Shantanand Festival of Arts returns, headlined by dance and music


Celebrated dancers and choreographers Umesh Shetty (right), Shankar Kandasamy (middle) and Geetha Shankaran Lam join forces and present 'Purva' - a story of their crisscrossing past and present. Photo: SFA

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the sixth edition of the annual Shantanand Festival of Arts 2022 (SFA 2022) takes place this weekend, from Dec 9-11 at the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.

The theme this year – "Remember, Reignite, Reconnect" – celebrates the community’s love for the arts and aims to rejuvenate the desire to keep dance, music, drama, literature, visual art and other traditional art forms alive.

“This festival will be a celebration of life through art and its diverse colours as well as our deep rooted history,” says festival director Dr Dhanya Thurairajah.

“The heart of the festival lies in the ‘bhavana’ (to cultivate proper intention) behind what we do. There is a sense of catharsis and healing when art is witnessed like this.”Dhanya explains that the concept of the festival started with a team of TFA members wanting to reconnect with each other, to their audiences and their past, especially after the pandemic.

“The energy and interest of the students had also naturally taken a nose dive, with everyone having gotten accustomed to the pandemic lifestyle and online classes,” she explained.

'This festival will be a celebration of life through art and its diverse colours as well as our deep rooted history,” says festival director Dhanya. Photo: The Star/Raja Faisal Hishan'This festival will be a celebration of life through art and its diverse colours as well as our deep rooted history,” says festival director Dhanya. Photo: The Star/Raja Faisal Hishan

“There was a need to inject life and energy back into ourselves and to rekindle a feeling of togetherness which was lost during the pandemic. Despite us all continuing the work online and remotely, there really is nothing better than physical contact and a project that brings minds and hearts together.”

TFA will use SFA 2022 as a platform to celebrate 40 years of service in the arts by opening up its memory book and revisiting many inspiring moments including dance dramas such as Ramayana, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Butterfly Lovers and Taj Mahal, giving a chance to younger audiences to appreciate these past efforts.

The public can also get up close and personal with most of its artists during the workshop series, which will encompass popular and family orientated themes including “Enhancing Vital Energies through Yoga” with Kumaresan Superamaniam, “Music for Film” with Jyotsna Nithyanandan and Kritika Chandrashekar, “Understanding World Music” with AkashA and “Contemporary Choreography” with Umesh Shetty.

Dhanya adds that the TFA dancers featured in the festival are a group of completely new generation dancers interspersed with seniors.

“They have been training very hard, balancing school, work and rehearsals as well as normal classes at TFA. They have shown great interest and potential.”

In line with TFA’s goal of making the arts accessible to all, access to all events in SFA2022 will be on a “pay-as-you-wish” basis, and invitations are available here.

Here are five highlights that you will surely want to check out:

TFA PRESENTS 'LEGACY'

Venue: Temple of Fine Arts, KL

Date: Dec 10 and 11, 8pm

A grand dance production containing snippets of dance highlights of its past productions over the past 40 years, culminating with a specially choreographed and uniquely Malaysian dance finale, with music sung live by pop star Zainal Abidin and the music Ensemble of TFA. Legacy involves a cast of 108 artists, junior and senior, and is pretty much a “whole-of-school” effort. A big fan of Zainal’s over the years, TFA reached out to him and were thrilled that the popular singer would join them in one of his evergreen songs.

AkashA, a fusion and world beat group, will be playing at the Shantanand Festival of Arts 2022 at the Temple of Fine Arts in KL on Dec 11. Photo: SFAAkashA, a fusion and world beat group, will be playing at the Shantanand Festival of Arts 2022 at the Temple of Fine Arts in KL on Dec 11. Photo: SFA

SPIRIT OF AKASHA

Venue: Temple of Fine Arts

Date: Dec 11, 5.30pm

KL-based fusion and world beat group AkashA Malaysia headlines the "Showcase" series of SFA with Spirit Of AkashA. The band will presenting new numbers as well as favourites from its previous albums. What's more is that it is set to collaborate with senior sitar students of TFA in this presentation. AkashA is helmed by Jamie Wilson (composer, arranger and guitars), and will feature Gideon Yogan on the bass, Eric Li on piano, Kumar Karthigesu on sitar, Moh Shah Nizam on djembe and percussions, and Vick Ramakrishnan on tablas and voice percussion. The Showcase series on Dec 11 will also offer performances by Nimal Raj (The Goddess Within Us), ASK Dance Company (Terinai Dewa Raja and Eclectic Shift), and Guruvayur Usha Durai (Sakthi Varnam).

PURVA – THE FIRST, THE LAST

Venue: Temple of Fine Arts

Date: Dec 9, 8pm

"In conversation, three friends, reunited, recall their own responses to the first awakening of the creative self by their guiding light, unspoken, unshared, brought new challenges to their different paths," reads the show's description, which has a unique storytelling thread.

Dance virtuosos Umesh Shetty, Shankar Kandasamy and Geetha Shankaran Lam join forces and present Purva – a story of their crisscrossing past and present.

Sutra Foundation dancers seen at the Konark arts festival in India last week.They will be back on stage at the Shantanand Festival of Arts 2022 in KL this weekend. Photo: Sutra FoundationSutra Foundation dancers seen at the Konark arts festival in India last week.They will be back on stage at the Shantanand Festival of Arts 2022 in KL this weekend. Photo: Sutra Foundation

SHOWCASE: BAGESHRI PALLAVI

Venue: Temple of Fine Arts

Date: Dec 10 and 11, 5.30pm

Fresh from the Konark arts festival in India, Datuk Ramli Ibrahim and the exquisite dancers of Sutra Foundation will be wasting no time in getting back on stage in KL. They will team up with senior Odissi dancers of TFA to present a new choreography, Bageshri Pallavi, in the Showcase series this weekend. The performance involves six dancers from Sutra and six of the most talented TFA Odissi dancers.

SFA 2022 WORKSHOPS

Venue: Temple of Fine Arts

Date: Dec 9-11

All the artistes above present and many others (including Guruvayur Usha Dorai, Kishore Krishnan, Kumar Karthigesu, Achyuthan Sashidaran Nair, Lam Ghooi Ket, Prakash Kandasamy, Kasturi Venkataraman, Bawani Shetty and Latha Uthaya) will be at various 90-minute workshops during the three-day festival, covering an amazing array of topics and genres, making it the perfect way to glean insight into the wonderful world of performing arts and its processes. Book your seats fast here.

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