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A Review Of The Dance Performance Anjaneyam: Hanuman’s Ramayana

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The Ramayana has greatly influenced art and culture in India and Southeast Asia with its story of love, loyalty and righteousness. Many productions focused on Rama and Sita’s love story, yet Anjaneyam: Hanuman’s Ramayana by the Apsaras Arts Dance Company shifted the focus towards Hanuman, the Monkey God, who played an important role in Rama’s quest to rescue Sita from the demon king Ravana. The performance indeed did not disappoint at all – it was a spectacle!

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The Anjaneyam: Hanuman’s Ramayana showcased Bhataranatyam dance – a vibrant dance with finesse of hand movements – and traditional Javanese dance in some parts of the performance. The first act opened with two male and five female dancers dancing to the guru narrations introducing Hanuman. The story continued with Hanuman vowing to save Sita from Ravana and his encounter with Sita in Lanka. The highlight of the first act was Sita’s attempt to end her life due to her separation from Rama. Sita wore less jewelleries and her hair were tied back and let loose. Six dancers’ grief expressions while circling Sita took the audiences to immerse themselves in Sita’s soul stirring emotion. At the start of this scene, traditional Javanese dance was performed by three dancers complete with its Javanese costume and Gamelan music accompaniment. The fusion of Javanese dance into the performance created an unexpectedly nice blend to Sita’s scene with its slow music and dance. One shortcoming from the first act was the lack of unison between dancers in their movement and expression. Yet, it did not significantly affect the fineness of the whole performance.

The second act was more captivating than the first act. This was partly due to the lively setting and intense choreography as the story progressed to Hanuman’s fight with Ravana. Hanuman truly portrayed his character as the Monkey God when he danced all around the stage dodging from Ravana’s guards as if he was a monkey jumping around in the forest. Audience could also feel Ravana’s anger and desire to kill Hanuman from his expression and movement that turned bigger and sharper. The story reached its climax as the beat turned faster, stage lighting flickered, and fire was shown in the background to highlight the moment when Hanuman set Lanka on fire with his tail and killed Ravana. By comparison with the calmer Act I, this act captured audience’s attention with its action-like choreography and allowed the main dancers to showcase advanced techniques of both Bhataranatyam and Javanese dance.

The Anjaneyam: Hanuman’s Ramayana attracted audiences from all ages and nationalities to appreciate and reminisce the timeless story of Ramayana. It was needless to say that the Apsaras Arts Dance Company had successfully brought to life the cultural ties between India and Southeast Asia through their collaboration with various artists in presenting this mesmerizing cross-cultural performance. 

Overall, Anjaneyam: Hanuman’s Ramayana was a great addition to performances at Singapore Night Festival to introduce cultural diversity in Singapore to both Singaporeans and foreigners. 

10 Jun 2021

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