Structure and symmetry characterize Apsaras Arts’ bharatanatyam production, Nirmanika, a collaboration with the Indian Embassy in Singapore to mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence.
An ode to Indian architecture and its cultural influence in Southeast Asia, Nirmanika’s staging at the Victoria Theater was a fitting tribute to mark this milestone.
Dressed in rich traditional hues such as red and yellow, the dancers explored the pillars, carvings and spirituality of different ancient monuments in six acts, including the Konark Sun Temple in the eastern state of Odisha and the famous Meenakshi temple in the south.
The highlight of the performance was the final act, Elevation, which delved into the structure of Borobudur, a Javanese Buddhist temple with Indian architectural influences.
The dancers’ beige-toned costumes gave a soft, ethereal quality to their movements, setting the act apart from previous segments.
At times, the repeating geometric formations of the final act evoked a procession of monks ascending the temple. At other times, the dancers resembled the formidable stone domes of Borobudur.
First premiered in 2011, Nirmanika’s original production spearheaded Esplanade’s Raga Series – Theaters on the Bay, which showcases Indian performing arts in dance, music and theatre.
The reconstructed production portrayed five more landmarks than the original, accompanied by a resounding recorded score that amply made up for the lack of a live orchestra.
While the six acts were educational and comprehensive, they were also long and failed to keep the viewer’s attention unwavering throughout the performance.
Apsaras’ attention to technical detail and musicality was evident in the disciplined approach of the performers, although the dancers could have amplified the bhava – the expressive element of the performance – to better engage the audience.