Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Sweet experience

As I type this my hands are still dipped in red. Red dye is applied to the fingers and feet to enhance the movements as a dancer performs on stage.

When I heard about the Short & Sweet Dance festival, I was so tempted to take part and nearly wouldn’t have if Kerv hadn’t repeatedly asked me about it. The idea was to attempt a concept that I’ve thought of for years. I believe music and dance is beyond language. You don’t need to understand a language to comprehend or enjoy a musical performance.

So when I submitted my proposal I pitched the idea of dancing bharatanatyam to a western classical music and one on the sound of wind. Few weeks later I got that ever important email from KLPAC confirming the acceptance of my proposal – The Classics with an Indian Twist.

At one point I was ecstatic at the other I was afraid I may have bitten too much, there were the exhibitions to handle, my cousins arangetram, work and so many things happening at the same time. And the idea was no where easy. So first things first I decided to source for my song, had 2 choices in mind. My ever fav classical piece by Johann Strauss – The blue Danube and this amazing piece by Frank LIstz – The Hungarian Rhapsody 2. While Johann Strauss’s piece would be more familiar to most people, Listz’s masterpiece had the dynamics for an amazing war like drama dance.

But I let the music store seal my decision. I went hunting for both scores and only found Strauss. If you were a child of the 90s in Malaysia you would recognize the piece as the Dunhill ad song with swirling ballroom dancers. I still vividly remember that ad as it had such a sense of class.

Given the joy in Strauss piece I knew I was gonna do choreography on Krishna. As I was gonna perform with my cousin, I decided to play with our strengths, my dramatic anger and her cuteness. I picked my fav Krishna legends and then began choreographing and nearly went crazy!

Only then did it dawn on me how crazily unsuitable the piece was for Bharatanatyam! There was no rhythm just continues swirls. I googgled the world searching for a similar fusion and other performances of the Blue Danube. No one seemed to have attempted anything but swirls in the choreography! Week 1 went and week 2 was here and I still didn’t have a believable choreography, the hardest part was the chorus. I was that close to call KLPAC and pull out. My biggest fear was I would disappoint the people who had believed in my idea.

Finally I decided to embrace the swirls and slowly by week 3 things started falling into place and as we progressed I cleaned up the choreography added a few steps here and there and I was pretty happy with the result.

I had really wanted to catch the first weeks performance but I wasn’t free for the whole duration and then tickets were sold out for Saturday! Damn.

Our tech rehearsal day finally arrived and I was a mess. To add to all that, Lavin’s classes were ending just 30 mins before our call time. By the time we got there a few minutes after 5 we were a bunch of nerves. The familiar sweet face of the production director greeted us as I blabbed a bunch of sorries. The first look at the stage I realized the place was too small for Lavin.

The kid’s idea of one leap was equivalent to 2. So as I was charting our points I told her

“This place is not big enough for you so shorten your steps and don’t jump on the audience! ;p” the cheeky one said she will try! ;p

We started and our lights que was out for a while and mid dancing I was going Lights lights lights!

Throughout the 7 min piece I would occasionally steal a glance at the director, she had this delightful smile on her face and I sighed in relief. She liked our piece! We finished and someone clapped from the back. Yayy. The lights were sorted out in the second run and we ran out relieved.

We met our roomies during dress rehearsals. We were placed together with the ladies from Gypsies Trail and Hungry Hope and throughout the week we’ve had a blast getting ready together. One of them kept feeding us lovely toffees and chocolate. Yumm yumm
I was super nervous not coz of the performance itself, I was afraid I would cramp up because of the cold, so I spent the whole week heating myself up with the hair dryer. There was a handful of press and people during the dress rehearsal and they loved us. We got such energy performing.

My favourite night was still the opening night, people laughed where they should, they clapped in between our performances at all the right place. Wow and we got such a resounding applause at the end. That kept us going every night. I no longer was worried if people would like it, or if they would understand the piece, it was all great. My choreography was well received and I was ecstatic!

We had some lovely reviews too. Voize called us the interesting bharatanatyam

“What clearly worked that night were dialectical arrangements such as the Bharatanatyam ensemble by two dancers to the tune of the Blue Danube.” – Rachel, Voize.

“Other equally engaging pieces featured for Short+Sweet Dance include Nerds Gone Nuts (Suhaili Micheline), The Classics with an Indian Twist (Visithra Manikam) and Diaries 09 (Michael Xavier Voon)” – Anu, Malaymail.

I had done what I had always wanted to do merge new and old and give a creative perspective. We’ve had a lot of wonderful feedback, from friends, audience, friends and family of the other choreographers and the other amazing choreographers. We performed to 2 full house crowds, sat night people were sitting all over the floor!
While we didn’t get into the gala night, I’m still super happy I took part and challenged myself. We’ve had an amazing time, lovely roomies, amazing performances, a wonderful director who always had such lovely things to say to us, amazing crew who were out to ensure we had the best time and assistance in any way needed.

Congrats to everyone who made it, it was a pleasure to have performed together with everyone.

Oh how could I forget the entertainment backstage. We laughed our heads of at the antics of Dj Boy of Pentas FM. Hehhe inside joke but thanks for the entertainment.
I’m off to the Gala night in a while. I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not but I bought tickets coz I didn’t want to miss it. We’ve got some partying to do after the show ;p

Thanks to everyone for an awesome time.


Pei Wei said...

Great job on the piece! I was at KLPAC last night and thought Classics with a Twist was charming. Perhaps synchronisation could be a leetle bit better, but definitely thought the performance would be a great contribution to the Gala Night! Just for the record, I voted for you guys :).

Blogosphere said...

What a nice blog, Visithra!

Come promote your blog here it's free :)

visithra said...

pei wei : thanks a lot ;) i think i know which part u were talking about - we kept getting one out of sync ;) im glad you enjoyed it - and thanks for voting for us ;))

sabrina said...

Babe no video of the performance ah?

Aragang said...

Wish we could have seen your performance, too. Instead, will have to wait for video. But well done on the dance! My friends said that they liked your piece as well! Would have loved to have seen it live!

visithra said...

saby : so far none la ;)

aragang : yep we'll just have to wait for the video ;) thanks for telling ;)