Dance of brilliance at Indian Performing Arts Convention finale

By Our Reporter
The grand finale to the Indian Performing Arts Convention held on 25 September at the Alexander Theatre, Monash University

The grand finale to the five-day Indian Performing Arts Convention (IPAC) was an aesthetic treat with Australian intermediate and advanced Bharatnatyam dancers showcasing their skills through their repertoires.

The finale held on Sunday, 25 September, at the Alexandria Theatre, Monash University, was the culmination of a week-long dance intensive and a celebratory concert performance of iconic compositions of Indian classical music and dance repertoire. Delegates were mentored by visiting IPAC international faculty such as Lalgudi GJR Krishnan, Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, and choreographed by Rama Vaidyanathan and Bragha Bessell.

Vaidyanathan, one of the leading exponents of Bharatanatyam, and undoubtedly, one of the most sought after artistes of her generation having carved a name for herself in the Bharatanatyam world, introduced the evening’s opening shapdam in Raga Malika and Misra Chapu.

Shapdam, as you know, is one of the first primary compositions that student of dance learns once the repertoire begins and this is the first introduction to abhinaya (expressive techniques used to convey a theme, mood, or idea). And, of course, it is also coupled with some abstract movement,” explained Vaidyanathan, who has received critical acclaim for her extraordinary skills in choreography and has made several contributions to the Bharatanatyam repertoire.

“We showcased this so that there is a goal through the week that these young dancers endeavour for.” She hoped the repertoire will grow as the dancers continue to perform. She taught the dancers the shapdam she performed at the Music Academy Concert just 11 months ago.

Aravinth Kumarasamy, the artistic director of Singapore-based Apsara Arts, a 45-year-old award-winning dance company, who curated the convention in Melbourne for the second time, said every single repertoire presented was special as it was presented and taught by the IPAC faculty. The faculty comprises performing artistes who don’t typically teach, it was a once in a while opportunity, he added.

Rama Vaidyanathan, one of the top stars of Bharatanatyam, and one of the most sought after dancers of her generation

“These are precious repertoires which are recorded and handed to these delegates so that they can continue to perform. For me, it’s wonderful to see how in the five days the community have transpired these dancers to absorb and learn,” he said.

Talking about the importance of the convention, Kumarasamy said it brings together the fraternity – be it teachers, students or dancers. “Many of these individuals learn from their own school and have their individual repertoire, but tonight they had a common repertoire for Australia (there were dancers from other parts of the country too). They can always regroup and come together again to perform. This repertoire now binds people, connects community and connects the dancers.”

Felicitation for Tara Rajkumar OAM, renowned expert on Kathakali

For the past 10 years, Apsara Arts has been presenting IPAC annually to inspire practicing artistes of Indian classical music and dance in Asia Pacific. Last year, it started its Australian edition with Monash University.

For Kumarasamy, this year has been ambitious one for IPAC having just come out of the pandemic. The five-day event saw nine lecture demonstrations by 10 artistes, four master classes on music by Lalgudi GJR Krishnan, Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, and six Bharatnatyam classes conducted by the faculty from India and Singapore.

Second from left: Artistic director Aravinth Kumarasamy with esteemed IPAC faculty at the closing night

The evening also paid a tribute to Tara Rajkumar OAM, renowned expert on Kathakali, who has explored the post-colonial evolution of this dance form through the work of Lightfoot. Rajkumar’s research culminated in her creation of Temple Dreaming in 1996, a performance representing her reflections on Lightfoot, encapsulating who she was, what she accomplished and the ideals she stood for. Temple Dreaming was subsequently presented at India’s Golden Jubilee in 1997, and on tour around the subcontinent.

IPAC is a collaboration between Monash Performing Arts Centres, The Academy of Indian Music Australia (AIM), and Apsaras Arts, Singapore (Apsaras).

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