Suvarna celebrates 30 years of artistic excellence


When I received the invitation to the 30th anniversary celebration of Suvarna Fine Arts from Dr Ajith Bhaskar, he reminded me that I have been part of their journey in the first 20 years and should be there for their 30th year celebration.

The dancers take a bow at the grand finale
of the The Ode to Lord Krishnan

I felt deeply humbled as I reflected on how much I have learned about Indian classical dance and the finer points of the art of Bharatanatyam when I joined Suvarna events over the years.

While I may not understand the intricacies of Indian performing arts, I know that music and dance transcend language.


I can easily appreciate the beauty of Bharatanatyam probably because I was brought up with family values that embraces the art and culture in our multi-racial community.


Celebrating with Ajith on the
30th anniversary of Suvarna Fine Arts

Ajith Bhaskar, one of the most accomplished male Bharatanatyam dancers of his generation, is not only a Dancer but also a Choreographer, Nattuvanar and Lyricist.


Through Suvarna activities, I got to know him better and had the pleasure to document his story under Portraits in my 2017 MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


Just like any good Asian son, Ajith obeyed his parents’ wishes and completed his education to their satisfaction. And then went on to pursue his passion in Indian classical dance.


So Ajith can be introduced as, “A lawyer by training and a dancer by choice.”


A scene from the performance

At the peak of his international career, Ajith made news in the Los Angeles Times when he performed on stages around the world including prestigious venues like the Lincoln Centre and the Joyce Theatre Broadway.


While he made a name for himself, dancing on the international stage, he also established Suvarna Fine Arts, his own dance academy with the aim to train and pass on the discipline of Indian classical dance to his students.


He is the principal and artistic director at Suvarna in Johor Bahru with branches established in the city and nearby districts, led by senior graduates.


Another scene from the performance

With more than three decades of teaching experience at Suvarna, Ajith is a much sought-after choreographer, renowned for his expertise in complex and vibrant dance works.


After Ajith was featured in My Johor Stories in 2017, I was proud to witness his next exciting accomplishment in 2018 when he was the proud recipient of the Iskandar Malaysia Social Heroes Award (IMSHA), recognised for his service and excellence in the arts.


As I fondly reflected on our journey together, I did not hesitate to say “Yes!” to his invitation and arranged to attend this special recital titled, Natyanjali 2023, Krishna Priya – An ode to Lord Krishna – held at a venue in Taman Bukit Indah.


Candid shot: Ajith and I looked like we
were performing a dance move!

The monsoon weather on that evening, however, did not deter me from heading to the event. When I reached the “Beautiful Hill,” I was pleased that the clouds cooperated by holding back the rains for a more comfortable arrival.


As I walked towards the hall entrance, I observed that most of the guests were dressed in traditional costumes, many of the ladies in sarees that sparkled with gems.


When I approached the reception table in the lobby, I was pleasantly surprised when Ajith himself met me midway to the table.


After a warm welcome, he handed me over to an usher to guide me to my seat in the hall but I paused to ask for a photo together because I knew that moments later, Ajith would be swept away by a tide of guest arrivals and then engaged with the many details for this special event.


Lord Krishna portrayed
at a younger age

I am familiar with recitals by Suvarna but Ajith gently reminded me to bear with the first part of the event programme which was dedicated to acknowledge key people that included loyal patrons, parents and sponsors to Suvarna throughout the years.


I know that Suvarna recitals were presented with narration in English so that a wider audience was able to appreciate the performances and Ajith assured me that the recital that evening will be a spectacular non-stop show.


When I handed my camera to someone to help capture a photo memento of Ajith and myself at this important occasion, I did not know that she had started clicking before we had composed ourselves to pose for the shot.


[Much later when I checked my photos at home, I saw that there was a candid shot that caught Ajith and I in a synchronized stance that looked like we were performing a dance move together!


I did not hesitate to share it with Ajith who also enjoyed the photo and replied, “I love this photo! We are dancing together!”]


He mimed the narration
in-between dances performances
The usher who brought me to my seat told me that “Master,” meaning Ajith, said that I should sit where I have a clear view of the stage so that I may capture some good shots.


As more guests arrived and filled up the rows upon rows of seats in the hall, a few chairs next to mine still remained vacant. Not long after that, the usher brought three Chinese young men to take the seats next to me. I know them as drummers from JB Drums, who were skilled in the art of the 24 Festive Drums.


Early this year, JB Drums in collaboration with Orang Orang Drum Theatre, started presenting a series of drum shows dubbed, Drum Up JB, at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofia Opera House. Ajith was among the audience to enjoy this show in March 2023.


Among the activities organised to celebrate the 35th anniversary since the founding of the 24 Festive Drums, was a Coffee Talk held in June 2023 where key personalities in the local arts, culture and heritage scene like Ajith and co-founder of the 24 Festive Drums, Tan Chai Puan, were brought together to share their thoughts and ideas.


A scene that portrayed Lord Krishna
at another age
When the drummers expressed interest to collaborate with Ajith, it was significant that in July, I had the privilege to witness the Chinese drummers – drumming Chinese drums to the rhythm of Indian classic dance – training with Ajith and his students in Suvarna.


Since then, the drummers have been training regularly with Ajith and they too received the invitation to this recital in celebration of Suvarna’s 30th anniversary.


When the Chinese men had settled into their seats, I soon discovered that this was their first experience of a recital by Suvarna.


The manifestation of
Lord Krishna [Left] in the finale

So I told them about the initial part of the programme where Ajith will acknowledge several people and prepared them by sharing briefly about Indian traditions like presenting garlands, showing respect by prostrating and touching the feet of the elders.


The event kicked off with a welcome address from Ajith. After expressing his thanks to mentors, loyal patrons and parents who have consistently supported Suvarna in the past 30 years, they were each invited on stage to be appreciated the traditional way with a garland presentation.


When he was invited to say a few words, Guest-of-Honour, Tourism, Environment, Heritage & Culture Committee chairman, YB Raven Kumar Krishnasamy, agreed with Ajith that the art of Indian classical dance can only be sustained for future generations through the support of parents who entrusted their children to Suvarna to train in the discipline of dance.


With all the acknowledgements done, the recital started in a non-stop series of dance performances presented by Suvarna students from the various branches in Johor.


One for the album with the
young men from JB Drums at the recital

A voice-over narration in English introduced each performance that showcased the various manifestations of Krishna through different stages of his life. [I recognised the voice which distinctly belonged to Ajith.]


The dancers’ colourful costumes, adorned by glittering jewels, topped with neatly coiffured hair, decorated by flowers, graceful dance moves along with expressive hands and fingers, eyes and faces, kept all of us in the audience mesmerized to the very end of the show.


Congratulations Suvarna Fine Arts on celebrating 30 years of artistic excellence. Wishing you all the best for the next exciting 30 years and beyond!


Suvarna Fine Arts is located at Nong Chik Riverside, No. 17, Level 2, Jalan Kolam Ayer 2, Kampung Mohd Amin, 80200 Johor Baru, Johor.

No comments:

Post a Comment