Christchurch based Revathi Performing Arts is putting together Sangeetham, a show that aims to enthral Christchurch audiences with its theme of bringing unity through music.
The appeal of Indian classical music and dance has reached a global audience over the past few decades. Scores of artists throughout the world are learning, performing and making it popular. New Zealand is no exception, with a large number of talented artistes receiving training from teachers who themselves have been trained by masters back in India.
Uma Varma is one such trainer who has devoted most of her life to teaching the Indian classical vocal and dance.
Indian classical music is regarded as a divine art form, originating from the Devas and Devis (Hindu Gods and Goddesses) and is revered as a sacred art form. It is believed that Lord Brahma revealed the classical dance form of Bharatnatyam to Bharata – a famous sage who codified this sacred dance form in his work Natya Shastra. Some say Bharata Natyam is an artistic medium through which one can express the philosophy of life and fulfil the spiritual needs of not just the performer but also the observer.
Similarly, Indian classical music promotes positive spiritual influences and effectively handles stress. It helps the performers and even those listening reach a relaxed meditative state. Learning these art forms requires a great amount of patience and years of practice, and the importance of having a good teacher cannot be overstated.
Uma Varma is an accomplished performer having started learning Bharatanatyam from Guru Smt Natyakalalayam Padmini Raj when she was four years old. Later she received training from Veteran Bharatanatyam performer and scholar Dr. Vasundhara Doraiswami. She starting her journey as a guru in 1993 when she started Revathi School of Dance and Music in her Kerala home town. Many of her dance students have gained prominence and some are teachers now. An old student of hers has even obtained a doctorate in Mohiniyattom, working as senior lecturer at a university.
In 2007, Varma received her accreditation and National Award for South Indian Classical dance, from Sree Sankara Accreditation Centre, Kaladi, Kerala. In Carnatic music, Varma completed training under Guru Sri Tharani Ramachandran and received "Samgeethika" title. Varma has received the title "Kalathilakam" for five consecutive years in the prestigious Kerala Youth Festival (1985-1990). She has given several performances in India, the UK and NZ. ?
When Revathi moved to NZ, she continued her passion and started the NZ chapter of Revathi Performing Arts in 2009 in Christchurch. Since then Varma has trained hundreds of students and has been recognised for her contribution to the Christchurch community.
Over the years, students of RPA have participated and excelled in various community events like Holi, Diwali, Multicultural Festival, Onam celebrations, Vishu celebrations, Flamenco Festival, Homeland festival. RPA students have put together three major productions since its inception.
Other community endeavours of RPA include performing in old age homes, conducting dance and music workshops for wider community.
Revathi Performing Arts(RPA) is now coming up with the second iteration of Sangeetham which started in 2021 to celebrate NZ Music month. The show will be held on May 15 at Te Hapua: Halswell Centre, Christchurch. The aim of the show is to create awareness among the youngsters about various Indian music genres – Carnatic Music and Hindustani being the significant streams.
Varma told us, "The event this year promises to be more open with a focus on creating a fusion of different music styles and finding the unifying actor thus bringing unity in diversity. The event provides a platform for those who want to showcase their creativity in an original form."
Some of the earlier productions by RPA are Bharatam (2015), Mayooram (2017), Aanandam (2019), Natanam (2021) and Sangeetham (2021). This year, there will be 20 RPA students performing at Sangeetham.
Every year, RPA also host an end-of-the-year recital by students and a dance production by the students.
RPA is also working on a couple of projects in conjunction with City Libraries to curate art records.
Sangeetham is a free event
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