Dancers, Choreographers & Musicians
Described by international dance connoisseurs as one of the finest artistes of his generation, Ramli Ibrahim has set stages ablaze in venerated centres of dance from Australia and India to Paris for more than three decades. His rigorous training in ballet, modern and Indian classical dance reflects not only his diverse technical accomplishments, but also his multifaceted approach to the arts. As artistic director and principal choreographer of the Sutra Dance Theatre, he has been a fountain of creativity, conceiving stunning works with a personal signature and distinctive Malaysian identity. Ramli, the guru, has nurtured some of the brightest talents to have emerged in the field of dance, many of whom have won international acclaim in both traditional and contemporary scenes. Ramli, the visionary, has been instrumental in transforming the dance scenario in Malaysia by boldly charting new paths and opening up fresh vistas through his innate yearning to embrace diverse art forms. Today, he is known for single-handedly establishing Odissi as a recognisable and widely appreciated dance form in this country, while creating a distinctively Malaysian interpretation of this ancient dance tradition. As a pioneer, Ramli is recognised nationally as a cultural icon and a dynamic force within the arts scene, evident in the various accolades conferred upon him including the Fulbright Distinguished Artist Award ‘99,the Lifetime Achievement (BOH Cameronian) Award ‘03, ANGARAG Lifetime Achievement Award ‘06 (Guru Deba Prasad Institute,Orissa), Johan Setia Mahkota (J.S.M) and Anugerah Karyawan Seni ‘06.
Company: Sutra Dance Theatre, Malaysia
American-born Chinese composer Alex Dea is trained in Western classical music and received a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University, with a specialty in Javanese gamelan music. Mentors include prominent avant-garde composers La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and Robert Ashley. He studied raga for five years with the late Hindustani master, Pandit Pran Nath. He has also studied the musics of Africa and Japan, and was active in the 1970's experimental music in California and New York, with La Monte Young's Theatre of Eternal Music, and the world and American premieres of Young's monumental The Well-Tuned Piano. Since 1992, he studies with the last remaining Javanese gamelan masters, living with his 107-year old teacher in Java. Documentation includes more than 1,000 hours of video and audio recordings of Javanese performances and interviews. He has special permission in the Jogya Palace, and is the only foreigner to sing in the palaces of Surakarta. He makes new dance collaborations with Indonesia's contemporary and classical artists. Teater Cahaya, an inter-cultural assembly of Asian classical masters co-founded with American expert of noh Richard Emmert, premiered Hesse’s Siddhartha in 2005. Recent work focuses on multi-media performances combining sacred bedhoyo dance video from his ethnographic research. Writings focus on the problems of preservation and modernity on traditional arts, the migration of art aesthetics across cultures, and the hidden knowledge in oral/aural traditions. His Sound As Movement:Movement As Sound workshops based on Indian drone and rasa theory has been held with the Beijing Modern Dance Company and Taipei Dance Circle. As an ethnographer-composer he travels throughout the Asia-Pacific region, maintaining artistic contacts, and observing different cultural practices.
Astad Deboo has been described as a pioneer of modern dance in India. He has extensive training in the Kathak and the Kathakali styles (the Indian classical dance forms). Astad trained in the Martha Graham dance technique and was an apprentice under Pina Bausch of the Wuppertal Dance Company and Alison Chase of the Pilobolus Dance Company. Along with these and other experiences with various dance companies in Japan and Indonesia, he has created a dance theatre style of his own.
Astad has given command performances for the royal families of Japan and Thailand, performed with Pink Floyd at the Chelsea Town Hall in London, choreographed and performed a site specific work on the Great Wall of Chin and was commissioned by Pierre Cardin to create a dance for the legendary Maya Plissetskaya – prima ballerina of the Bolshoi ballet company.
Astad is a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award - an honour given by the Govt. of India in recognition for his contribution to contemporary dance.
For the last 16 years, Astad has been working with deaf performers in India, USA, Mexico and Hong Kong. He has collaborated with Indian martial arts practitioners, puppeteers, actors and musicians, creating distinct and innovative works across many genres. In 2004, Astad was commissioned by Lingalayam Dance Company to create a dance/drama creation of The Tempestbased on the Shakespearian drama.
From being a pioneer in bringing the electric guitar to international acclaim as a concert instrument for the ancient Indian art form of Carnatic music, to being a force in the cutting edge of Jazz, Classical and World music, Prasanna continues to stun music enthusiasts with an ever-evolving palette of vocabulary as a composer and improviser.
With an engineering degree in Naval Architecture from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Prasanna went on to pursue his passion for music and graduated Magna-Cum-Laude with an honours degree from the famed Berkley College of Music in Boston.
Prasanna has received numerous awards including the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award for Carnatic music for 2003’ from H.H. Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, India’s most revered spiritual leader and ‘Acharya’ of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. His orchestration and arranging credits include the title score for the Oscar nominated Bollywood film ‘Lagaan’. Prasanna’s acclaimed guitar instructional DVD ‘Ragamorphism’, gives an in-depth look at how he stretches the boundaries of improvisation.
In the words of one Jazz critic ‘Prasanna plays guitar like nobody on the planet’.
As a true artist, Prasanna is both a traditionalist and modernist and everything in between. In the words of one critic, ‘Worlds merge and vapours mingle when Prasanna plays’, while another critic says ‘Prasanna is a wondrous wake-up call for tired aural neurons’. Prasanna collaborated with Astad Deboo and Lingalayam Dance Company for the production ofThe Tempest in 2004.
Albert is a choreographer, dancer and teacher of contemporary dance and jazz. His dance creations incorporate aboriginal traditional dance, including dances from the Torres Strait Islands. Albert has spent time with various indigenous communities throughout Australia and with the permission of Aboriginal elders, Albert is able to draw upon what he has learnt from these communities and from his own Torres Strait Islands community to teach and choreograph contemporary traditional dance.
Born in 1971 on Thursday Island, Torres Strait, Albert graduated from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) 1994. During this period, Albert also choreographed video clips for various music artists such as Christine Anu and James Reyne.
Albert joined the Bangarra Dance Theatre in 1995, performing traditional Torres Strait and Aboriginal dances as well as the Company’s contemporary productions of Ochres, Fish, The Dreaming, and Rites (a collaborative work with the Australian Ballet). He has also performed with the Australian ballet as Guest Artist, performing the role of Oenomaus in the ballet Spartacus. After touring internationally with Bangarra and various other groups and commissions, Albert pursues a freelance career as a choreographer and dancer. and in 2004 created the role of Caliban in Lingalayam’s production ofThe Tempest.
Dancer / Choreographer
A consummate dancer, Veshnu is one of a very few Indian classical dancers from Singapore to have achieved a high professional status in the art-form. He has developed his kinetic skills both in the traditional genre of Bharatha Natyam as well as in the innovative sphere of new dance vocabulary.
His Bharatha Natyam practice has a unique and vibrant style which has evolved out of his perseverance in the search for artistic excellence. Consciously interpreting the subject matter of his dance, and communicating the feeling (Rasa) and expression (Bhava), technical clarity, strong conceptual frameworks, depth of knowledge, musical sensitivities, and a sincere sense of devotion (Bhakthi) are the hallmarks of his dynamic artistry. Veshnu constantly produces numerous, quality productions both in Australia and in Singapore. He has been acknowledged by the National Arts Council of Singapore with the Young Artist award in 1998. He has also been recognized by the Bharatam dance company in Melbourne, directed by Dr Chandrabhanu, with the Natyakala award for his contribution in this industry. In his first season with the Lingalayam Dance Company, through his association with Anandavalli, Veshnu performed to great critical acclaim in Serpent Woman, when he was described as “a handsome young man with a distinctive and distinguished dance style.” (Jill Sykes, SMH). He joined Lingalayam again for Sthree in 2002, Earth & Fire in 2003, Tempest in 2004 and for the restaging of Serpent Woman in 2005.
Dancer / Choreographer
Seran’s initial training in Bharatha Natyam started at the age of 12 under Usha Karunakaran. In 1998 in preparation for his <emArengetram</em> (dance debut) Seran went to Chennai in South India, where he underwent rigorous training in the art form under the renowned ‘dancing duo’ the Dhananjayans. Back in Sydney he presented his dance debut under the able guidance of Dhamayanthy Balaruju. Following his ‘Arengetram’ in 1998, Seran traveled frequently to Chennai, for periods of 3 months to undergo intensive training with the Dhananjayans, acquiring a strong foundation and proficiency in the art form. Now a student of the Dhanajayans, Seran went back to Chennai in 2004 for a period of 9 months in order to complete his Diploma in Bharatha Natyam at ‘Bharatha Kalanjali’ the institution founded by the Dhananjayans. During this period he had the great opportunity of performing all over India under the banner of ‘Bharatha Kalanjali’, and also to dance one of the lead roles in Prof.C.V.Chandrashekar’s production of “Kreeda’ which toured to Kerala, Mumbai, Gujarat and Chennai. Other highlights include the ‘Natyanjali Festival 2005’ at Chidambaram and his solo performance in Chennai conducted by his Guru’s the Dhananjayans. Seran has started his own dance school “RASANA School of Aesthetic Arts” in Sydney and presents solo performances regularly. Seran first performed with the Lingalayam Dance Company in “Kuruntokai-The Interior Landscapes” in 2006 and again in the re-staging of “Earth & Fire” in 2007.