Pathmakers: Artist – Aparna Marar, MPWE 2016
There is no greater truth that when we follow our heart, we cease to have regrets. There might be room for uncertainties but faith and content is in abundance. That is the magic. Aparna Marar did exactly that. A brilliant mind with soul of an artist. She has combined this to make a new way for herself as an dancer, entrepreneur, educator, organiser and singer.
Aparna, recipient of Yuva Prathibha Puraskar of the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, 2010 has proved her artistry in numerous national festivals and also as a choreographer. Her interest in dance therapy has also been greatly appreciated by international institutes like National Institute on Development Delays (NIDD) and has invited her to conduct workshops in ‘Movement exploration using techniques of Indian classical dancing for children with development delays’ across the globe. She is a director at the Kalabharathi Foundation for Indian Culture and Heritage, a non-profitable cultural organization, regularly organizing festivals, workshops and welfare programs.
Aparna has not just made a mark for herself as an artist but also has integrated her passion as a means to serve society.
Can you please tell us something about yourself.
I am an artist and an entrepreneur, hailing from Kerala, currently living in Dubai, with my husband and daughter. I am the co-founder and Vice President of Bigsofttechnologies as well as the founder-director of the Kalabharathi Foundation for Indian Culture and Heritage. As a dancer and educator, I travel extensively for performances as well as workshops. I also teach movement exploration using classical dance for differently-abled children and have been a resource person at National Institute on Developmental delays, Oklahoma, USA. Academically, I have done dual master’s – ME in wireless communication engineering with a rank from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore and MFA in Bharatanatyam from SASTRA University, Thanjavur.
How and when did you get introduced to the art of classical dance?
I was introduced to classical dancing from the tender age of four. Though I have always loved to dance as a child, I must admit it was more of happiness of winning a competition, during my school days. But as years passed, my love for dance grew and it gradually became a passion without which I couldn’t survive. I am truly grateful to my parents for finding me some of the finest gurus, under whose guidance I could not only nurture my skills but also define a clear purpose for my passion.
From all the styles of Indian classical dance forms you have learned, do you have a favorite and why?
All the classical dance forms in India are based on the treatise Natyasastra and have the basic principles all same. However, due to geographical variables and evolution over time, different regional forms have different visible characteristics and we call them by different names. For me, Mohiniyattom, which is the traditional desi form of Kerala, is my all-time favorite. It consists of soft, subtle movements resembling the swaying of coconut trees over wind- for Kerala is known as the land of coconut trees. I believe I can connect more with my audience, emotionally through Mohiniyattom.
You are also the Director at Kalabharathi Foundation for Indian Culture and Heritage. Can you please tell us more about the foundation?
I have always seen art as a holistic medium for social innovation with commitment, rather than a mere form of entertainment. It was this desire that compelled me to start an organization – to work for society and artists, by expanding the horizons of art. Through Kalabharathi, we conduct a lot of art appreciation programmes in schools/colleges and have also published 3 books on the theoretical aspects of Classical Art forms. We have also been regularly conducting national level dance & music festivals for young-upcoming artists of the country. Currently, we are developing an e-cultural platform called “Artist Today” connecting different artists and art enthusiasts across the globe. Artists can reach out to a wider international audience through virtual performances and students can benefit by learning any artform under any teacher from any country.
Who have been the influencers in your journey as an artist?
My mother has been my greatest influencer and supporter. She has always instilled in me the confidence to think differently and choose a path which I love the most. I have also been influenced a lot by the life of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, quotes of Rumi etc. In fact, they all actually influenced my perspective on life holistically rather than the journey as an artist.
How did you get interested in the concept of Dance therapy? How do you think it helps?
After one of my mohiniyattom performances in Kerala, I received a call, from the mother of an autistic child, who thanked me for the performance. She told me, her child could relate well emotionally with my performance and has been very happy since then, wanting to learn dancing from me. The fact that I could transmit happiness to the girl, made me elated. Though I could not teach her at that time, I started exploring the possibilities of classical dance as a therapy. I also attended quite a few workshops by international dance therapists. However, I couldn’t find much Indian classical dancers In the field. In the process I was able to connect with Fr. Paul Zahler, Director of National Institute on Developmental Delays, Oklahoma, USA. Satisfied with my findings, he invited me for a workshop & performance at St.Gregory’s University, Oklahoma in 2014. Despite an audience full of American children, totally ignorant of Indian classical Dance, the workshop was a huge success. Thereafter, I was invited at National Children’s hospital, Costa Rica and have been an educator since then. Currently I am also an associate member with American Dance Therapy Association.
As an artist what is your opinion on the future of Indian classical dance.
Every art form offers a space for innovation to evolve according to the time and age to sustain itself. As such, if we explore that creative space carefully, without compromising on the tradition and foundation, I think the future is bright for Indian classical Dancing. I feel, learning classical dance is gaining more popularity nowadays, especially among Indian ex-pats. It has become more of a way to healthy living, as a physical exercise, stress buster, as a form of meditative experience and more.
Can you also please tell us about your venture – Bigsofttechnologies?
Bigsofttechnologies, is a Technology consultancy, Digital Marketing and Media firm founded by myself and my husband in 2014. Currently, we have offices in India and UAE, catering to clients globally.
How do you manage your time as an artist and other professional commitments?
Since school days, I was used to multitasking and dancing was always a part of my daily schedule. Even during my engineering studies, I used to travel for performances, in between semester exams. Now I think, involving myself in two different ventures, always keeps me engaged, and helps me to think fresh, coming up with new ideas. Also being an entrepreneur, I have flexibility in managing my schedule and dividing my time accordingly. Also, I have great support from my husband and parents.
What are some of the good memories and learnings from your days at IIMB?
Firstly, the days spent at IIM Bangalore are one of the most treasured moments of my life. It opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me. I could scale up my ventures, diversifying and focussing more- Thanks to my teachers and mentors. The classroom was always entertaining and fun with lots of lovely friends. I still remember the tension, we all had before the final presentations. My daughter was 2 years old at the time. She used to play around the campus every day when I was attending the classes. For her, IIMB is still a ‘Huge forest’ park. I am happy to have created such a lovely memory for her.