Thursday, 4 June 2020

Apsaras Arts – Roundup 25th to 31st May 2020

Vidhya Nair


The last week of May 2020 marked the end of the “Circuit Breaker” in Singapore’s lockdown and end of mid-term holidays for school children. With many online content offerings, it was a challenge to hold audiences yet Apsaras Arts had a unique week with many unexpected outreach opportunities and engagements.

TWO gether Season 2 series in collaboration with @Aalaap_concepts

This week, three Bharatanatyam dancers from Apsaras Arts – Seema Hari Kumar, Mohanapriyan Thavarajah and Nikita Menon paired with three Indian dancers, Bhavna Reddy (Kuchipudi), Vrinda Chadha (Odissi) and Souvik Chakraborthy (Kathak) respectively. Each pair created thirty minutes of discourse and presented nritya and abhinaya pieces that showcased the beauty and the unique voice of each of their dance forms. In some of the pieces, it seemed the way the dancers communicated through their hand and facial gestures and expressions so seamlessly enough for us, the audience to disbelief that the dancer pairs were indeed performing in the same room instead of being miles apart! The dancers shared that this twogetherness imposed greater clarity of collaboration and no conditions for any impasse, a disciplined commitment to prepare credible pieces within the short preparation window. They also felt that this initiative broke down barriers of distance and helped them reach out to fellow dancers in similar mental and emotional anguish during the Covid-19 lockdown, bridging this physical gap with engagement in dance and common ideas.

Anjaneyam – Hanuman’s Ramayana: Encore! on Sistic Live

Apsaras Arts’s 2017 production Anjaneyam- Hanuman’s Ramayana received an encore re-rerun, albeit on an online platform, Sistic Live as part of a tie-up with Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay’s featuring three Singapore-made productions from the Chinese, Malay and Indian community. Over eight days, from 24 May to 31 May, patrons could purchase tickets to watch the full production at their leisure. A large number of new patrons, both local and international were able to access this link and Apsaras Arts received much feedback and accolades for this work that featured an ensemble of close to 200 cast and crew who worked tirelessly to create this high-energy production. Digital outreach is now expected to exist in the new-normal as arts companies engage with viewers in the post Covid19 age. As technology and access gains momentum, we can expect more digital offerings and this is a trend that Apsaras Arts is preparing itself for in coming days.

In the course of the week, reflective conversations on the production were organised to give greater insights on its making. Esplanade hosted a talk on 30 May, where Aravinth Kumarasamy who created this production and helmed its artistic direction, spoke at length on how this staging was made possible and the long-standing relationship Apsaras Arts has created in collaboration with Esplanade in the past 15 years with many innovative works. Do watch this conversation here:


Spotlight Series Session 4 with author and 
theatre personality, Gowri Ramnarayan

This session themed Shaping a Nayaka – evolving characters onstage was held on 31 May. Gowri Ramnarayan, using images from her theatre productions shared the thought process behind the techniques used to shape characters such as Yasodhara, the wife of Prince Gauthama and the use of thought provoking monologues on the characters from the epics such as Manthara, Urmila, Shantha and Soorpanaga, the lesser known heroines from the Ramayana. It was an absorbing session attended by over 60 participants. The Q & A helped dance practitioners to ask questions on how the stage can be used with images of these Nayakas through cloth, painting, lighting and choice of words in scripting and the importance of silence and pause within a performance which all help to create a spellbinding experience for an audience.

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