By Soumee De

“This is our second year of organising the Neela Sathyalingam festival. Her memory continues to inspire us, and we are motivated to strive to preserve our arts” said Aravinth Kumarsamy, Artistic and Managing Director. Remembering Neila Sathyalingam Festival 2021 was organized at the Stamford Arts Centre in presence of Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan as the Guest of Honour. Apsaras Arts also launched AVAI, a digital platform, felicitated Smt Meera Balasubramanian as the second recipient of the Neila Sathyalingam Memorial Endowment Award and presented a thematic solo bharatnatyam performance “Nava Durga” by one of the senior students of Neila Maami, Dr Roshni Pillay Kesavan.

On a beautiful Sunday evening on 7th February 2021, Apsaras Arts presented the Remembering Neila Sathyalingam Festival 2021, at the Stamford Arts Centre, Singapore. Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan was the Guest of Honour at this second edition of the festival that was launched in February 2020. Since the launch of the festival, all live performances and tours were cancelled with the onset of the pandemic which encouraged Apsaras Arts team to re-invent itself and create a series of digital productions, curate digital works, host online events and webinars while reaching out to both Singapore and global audiences. To make the digital effiorts sustainable, Apsaras Arts launched our very own online platform AVAI @ Apsaras Arts that will continue to host and share our digital performances and events, in the new normal.

AVAI is an exquisite word in the Tamil language which means “a place to congregate”, “ a town hall” etc. AVAI will host dance and music performances, lecture demonstrations, webinars and live stream events, available for the connoisseurs of the arts, students and researchers to watch 24 by 7. AVAI is part of our website www.apsarasarts.com, and can be accessed for free, pay per view, and subscribe for exclusive content.

We had the honour of our guest of honour Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan launch AVAI @ Apsaras Arts by chiming a pair of “Salangai” (dance anklet bells) on this memorable day celebrating our founder Shrimathi Neila Sathyalingam’s birth anniversary.

Visit AVAI: http://www.apsarasarts.com/avai/

The festival was celebrated by the presentation of a thematic solo Bharatanatyam performance NAVA DURGA by one of Smt Neila Sathyalingam’s senior student, Bharatha Kala Mani Dr Roshni Pillay Kesavan. Dr Roshni Pillay Kesavan opened the festival with an invocation to Lord Shiva “Nagendra Haraya” choreographed by Neewin Hershall. With balanced poise and minimalistic clean movements, she delivered the coamic energy exuded by the Lord of Dance. The evening’s performance was dedicated to Goddess Durga, the consort of Lord Shiva and her nine forms worshipped annually during the Navrathri festival. Choreographed by Dr Roshni Pillay Kesavan, each of the nine forms were re-told in dramatic splendor bringing out the best of traditional bharatnatyam story-telling techniques. Dr Pillay Kesavan’s depth of story-telling brought alive the varying characteristics and significance of the nine forms Shailaputri, Brahmachāriṇī, Chandrakaṇṭā, Kuṣhmāṇḍā, Skandamātā, Kātyāyanī, Kālarātrī, Mahāgaurī, Siddhidātrī. We thank her for generously sharing her art and debuting her new choreography at this festival.

The festival also marked the presentation of the annual Neila Sathyalingam Memorial Endowment Award 2021 to the second recipient Smt Meera Balasubramanian, senior company dancer at Apsaras Arts and co-founder of Kaplavriksha Fine Arts in recognition of her achievements in Indian Classical Dance in Singapore. This includes a citation and a cash award to encourage Singapore based dancers to pursue their passion.

“Neila mami was a pioneer in promoting Indian arts and culture in Singapore and I’m elated to receive this award that’s named after her. I thank Apsaras arts for recognizing my contribution. Special mention to Aravinth Kumarasamy for constantly guiding me through this artistic journey and making me part of so many iconic productions of Apsaras arts”, said, Meera Balasubramanian in her acceptance speech.

In summary, Aravinth Kumarsamy, Artistic and Managing Director said,
“This is our second year of organising the Neela Sathyalingam festival. Her memory continues to inspire us, and we are motivated to strive to preserve our arts.”