Singapore- June 20, 2023: On the morning of Day-4, when we (the faculty) walked into the gorgeous office space of Apsaras Arts, our unparalleled host, Aravinth Kumarasamy, had lovingly transformed the stunning carved dining table into a cornucopia of breakfast delicacies – brimming with French croissants, pastries, and scones of the most delicious kind. With perfect “Adbhuta” (wonderment) expression, we pounced on these decadent Parisian treats.
Next it was time for my “Approach to Choreography” class for a wonderful group of experienced teachers from Singapore, India and Srilanka, who had come to devour whatever I had to offer. I had named my session ‘a play-shop’ (not work-shop) in which I shared thoughts and experiential insights drawn from lifelong dance experiences. How to create meaning not only through organizing the external space via Shape, Time, Energy and Movement, but also accessing the internal emotional space became my theme. Singer/dancer Vaishnavi Anand was a lovely “right hand” to me, providing extempore musical improvisations. The humility and eagerness with which the senior teachers who were themselves accomplished choreographers received and appreciated what I had to offer was heartwarming.
V. R. Devika later regaled the same group of teachers with her session “Abhinaya in Teaching”. Other classes of the day progressed under the guidance of Rama Vaidyanathan (repertoire), Bragha Bessel (abhinaya) and Mahati Kannan (dance foundation).
And THEN … it was time for the magical evening sessions!
Session 1: In her “Kshetra based sancharis in varnams”, Rama Vaidyanathan spread a glorious magic carpet and transported us to Tamizhnadu for a whirlwind tour of temples, and festivals. Complex ideas become crystal clear in the way she uses gestures with clarity and classicism. Nothing is overdone, and yet nothing is left vague or indistinct. After Rama finishes her dance and leaves the stage, she still continues to dance in our imagination and thoughts. That is why she is today a “STAR” in the Bharatanatyam world. Siva’s ajapa dance as happening in Vishnu’s breath, the flight of Vishnu’s Garuda, the cityscape of Thanjavur are all still etched in my memory and will stay there for a long time. Thank you Rama.
Session 2: And then came Singapore’s own gem Mohanapriyan Thavarajah with his “Nindastuti” – in which he brought out the humor in songs where the devotee exalts the deity through what appears to be derogatory utterances. I thoroughly enjoyed his selection of items in Tamil, Kannada and even Marathi. He sparkles in presenting humor because he stays connected with the core of Bhakti and not turn the dance into a slapstick comedy routine. His portrayal of the “ghost” Vittala who will grab you and never leave you brought back memories of the ubiquitous “poochandi-ghost” that mothers would warn their children about. In just one smile he combined horror, enchantment, hypnotism and charm. Wah Priyan! Later, he told me privately that he got the inspiration for this dance from a quirky painting showing Vittala carrying away devotees.
Before I conclude, I must take the time to applaud the attentive (and sensible) curation by Aravinth Kumarasamy whose compilation of events for IPAC is a layout of balanced enrichment of physical, intellectual and spiritually inspiring learning for students. These “ART-VISION” sessions in the evenings (yes, that’s how I have decided to name them) are a veritable treasure trove, that unearth the lifelong experiential wisdom of master practitioners through their carefully prepared presentation themes, most of them premiering for the first time.
Hello Singapore … do you even realize what a priceless gift you have in your own backyard in Apsaras Arts and Aravinth Kumarasamy?
By Ramaa Bharadvaj
Tickets for IPAC Masterclass, Workshops and lecture demonstrations are available at : https://ipac.ticketer.sg/
Tickets for Showcase performances are at : https://www.sistic.com.sg/events?s=ipac