Pranavam: Temple youth group explores pandemic emotions

By Our Reporter
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In a bid to reinvigorate the community and the youth arts scene, the Melbourne YUVA, the Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar Temple’s youth group, has produced a unique dance odyssey titled Pranavam, which explores and portrays the various emotions experienced over the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exploring the theme of Navarasas—or nine emotions—through Bharatanatyam (a major Indian classical dance), each piece depicts various emotions. Conceptualised and executed by Melbourne YUVA, this youth-led Indian classical dance show featuring six of Melbourne’s premier dance institutions, had its first show on 25 June at George Wood Performing Arts Centre.

Melbourne YUVA President Mayuran Sritharan says the aim of the show was to give the youth a platform to showcase their talents. “Throughout the pandemic we truly missed these interactions and the experience of going to live performances. Hence, the youth committee decided to put forth a dance program to reinvigorate the community and the youth arts scene in Melbourne,” he says.

Pranavam, in Sanskrit, means to give life and the show did just that.

Through each performance, the talented dancers from Victoria’s leading Indian classical arts schools brought nine emotions to life, enthralling audiences with their personal interpretation using their lived experiences.

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Accompanying each Bharatanatyam performance was a live orchestra featuring up-and-coming talented musicians.

The nine emotions chosen and explored during the show were: Shringara (love), Hasya (laughter), Karuna (compassion/kindness), Raudra (anger), Veera (courage), Bhayanaka (fear), Bibhatsa (disgust), Adbutha (wonder/surprise) and Shantha (peace/tranquility). Each dance school explored and interpreted three of these emotions.

Using a combination of Nritta and Nritya (rhythmic dance movements and expressive dance movements respectively), as also Natya (the combination of Nritta and Nritya), the dancers showcased the feeling and intensity of the different human emotions. In addition, they displayed rigorous and rhythmic hand and feet movements, flexibility and stamina as they took the audience on a journey with them.

The show featured a number of innovative music and dance compositions composed and choreographed by the young performers themselves, a skill they were able to develop and showcase, veering from tradition where the guru (teacher) usually composes or choreographs a piece. Each performance featured classical pieces but also new compositions, while others put a contemporary spin on familiar pieces while reflecting the reality of life in a post-COVID world.

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The five-hour show was a resounding success with Bayswater Member of Parliament the Honourable Jackson Taylor as guest of honour and more than 700 people in attendance. The event was organised to support Melbourne YUVA’s commitment to social services. In addition, it also marked the Sri Vakrathunda Vinayagar Temple’s 30th anniversary. At the event, Taylor announced a grant of $48,000 for this year’s Ganesh Chathurthi (Lord Ganesha’s birthday) celebrations in recognition of the temple and Melbourne YUVA’s commitment to the community.

President of the Melbourne Vinayagar Hindu Sangam Shan Pillai says, “The fact that the youth of our community chose to create a show, anchored in our traditional Hindu culture, is indeed a source of great pride for me and many parents.

“As I have always told my son, ‘You can see further than me because you are sitting on my shoulders’. Just as a parent guides their child, I pray Pillaiyar (Lord Ganesha) will continue to guide Melbourne YUVA to see further and achieve bigger and better things in everything associated with the temple as well as their lives.”

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“I have been truly blessed with an amazing Temple committee that shares the same vision and encouraged and brought out the best in each other, which translated beautifully into such a successful program. We are very excited for the future of the Indian Classical arts scene in Melbourne,” adds Mayuran.

The six dance schools who collaborated with Melbourne YUVA were: Bharatha Choodaamani School of Indian Classical Dance, Naatyalayaa Dance School, Nrithakshetra School of Indian Classical Dance, Narthana Sorubalaya Bharathanatya School, Bharatha Kalanjali Naatyam School Melbourne and Nadanalaya Academy of Indian Classical Dance.

Melbourne YUVA was founded in 2016. It aims to have an impactful presence within Victoria—focused on engaging the youth within the community via social service activities and hosting charitable fundraisers. The members dedicate their time and talent to foster the brightest young minds of their community to benefit all Victorians.

The Indian Sun acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

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