been acclaimed by art connoisseurs. Please join us in celebrating the appointments of Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, Seema Hari Kumar and Sankari Elavalahan. Their passion for creativity, dedication, and commitment for excellence are truly commendable. Here’s to many more achievements and inspiring moments in their journey with the Apsaras family!

Appointment Announcement- Seema Hari Kumar as Vice Principal at Apsaras Arts Academy

We take great pride in announcing the appointment of Seema Hari Kumar as the Vice Principal, at Apsaras Arts Academy. Having started as a student of dance at the Apsaras Arts in 1993, she  graduated under the tutelage of our founder Mrs Neila Sathyalingam. Seema has been casted as a dancer in almost all of the repertory works of Apsaras Dance Company.  Seema has been on the teaching faculty of the Apsaras Arts Academy since 2003. Today, Seema is a key member of the organisation and also the master of ceremonies at key events. Here is a summary of her achievements and contributions. Teaching Faculty: Seema began inspiring and teaching Bharatanatyam to young students under the guidance of her guru Mrs Neila Sathyalingam and is now one of the Academy’s senior faculty member. Under her tutelage, many students have been nurtured and groomed to blossom as aspiring young dancers. She has presented her students in their graduation performance – Arangetram and several other students are currently being prepared for their Arangetrams too. In 2012, when the academy launched a unique training program – Bala Bharatham, specifically created for young kids between the ages of 4-6 years, Seema spearheaded this program and created the syllabus and its pedagogy and ran this course. Today, this course is one of the iconic courses art Apsaras Arts Academy and has a popular enrolment year after year. Seema also serves as the member of the team of faculty at Indian Performing Arts Convention (IPAC) in Singapore and Melbourne. Performing Artiste: Seema performs extensively with Apsaras Dance Company and  has travelled with company on its international tours across Asia, Europe and Australia, including for the recent performance of the cross cultural collaborative production ARISI : RICE presented by the Music Academy Madras, India, in January 2024. She has also performed for numerous collaborations with Singapore’s Malay and Chinese choreographers over the years, and was also the member of the Singapore’s People’s Association’s Indian Dance Company helmed by Mrs Neila Sathyalingam as its resident choreographer for two decades.  Choreographer: Seema has been choreographing for student’s performances for the academy’s performances at community events and television programs. She was one of the early Singaporean artistes to create a own choreographic work “Mohini” under the mentorship of internationally acclaimed choreographer-dancer Priyadarsini Govind for the IPAC residency program, which was presented in Singapore, India and Australia.

Appointment Announcement- Mohanapriyan Thavarajah as Associate Creative Director at Apsaras Dance Company

We are thrilled to share the incredible news that Mr Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, our resident choreographer and principal dancer, has been appointed to the well-deserved position of Associate Creative Director of Apsaras Dance Company. In his new role, he will be responsible for the creative aspects of our repertory works, our brand’s aesthetics, curate and produce our annual festivals, and work with our creative collaborators. Mr Mohanapriyan Thavarajah’s journey and association with Apsaras Dance Company and Apsaras Arts Academy for the past 12 years – has been marked by unwavering dedication, commitment and significant achievements. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Bharatanatyam. Mohanapriyan is the recipient of many awards including the “Bharata Kala Mani”  award conferred by Apsaras Arts Academy. Here’s a glimpse into his outstanding contributions: Choreographic Excellence: As the resident choreographer, Mr Mohanapriyan has created more than 10 repertory works for the company, and has worked on several individual solo Bharatanatyam repertoire compositions. These works have enabled the company to realise its vision of creating works by redefining the boundaries of Bharatanatyam ensemble vocabulary. International Performances: Mohanapriyan is a sought after soloist at international festivals across India, Sri Lanka, Australia, France and the U.K. His thematic works are regularly presented at prestigious venues across the cities in these regions, which have been acclaimed by renowned art critics. Research Prowess: Beyond the dance studio, Mohanapriyan has also delved into crucial areas of research on dance related topics. His study on Cambodian dance and the grand Khmer monument – Angkor Wat has revealed the connected roots between Indian and Cambodian cultures and dance forms. Bringing the practical aspects of dance and his academic interest on pedagogical studies has enabled him to create reference guides for students and teachers of Bharatanatyam. Apsaras Dance Company was proud to publish two of his books – “Temple Dance of Apsaras – A dancer’s view of Angkor Wat” and “PRAYOGAM – Applying the techniques of Bharatanatyam”. Costume Design: Mohanapriyan, has been creating innovative costume designs for Apsaras Dance Company productions over the years, which have enabled the narratives of the collaborative work with South East Asian cultures which has inspired the company’s original works. Teaching Excellence: Mohanapriyan has been a teaching faculty with our Apsaras Arts Academy, training and grooming students for the final graduation presentations. He has also conducted special focus master classes on creative dance topics and also conducted classes and sessions for MOE’s Dance CCA and AEP programs across Singapore schools. He regularly conducts master classes in the UK, France and Australia and is the member of the panel of faculty at Indian Performing Arts Convention (IPAC) in Singapore and Australia. Curator: Mohanapriyan conceptualised and curated the DARSHANA – Intimate Dance Series since 2018, presenting Singapore based Indian classical dancers, which is held 4 times each year. Over the years, the series has gained good following and enjoys full house attendance from art lovers.