Social Media, Success, Insecurities and Inspiration Two young dancers, Nitya Sriram from Singapore and Nivedha Harish from Chennai, participated in the #iamayoungdancer series this month. Read on to get a sense of what all they talked about… The two dancers – Nitya Sriram and Nivedha Harish kicked off the conversation with the idea of competition that prevails in the world of dance right now. Nivedha, a young Bharatanatyam dancer, musician and a Harikatha practitioner and performer felt that, although there might be healthy competition amongst dancers, there is a constant sense of insecurity, angst, every now and then for dancers paving their way into the world of dance. “I’d say,” Nivedha said, “the only way to get around this is to be confident about oneself and trust your guru and the art form, at large.” Along the same lines, Nitya moved on to discuss the notion of what constitutes as success for young dancers. “With so much content floating around freely on social media and with a steep number of dancers in the playing field and with programs and avenues, aplenty, how does one even attempt to find an answer to this question,” she wondered. “I suppose the only way forward is to be aware of this and negotiate it to lessen one’s own sense of insecurity.” There’s also a positive side to this notion of competition, the duo agreed. “The good thing about it,” Nivedha said, “is that it allows dancers from different backgrounds, banis and parts of the world come together to create work.” Incidentally, the two dancers have also recently bagged the opportunity to work on ARISI: Rice, a production by Apsaras Arts. Speaking of social media, both dancers agreed that that social media in itself has reached a point of saturation on so many levels. “I do think that young minds are being carried away easily with this kind of content,” Nivedha said, “And often this can lead to a sense of dilution and reduction in the attention span amongst the audience, especially with the young audience.” This apart as Nitya added, garnering an audience for in-person performances has become very hard. “Audiences seem to prefer to watch a performance from the comfort of their homes. This can never be like watching a performance live.”https://player.vimeo.com/video/766767643?h=348aa7bf51&badge=0&autopause=0&player_id=0&app_id=58479 The dancers also went on to discuss the onset of dance on film and spoke of how dance can be captured on camera and how this trend has caught on with many artistes. “A whole host of dancers have played around with this idea, thanks to the lockdown and the privilege of time.” They discussed Yavanika, a dance on film by Priyadarsini Govind and seemed in awe of how Priyadarsini had managed to pour so much thought and imagination into the making of the film. Yet another interesting topic of conversation was about the body (of dancers) and the insecurities that often surround that subject. While Nivedha said she often finds a solution to this problem by believing in hard work and her own efforts, Nitya suggested that the fact of the matter is that dance is a very visual medium. She said that as young dancers, one could bring about a change by being more welcoming and less judgmental and accepting all body types. The dancers also discussed injuries for dancers and agreed that yoga certainly helps with overall well-being for dancers, The duo also agreed that it is imperative to focus and take care of one’s mental health in addition to physical well-being. The discussion ended with the dancers stressing the importance of holistic development for a young dancer, which involves watching performances and reflecting on them, reading, and learning from different gurus. Amen to that!

Books Banter

The Voice of the Matter With over five decades of experience, P C Ramakrishna, Chennai-based voiceover artiste, theatre artiste, director, bass section singer in the Madras Youth Choir and pioneer English newscaster, walks us through his book, Find Your Voice. Breaking down voice into science and art, the book is a fascinating treasure trove of exercises to build and nurture the voice and is a reflection on the imperativenes of riyaaz in the context of the arts Find Your Voice is a very powerful title on so many levels; did the title come first and then did you break down the book into its many chapters or did you write the book and then think of this title? The voice has pretty much been the core of my being, one way or another, since I was a schoolboy. With fifty years plus as an actor with the Madras Players, I became more and more conscious of the human voice on stage. For most of these years, we acted in Museum Theatre (non air-conditioned till recent years), windows open, ancient fans making an unholy clatter, and Pantheon Road (Egmore, Chennai) traffic noises filtering through, without mics, and we trained ourselves to be heard clearly. Today’s young theatre actors seem to find it very difficult to be heard without amplification, even though Museum Theatre is now air-conditioned, and the fans relegated to the museum itself. There are many capable actors who conduct acting workshops, but none, if any, who train the actor’s voice. To re-quote the great Laurence Olivier, “You may be the world’s greatest actor, but it is zilch if you cannot be heard”. It is to address this aspect of theatre that I started writing this book. Again, I work parallely in the field of voiceovers, having to read scripts for documentaries, heritage films, and presentations ranging from the severely technical to medical and human interest. It is a rewarding profession which makes its own rigorous demands, perhaps why there are very few in the field. Young, and not so young aspirants have asked me over the years how to enter this profession. This book deals with the niche field of voice-overs. In fact, on request, I am conducting this month a two-day workshop for aspiring voice professionals. This book has a section also on the singing voice. I sing bass with the Madras Youth choir, and I have shared the kind of rigour required for singers to express and retain their voice quality. In sum, I would say that I wrote the book as it came, and the title suggested itself thereafter. You are right, the title goes beyond the demands of just the physical voice, but I wasn’t going to get into that! In the context of the arts, finding your voice, aside from the literal sense of the word, is also very crucial, right? When did you actually find that voice? We don’t get to hear your personal story too much in the book. As I have written briefly in my Introduction to the book, the French, Belgian and Irish priests in the school at Calcutta where I studied discovered this potential in me, even before I knew it. They recognised intuitively that I was more interested in the spoken word and the human voice than the next student, and created opportunities for me to hone my skill. The work I do today to keep the home fires burning is entirely due to their foresight. More than twenty years after I left school, I discovered this profession, and thereby hangs a tale. We love how you have treated voice both from the perspective of science and art; it is the coming together of both, right? Yes. Voice is science plus art. That is why I have dealt with the physics of voice in the first chapter and the chemistry of it in another. However emotive and expressive one is, one can make no impression if the voice sounds like a bullfrog in the mating season. Per contra, you can have a God-given voice, but if you have neither feel nor modulation, no one will listen to you. My take on this would be, a good voice is 40% voice quality and 60% feel. In the chapter on The Chemistry of Voice, you talk about the classical school of acting where the “mind, instinct and the word direct action”. You turn to The Navarasas to elucidate the idea. Tell us a bit about your relationship with the classical arts and how it has shaped your thought, process and performance both as a theatre artiste and a voiceover artiste? There are several schools of acting, as I have acknowledged in the book. The classical style in which I have been brought up works from the mind to the body, as I have detailed in the chapter on ‘Chemistry of Voice’. The Navarasas I have referred to apply to both dance and drama. It is the dramatic element of my training in theatre that has helped greatly in my voice-over work. I have to reach an unseen audience ranging from corporate executives and technocrats to tourists and children. How I reach them through the modulation that makes sense to them is what I have drawn from my theatre experience. The book is also a treasure trove of resources in terms of exercises, tips, strategies in terms of how to cultivate and nurture the voice. This is very generous of you; have you drawn from your own experiences or did you also have to research to write this book? The chapter on exercises is largely from my own experience of what works, bolstered by the tips given by experts that bear out the work I do in this connection. You also talk about the concept of rigour and riyaaz, taking us back to your days in Calcutta, watching maestros practice; why is rigour crucial and what is your own rigour? Riyaaz is a must. Unless the actor or voice over

Cover Story

Dance of the Camera What happens when dance is on film? Do things shift for the artiste and choreographer when they are being seen through the camera’s eye? How do they negotiate this medium to create a work-of-art that is authentic to the dance and to cinema? Three senior Bharatanatyam artitses – Aravinth Kumarasamy, Priyadarsini Govind and Rama Vaidyanathan, reflect upon their dance on film projects and share insights… Read on Rama Vaidyanathan Bharatanatyam Exponent What was the premise of your dance on film, Sannidhanam? Sannidhanam found its birth during the lockdown years; all stage concerts were cancelled. Six of my students were in Delhi cooped up in a hostel. I wanted to engage them meaningfully and also wanted to do something interesting that would make the best use of the situation that we were in. So, when Jai Govinda, dancer-choreographer-curator based in Canada, asked me to present a new work for his online festival, I decided to work on an ensemble production that catered specifically to the camera. What were the significant shifts that you had to make in terms of your dance and the way you imagined dance on screen? Could you share a few examples? The most important thing was the content of the performance, it had to be something which the camera could enhance. I decided to do something on the concept of sacred geometry – the triangle, square and circle – which could be shown dramatically through the camera. Ideally, I would not have chosen this for a proscenium stage. Do you think dance on film has the potential in reaching larger audiences or do you think dance on film was more an intermittent solution to a world that had come to a stand-still where dance did not find expression in the proscenium format. I think dance on film began as a solution to the absence of stage concerts during the pandemic. But in the process, dancers have gone on to realise its potential and have started experimenting with the medium. The possibilities of exploring it artistically as well as the avenues it created for newer and larger audiences was quite overwhelming. I think it has definitely added one more dimension to showcasing dance and is here to stay. What were some of your key learnings by virtue of creating and being part of this dance-on-film? I learnt a lot about camera angles, editing and engaging special lights for the camera. Learning about a different perspective to dance was interesting as well as challenging.——————— Priyadarsini Govind Bharatanatyam Artiste What was the premise of your dance on film, Yavanika? The purpose was to showcase the compositions through the medium of camera. For all of us as artistes, filmmakers and dancers, the potential of movement and especially this kind of trained movements, the variety of our compositions and the depth of abhinaya has to be documented and filmed on for posterity. Dance on film has incredible potential. To me, this is just the beginning. What were the significant shifts that you had to make in terms of your dance and the way you imagined dance on screen? Could you share a few examples? The important thing that I kept in mind was that the production was not seen by an audience seated in front of a proscenium stage.The eye of the camera could travel anywhere. It could take you and direct your gaze to where you want for the audience to see. It could be a small movement of the hand or a formation or the angle at which you want the audience to see the formation or just the pace of the movement of the camera or the details that the camera notes. That was really exciting. Do you think dance on film has the potential in reaching larger audiences or do you think dance on film was more an intermittent solution to a world that had come to a stand-still where dance did not find expression in the proscenium format. I think it has incredible potential and is definitely not a stop-gap solution. What triggered the production was not just documentation. Rather, the camera was another element or a collaborator in the project. That was extremely important. The camera was doing the work of both the dancer and the audience. It was directing the gaze of the audience and registering the movement in a creative and aesthetic way. What were some of your key learnings by virtue of creating and being part of this dance on film? I think the entire working process was a huge learning for me. Our director, Sruti Harihara Subramanian would come in everyday and for the last ten days, Viraj Sinh Gohil the cinematographer and Sruti’s assistant Shiva Krish, the Associate Director would also be there to watch our rehearsals. So the involvement of the director and entire team was 100%. We would demonstrate and Sruti would question and I would do the required changes. Sruti had to divide the shoots, put them on paper, as we were shooting seven compositions in two days and that was not a joke. So everything had to be done like a script to the last detail. I made changes that came out of our discussion till the last four or five days. When you know you are not dancing to the audience but rather to the camera, your mindset also shifts. The possibilities of the formations, what one would want to emphasize on, everything opens up. Right from the start, we were in tune with the idea that this was a dance on film and not a presentation seen on stage.—————– Aravinth Kumaraswamy Artistic Director, Apsaras Arts, Singapore What was the premise of your dance on films? How different were the two from each other? Both these films, Sita and Amara were filmed as CGI films in green screen studios. I believe they were the very first such CGI films featuring Bharatanatyam performance when they were made in 2020. SITA brings to

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,

Point of View

The Dynamic of the Abhinaya Bharatanatyam exponent, Bragha Bessell reflects on all things Abhinaya, how she learnt it from her guru, and how Abhinaya is also a constant work-in-progress Let me start with Abhinaya, the art of expression. Let me reflect upon how it was taught to me and how it is taught in the world today. Most of the time, I try to follow the method in which Bharatanatyam exponent, Kalanidhi Narayanan – Maami, as we would call her – taught us. She’d first have us explore the lyrics and its meaning and then move to understanding the character and the choreography thereafter. Having said that, sometimes some small adjustments need to be made. Maami always taught classes, one-to-one. When I was invited to teach at the Kalakshetra, I had to teach to a group of students, together. This meant that I had to re-envisage the methodology a little to be able to reach more students within a short span of time. The style of teaching a private class, one-to-one, needless to say, is more intense, immersive and personal. For a group class, the approach needs to be quite different. Time is also a factor and the possibility to monitor progress and performance is also often not the same. Having said that, I must add that we all must understand that the arts cannot be static. It cannot stand still. Society keeps changing all the time and the arts is a direct reflection of the society that we live in. So, change is the only constant. Over the years, there are many new innovative ideas that have come our way. We see so many collaborative works of art, and so many new dance styles, themed productions, research subjects, et al. What has also changed is the time and the luxury of time. Back in the day, we’d take a month or more to learn an item. Through the year, we would have only two or three individual programmes and a few group performances for our gurus in a whole year. This allowed us time to soak in learning, understanding, practising and absorbing the pieces that we learnt before we took them to stage. Today, youngsters have many more opportunities as far as performances are concerned and as a result, the process of learning has had to undergo a shift. They have had to speeded up the overall learning process which in many ways can hamper and reduce the time spent on learning and understanding items. There’s also little time for reflection and introspection, both of which are crucial. What is also important is to repeat and keep returning to pieces that one has learnt; in fact, I’d say that only by the art of repetition does one comprehend and discover the depth of each and every piece. There are a few items that I have been performing over the last four decades or so and every time I perform them, I’d say my response to it is different. You refine it until you capture its essence; and once you have tasted that essence, you want to keep striving to capture it in all its glory. Having said that, and having established that change is the only constant, I’d also like to say that the art of Abhinay is constantly a work-in-progress and one that reflects the times that we live in. For instance, a 40-year-old dancer should not dance the way a 20-year-old does or can. Her performance should be a reflection of what and who she is now; it should be a reflection of her experiences. With the artiste evolving, so does the audience. Thanks to social media and its powerful presence and permeation into our lives, audiences have also evolved a great deal and are well-informed so it’s crucial for artistes also to constantly think of ways to be able to connect with them. After all, the artiste and the audience go hand-in-hand. One hand cannot clap without the other. Similarly, an artist cannot perform without an audience. The main purpose of arts is Rasa. Whatever changes we face in the world, it’s important they do not disturb the aesthetic beauty of the art form nor the values that our gurus nurtured in us.


Bharatanatyam artistes, Renjith and Vijna share their experiences of dancing together and working on productions for Apsaras Arts. An Interview… Having watched ensemble work at the Kalakshetra, what is your relationship with ensemble work? For us, it is the coming together of dancing bodies to showcase an idea of the choreographer. It is about building a team that is capable of effectively expressing the choreographer’s vision. The important aspect of an ensemble work is not about bringing forth the individuality and ego of each dancer, but to be united with each other so that justice is done in bringing forth the conceived idea. As artistes, who largely perform together, envisaging space for two, how do things change when it comes to an ensemble? The difference is, two dancing bodies to many dancing bodies in the given space, which leads to change in the energy of a duet to a larger group. The similarity would be, unity and co-ordination amongst the dancers. In an ensemble work, there is more scope to explore because of the presence of many performers. In my experience of creating duet works for ourselves, we lay a lot of emphasis on using each of our individual strengths without letting either of us be dominant. However, the success of the final output whether it is duet or group really depends on the artistic choices made by the choreographer. You have watched Apsaras Arts productions in the past; what are some of the striking features of their work? We appreciate the company’s excellent vision and striking ideas, when it comes to stage presentation. Aravinth Kumarasamy is a versatile artiste and his way of presenting the script and narration, facilitates ease in visualisation and execution for the choreographer/ music composer and other artistes who are involved in the creation process. We are always amazed and in awe of how they bring large scale dance productions to the audience. You have been associated with Agathi and Anjaneyam; can you first tell us about Agathi and how the choreography process was like? Agathi – I (Renjith) was the guest choreographer for this production. Firstly, the theme was very moving and educational. I was very impressed with the way Aravinth Kumarasamy narrated the script to me, since it helped a lot to envision the choreographic ideas with ease. It was also a great learning for us, as we got to understand in-depth, the challenges and hardships faced by the refugees. What about Anjaneyam? It’s considered such a mammoth production; what did it require from you as dancers-choreographers and how was the experience? Anjaneyam – I(Renjith) was the rehearsal director for this production and also choreographed a few sequences of this mammoth work of Apsaras Arts. I would call it the experience of watching a Broadway musical. It was my first time working with a huge group of varied artistes from the world of dance, music and stage craft. I will always cherish the experience, lessons and memories that were made while working for Anjaneyam. What are you currently working on? I am at present, re-visiting some of the earlier duet works with the hope to present them in a new light. Along with this, we also have some new themes in the pipeline.

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.


Rice & Shine! In this month’s Work in Process section, we bring to you ARISI: Rice, an Apsaras Arts and Esplanade Theatres on the Bay co-production, that talks about the physical as well as symbolic significance of rice in many Asian cultural and aesthetic practices. Read on to know more about the thought, process and making of this production. Apsaras Arts presents ARISI: Rice, a cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary performance inspired by the grains of life, that links humanity across Asia. This work is inspired by the social, cultural and aesthetic practices borne by cultivation and consumption of rice in these regions. From birth celebrations to funeral rites, rice holds important physical as well as symbolic significance in many Asian cultures. This production has been worked across three countries – Singapore, India and Indonesia. In a shift away from epic storytelling, award-winning Artistic Director, Aravinth Kumarasamy has imagined the dance production as a beautiful imagery that intersects stages of rice cultivation with gestural rites and rituals in life stages, where rice is the principal ingredient. It has had three years of thinking and research and has been in the making for more than 18 months. In this production, dancers from Apsaras Arts share stage space with their traditional Balinese peers; the work also includes dance elements of the Balinese Kebyar Duduk, Kebyar, Legong and Joget Bumbung, choreographed by Professor I Wayan Dibia along with the company’s Resident Choreographer, Mohanapriyan Thavarajah. Together, they have re-imagined stories in the paddy fields and celebrate the life stages. This new work has enabled Apsaras Arts to once again collaborate with some of the best creative minds from the industry – Dr Rajkumar Bharathi, its Music Composer, Sai Shravanam as its Music Producer, Director, Arranger and Sound Designer, Mohanapriyan Thavarajah as its Choreographer and Principal Dancer, and Costume Designer, Prof I Wayan Dibia, Balinese Choreographer and Principal Dancer, K Rajagopal, Filmmaker and Director, Gyan Dev Singh, Lighting Designer, Wong Chee Wai, Set Designer and Lim How Ngean as its Dramaturge. The production involves musical collaborations with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra that melodically enhances the music score composed by Rajkumar Bharathi. Directed and produced by Sai Sharavanam, the production features an immersive soundscape created through live Chinese instruments (played by Singapore’s twenty five year old Chinese Orchestra) and leading award-winning Indian musicians such as Bombay Jayashri Ramnath, D Sathyaprakash, Naveen Iyer, Pratik Srivatsava and other eminent musicians. It additionally includes Balinese Gamelan and Kecak choric singing to echo and accent certain scenes. Fabrics for the costumes are from indigenous sources from India, Bali and Indonesia and designs have been inspired by rice cultures across Asia. Mohanapriyan Thavarajah has painstakingly imagined the designs to give a contemporary twist to these dance costumes, yet keeping their heritage and cultural identities intact. Script for the choreography has been adopted by various sources on rice cultivation and rice cultures. Dr Nanditha Krishna from Chennai, has been instrumental to share many insights into rice culture across India and Asia. Additionally, for the first time ever, Aravinth Kumarasamy, Artistic Director, Apsaras Arts, collaborates with critically-acclaimed film director K Rajagopal, who contributes another powerful filmic layer of stories from former farmer migrants who now eke an existence in developing foreign lands. Filmmaker Rajagopal has followed some of these younger generations in Singapore and back to their rice fields in Thanjavur, South India to tell these stories which are thought provoking in appreciating the big question of our lifetime – sustainability of Rice farming! ARISI: Rice will premiere on November 25- November 26, 2022 as part of the Kalaa Utsavam, Indian Festival of Arts 2022 at the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, Singapore