Sunday, 16 August 2020

Apsaras Arts - Digital live screening of Anjasa

Vidhya Nair

Apsaras Arts production - Anjasa (pronounced as “Anyasa”) refers to ‘the path’ in Pali, the classical language of Buddhism and explores the beauty of Buddhist temple architectures. The production takes the audience on a journey through monuments including Mahadevi Temple in Nepal, Bodhgaya Mahabodhi Temple and Sanchi Stupa in India, Vattadage in Sri Lanka, Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar, Bayon in Cambodia, Borobudur in Indonesia and Wat Pho in Thailand. The production also highlights the contributions of Buddhist emperors,  Asoka and Jayavarman VII who were iconic in the spread of Buddhism across Asia. 
This dance production featured dancers from Apsaras Arts and a unique musical orchestra with music composed by an array of Singaporean artistes including Aravinth Kumarasamy who composed the score which comprised both classical Indian and Chinese instruments including the Er Hu, Yang Qin.  The costumes and set design have been inspired by Buddhist iconography using color schemes of gold, saffron and red as found in Buddhist robes from India and Southeast Asia.
Anjasa premiered in Singapore in January 2015 at Victoria Theatre and has toured to several countries 
in the last five years. To promote this digital screening, three unique talks were organized to showcase difference aspects of this production. On the eve of the screening, Directors’ Circle was launched. This is a new initiative that brings together behind-the-scenes insights from the people who created the production in a roundtable discussion. For this inaugural edition, dancer-choreographer Rama Vaidyanathan hosted Aravinth Kumarasamy (who created the concept, directed and composed the music) Mohanapriyan Thavarajah (who choreographed the dance sequences & designed the costumes) and Stanley Ang (who performed the Chinese instrument, Yang Qin). 
During this talk, they shared several details of their conceptualization, and both Mohanapriyan and 
Stanley performed unique excerpts and shared the working philosophy and the research undertaken 
to depict the different elements of Buddhist architecture.
This was followed by an exclusive spotlight session with eminent heritage experts - Chithra Madhavan (India), Peter Lee (Singapore) moderated by Tara Dhar Hasnain (Singapore) on four specific Buddhist monuments – Sanchi, Pollorunuwa, Bayon, and Borobudur. Here, they delved deep into the historic time period and the impact of these monuments to both the local environment and the composite identities that evolved over the centuries. This session was highly anticipated and we had over 70 attendees in a closed session.
Finally,  a youth-oriented talk was organized under the Apsaras banner, 'Cultural Conversations' with a session called “Tamils’ Routes in Southeast Asia.”. For the first time, this was bilingual talk in Tamil and English featuring four young Tamils – Harini Vee, Vinita Ramani, Seema Hari Kumar, and Mohanapriyan Thavarajah who engaged and explore Tamil identity, historical routes within their roots as citizens of Southeast Asia. The speakers addressed the impact of classical India on Southeast Asia and how passing this on to future generations will always call for reflection and understanding of the past ideologies and strengthen our appreciation of Tamil roots and heritage.
A unique online art challenge was organised to garner interest in the production and the Buddhist monuments. Many young artists participated in the junior’s category and used this opportunity to research and explore different artistic methods to recreate the monuments in charcoal, digital art, pencil work. The most popular monuments were Sanchi and Borobudur.  The winners of the final round received Amazon cash vouchers and an opportunity for their artwork to be featured as part of Anjasa’s overseas tours in coming years.

Links to all the videos

Watch the dancers share their experience of the tour:

Listen to Artistic Director, Aravinth Kumaraswamy's

Watch the Culture Conversation

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