2012 is the maiden year of Samarpana (meaning “an offering”), a festival celebrating all forms of classical dance throughout Asia. Festival producer and performing artist Gayatri Sriram and her student Tanvi Bhaskar (17) chat to us about Bharatanatyam, a popular South Indian classical dance, and their involvement in the upcoming festival.
How did your passion for dance come about?
G: I’ve been dancing for over two decades now. My parents signed me up for dance classes when I was five as learning music and dance from a young age is a traditional Indian thing. As I grew up, I realised that dance was more than just rhythm and moving my limbs; it’s about the soul and the art form. I knew it was something I’d do all my life.
T: I started dance classes when I was six, two years after my family moved here from Mumbai, and debuted as a professional dancer in 2009. Because Bharatanatyam relies heavily on Indian mythology, it keeps me grounded to my roots. I probably know a lot more about Indian culture than most of my Indian friends at UWC South East Asia!
What are you performing in Samarpana?
G: Our team is creating a platform for audiences to appreciate dance and to watch rare collaborations such as TM Krishna with top Bharatanatyam dancer Priyadarsini Govind.
I will be presenting a solo production of Yagyaseni, a great Indian mythological character, with sonnet excerpts from Shri Pavan Varma’s oeuvre Yudhistir and Draupadi. I’ll portray the feisty lead character’s soft womanly side in addition to her immense strength and vengefulness.
T: I’m presenting a solo production of Uttara, a character from Mahabharata, which is a great Indian epic, under the Upcoming Artists section. Dancers usually start productions later in their careers, as a lot of research goes into the characters. It’ll be challenging, but I have the guidance of my teachers Shrimati Gayatri Sriram and Shrimati Minal Prabhu.
To be able to dance on the same platform as established dancers in the opening year of the festival is truly an honour.
The most memorable stage you’ve ever danced on?
T: The stage of my first professional dance, The Tango Project, as part of Republic Polytechnic’s Arts Festival. I performed one-on-one with another dancer to tango music and it was a great experience that I’ll never forget.
G: More than the venue, I believe it’s how a dancer interacts with the audience. One of my best performances was at the Kala Ghoda Festival in Mumbai where my chemistry with the 2,000-strong audience was great. I’d love to go back to the gorgeous Victoria Theatre once it’s open again.
One myth about dancers?
T: People think that a dancer can only be graceful but not athletic. Dancing requires stamina and strength.
G: Before the face paint and glamour, there’s a lot of sweat and toil. For many, dancing isn’t just a hobby; it takes a great amount of hard work, creativity and passion.