Saturday, July 23, 2011

Malavika Sarukkai - 22/07/11

Today has been yet another eventful day at Art Arattai Aarpattam 2011, as we come close to the end of the first week of the festival. And it gives us great pleasure to say that all our sessions have been very well-attended and indeed, seen such lovely, enthusiastic participation – it only reinstates our philosophy that the arts can play an incomparable role when it comes to working with children.

Take for instance, the rain-clap that Anil Srinivasan takes the children through. For those of you who haven’t seen this (meaning, you need to come to the festival NOW!), this is a simple exercise where Anil has the children tapping, first, one finger of the right hand against the left palm, then two fingers, then three, four and five fingers in succession. The resulting noise sounds exactly like the pitter-patter of the raindrops against the window. And every child who has seen and been a part of this simple exercise loves it – maybe for the simplicity of it, the beauty of it, the fact that all of them clapping so enthusiastically, sounds like thunderous applause – you can pick your reason. For us, the rain-clap is a simple bonding action that has, in the last five days, brought so many of us together, and put smiles on so many little faces. And I believe that every child will carry this back as one of the many fond memories of Art Arattai Aarpattam 2011.

Today’s lecture demonstration saw Padmashri Malavika Sarukkai, one of the India’s leading exponent of the classical dance form, Bharatanatyam, interacting with the children. Truth to be told, we have no idea how those 90 minutes passed us by. What struck most of us in the audience is the impeccable dignity and grace that Ms. Sarukkai carries herself with. The session started with an excerpt from Vahini, a documentary made by Ms. Sarukkai, with the chosen excerpt focusing on the Mallari, the piece that is traditionally played during deeparadhanai at temple processions. This was followed by an incredibly dynamic session where Ms. Sarukkai demonstrated how various deities are depicted in the art form and went on the demonstrate how different elements are depicted. The way she artistically demonstrated something and came back to get the children guessing about what it was really got the children on their toes and indeed, it was a very happy hour and a half. Having taken the children through the concept of abhinaya, Ms. Sarukkai then performed a korvai from a thillana, where she etched beautiful designs in the air – with the circles, straight lines and diagonal lines. The audience was enthralled. Completely.

After every session, we have an interactive session, where we invite the children to either share their experience from the session or pose any questions that they may have for the artist. Almost every child who spoke today stated that he / she now wanted to explore classical dance more seriously and indeed, why not? They have been inspired by one of the most established artists in the classical dance arena, herself.

One of the most candid moments that we’ve seen this time was when a 4-year old boy walked up to the stage today, took the mic and said “I liked this performance”. Once again, as organizers, instances like this make us sit back and say “Well. So we are doing something right.” Because instances like this prove to us that art has no barriers. One can never be too young or too old to appreciate art. And nowhere has this probably been as relevant as it is in our world today - where children are made to go through so much that is beyond their years, where they are robbed of their very childhood. It is art, and art alone, that gives every such child, an avenue, a means to make more of himself / himself than what his / society dictates that he / she should be.

As move closer to the second week of the festival, we once again thank all our sponsors and patrons for all their support. We hope to see more of you at the venue. And welcome any feedback and suggestions that you may have for us.

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