A legendary tree which can, alone, grow into a sprawling forest of entwined branches, roots and canopy... An ancient temple dance that has spawned a vast body of styles... The banyan tree and bharathanatyam dance have much in common. Experience this similarity with Aalam, a dance production that spans the history of the famous dance.
The banyan tree, in Hindu mythology, is a sacred tree that lives forever and that can fulfil one’s wishes. Scientifically, the story of the banyan tree is no less remarkable. An unusual plant, it grows by bending to the ground its longer branches which become roots that pump sap back up, serve as support and again grow new branches, eventually growing into a small forest in itself and developing a giant canopy under which musicians, villagers, mendicants, monks and poets alike have historically sought shelter and peace.
Bharathanatyam dance, Apsaras Arts' Music and Creative Director Aravinth Kumarasamy feels, can be likened to the banyan tree. "Through time immemorial it has sustained itself through the variety of genres it has assumed", he says. "And just like each hanging root, each variation only enriches the corpus of cultural heritage that we are proud of and enjoy".
According to him, bharathanatyam was handed down as a living tradition from generation to generation under the Devadasi system under which women were dedicated to temples to serve the deity as dancers and musicians forming part of elaborate rituals. The revival of bharathanatyam in the early 19th century by pioneers such as E Krishna Iyer and Rukmini Devi Arundale brought the dance out of temple precincts and onto the proscenium stage though it retained its essentially devotional character.
, Apsaras Arts takes a look at the evolution of bharathanatyam through the centuries. Apsaras' dancers will perform compositions depicting various styles of bharathanatyam that have emerged through the ages. These include the styles of the Devadasi tradition, Rajadasi tradition, Tanjore Quartet, the Revival Period - Kalakshetra, the traditions of Vazhoovur and Pandana Nallur, the styles of bharathanatyam depicted in 1960s movies during the golden era of Indian films, modern styles of bharathanatyam, styles created and performed by non-Indians and contemporary bharathanatyam.
Aalam will feature a style of presentation slightly different from the traditional format. Much of the dancing will take place against the backdrop of visual projection depicting scenes and images related to bharathanatyam. In one segment, the late Padmini, renowned bharathanatyam dancer, will appear to "dance" with the Apsaras dancers in a fascinating juxtaposition of both onscreen dancer and onstage dancers.
Aravinth emphasises that "the presentation will not narrate history". Instead, "this Aalam showcases many self-sustaining roots and trunks that support and form this vast grand tree called bharathanatyam... As we perambulate the tree, we discover its root formations and enjoy the beauty of tradition's variations."
Artistic direction: Neila Sathyalingam
Concept, music and creative direction: Aravinth Kumarasamy
Choreography: Shankar Kandasamy
Read about “Tree of Legends” here
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