The Wow fac­tor in dance

One bharatanatyam ex­po­nent wants to make the art form more ap­peal­ing to the younger set.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By WONG LI ZA star2@thes­tar.com.my

Kamini Manikam sees dance, specif­i­cally bharatanatyam, as her mis­sion in life, rather than just a pas­sion. She founded Wowga Creati­var­ium to pro­mote the arts as a form of edu­tain­ment, and to push for com­pas­sion­ate liv­ing.

DE­SCRIB­ING her­self as a cu­ri­ous child and a thinker, Kamini Manikam grew up in an en­vi­ron­ment filled with dance and mu­sic. Her mother, Indira Manikam, is an es­tab­lished bharatanatyam ex­po­nent and prin­ci­pal of the 52-year-old Tan­jai Ka­malaa Indira Dance School in Kuala Lumpur. And it is that en­vi­ron­ment that has shaped Kamini into who she is to­day, in­side and out.

“Born in a mi­lieu en­riched with dance and mu­sic, I nat­u­rally was in­clined to­wards the arts, which played a ma­jor role in shap­ing me phys­i­cally, emo­tion­a­land ly, men­tally spir­it­see ually. I do not the arts as a sep­a­rate en­tity of my life. I con­sider the arts, es­pe­cially this dance, my mis­sion in life rather than just a pas­sion,” said Kamini, when we met for an in­ter­view re­cently. Kamini is a per­form­ing artiste, chore­og­ra­pher, pro­ducer, di­rec­tor and in­struc­tor in bharatanatyam. Her mother’s school, es­tab­lished in 1966, got into the Malaysian Book Of Records as the “Longest Op­er­at­ing Dance School in Malaysia” in 2016. Kamini, in her 30s, also teaches at the school. “Through my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, I can as­sert that bharatanatyam is ‘med­i­ta­tion in mo­tion’. When one dances in lib­er­a­tion, whether in the heart or for real, the soul re­plen­ishes and tran­scends to the apex of at­tain­dance ment. Hence, I chose as my form of wor­ship and a spir­i­tual jour­ney to­wards en­light­en­ment,” she ex­plained.

The hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment grad­u­ate holds an MBA from the Univer­sity of South Aus­tralia and is cur­rently pur­su­ing her PhD in Busi­ness.

In 2013, she re­ceived the World Tamil Fed­er­a­tion Malaysia Global Award (En­ter­tain­ment Cat­e­gory) while in 2015, she won the MIEC Young In­dian En­trepreneur’s Award (Vet­eri­nary Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Cat­e­gory). Kamini has been work­ing on and off with her fa­ther, a vet, af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

Re­cently, she was named one of the re­cip­i­ents of the Women Icons Malaysia 2018, which recog­nises women’s con­tri­bu­tions and ac­com­plish­ments in their re­spec­tive fields.

Kamini is the founder of Wowga Creati­var­ium, which aims to prothe mote arts as a form of edu­tainand ment push for com­pas­sion­ate liv­ing through the arts.

Some of Kamini’s past pro­duc­tions in­clude Lip­stick: Cel­e­brat­ing Life As One, which was show­cased in 2014. The first se­ries fo­cused on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, while the fol­low­ing year, the sec­ond se­ries fo­cused on sex­ual as­sault and gen­der equal­ity.

Be­sides us­ing dance to cre­ate more aware­ness about such is­sues, Kamini is also on a quest to bridge the gap be­tween tra­di­tional bharatanatyam dance and the younger gen­er­a­tion.

“I want to make it rel­e­vant, and some­thing they can re­late to, but with­out chang­ing any tra­di­tional dance moves. For ex­am­ple, we can dance bharatanatyam to the beat box or even a Michael Jack­son tune,” she said.

“Now, I feel like I am in a gen­er­a­tion where I am sand­wiched. My mother’s gen­er­a­tion is very tra­di­tional, so we need to know how to sus­tain the art mov­ing for­ward. At the same time, I have to be very re­al­is­tic. Many peo­ple are go­ing into con­tem­po­rary dance. So it’s all about re­brand­ing and repack­ag­ing,” she shared.

This year, Kamini in­tends to com­plete her PhD (which she started in 2014) on “The Ef­fects Of So­cial Me­dia On Gen­er­a­tion Z’s In­ten­tion In In­dian Clas­si­cal Dance In Malaysia”.

“Cre­ative en­trepreneur­ship and artis­tic man­age­ment is not well-de­vel­oped in Malaysia, so I

de­cided to do some­thing busi­ness-y re­lated to art.

“You see, what’s hap­pen­ing now is we don’t get enough peo­ple com­ing for shows. One rea­son is the mind­set. When it comes to leisure, most peo­ple want to go to the cin­e­mas and malls. Schools don’t re­ally take chil­dren out for per­form­ing arts shows ei­ther. But we need to cul­ti­vate this (love for the arts) mind­set from young,” said Kamini.

She feels that in cur­rent times, the Gen­er­a­tion Z pop­u­la­tion would rather go on YouTube or Face­book to watch per­for­mances and other forms of en­ter­tain­ment.

“But the arts in­dus­try suf­fers that way – be­cause money is spent pro­duc­ing a show,” she em­pha­sised.

Cur­rently, Kamini is work­ing on a pro­duc­tion, which is still in the plan­ning stages, called Beauty And

The Beast. It is a dance drama in bharatanatyam, with a Malaysian twist.

“I have al­ways loved this story be­cause it em­pha­sises beauty on the in­side-out. The mass me­dia of­ten (presents) their dis­torted views of the beauty of women. I per­ceive that sex­i­ness is nei­ther about flash­ing your flesh nor does el­e­gance come from wear­ing ex­pen­sive fab­rics. Sex­i­ness is con­fi­dence; el­e­gance is at­ti­tude. A com­pas­sion­ate heart re­mains for­ever in the minds of peo­ple, com­pared to the mag­netism of a flaw­less body,” she said.

Photo: AZMAN GHANI/The Star

Kamini in Time­less Than­javur ,asolo bharatanatyam recital.

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