The experience of daily driving 60km leaving behind the smog and noise filled environment of Kuala Lumpur for a chance to immerse in the world of Indian classical dance and music amidst the serenity of rural Kuala Selangor last Friday to Sunday, has left me wanting more of it.
The Sunday outing was most refreshing without the hassle of jammed roads and an early respite from the late afternoon rain – we arrived early for once, with time for dinner before the start of the 5th day offering of Alarippu to Moksha festival.
As we entered the festival venue, the Kuala Selangor Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple, the ground reverberated with the tapping of children’s soft feet adorned by ankle bells as 20 students of Sutra Dance Theatre’s Outreach Programme, took the stage for their show appropriately termed Bloomers.
The outreach programme started in 2014 as an initiative of Sutra’s founder and artistic director Datuk Ramli Ibrahim involving pupils of SJK(T) Sg. Choh and SJK(T) Kajang, offers formal dance training for children from six to 15 years of age especially those outside city centres.
The fact is that the Sri Subramaniar Swamy temple had started out as an outreach programme training centre before being picked as Sutra’s annual From Alarippu To Moksha festival venue. So the outreach students’ performance on this day seemed all the more significant.
Seeing the students’ emergence at this venue as true blue classical dance performers, is the fruition of Sutra’s objective of providing its outreach students the best teaching methods and early exposure to the exciting and creative world of Indian dance.
I know three of the dancers, Dheva Kumaran, Pradeepan and Harini as shy and reserved children of family friends Mathevan Vadiveloo and Menagah Muniandy. And I stood in awe watching them gracefully flow through the Bhangas (symmetric body bends and stance) of the Odissi dance – a dance form introduced to the Malaysian public through efforts of dancers like Ramli.
The students held the stage through six entertaining numbers starting with Mangala Charanam, titled Ganga Taranga in honour of Lord Siva, under the watchful eye of their guru. They were in their element in Jamuna as they narrated the mischievous pranks played by Lord Krishna on his childhood friends the gopis.
The expert training accorded the young students is evident in Navarasa as they gamely illustrated the nine Rasas of love, valour, compassion, wonderment, laughter, terror, disgust, anger and serenity through well displayed abhinaya while acting out anecdotes from the Ramayana.
The ancient Odissi dance hailing from the confines of the Sri Jagannath temple in Puri and greatly evolved to its present form, has the rhythmic vibrancy, sculptural poses, geometric symmetry and melodic fluency to enthral audiences. Sutra’s success in its outreach programme will ensure the spread of this dance form in Malaysia.
I am truly sad I couldn’t make the trip to watch the grand finale of the festival yesterday which culminated with the temple’s special Bhairava Ashtami Pooja.
Indian classical dance lovers are doubly indebted to Sutra and its enthusiastic founder Ramli for the outreach programme and giving us an opportunity to congregate annually at the Sri Subramaniar Swamy temple to enjoy the heartfelt performances of a dedicated group of dancers. Thanks are also due to Ramli’s equally hardworking festival co-artistic director, Vinoshree Shangkar.
May this festival continue the coming year with the same support and enthusiasm given by the temple authority led by its chairman K. Mogana Sundram and vice chairman, M. Ganesan.
Review by R. Sittamparam
Picture of Ramli posing with his outreach students after their show by Rathimalar Govindarajoo