Novel The lively dancers of Apsaras Arts and Bharatha Arts, Singapore, recreated architectural wonders.

What sets apart renowned temples and monuments from other grand buildings - the architectural beauty or the intangible spirit that pervades the walls? ‘Nirmanika,’ a group production by Apsaras Arts, Singapore, recreated the sublime experience of such architectural wonders through elegant Bharatanatyam, music and lighting.

The collective inputs of the dance company’s artistic director Neila Sathyalingam, concept and creative direction of Aravinth Kumarasamy as well as those of guest choreographer and artist Anjana Anand manifested as an eye-catching display.

Although the theme was unconventional, the path it followed was not. By staying close to the margam arrangement, the concept not only touched familiar ground but also achieved dramatic sway at precise points.

In its one-hour ten-minute presentation, the dance showcased the design of temples at Konarak, Madurai, Thanjavur and Borobudur in Indonesia and the white sheen of the Taj Mahal. The expression of the complexities of the Sree Chakra in the beginning and the concluding verses from Tirumandiram by Saint Tirumoolar completed the narration.

Any creases in the show were in the poor links amongst the differing dialects of Bharatanatyam. While in some parts the dance moves were slick and smooth and characterised by agile stretches, shifts in postures and contrasting displays of stillness and movements, in others the dancing was chock-a-block with grounded movements and classic adavus. A little planning could have made the jumps smoother in technique.

Moods aplenty

Some of the best moments were in the depiction of Konarak Sun temple, the colourful imagery of the Meenakshi temple and the multi-levelled depiction of the Buddha statues in Borobudur. While the majesty of the Thanjavur Brihadeeswara temple was appropriately conveyed by Anjana Anand in the solo abhinaya depiction, the portrayal of the deity in the ‘karuvarai’ needed emotional colour. The eye movements for the little princess caught the imaginative mood of the piece nicely.

The fastidious lighting was a big asset for the production and contributed as much to the performance as the dancers themselves.

For instance the lines of the Sree Chakra or the shadows of the Konarak temple were augmented by the well planned lighting cues, a result of the efforts of technical director Kalaiarasan that were executed by Murugan. Another plus point was the music direction by Aravinth Kumarasamy and singing by Anish Ram, whose melodies soared to the heights one would link to the monuments.

‘Nirmanika’ brought out not merely the outwardly splendour of the monuments but also emphasised the ambience and ethos associated with them. The production has seen several international tours and reflected the patina gained by continuous practice and performing.

The lively dancers drawn from both Apsaras Arts as well as Bharatha Arts from Singapore, displayed proficiency born out of dedicated drill.

Quick changes in stances, nimble footwork and suggestive miming carried through the central idea of ‘Nirmanika’ with flair.