In-Sights

Vidhya Venkat shares her observations on Apsaras Arts performance space Avai, and in India, also performances by visiting international artistes and Singapore based artistes.

Gibran

“I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion and it is the spirit “ – Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

We were treated to an evening of wisdom from Khalil Gibran. While we have been used to dance and vocal concerts in Avai, this was a very good break from that.

Excerpts from The Prophet were narrated by Ramesh Panicker who conceptualised this show. He was accompanied by Azrin Abdullah on the Arabic Oud, a lute-like stringed instrument. The setting was reminiscent of an Arabic tent and Gibran’s works were shared in the way of storytelling.

Three days fully sold out and we were all treated to some inspiring words from Khalil Gibran – looking forward to more of such programs. The performance was the brainchild of Audrey Perera and produced by Passion Purpose and Apsaras Arts.

Balinese Classical Dance Performance

We watched a beautiful performance of Balinese dance by Prof I Wayan Dibia and Geok Ensemble Dancers on July 16, 2022, at Avai.

Aravinth Kumarasamy Artistic Director mentioned in his introductory speech that the Natya Sastra is the root and then we have the many beautiful manifestations of this text and that evening we saw one of the most beautiful manifestations.

As Prof Dibia detailed, there are so many common elements in these dance forms. We saw Aramandi, Chowk, Tribhanga and also an amazing display of the Sthayi Bhava of Vira rasa, something which we don’t come across so much. The eye movements were almost hypnotising- diagonal, side and down.

And finally, Prof Dibia ended the show with his solo – The masked man. As he rightly said, the challenge is to bring the mask alive and I think he did just that. Costumes were so detailed and so beautiful, each one of them. When asked for advice to budding dancers, Prof Dibia said, “Learn physical movements first and then learn how to use energy on them. You then move on to the norms and ethics of the dance form, spiritual contemplation and philosophy of the dance. Dancing is about love and when you dance with love, it comes from the heart.”

I came away with this message in my mind, a thought which must echo in every dancer’s heart. A huge world of learning and research opened up for me. A befitting first anniversary for Avai ! And awaiting many more.

Aaradhana for Nadopasana concert series remembering S Sathyalingam.

Hindustani performance of Aaradhana was presented at AVAI at Apsaras Arts featuring Shibani Roy (vocals) and Debashis Adikari (harmonium) from SIFAS and Lalitkumar Ganesh (tabla) from TFA, Singapore. Shibani performed a good selection of ragas and very delightful ghazal.

Sparsh – The Touch

A Kathak performance by Amprapali Bhandari as part of Darshana series on 2nd July at Avai.

Amprapali started the evening with a traditional choreography in Teental. This was in the traditional Jaipur Gharana that blends abhinaya with nritta. She covered the veer rasa, bhakti rasa and shringara rasa.

We then journeyed into the monsoon season.

The sky is changing colour
as though being robbed of life
As thunder rolls, lightning strikes
The sky splits in half
Drop after drop
The rain arrives

The above verse from Ritusamhara started the next piece.

The human being is as complex and multilayered as the monsoon. Rather than only focussing on the colours and rainbows, we must learn to accept all parts of ourselves. This piece which was choreographed by Amrapali herself talked about the multi dimensions of human emotions – passion, anger, love and surrender. She had approached the choreography in a contemporary style with just a sarangi playing in the background. It was very refreshing and new.

AMARA: India Tour August 2022

Apsaras Arts Dance Company presented the world premiere of the live performance of AMARA, Dancing the Stories of Banteay Srei in India for the celebration of Nirthyodaya’s 80th anniversary and for India at 75, at the Kalakshetra Foundation.

Banteay Srei is unique among Cambodia’s famous sacred buildings. It stands out from other ancient Angkorian temples with its petite size, the pink hue of the hard, red sandstone from which it is made, and the intricacy of its exquisitely sculpted wall relief carvings of motifs, figures and scenes from the Hindu Mahabharata and Ramayana epics.

Built by Khmer courtiers in the 10th century, Banteay Srei was originally named Tribhuvanamaheshwara, and its surrounding town named Isvarapura, both in dedication to Lord Shiva, though the temple venerates both the gods Shiva and Vishnu. Later on, it was dubbed Banteay Srei or Citadel of Women in Khmer, perhaps in tribute to the plethora of enchanting female devatas (deities) adorning the temple’s walls as well as the life-sized sculptures of yogini (sacred women) found within its compound. See these ancient figures and scenes from the Hindu epics come to life and listen as the yoginis unravel mystical stories of the sacred temple in this exhilarating dance production.

AMARA is by Singapore’s Apsaras Arts Dance Company, established in 1977, by Shri S Sathyalingam and Smt Neila Sathyalingam, Alumni and former faculty at Kalakshetra Foundation, India. Apsaras Arts is the inaugural recipient of Stewards of Intangible Culture and Heritage award by Singapore’s National Heritage Board in 2020. The dance company has been led by award winning artistic director Aravinth Kumarasamy since 2005.

AMARA at Nrithyodaya

Honoured to have been presented at the three-day festival celebrating Nrithyodaya’s 80th anniversary at the Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai. The festival was curated and presented by dance doyenne Dr Padma Subrahmanyam. AMARA performance was presided by N Murali, the president of Madras Music Academy, and leading dance legends Priyadarsini Govind and Shobhana.

AMARA at Kalakshetra Foundation

Blessed to have had legendary dance gurus, VP Dhananjayan, Shantha Dananjayan, Dr Padma Subrahmaniyam, Lakshmi Viswanathan and Kalakshetra Director Revathi Ramachandran who were present to light the auspicious lamp to inaugurate the performance. Grateful to have had Singapore’s consul general to Chennai Mr Edgar Pang and his team attend this performance

Auditions, Immersion Program and National Day Celebrations

During this tour to India, Apsaras Arts Dance company conducted an audition to select project dancers from India for an upcoming project, and the company dancers from Singapore attended a week-long immersion program at Kalakshetra foundation. Team Apsaras Arts was invited for the Singapore’s National day celebrations in Chennai organised by the Consulate of Singapore in Chennai.

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