Summer 2018 – An Artistic Venture
by Shyla Ganesan
Summer 2018 – An Artistic Venture (Part 1)
Summer 2018 was a very artistic experience for me personally as well as for my Naatya School, Nrityalaya and its collaborators both in and out of Arizona. We have had such amazing experiences and I would like to share them with you in the following articles.
Guru-Sishya Bond Beyond Borders
Sri KP Bhaskar and Smt Santha Bhaskar, of Bhaskar’s Arts Academy Singapore are my Gurus who initiated me into Bharatanatyam when I was 4 years old. Uncle KP Bhaskar,began his dancing career learning Kathakali at the Roayal Dance School of Travancore, Manipuri, Kathak, Ballet and Kandian dance from many eminent gurus. His wife,Aunty Bhaskar, as she is fondly called, is a graduate of the Chempakassary Arya Kala Nilayam in Kerala and a student of the late Ramunni Panicker, Guru Kunchu Kurup and Kutralam Ganesan Pillai. Under these highly-regarded exponents, she mastered Mohini Attam, Bharatanatyam and Kathakali. She also holds a diploma in Karnatic Music from the Tamil Nadu Government. Together the couple, The Bhaskars, established Bhaskar’s Academy of Dance in Singapore and Malaysia in 1952 and started spreading and teaching the art of Indian Classical dance in Singapore and Malaysia. In 1998 they established the teaching of Bhaskar’s Arts Academy Nrityalaya Aesthetics Society, which has branches in California, Arizona and in Germany too. It is a premier institution in Singapore offering classes in dance, music, yoga and also being the only institution in Singapore to have its own Kathakali troupe consisting of principal dancers trained from Kerala Kalamandalam and Kerala Kala Rangam.
After my Arangetram in 2001 and my move to the US in 2004, I was blessed to start the Arizona branch of Nrityalaya. Although I was in constant touch with Aunty Bhaskar via email, whatsapp, FB and messenger I never had the opportunity to have ‘Classes” with her after my move. The fact that I couldn’t witness her choreographies, that there was no one around to give me my corrections was something I missed sorely. I was a teacher to my student, but I was missing my Guru. After 14 years, as I stepped back to Nrityalaya I was immensely blessed to not only spend time with my Guru, but also witness her choreographic work of “Singai Sathir” show her my choreographic work and also present my daughter Shruthi Sadhasivam to her too.
“Singai Sathir”, was an amalgamation of songs by Singaporean and Indian poets. Fused with Chinese music and Malay dance moves, the margam was an awakening to me on how much I needed to work on improving my thought process. The allarippu interwoven with kummi dance, The Kalyani Jathiswaram with Malay Zapin moves, a kathak and Bharatanatyam jugal to a Tamizh Poem, a solo choreogrpahy on swords with the Chinese Ruan and finally the liliting Revati Thillana were a treat to the eyes. And to see my juniors perform these items with so much dedication, fluidity and precision under the watchful eyes of Aunty Bhaskar brought back fond memories. The live music consisting of Nrityalaya music teachers, Malay and Chinese musicians was a stamp of Aunty Bhaskar showing the multi-cultural diaspora of Singapore.
What made this Singapore trip even splendid was my time having a class with her where I danced in front of her watchful eyes my choreography and also presented my daughter infront of her. As Shruthi danced, Aunty Bhaskar’s encouraging words of “ Mol, good job, spread your hands, make your postures look big and exaggerated, wonderful Shruthi….” Made me not only a happy teacher but a proud mother. After 14 years, I danced in front my Guru, showcasing my choreography of Ardhanareeshwaram. Her first reaction of “ Nice Mol..” made me beam with joy…and then her constructive comments like “ Use the Urdhava Thandavam pose for Shiva, bend the hand a little bit, be a bit flowy….” made me less stiff and more graceful. Seeing her eyes brim with happiness when Shruthi and I danced our duet was priceless. She has seen many mother, daughters and granddaughters pass through her tutelage and perform in front of her. Shruthi and I, have joined that league and we are blessed.
When will this Sishya present her Guru’s choreographic work in The Valley…….it remains to be seen and when that happens that is the best Dakshina that this Sishya can give to her Guru.
In the picture gallery section below, see Singai Sathir poster and pictures with the dancers, musicians and backstage crew who have been with Nrityalaya since the 1990s.
Summer 2018 to be continued with our stint on Mother Land……..
(The writer is a Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher in the Valley and the founder and director of Nrityalaya Aesthetics Society, Chandler, AZ.)
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