Celebrating Women – A Dance Fiesta by SRI

One of Singapore’s leading dance academies is celebrating International Dance Day with a tribute to women who have borne the brunt of the Covid pandemic.

In a first for a classical Indian dance event in Singapore, a leading dance academy here – SRI – will be staging a dance drama using an ancient Indian martial arts form called Kalaripayattu on which Kung Fu and other Asian martial arts are based.

In an unprecedented cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary performance, The Warrior Queen dance, which is a part of SRI’s International Dance Day (IDD) Festival 2021, will also feature Silat the martial arts form of the Malay Archipelago. As the theme this year is Women, The Warrrior Queen highlights the trials and tribulations faced by a warrior queen, because of her gender. Two Indian Bharatanatyam dancers and one Chinese dancer will interact and share their narratives, developing a synergy between the two traditional forms.

SRI stands for Shantha Ratii Initiatives, named after its founder and principal teacher Shantha Ratii who started it in March 2015 on her return to Singapore after 25 years of living in India and Europe and performing globally. Last year, the event, which was held online, achieved a reach of 41,000 viewers globally. This year SRI is collaborating with Sheng Hong Arts Institute, Era Dance Theater and LASALLE College of the Arts in its aim to Integrate through Dance.

SRI is a non-profit organisation that believes innovation and inclusiveness are as significant as being creative and dynamic. On one hand preserving tradition and on the other drawing from it. Risk is what SRI is willing to take to journey across artistic boundaries, to create new narratives without compromising on artistic value and integrity; to revitalise the cultural immediacy of Indian classical dance and bridge tradition with innovation.

Shantha who received her training in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi at India’s leading classical dance institute – Kalakshetra – is passionate about regenerating the spirit of the arts in unique ways that are more penetrative and lasting; to promote people with disabilities and to do cross-cultural and cross-genre works. The third generation Indian Singaporean said the reason she chose “Women in the Limelight” as the theme of the event this year is because of Covid’s impact on women. “I am often asked if I am a feminist and I reply that I am a humanist. But somehow the Pandemic has shifted my focus to women because women have been disproportionately affected by it at home, health, work and economic well-being. Social isolation has led to increased domestic violence against women as well.” “So we venture to hold a mirror to us, to society, to see the reality. To see how our awareness can contribute to relieving the situation. Dance is a great tool to put across such ideas through imagery and acting. Our aim is to provoke thought. So we talk about the age-old prejudices – even about a warrior queen who was discriminated against due to her gender, as far back as the13th century,’ she added.

What does she mean by uniting and Integrating through dance?

“Dance has the power to unify because the emotions expressed are universal. As mentioned in the Natya Shastra 3000 years ago, dance is a reflection of universality, irrespective of caste, creed and nationality,” said Shantha. However this need not be confined to Indian aesthetics, stressed Shantha. “I never fail to be amazed by the beauty and breadth of dance forms fromacross the globe. So for me it is an inner imperative to explore and discover similarities and celebrate them when we collaborate with other artists. It is an absorbing experience of discovery and mutual respect. When audiences get to see different dance styles in one evening, they too come to appreciate, enjoy and respect other forms.”

The Warrior Queen is based on the story of Queen Rudramma of the 13th century Kakatiya Dynasty in South India. She was raised as a boy because her father the King needed a male heir to the throne. We look at her trials and tribulations as well as the glory of her rule.

How does Shantha blend Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam? “Both styles share  similar techniques. The curvi-linear form of Kuchipudi along with its lyricism and ebullience lends itself very generously to be juxtaposed with the regal geometry of Bharatanatyam,” she explained. “I find that they are like tributaries of the same river that sometimes meet and sometimes part. I don’t blend them. I retain their intrinsic value while having a conversation with each other.”

SRI also has a mentoring programme called SPARKS. After the success of last year this is its second episode. Shantha Ratii has hand-picked two promising young dancers trained in Bharatanatyam – Maanasa Sri Ganesh and Samyukta Venkatraman. They are joined by a talented young Chinese dancer Avery Ng Kai Lin. The process is one of research, enquiry, introspection, germination and finally choreography. “They are constantly nudged to go deeper into their inner recesses to bring forth a new understanding of their craft and choreography. It is our hope that this will enhance their power of understanding, interpretation and presentation as they are also mentored on stage presentation’’ said Shanta.

It is an experiment at two levels, she explained. Firstly, telling stories through rhythm sans lyrics. Secondly, pushing the boundaries of their forms and blending in parts through the similarities with the other form, running parallel in parts, and merging in parts. We may be doing something new, but we stay true to SRI’s essence, which is to portray Singapore’s multiracial make-up.”

Shantha Ratii is a dancer, teacher, choreographer, cultural activist and film maker. She had exclusive training under the most celebrated dance gurus of India and Singapore and has emerged as a leading Kuchipudi danseuse of today. Other than directing her energy towards the promotion of Kuchipudi through her innovative works through the Antara Foundation in India (Mumbai) and Shantha Ratii Initiatives (SRI), Shantha has been performing in all major dance festivals in India and abroad to critical acclaim. The stage is not the only place where she dazzles. She has scripted and directed several TV documentaries. Shantha Ratii’s avant-garde vision continues to stretch the boundaries of Kuchipudi and her aim is to dedicate the next phase of her artistic journey to establishing this dance form in Singapore where it is relatively under-represented.

International Dance Day (IDD) was initiated in Paris by a partner of UNESCO the International Dance Council and has been celebrated the world over since it was initiated in 1982. “We take great pride in being the only ones to celebrate this significant event in Singapore,’ said Shanta.

CELEBRATING WOMEN will be performed on Friday 24th September & Saturday 25th September

Venue: Goodman Arts Centre Blackbox.

If you are interested in purchasing a ticket please confirm your booking for the number of pax via email or contact us on 94241569/ 90501403 for any questions.

All ticket prices are @ $25/pax. Please mention your preferred date to watch the show. The show schedule will remain the same on 24th and 25th September.

Payment via bank transfer.

Details are provided below:

Bank: DBS Bank
Account name: Shantha Ratii Initiatives (SRI) Ltd
Account no: 288-902303-8




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