By Vidhya Nair
On April 12th, Sunday, Apsaras Arts launched “Spotlight Series” for their students, teachers, parents and Devata partners on the video conference ‘Zoom’ platform. This series aims to provide interactive discussions on a variety of topics with expert speakers in order to create awareness and appreciation of the performing arts practice. The first session was on the topic of Margam or repertoire that is a followed by all the Indian Classicaldances forms. Over the 90 minute session, speakers Soumee De, Shivangi Dake, Mohanapriyan Thavarajah and Aravinth Kumarasamy, covered the basic content, similarities and differences of a repertoire among the four dance forms Odissi, Kathak, Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam. More than 60 dancers attended this inaugural session.
The second Sunday Spotlight series featured eminent dancers from cities in India, Aditi Mangaldas from Mumbai, Priyadarshini Govind from Chennai and Ileana Citaristi from Bhuvaneswar, through the video conference platform. They offered their personal story about their relationships, learnings and blessings from their respective legendary Gurus. Aditi Mangaldas spoke of her two teachers, Smt Kumudini Lakhia, Pandit Birju Maharaj. Priyadarshini Govind narrated her memories of Smt Kalanidhi Narayanan and Dr Ileana Citaristi retold her story of learning from Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. The three imminent teachers, transformned into their student lives and generously shared details of their relationships with the Gurus who had nurtured them over the years. They highlighted how their Gurus inspired their thinking and at the same time helped them develop their own interpretation and create their own unique practice. More than 70 dancers attended this session and asked questions that ranged from values, respect, openness, relationships and learnings about dance and life.
In this latest edition of Apsaras Arts Spotlight Series, three internationally renowned dancers joined to share their dance journeys, shedding light on how they came to pursue Bharatanatyam and Odissi despite not being of Indian-descent. Dr Ramli Ibrahim, a Malaysian who received his Padma-Shri in 2018 shared how he created his own dance company, Sutra Foundation and the challenges he faces in creating multiple nights of sold-out shows without institutional funding but still considers his Malaysian multi-cultural identity as integral to his interpretation of Odissi dance. He spoke about his extensive travels within India learning from several eminent teachers and finding his own voice. This was echoed by Frenchman Dominique Delorme, who shared his harrowing first encounters in India from the funeral pyres of Varanasi and living in squalor conditions while learning Bharatanatyam. He spoke passionately about how he considers dance to be a natural instinctive calling and learning the techniques from eminent teachers like Padma Subramanyam and becoming mesmerised with the artform drew his lifelong admiration. The third panellist was Guiditta de Concini, from Bottega, Italy. Her introduction to Bharatanatyam came to her as an adult and mother of two and subsequent training introduced her to a number of Gurus like C Balagopalan and Leela Samson, who she shared embraced her wholeheartedly and accepted her without judgement or impediment and allowed her to explore her own artistry and she found her knowledge and application grow with various experimental works she was able to create and gain viewership in her hometown of Bottega. This session was attended by over 100 participants from around the world, including Japan, Australia, France, Italy, Malaysia, India and Singapore. Many of the participants were deeply inspired by this session remarking that they were embolden by these international dancers who overcame barriers and became names to reckon with and are performing without inhibitions or cultural barriers. Several rasikas shared that being able to engage with these acclaimed dancers through this online platform is making them look forward to head back to theatres post Covid19 lockdown and the knowledge they are reflecting on through these sessions is enhancing their appreciation for the deep aesthetics of Indian classical dance.
To sign up for the upcoming Sunday Spotlight Series in May-June, look out for the Apsaras Arts Facebook page.