Happy New Year to all! It’s been a while.
To start 2014 off with a spark, we wanted to share a Q&A that we recently did with well-known Bharatanatyam artists and husband and wife team based in India – Aswathy & N.Srikanth. In telling us more about their recent production – “Amritavarshini – A Rain Song,” Aswathy gives us insights on behalf of both of them, into the world of choreography for dance. You can read a short bio at the end.
1. Tell us a little bit about your recent production – Amritavarshini.
“Amritavarshini- A Rain Song,” is about rain in all its magnificence. Rain is revered upon in several cultures as divine. It is the harbinger of new life. Rain plays on the emotions of human beings. It can also be destructive. Without water there is no life says the Upanishads. The production brings out all these aspects in four parts.
2. What was the inspiration/motivation behind taking this particular theme?
Amritavarshini which premiered on April 16th 2013 is a work that has been inside me for a long time. Like any girl who grew up in Kerala, I would look forward to the monsoon every year. None of the devastating aspects of the rain mattered much to me as a child, it fascinated me beyond imagination. It does still. When we had to apply for a grant from the Ministry of Culture I decided to give this idea a shot, and it was approved. Then it was a year and a half’s labor to get it on stage.
3. As a choreographer, how did you and Srikanth go about starting to create this production? Can you give us a little insight into your creative process (music, narrative, choreography, lighting, etc)?
When we set about this, we realized that it was not easy to communicate all the various facets of rain, so we divided the whole production into four parts aiming at an hour and half duration. Salutation to rain, signs of oncoming rain, and how rain and drought affect human life forms the first part. Human relationships when juxtaposed with the rains forms part two. The destructive nature of rain forms part three. And the final and fourth part is again a statement from the Upanishads that there can be no life without rain. It ends with a prayer for the good of all mankind.
Music has been scored by Dr. Rajkumar Bharathi, grandson of the legendary Tamil poet Subramanya Bharathi. Lyrics have been sourced from Ancient Tamil literature like the Paripaadal, Mukkoodal Pallu, Kalidasa’s Megha Sandesham, Cherusseri’s Malayalam poem Krishnagaatha, and Surdas’s Bhajan in Braj language.
Light design was not easy as we have few specialized and experienced technicians in Calicut. So we had to make do with whatever we had, but it turned out beautiful. Our focus was more on the dance, so stage setting was kept to a minimum. When we stage it in future we will have a few elements to add to all this.
Choreography was tough but now as we look back we think it was well worth the effort. There had to be emotional moments as well as powerful dancing because the whole production had to be entertaining as well.
4. It seems like we are only now starting to expand more out of taking stories and themes from traditional Hindu mythology in creating dance productions. What are your thoughts around this in terms of challenges, benefits, etc?
It is much easier when we handle themes from mythology as the story line is already there. When it comes to abstract themes or themes of social relevance we have to create a thread or a story line with a beginning, middle and end. For, dance is a very visual art and when we explore such themes through the classical idiom it is extremely challenging to keep the audience entertained from beginning to end. I like to venture into such themes as times are changing and with it, are the tastes of audiences. But it can also be very expensive if we look at the practical side of it. The benefit is that we learn a lot in terms of choreography when we do such productions, and it will be a novel experience for the spectator, too.
5. Do you have any words of wisdom for teachers and/or dancers who would like to choreograph dance productions?
We are no great teachers to give words of wisdom!! But from experience we can say that one has to be extremely convinced about the concept and method of presentation before venturing out. Musical sense will be helpful while recording the music, and there should be clear understanding between the choreographer and music director. These two points are very very important. The rest will fall in place.
For more about Aswathy & Srikanth, visit - http://nrityalaya.net
N. Srikanth - is a highly accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer. Since the age of 6, Srikanth has been at home on the stage, first as an actor in the Bhagavata Mela dance drama of Mellattur, Tamilnadu, and then as a dancer in the tradition of Bharatanatyam. Srikanth has trained under several illustrious Gurus including Sri. Shanmugasundaram Pillai, Dr. Saraswati, and Dr.Padma Subrahmanyam. It was at Dr.Padma Subrahmanyam’s institution that he broadened his horizons in the art of Natya. He has also performed with leading dancers like Chitra Visweswaran, Lakshmi Viswanathan, Radha, Krishnaveni Lakshmanan, Malavika Sarukkai, and Anita Ratnam. A dancer, actor, and nattuvanar, Srikanth’s training in music and inherent love for literature add a greater depth to the artiste in him and make him a true exponent of Natya.
Aswathy – Aswathy’s affinity to the arts would have come as no surprise for anybody who has known her from her childhood. Born to Kalamandalam Saraswathy and Sri. M.T Vasudevan Nair – Jnanpith award-winning legendary Malayalam writer and film maker, Aswathy started dance training under her mother, at the tender age of four. This Post Graduate in English Language and Literature is also trained in Carnatic music. Aswathy is trained in three forms of dance, namely Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi. She continues her pursuit of excellence in Mohiniyattam under Smt. Kalamandalam Leelamma, one of the most illustrious names in Mohiniyattam. Aswathy is a regular performer in the sabhas of Chennai and is a graded artist of Doordarshan in both Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam.