The third edition of the International Dance Day Festival, an annual dance festival spearheaded by the veteran Indian classical danseuse Shantha Ratii of Shantha Ratii Initiatives (SRI) was held at the Drama Centre on April 26 & 27, 2019. The two-day festival brought together, under one roof, artistes from diverse disciplines, including Spanish, Western Contemporary, Indian, Malay, Chinese, Western Ballet and even crossover versions that combine more than one discipline. A truly unique and Singaporean initiative, the festival began with the simple vision of taking dance to the grassroots and exposing the layperson to the variety of ways communities uniquely express themselves through the never-ending range of nuances that movements can convey.
Ratii said, “Each dance form is like a flower and this festival presents them together in a bouquet. It is a bouquet of different hues of flowers and fragrances in a celebration of the human spirit”.
This edition featured dancers from Singapore Dance Theatre, Flamenco Sin Fronteras, ERA Dance Theatre, Bhaskar’s Arts Academy, Temple of Fine Arts, Singapore Chinese Dance Theatre and SRI Dance Theatre. The original inspiration behind the festival was the Aneka Ragam Ra’ayat (People’s Cultural Concerts) that Ratii experienced growing up in Singapore as a young dancer.
The theme for the festival was ‘Spring’, a season which is all about renaissance and resurgence, renewal and regrowth. This was explored through various aspects of the season as seen by the Malay, Chinese, Indian cultures with blossoms and love poems wafting in with the gentle cool breeze laden with romance and joy.
The festival began this year with the imagery of soft and slow raindrops which alluded to Goddess Ganga, a personification of the mighty river Ganges in Indian mythology. This was presented through dance with a Kuchipudi style piece which used novel costuming and props.
SRI’s endeavours to be innovative, dynamic and inclusive was clearly apparent in its collaborative work where Flamenco, Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi enter into a dialogue rife with mathematical rhythms and choreographic designs and bravado – the brainchild of its Artistic Director Shantha Ratii. The festival was a huge platform for young artists, who are expected to enrich Singapore’s art and cultural field in the coming years.
The highlight this year was dialogue through the dance between Flamenco and Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancers wherein they engaged in a repartee of mathematically designed rhythms with intricate and exciting footwork that left the audience completely enthralled.
It began with a traditional item called Thillana. This was performed in two styles – Bharatanatyam followed by Kuchipudi, where the dancer dances on the rim of a brass plate, exploring a varied number of intricate rhythm patterns.
“It is in the second part I was joined by live musicians, and we got to have an exchange between Flamenco, Bharatanatyam, and Kuchipudi. Here is where I get to train and mentor a promising young dancer and give her the opportunity to perform with the professionals. In this case, it is my student Mary Geemon who performed Bharatanatyam, Daphne Huang did Flamenco and I performed Kuchipudi,” said Ratii.
This was followed by an experiment within an experiment, wherein Daphne and Mary tried to explore emotions through rhythms and emotions after which all the three styles entered into a thrilling dialogue with each other.
The dance pieces were brought to life by the music of Sreekanth on Mridangam and Supriyo – Tabla, both of whom are gurus from Sifas along with Cedric Chin on the Pipa and Jocelyn NG on the Violin.
It was engaging to see how it started with a contemporary piece by the diploma students of LaSalle College of the Arts, paved a charming path to the Radha-Krishna love themes on Holi and Gita Govinda in Kathak.