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Anubhava: A mesmerizing experience of the senses at AIM for Seva’s annual fundraiser

BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE

Atlanta, GA, November 17, 2023: Her strikingly captivating eyes that she artistically weaves into the very fabric of her dancing are a thing of beauty that lasts forever in your memory.  Founder and artistic director of Raadha Kalpa Dance Company, and the director of LshVa, Rukmini Vijayakumar, accompanied by violinist Dr. Ambi Subramaniam, and percussionist Dr. Rohan Krishnamurthy, treated well over 400 Atlanta rasikas to her spectacular production, Anubhava: An Experience of the Senses, for the non-profit All India Movement for Seva’s (AIMS) annual Donor Appreciation Event. The performance was part of a US tour to raise funds for the non-profit, held on August 26, 2023 at the Dawson County Performing Arts Center was coordinated by the Atlanta chapter.

AIM (All India Movement) for Seva (AIMS) was started by Swami Dayananda Saraswati in 2001 with a mission to provide holistic education to the children of impoverished rural India by the establishment of Free Student Homes (Chatralayas).  Today, AIMS has established 101 Chatralayas in 17 States in India and growing. Aim for Seva has also initiated their own schools (Vidyalayas) in several states and the school projects are underway and, in some cases, completed. “We have over 9000 children that we support each year and we have impacted many villages and people from the communities these children come from,” Eashwar Money, Atlanta Lead, AIM for Seva, said.  The charity is rated the highest rating, 4 Stars for over 6 years by Charity Navigator.

Established in 2012, the Georgia Chapter of AIMS has adopted 4 Chatralayas with 144 children. “Our goal for the fundraiser continues to raise sponsorships for these children and also Support the Local Community. It costs $500/child/year and I am happy to say as of end of October that we raised sponsorships for these children. There are several donors who also support with larger donations towards capital projects like school buildings, medical facilities, etc.  Atlanta chapter is well on its way to raise over $100k for 2023!” Money said. 

Money noted that the scope of the movement is now expanding to include the construction of integrated institutions that could function as gurukuls in the modern era. The construction for three school buildings, he said, is underway and will be inaugurated in 2024. Built with an investment of about $ 1.7 million per school, each school is slated to spread across 5 acres of land with the classrooms. laboratories and other modern-day school facilities for 1000 children with separate hostels for boys, girls, and staff quarters, he said. 

With mandatory Sanskrit and English, the emphasis will be on regional language education, Money remarked. AIM for SEVA already has a school in Indore, MP, that opened just before the pandemic and currently has 500 students. It operates two schools in Tamil Nadu.

Young adults Vishaka Venkataraman and Advaith Kumar spoke about their experience when they attended the Global Youth Leadership Program (GYLP) in Dec of 2022. The GYLP program takes US high schoolers to India to learn and interact with the AIM for Seva children. An active fundraiser led by Eashwar Money and Shobha Swamy raised approx. another 45 child sponsorships in 10 mins! “I would like to thank Georgia’s Donors for its support in the last 11 years & am pleased to say that AIM for Seva is truly turning out to be a “Movement” in Georgia!” Money expressed.

The cultural segment kicked off with the wonderful Carnatic rendition by Nivik Bharadwaj on vocal, Pranavi Srinivas on violin and Akshay on Mridangam.

Conceived & choreographed by Rukmini Vijayakumar, Anubhava featured music direction and composition & violin by Ambi Subramaniam, percussion by Rohan Krishnamurthy, light design by Gyandev Singh and production by Sruthi Sailesh.

Anubhava, theatrically is a technical term which is “what happens to a performer from an external stimulus before a transitory emotion emerges,” Vijaykumar elaborated in her exclusive with NRI Pulse. “We know and understand this world through our senses. They are our primary sources of knowledge.”

Within the theater, she said, performers create imaginary circumstances that feel like true experiences to members of the audience. These experiences leave the members of the audience feeling as though they have witnessed something so close to them that they feel emotions rising within, but they do not carry the weight of these emotions home with them. “This cathartic experience that audiences enjoy within a theater is called “Rasa” in the Indian tradition. In order to experience Rasa, there must be Anubhava, or an experience of the senses.”

It is customary for Bharatanatyam choreographies to include classical vocalists. But Anubhava includes an instrumentalist (violin), a percussionist and a dancer and no vocalist. “This is a unique concept. We are taking a lot of elements from classical music with a contemporary presentation,” Dr. Subramaniam said. “While traditional forms like the Thillana and Malaris used in Bharatnatyam are part of the composition, he said there was a lot of room for improvisation for each of the artists.

The truly distinct feature of the performance was the improv segment, which requires prompts from the audience – like the beginning of a story, and the performers instinctively and spontaneously respond. “This makes the experience truly different in different cities,” Dr. Subramaniam noted.

“This kind of a new collaboration with Carnatic music and dance (Bharatanatyam) – new textures, new process for creating music and dance in a new way, where there a lot of interplay, interweaving of visual  and sonic elements. There’s a lot of freedom and improvisation and lot of creativity that you may not find in traditional content. It has really been wonderful. We are exploring universal themes and interpretations left to the audience as well,” Dr. Krishnamurthy said.

As the lights dimmed, the artists took to light up the stage with three pieces of woven stories and experiences for the audience to immerse in the Anubhava. In the first piece, Vijayakumar donned the part of a mother who tries to impart the idea of worshipping the goddess, Devi and the intrinsic meaning of it. In the second piece Chinnanchiru Kiliye, a composition of Subramania Bharati, Vijayakumar brilliantly choreographed and depicted the song in the way a mother sees a child growing up, establishing a connection that does not fade. A musical solo between Subramaniam and Krishnamurthy interpreting the same concept of Devi followed, preceding the final set piece, the Swarabindu Tillana.

The performance concluded with an interactive experience where the audience had pre-requested themes, raagams and other aspects of dance for the three artists to create a piece spontaneously.  

To learn more about AIM for Seva, please check out their website www.aimforsevausa.org

About the Artists:

Rukmini Vijayakumar is the artistic director of the Raadha Kalpa Dance Company, and the director of Lshva, a creative space for artists in Bangalore. She is the founder of The Raadha Kalpa Method an educational system for Bharatanatyam that is based on the idea of neutrality. She has presented her work as a soloist all over the world, including venues such as the Jacobs Pillow festival, Drive East NYC, and the Korzo Theater. Recently she played the goddess of love in ‘Sukanya’, produced by The Royal Opera house, London. She was a recipient of the Jiri Kylian grant for choreography and a resident choreographer at Korzo theater, Netherlands in 2018. Her productions, Nayani, Prabhāvati, Abhimatā, Tālattu and The Dark Lord have toured India and the world. Her more recent work, Turiya, MALA, The Muse, Unrequited and Abducted were created within the contemporary idiom and have been appreciated for their creative approach to the Bharatanatyam vocabulary. She was bestowed the title of Arsha Kala Bhushanam by Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

She recently authored “Finding Shiva”, a book that was selected to be a part of the IAAC literary festival in New York. Also, an actor, Rukmini has been recognized for the roles that she has played in a number of Indian Films and Theatre performances.

Ambi Subramaniam – Violinist | Composer | Educator: Hailed as “the new king of Indian classical violin” and “India’s Itzhak Pearlmann,” Ambi Subramaniam has been trained by his father and guru Dr. L. Subramaniam since he was three years old and gave his first stage performance at the age of seven. He has received recognitions including the Ritz Icon of the Year Award, the Rotary Youth Award, two Global Indian Music Awards and was named among GQ’s 25 Most Influential Young Indians in 2021.Along with his sister Bindu, Ambi runs SaPa, which teaches music to over 35,000 children. He has co-authored over 20 textbooks in total, including India’s first series of textbooks dedicated to teaching the Carnatic violin.Ambi was recently a featured soloist in the background score of the film Sardar Uddham, composed by Shantanu Moitra. He also co-hosts The SaPa Show on Sankara TV, to teach global music to young children across the world. He is a youth delegate at the United Nations for the Sri Chinmoy Peace Meditation group.Ambi has an MBA in Finance, a Ph.D. on developing a global violin technique and an LTCL in the western violin from the Trinity College of Music.

Rohan Krishnamurthy – Percussionist | Composer | Educator: Indian-American percussionist, composer, and educator Dr. Rohan Krishnamurthy is one of the leading voices of Indian classical and cross-genre music in the South Asian diaspora. Acclaimed a “musical ambassador” by The Times of India, he received mridangam training from the legendary maestro, Sri. Guruvayur Dorai, tabla with Pt. Swapan Chaudhuri at the Ali Akbar College of Music, and drum set with Alan Hall at the California Jazz Conservatory. Distinguished as a soloist, composer, and collaborator, Rohan performed with legendary Indian classical musicians and Grammy Award-winning global artists. Rohan leads The Alaya Project, an Indo-jazz-funk collective featuring celebrated saxophonist Prasant Radhakrishnan and keyboardist Colin Hogan. The group’s recently released debut album has been praised by Jazziz, NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, and more. Rohan holds a Ph.D. in musicology from the Eastman School of Music and directs the RohanRhythm Percussion Studio with students from across the globe. Rohan is the recipient of international awards and grants including commissions from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Zellerbach Foundation, and Goethe Institute (Germany). He has taught at renowned institutions and his patented RohanRhythm drum tuning system is available worldwide.

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