Great works of art can move you, or evoke certain sensations and feelings. It can sometimes function as a much needed catharsis, or be used to disseminate ideas or messages to its viewers.

Perhaps what makes art appealing to us, is that it imitates life; and what more mysterious and intriguing aspect of life there is than love?

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Amorous Delight is a dance showcase inspired by the ninth-century Amarushataka, the legendary hundred verses of the Sanskrit poet Amaru concerning the sringara rasa—an erotic sentiment of love.

The intense poetry, which has been illustrated in the pothi (palm leaf manuscripts) by traditional painters from various parts of India over the centuries, allude to the pleasures and sorrows experienced when in love, and the various fleeting emotions, moods and attitudes: lust, anger, joy, obsession and more.

This Malaysian interpretation by Datuk Ramli Ibrahim is brought to life using the sensual movement of Odissi. Vividly telling the tale of Nayaka (hero) and Nayika (heroine) as they ride the tumultuous roller coaster of love—this rendition is made even more spectacular with the creative input of Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran.

Stage 1: Excitement

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The response after the culmination of last year’s Amorous Delight, was overwhelming, setting the course for another round of sensual excitement on stage. Only this time, the entire do would be bigger, and last (slightly) longer. Two personalities meet; creative juices flow.

“What do you envision it to be like?” enquires Dato’ Sri Bernard. “It has to be alluring and seductive, it must capture the audience,” replies Datuk Ramli. Dato’ Sri Bernard immediately gets to work. He whips out his pen and does some preliminary sketching. “Chiffon will do the trick,” he says. The sheer and light fabric (along with silk), is to be used, to attract the eyes to the movement of the nimble dancers. 

Stage 2: Plateau

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Bodies are hard at work, bending and contorting to fit certain positions, to perfect their movement and rhythm. The female lead, Divya Nair, who has been with Sutra for 16 years, knows that this is “a very daring story, in terms of sensuality and the range of emotions displayed.” Dedicated, the dancers toil to ensure that Amarushataka is executed perfectly on stage. It is a thin line between vulgarity and sensuality, thus the evocative depictions of the palm leaf manuscripts—the embraces, the movement—have to be carried out purposefully and artfully.

Stage 3: Climax

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Ah, the moment we have all been waiting for! The consummation of all creative processes and hard work reaches its height, on the first night (and following nights.) The doors are opened, the crowd pours in to witness the many nuances of passion masterfully displayed. The costumes, skilfully and beautifully designed by Dato’ Sri Bernard, complements the graceful movements of the dancers under Datuk Ramli’s direction. The merging of these two great artists has come to fruition, but it doesn’t end there... 

Stage 4: Resolution

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The act is done. The audience come, and gone. But love will go on, for as long as humankind exists. This show also serves as a tribute to Yeoh Jin Leng and the late Dr Dinanath Pathy. The latter having been involved in the production, sadly passed away before he could experience the glorious second edition. And as mentioned, Amorous Delight doesn’t end here. The dance team have been invited to perform in India soon, and there is also the assemblage of text and paintings (some even by Dr Pathy himself) to be viewed at the Sutra Foundation.

This year’s highly anticipated masterpiece returns bigger than before to The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, from March 15 to 19. The 2017 edition features the talented dance team from Sutra Dance Theatre along with a number of members from its outreach programme—students from SJK (Tamil) Kajang and Ladang Sg Choh.  

For more information, visit KLPAC.org.

This story originally appeared in the March 2017 edition of Malaysia Tatler.

Heading to Hong Kong between March 23 and 25? Be in the thick of things at Art Basel Hong Kong 2017.

Tags: Dance, Datuk Ramli Ibrahim, Sutra Foundation, KLPAC, Sutra Dance Theatre, Amorous Delight, Dato' Sri Bernard Chandran