To Ipsita Das and her fellow Royalusion dancers who marked their debut at Kalaa Utsavam last weekend, the opportunity was nothing short of a dream come true.
The troupe performed an 18-minute amalgamation of various dance genres to mark the festival’s opening.
Kalaa Utsavam is an annual event organised by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay that celebrates Indian arts and culture during the Deepavali period.
Ipsita, 31, has been performing for more than 10 years, and like many other aspiring artistes, she longed to be a part of that stage.
“Kalaa Utsavam has served as a platform for many new artistes to come together. There’s no other happiness greater than pursuing your dreams and seeing them come alive,” she said.
“It was truly memorable performing in front of hundreds of people. The fact that the presentation was enjoyed by a diverse crowd was the icing on the cake.”
Other Royalusion dancers also pushed their boundaries during Kalaa Utsavam.
Laavanya Shreedharan Nair, 27, who primarily dances in the hip-hop, Kuthu and Bollywood genres, said that performing a semi-classical piece in front of a big audience was no easy feat.
“It’s difficult for the body to adjust to new dance forms. I had to keep practising all the hand movements to perfect them,” she said.
In contrast, sisters Priyanggah and Brintha, who have spent more than 20 years training in bharatanatyam, had their fair share of challenges while training and dancing bhangra, Bollywood and hip-hop.
Royalusion’s founder and choreographer Iswarya Jayakumar, 29, said the troupe had been practising daily for a month to get used to the new routines and strenuously long numbers. “Back-to-back shows and performances at Formula 1, Amarkala Deepavali and other corporate and festive events helped us build our stamina,” she said.
Dance company Makoolam Kalaikoodam’s segment “Marutha Kiligal”, which depicts the harvest festival through folk dance, was one of the more memorable performances on show.
The company’s award-winning teacher, A Meenalochani, 27, who also performed at the 2020 edition of Kalaa Utsavam, said the event was a great experience for young local artistes.
“Performance opportunities aren’t easy to obtain. The Esplanade Outdoor Theatre is a great beginning for artistes,” she said.
Dance was not the only musical art form on show. Several classical singers and violinists performed 30-minute segments, with mentorship by esteemed vocalist Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande and popular violinist R.K. Shriramkumar.
Sreeranjani Muthu Subramanian, 17, who performed a violin solo, said: “I was nervous but also awestruck to be mentored by such a great musician. I learnt so many new things.”
Sreeranjani also saw her classmates from the School of The Arts Laya Mahesh and Vedagnya Narasimha – both 16 – perform violin solos.
The violinists had to audition for a place in the show by submitting a video of their previous performances. They were then given three 30-minute mentorship sessions.
“It was tough competition amid so many talented artistes. I’m glad to have made it,” said Laya.