Growing up in Sri Lanka I was quite the tomboy, climbing trees and playing cricket with my cousins. In an effort to clothe me in some kind of femineity and instil in me an understanding for the classical dance form Bharathanatyam which she loved; my mother sent me to dance class as it were!
I wasn't drawn to teaching. When I migrated to Australia, my reputation as a dancer preceded me within the Indian, Sri Lankan community in Sydney and I was persuaded to teach.
For those who aren't familiar with Southern Indian classical dance, what types of styles doyou specialize in (Bharathanatyam, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi)?
I specialise in Bharathanatyam and Kuchipudi, but also performed Mohiniattam in the early years of my solo performance career.
Who is your biggest dance influence?
Primarily my Mother, but also my Gurus and Mentors
What was your greatest experience in dance?
Being mentored by legends like Ram Gopal and stalwarts of the music and dance fraternity of the East and the West. Also performing in England, Germany and Paris as a teenager and the sheer adulation from the audiences, is a memory that is imprinted in my mind.
What advice do you have for those wanting to get into this style of dance?
Bharathanatyam is a sacred art form that has skilfully traversed the path from the ancient temples to the modern stage. Like any classical artform that has negotiated this path, its structure is deep-rooted in discipline so, anyone wanting to take up this style of dance needs to keep this in mind and treat Bharathanatyam or any other artform with the respect that is due to it, before venturing down that path.
As a choreographer, teacher and performer, could you describe to us the work that is involved in putting together a performance like Pancha Nadai?
Even though 'Pancha Nadai' is being created for a Digital Platform, the work involved in pulling this performance together is more challenging than doing a live performance. Watching a live performance, the audience sits in the theatre and encapsulates the total experience but watching a performance on your computer screen at home is a totally different experience. Every minute detail is amplified, and when choreographing you have to keep in mind the different camera angles that the performance will be viewed from and make sure the movement vocabulary from every angle, is kept a live and relevant to the piece being performed.
Describe Pancha Nadai to an audience not familiar with this style of dance. What should they expect?
Pancha meaning five and Nadais meaning rhythmic syllables. In the tradition of classical Indian music and dance of South India, the five basic rhythmical sequences in the beats of three (tisram), four (chatusram), five (khandam), seven (misram), and nine (sankeernam) are the basic principle in formulating a rhythmical configuration. These set beat patterns, referred to as the pancha nadais within a given cycle of rhythm, are used to create countless combinations of rhythmical configurations. Just one of the five set beat patterns or complex configurations can be composed using variations of the Pancha Nadais to create a variety of exciting and challenging rhythm patterns for both the dancers and the musicians.
In presenting four pieces based on the Pancha Nadais - from the traditional format to the contemporary, the audience can expect to view the vibrancy of Bharathanatyam that transports you from the temple to the modern stage/screen!
How do you find Australia in terms of the dance scene? Do you see yourself touring Australia more frequently in the future?
Well the dance scene in Australia has certainly diversified and changed in the past 30 plus years that I have lived here. The audience members are not as nervous to venture forth and see a dance performance, that they feel they might not understand. Yes, we certainly hope to and I do see Lingalayam touring nationally more frequently in the future.
For more information on the digital screening, please see https://riversideparramatta.com.au/show/panchanadai/