KALAA UTSAVAM - INDIAN FESTIVAL OF ARTS, ANGKOR: AN UNTOLD STORY
Apsaras Arts featuring Priyadarsini Govind
Esplanade Theatre/Last Friday
Angkor: An Untold Story melds multiple Asian art forms in a lavish visual feast that opened the Esplanade's annual festival of Indian arts with a bang.
In the unforgettable first sequence, dancers showed off their martial prowess in steps partly based on Indian tribal movements, reminiscent of Malay silat and choreographed for Chinese drums.
Such seamless tapestries of different artistic traditions were created by a variety of choreographers including artists from Singapore-based Apsaras Arts and Malay cultural troupe Era Dance Theatre's founder Osman Abdul Hamid. Their work in the 140-minute production proved a powerful visual reminder of the historical truth that cross-cultural exchange has shaped Asia and Asian art for centuries.
Like last December's Ramayana, produced by the Temple Of Fine Arts, Angkor: An Untold Story highlighted how artists and art forms moved between India and South-east Asia, creating fantastic art and architecture such as the 2 sq km temple complex of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.
Exquisitely garbed dancers and musicians from Singapore, India, Cambodia and Sri Lanka followed an almost historical narrative: Cambodian queen Suryavana (played by Sabanitha Shanmugasundram of Apsaras Arts) invites Indian artist Vyjayanthi (Indian dancer Priyadarsini Govind) to enrich her court but soon begins to fear the foreign talent as a rival.
The story was a pretext for some delightful dance showcases. Lithe and elegant Khmer court dances flowed into graceful, earthy bharatanatyam from India, for example, with music, lyrics and narration in Tamil, Khmer and Sanskrit provided live by a team of 14 musicians and singers.
Major artists Shanmugasundram and Govind did not take centrestage in the dance part of the production, though their expressive black-lined eyes spoke clearer than words as they emoted joy, sorrow and fear.