The fifth year of the annual dance festival, Satyam Sivam Sundaram will begin on January 29 at the Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple.
With the lack of opportunities for younger dancers at the city sabhas, dancer-teacher Sheela Unnikrishnan, who runs Sridevi Nrithyalaya, a bharathanatyam dance school, had decided that she and her group would never perform in Chennai.
However, after many shows in several cities in the South and metros like Delhi and Mumbai, they found it imperative to have a presence on the Chennai stage.
“It was very hard for us to convince sabhas to give younger artistes a chance. So I decided to organise a festival on our own on the premises of the Kapaleeswarar Temple. It is easier to draw an audience in a place like the temple and they are highly appreciative of the art,” she says.
Satyam Sivam Sundaram is a name derived from Sheela’s gurus in kuchipudi and bharathanatyam, Dr Vempati Chinna Satyam, late Railway Sundaram of Melattur Pani and Lord Shiva.
In the first few years, the festival comprised dance performances of students from 25-year-old Sridevi Nrithyalaya. Later, artistes from across India were invited and slowly the festival turned into an ensemble of several dancers, who came all the way from places as far as Bhilai, to perform in the city.
Sheela says that her experience in conducting the festival has taught her a lot of things about organising and the alternative avenues available for dance. Today, with the help of a few friends, the festival has grown to be a five-day extravaganza.
“This year, we have got a grant from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. We had no idea about such government support for promoting arts, till dancer Nandini Ramani told us about it. With the help of the grant we will be covering a part of the artistes’ expenses,” she adds.
While the festival has had a combination of bharathanatyam solos and group performances, Sheela says that the festival will not be restricted to one dance form. “I wanted to invite Gopika Varma’s Mohiniattam group, but the slots were filled in very quickly,” she adds.
With close to 10 performances by artistes from Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai, the festival will be held from January 29 to February 2 at the temple in Mylapore. All are welcome.