Friday Review

Creative interpretations

Depicting the universality of the lotus: Team Alapadma Photo: Sudhakara Jain  

The Lotus, as a metaphor, has never stopped stimulating a dancer or a choreographer's creative impetus. Apsaras Arts, Singapore, with Antara, the PR initiative of Aalaap, Chennai, presented ‘Alapadma - The Lotus Unfolds’, a Bharatanatyam group production under the mentorship of Neila Sathyalingam and the artistic direction of Aravinth Kumarasamy, as part of the decennial celebrations of the state-of-the-art auditorium at Christ University. It was a collection of motifs of the lotus flower, creatively interpreted and logically stacked to make a production that was audio-visually rich, without losing the artistic depth and focus from the subject.

‘Srishti Sarasija’, the first of six consecutive acts of ‘Alapadma’, started with the lotus in creation myths. The Blue Lotus in Egyptian belief, revealing the Sun god in the golden heart of the flower and the ‘Naabi Kamalam’ – the lotus stemming off Lord Vishnu’s navel, seating Lord Brahma at the helm of creation – were elaborated. ‘Pada Pankaja’, the second act depicted the lotus as metaphor for the feet of exalted spiritual beings. The episode of Guhan trying to get hold of a lotus in the pond and later recognizing it to be Rama’s reflection was a clever choreographic touch, among other references to the Buddha, Saraswati and Lakshmi, in that context.

‘Alapadma’- the 12th ‘Asamyuta Hasta’ or single-hand gesture in the Natyashastra, meaning a fully bloomed lotus, was depicted iconographically in the third act, ‘Alankara Ambuja’. The act moved from imagery to poetry and finished with a ‘Pudhu Kavidhai’. ‘Leela Kamala’, act four, showed the lotus portraying the nayika in love. The romantic ambience was taken further to Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava, to show the lotus as one of cupid’s arrows that disrupted Shiva’s deep meditative state. The story flowed into Saravana Poigai, where the sparks of fury from Shiva’s third eye lead to the birth of Skanda on six lotus blooms, nurtured by the Karthigai damsels. The last act, ‘Sahasra Padma’ showed the lotus in the intellectual chakra blossoming petal by petal unto wisdom.

“The content creation was done by drawing ideas from the team behind the production, in line with my overall design. Our musicians Chitra Poornima Sathish, Bombay V. Anand, T. Ramanan and K.S. Balakrishnan have each contributed in composing the production’s music and the choreography has been done by Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, the principal dancer of the group of eight,” said Aravinth, in a chat about the making of ‘Alapadma’. “It is Neila mami’s vision of building a multi-faceted team instead of a one-dimensional group that followed her repertoire that has brought Apsara Arts to be one of the premier Indian dance companies in Singapore,” added Aravinth.

A choreographic venture is like a salad with a recipe. Every ingredient and how it works with every other ingredient in the bowl, adds quality to the outcome. ‘Alapadma’s every artistic element viz. vision, music, choreography, script, lights, visuals, sound, costumes and make-up was right where it should be to make the overall production as extraordinary as it was.

The dancers were well synchronized even though their individual styles were different from each other.

Mohanapriyan’s brisk nritta made the audience sit up and watch. However, his stylized abhinaya seemed over dramatized particularly for Rama.

The orchestra in general and the vocalist, Chitra Poornima Sathish, in particular, was exceptional. Her ragamalika gave the imagery of a clean brush that painted a spectrum without a tinge of colour from the previous stroke. The lyrical range from Periyalwar Pasuram to Pudhu Kavidhai, from Bhagavatham to Mahakavi Bharathi and his great grandson, Rajkumar Bharathi, allowed for depth and textures in the production. The choice of ragas was a particularly delightful aspect of the evening.

From early hieroglyphics to modern metaphors, it is perhaps the universality in the spiritual symbolism of the lotus that makes it a subject oft revisited for newer nuances. Apsara Arts’ four decade experience of prolific international productions, was reflected in the deftness and uniqueness of their production.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 2:01:38 PM |

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