ARISI: Rice a treat for the senses

The topic of rice for a dance production may sound abstract. But to Apsaras Arts' artistic director Aravinth Kumarasamy, it is an amazing experience to unravel.

"There are so many nuggets of information and stories about rice and rice cultures," he said.

"Dance is a language to tell stories. And ARISI : Rice allows us to tell so many stories about this grain of life."

In ARISI : Rice, which will be staged at the Esplanade Theatre on Nov 25 and 26 as part of this year's Kalaa Utsavam, Aravinth and his team explored the many cultural links that rice brought together across Asia, probing deep into the many alternatives and choices to make in their journey.

"An evocative musical score lets us imagine beautiful imageries of dance movements," said Aravinth.

"These visual representations have been enhanced with creative costume design. The entire performance is couched on a purpose-built set, which will enhance the audience experience of the dance-theatre narrative unfolding on stage.

"This production is a treat for the senses - magical live music performed by multi-genre musicians from India, Singapore and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, path-breaking choreography with two deeply rooted classical dance styles bharatanatyam and Balinese, visually stunning costumes and creative set design."

For costume designer Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, it was all about choosing costumes that would add depth to dance.

"For ARISI : Rice, I moved slightly away from the typical style of silk bharatanatyam costumes," he said.

"The designs I created reflect the elements in the paddy field or the farmers' lives.

"I introduced textured cotton fabrics with fine-thread embroidery, which have their own movement and flow.

"The key costumes are in the unique ikat (a dyeing technique originating in Indonesia) fabric, which reflects not only India and Bali in its dance forms but also the artistic brilliance of their people.

"The custom-made terracotta jewellery is like rice born out of the Earth."

Lighting designer Gyandev Singh has imagined a new vocabulary of lighting that enhances the visual spectacle.

Noted Singaporean set designer Wong Chee Wai created effects that extend the narrative of the concept and performance.

Critically-acclaimed film director K. Rajagopal added a powerful filmic layer of stories from former farmers who now eke out a living doing construction work in foreign lands.

"Most importantly, the production will inspire the audience to ponder about rice and its sustainability for future generations," said Aravinth.

"Each segment is imagined and designed as a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. When they are all pieced together, it creates a visual picture, like a painting coming alive with each brush stroke."

V.K. SANTOSH KUMAR

ARISI : Rice Category 3 tickets are discounted 20 per cent from Nov 18 to Nov 20. Tickets can be bought at www.esplanade.com/kalaautsavam

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