I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego, nor the reflections of the inner self I am beyond that; I am not the ether, nor the earth, nor the fire, nor the water, nor the wind (the five basic elements)….I am all pervasive, I am without any attributes and without any form…..I am indeed That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Shivam) love and pure consciousness. This formed the crux of the dance production Shivoham (which means I am Shiva) beautifully conceptualised, choreographed and executed by Minal Merai and her group.
Shivoham: The journey within; was a dance journey seeking the existence of the Supreme through the Panchabhootas (five basic elements). The Seeker (here Minal), curious yet humbled by the cosmic concept of Lord Shiva, seeks a path to Him trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Lord as He manifests Himself in the five elements. In the process, the Dance tries to unravel the layers of our physical being to reach The Ultimate that lies within us to attain the state of Shivoham; identification with the Absolute.
Minal Merai explains the concept of Shivoham as, “I am form of Shiva, I am part of Him, I am Shiva, My original self; which is free in nature, nothing can bind it and which is eternal. Shivoham is an attempt to not only understand but to realise one's true self.”
She also stated, “It has always been my dream to see Lord Shiva and his cosmic dance. And I used my dance learning and passion to materialise this dream. I am happy that He chose me as a mediator to present this wonderful journey of finding Shiva: finding oneself.”
In the production she was ably supported by her co-dancers: Meera Balasubramanian, Anuja Varaprasad, Anusha Vasudev, Dhriti Vaidyanathan and Sruti Rao.
Meera, her student and co-dancer in the production who has been with her Guru in every step of the production including logistics, event management, evaluated her joyful experience:
“Shivoham has been an incredible journey for me not only as a dancer but as a person. Shivoham re-emphasizes the idea of non-dualism. As a dancer it was challenging as well as amazing to convey this idea. More so with the help of legendary Dikshithar kritis whose lyrics are eternal and of course Adi Shankara’s Atma Shatakam which amazes me with the supreme values it conveys which are definitely relatable to this current materialistic world.”
The production had lilting compositions; kritis of Muthuswami Dikshitar, the swaras (notes) being composed by K. Sivaraman (violin exponent) and jatis (rhythmic patterns) by T. R Sundaresan (mridangam exponent). The music ensemble of P. Sushanth (vocal), Sanjit Lal (nattuvangam), T.R Sundaresan (mridangam) K. Sivaraman (violin) and L. Sararvanan (flute) gave excellent support.
The dance production was augmented with appropriate images on the screen, with pictures of the Panchabhoota Sthalams (The Shiva Temples of the five elements) like Temple at Thiruvannamalai (representing fire), Thiruvanaikaval (representing water) and so on. The narrator V. Balakrishnan from Chennai, student of National School of Drama, Delhi who had also helped in writing the script, gave a sound narration and with captivating Voice over by Nanditha Hari for the Seeker, it gave the necessary impact to the production.
Minal Merai holds a Master’s Degree in Bharathanatyam from the faculty of performing arts MS University, Vadodhara. She is also a recipient of Nritya Visharad and Gold medal from Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Ahmedabad.
She was in the teaching faculty of Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (SIFAS) for more than 11years and this year she has started her own school Art Lahree Rangshala located in Serangoon.
Her husband and supporter, Amit Dhamelia, is a freelance artiste who runs his own school Param Swaram with Bollywood, keyboard and vocal classes.
“When today's world is rapidly moving towards materialism, it is very important to remind ourselves about our roots and our final destination. Life is becoming stressful; we seek for peace of mind; satisfaction and freedom. We are only concerned about ourselves, our family, and our progress. In the process we lose ourselves. And Shivoham is a reminder to essentially connect with our inner self.”- Minal Merai
Shivoham dance production was presented by Art Lahree Rangshala on 5th October at the NUS, University Cultural Centre, Theatre