Singapore-Based Apsaras Dance Company Is Giving Bharatnatyam A New Twist With Rasa!

Singapore-Based Apsaras Dance Company Is Giving Bharatnatyam A New Twist With Rasa!

The five rasas or emotions used in the production were Adbhutham (wonder), Veeram (bravery), Hasyam (laughter), Bhayanakam (fear) and Shringaram (love).

connectedtoindia.comUpdated: Friday, March 22, 2024, 04:37 PM IST
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Dancers showcasing the five Rasas. Photo courtesy: ADC |

Breaking away from the traditional Bharatnatyam recitals, a classical Indian dance form, Singapore-based Apsaras Dance Company, staged Rasa. Their unique take, staged on 18th February 2024 at the Sota Drama Theatre, was lauded by the audience.

The five rasas or emotions used in the production were Adbhutham (wonder), Veeram (bravery), Hasyam (laughter), Bhayanakam (fear) and Shringaram (love).

Connected to India caught up with Aravinth Kumarasamy, Artistic Director, Apsaras Dance Company, shortly after the premiere. Excerpts from the chat:

avinth Kumarasamy, Artistic Director, Apsaras Dance Company. Photo courtesy: ADC

avinth Kumarasamy, Artistic Director, Apsaras Dance Company. Photo courtesy: ADC |

How did the show come about?

In paying tribute to our Founder, Mrs Neila Sathyalingam, on her birth anniversary month, we have been running the “Remembering Neila Sathyalingam Festival” since 2020. This year marks the 5th edition of the festival and we wanted to feature the students of the Apsaras Arts Academy, one that she institutionalised in 1977.

To conceptualise an original production rather than churn out one of her older productions felt like a fitting tribute to celebrate her ethos of constantly innovating and creating new works.

Who conceptualised the show?

The show was conceptualised by me. I worked with a creative team form India, comprising scholar and author, Dr V R Devika who researched the stories for the production; dance artiste and scholar Dr Anjana Anand, who choreographed the dance pieces and took the artistic vision forward. Shri Sheejith Krishna and Shri Embar Kannan produced the music for the production.

Choreographer Anjana Anand (left) and Research and Script Consultant VR Devika. Photo courtesy: ADC

Choreographer Anjana Anand (left) and Research and Script Consultant VR Devika. Photo courtesy: ADC |

The show was a break from conventional Bharatanatyam shows with the audience knowing exactly what will follow, thanks to the host setting the context. Was this done on purpose? Is it an Apsaras Arts experiment?

Yes, it was very much our intention to have a storyteller take the audience through the stories, since the dance pieces were essentially born out of fables, and we wanted to retain the authenticity of an oral tradition passing down.

Composers Embar Kannan (left) and Sheejith Krishna. Photo courtesy: ADC

Composers Embar Kannan (left) and Sheejith Krishna. Photo courtesy: ADC |

The other practical reason was also because, we were conscious that more than half the audience were attending a Bharathanatyam production for the first time and taking this approach could make it more interesting for them to appreciate the artform.

Tell us a bit about the age and background of the dancers involved in RASA!

Rasa! featured dancers mostly from the ages of 14 – 26, with a learning backgrounds from 5 years up.

Will RASA! be staged in the future as well?

Certainly. We made a conscious effort to pick secular stories that could be communicated through dance and could be enjoyed by all ages so that a variety of audiences would appreciate it. There are plans to re-stage the show.

Apsaras Arts has other shows as well, which it showcases in Singapore and other parts of the world, will RASA! join the Apsaras Arts international repertoire?

This is still early stages. It will definitely be added to the portfolio and when the need arises, this production may tour.

How many shows of RASA! have been performed till date?

The show in Feb was the premier edition.

(The article is published under a mutual content partnership arrangement between The Free Press Journal and Connected To India)

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