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Angkor Wat love story in dance
Publication Date : 27-08-2013
Indian dance artiste Aravinth Kumarasamy fell in love with Cambodia's Angkor Wat and translated his fascination with the ancient temple into dance
When Aravinth Kumarasamy first saw the imposing sandstone temple Angkor Wat in Cambodia 22 years ago, he was instantly enchanted.
"It looked like it was waiting to be discovered, like it had the best-kept secrets and it had been waiting for years for people to come and reveal them," says the director of Singaporean Indian dance company Apsara Arts.
His love affair with the enigmatic Angkor Wat and its smaller surrounding temples has resulted in a dance theatre production by his company, titled Angkor: An Untold Story.
The 140-minute performance is the curtain raiser for Kalaa Utsavam, Singapore's Esplanade's annual Indian festival of the arts, and is one of three home-grown acts in this year's programme. The other two are Taal Express by Temple Of Fine Arts and Samarupa, a vocal concert by classical singers Sushma Somasekharan and Poornima Sathish.
Angkor: An Untold Story, which is co-produced by the Esplanade, recounts the creation of the Angkor temple through the relationship between a queen and an artisan girl.
For director Kumarasamy, 46, the historical accuracy of the story was paramount.
To prepare for the performance, he made 13 trips to the temples and meticulously documented each one. He says: "Even on the 12th or 13th trip, I noticed things that I had never seen before." Kent Davis, an independent American researcher who studies Angkor, also provided research for the production.
The painstaking attention to detail is evident in the ornate costumes, which are stylised interpretations of the reliefs found in the temples, featuring jewelled headpieces and harem-pant silhouettes.
The music is also a combination of pre-recorded tracks and live musicians. For instance, during the performance, two or three live musicians will play the violin against a recorded ensemble of a hundred.
The second local act is Taal Express by Temple Of Fine Arts, an aural journey through eight regions of India, with the concert's narrator dressed as a station master.
Renuka Suresh, co-composer and arranger of the concert, explains its premise: "The train network in India is one of the most extensive in the world, and the masses feel like the train is the best way to see the country."
At each stop, several pieces of music from each region will be played, in the style of the place. Suresh, who is in her 40s, says: "We will take the best of every state and showcase it."
The performance undoubtedly highlights the huge variety of musical styles in India.
Nawaz Mirajkar, 36, artistic director and co-composer of the performance, says: "When travelling in India, you can feel that within 30km as the language changes, the music, the dialect, the food and the clothes all change."
The final local performance is Samarupa by Somasekharan and Sathish. The two classical singers will be backed by an all-female ensemble of a violinist and two percussionists.
Somasekharan, 26, says: "It's a production to celebrate women, and the different roles they play - as a mother, sister, lover, even a temptress and the gossipy side as well."
The duo will be singing songs from the 8th century up to today, in languages such as Tamil, Hindi and Sanskrit.
Sathish, 27, says that even though the songs were written centuries ago, their perspectives on women are still relevant: "They are very applicable in our lives and we can relate to those ideas even today."