This space is set to be inaugurated with a nine-day festival ‘Jyotsna’, during Navratri.
This space is set to be inaugurated with a nine-day festival ‘Jyotsna’, during Navratri.

Nurturing artistry in nature

During the course of the festival, nine different artistes will be taking over the stage, starting with Malavika Sarukkai, OS Arun, and ending with RK Shriramkumar and his disciples.

CHENNAI : Under the rustling leaves of the sprawling banyan tree, Bharatanatyam dancers, with painted nails and meticulous make-up, practice their mudras with clinking salangai tied tightly to their legs. These early memories of Kalakshetra are embedded in the minds of dancer duo Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon. In an attempt to seek out this peace, the duo began their search in 2017 for a similar space where artistes could connect with nature. Cut to 2019, they managed to locate ‘Sakhi’ in Panaiyur, a village in Kancheepuram.

This space is set to be inaugurated with a nine-day festival ‘Jyotsna’, during Navratri. “This festival will be a convergence of art and ritual to invoke the Goddess,” says Parvathy, a Bharatanatyam dancer. A Kerala-based ritual is to be followed wherein the pujaris sit on and around a kalam (a pigmented powder used to draw designs on the floor) in meditation, using mudras to invoke the Goddess. “This puja and the kalam will be happening. And on the stage, the performer of the evening will be invoking the Goddess through art,” adds the artiste.

Dancer duo Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon
Dancer duo Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon

During the course of the festival, nine different artistes will be taking over the stage, starting with Malavika Sarukkai, OS Arun, and ending with RK Shriramkumar and his disciples. “ W e want to fill this space with a sense of Shakti, building of energy through the artistry of these artists,” adds Parvathy who will also be performing a duet with her husband Shijith on one of the nine days.

Sublime space outside sabhas

With the roof of the mandapam (dancing space) inspired by Mangalorean architecture, ‘Sakhi’ is surrounded by mango trees, verandahs, and pillars in the corners. Located between Mahabalipuram and Puducherry, it has a capacity to house 350 members. “Visitors can also have a day trip to these places only 40 minutes away. They can go in the morning and come back in the evening to look at the performances,” says Parvathy, adding that she has always craved for such a space to be inaugurated.

For any artiste, the entire earth is their canvas. ‘Sakhi’ aims to open doors to anyone who wants to stay, create, and conduct workshops, camps, and retreats for a longer period. Immediately after the inauguration, the dancing space will be used to teach the children of the village, not just Bharatanatyam but expose them to all sorts of Indian classical art forms by bringing in various artistes. With this festival, looking and listening to performances by some of the greatest in the industry, the kids will be made aware of art forms and later they will be taught the same. “Such festivals and performances happen in the city, almost every month at sabhas or in air-conditioned auditoriums. But where are these children getting to see all this here?” asks Parvathy.

The inauguration aims to highlight that art is to be practised amid nature. This space is for any artiste who wants to get away from the city and find their roots back. As Parvathy explains, the industry is “fast-growing” and people should be dragged out of their gadgets and homes to witness the power of art in nature. The nine-day festival begins on October 15 with performances starting at 6 pm.Visit ‘Sakhi’ at 36/2C, Cheyyur Taluk, Panaiyur village, Kancheepuram. For details, call: 9962788669/9790969342

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