Apsaras Arts honours founder Neila Sathyalingam through Endowment Award and Festival 2021

The second edition of the Remembering Neila Sathyalingam Festival by Apsaras Arts, Singapore was held on Sunday 7th February 2021 at the Stamford Arts Centre, Singapore. 

Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan was the Guest of Honour at this year's festival, which held with all the COVID-19 guidelines and precautions in place was necessarily on a smaller scale. 

Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan was the Guest of Honour at the 'Remembering Neila Sathyalingam Festival' by Apsaras Arts
Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan was the Guest of Honour at the 'Remembering Neila Sathyalingam Festival' by Apsaras Arts

"This is our second year of organising the Neela Sathyalingam festival. Her memory continues to inspire us and we are motivated to strive to preserve our arts”, said Artistic and Managing Director at Apsaras Arts, Aravinth Kumarasamy. 

Presentation of the Neila Sathyalingam Endowment Award

In 2019, Apsaras Arts instituted an endowment award to honour the memory of Neila Sathyalingam or Neila mami as she is fondly called, as well as to recognize a high achiever in Indian classical dance in Singapore. 

The award includes a citation and a cash purse to encourage Singaporean dancers to pursue their passion in dance. 

This year, Apsaras Arts presented the Neila Sathyalingam Memorial Endowment Award to Meera Balasubramanian a promising dancer who has been gaining repute in Singapore and overseas. 

This year, Apsaras Arts presented the Neila Sathyalingam Memorial Endowment Award to dancer Meera Balasubramanian. Photo : Connected to India
This year, Apsaras Arts presented the Neila Sathyalingam Memorial Endowment Award to dancer Meera Balasubramanian. Photo : Connected to India

Meera co-founded Kalpavriksha Fine Arts in 2016 and has dedicated herself to the propagation of the Indian arts in Singapore. 

“This year's Neila Sathyalingam Endowment Award honours Meera Balasubramaniam for her excellence  & commitment in dance”, said Aravinth.  

“With this award, we hope to continue to see her pursue her art with greater vigour. With the prize purse received through this award, we would like to motivate her to create and build deeper knowledge in Bharatanatyam”, he added.

In her acceptance speech Meera said she is privileged and honoured to receive the Neila Sathyalingam endowment award from honorable minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan in the presence of other esteemed guests. 

Meera said she was elated to receive an award named after Neila maami, a pioneer in promoting Indian arts and culture in Singapore. Photo: Connected to India
Meera said she was elated to receive an award named after Neila maami, a pioneer in promoting Indian arts and culture in Singapore. Photo: Connected to India

“Neila mami was a pioneer in promoting Indian arts and culture in Singapore and I’m elated to receive this award that’s named after her. I thank Apsaras arts for recognizing my contribution. Special mention to Aravinth Kumarasamy for constantly guiding me through this artistic journey and making me part of so many iconic productions of Apsaras arts”, she said.

“I extend my gratitude to my teachers, mentors and choreographers for all the guidance, inputs and feedback and help me achieve my artistic pursuit. Special thanks to all my family, friends and well wishers who’ve always been there for me”, she added.

Launch of AVAI @ Apsaras Arts 

On the same memorable evening, guest of honour Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan also launched AVAI @ Apsaras Arts

Dr. Balakrishnan sportingly clapped a chiming pair of "Salangai" (dance anklet bells) on the count of three to mark AVAI’s inauguration. 

“Today we are pleased to launch our very own online platform AVAI @ Apsaras Arts to host and share our digital performances and events”, announced Aravinth. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Apsaras Arts resiliently re-invented itself to create a following on online platforms by curating and presenting many digital works, online events and webinars while reaching out to both Singapore and global audiences. 

Building on that is AVAI, based on an exquisite word in the Tamil language which means “a place to congregate” or “ a town hall”.  

A part of Apsaras Arts website, AVAI will host dance and music performances, lecture demonstrations, webinars and live stream events. 

AVAI will be available for connoisseurs of the arts, students and researchers who can access it for free, can pay per view and even subscribe for exclusive content 24 by 7.  

Performance of NAVA DURGA 

The finale for the memorable day was a dance performance “NAVA DURGA” by one of Neila Mami’s earliest students when she first came to Singapore,  Dr Roshni Kesavan Pillay. 

Apsaras Arts said it was honoured, as Dr Roshni is not only a student of Shrimathi Neila Sathyalingam but also the recipient of the Bharatha Kala Mani award from Apsaras Arts in 2016. Photo Courtesy: Apsaras Arts
Apsaras Arts said it was honoured, as Dr Roshni is not only a student of Shrimathi Neila Sathyalingam but also the recipient of the Bharatha Kala Mani award from Apsaras Arts in 2016. Photo Courtesy: Apsaras Arts

“This year we are proud to present a thematic solo Bharatanatyam performance NAVA DURGA by one of Neila mami’s senior students - Bharatha Kala Mani Dr Roshni Pillay Kesavan,” said Aravinth. 

A celebrated dancer on this island nation Dr. Roshni is a home-grown talent who balances both her passion for dance and her medical profession.

The performance showcased the eternal, primordial power that is formless, yet incarnates and manifests in various forms for the establishment of dharma and the destruction of evil. 

A thematic solo Bharatanatyam at the close of the Remembering Neila Sathyalingam Day. Photo Courtesy: Apsaras Arts
A thematic solo Bharatanatyam at the close of the Remembering Neila Sathyalingam Day. Photo Courtesy: Apsaras Arts

The thematic solo Bharatanatyam celebrating the nine forms of Durga which are celebrated throughout the nine days of the Indian festival Navrathri brought the Remembering Neila Sathyalingam Day to an apt close.

Author
Lakshmy Iyer
Lakshmy Iyer – Senior Correspondent, ASEAN & Entertainment

Lakshmy has been contributing regularly as a freelance writer since 2012. Her writing has been an amalgamation of the language, literature and rich cultural experiences of India as well as South East Asia. An Instructional Designer by profession she is passionate about lifelong learning. Art is her medium of reflection. She participates in art exhibitions thus contributing to the local art scene and using this platform, supports social causes in Singapore as well.

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