Kalaa Utsavam targets younger and more diverse audience with edgier programme

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SINGAPORE – Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts, which is on from Nov 17 to 26, has an edgier vibe this year, with original commissions and more pop-friendly music programming. 

Tickets for the festival, organised by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, go on sale from Tuesday.

Now into its 22nd edition, the festival is looking to the future.

Programmer V.M. Sai Akileshwar says: “We’re looking at longevity, sustainability and including the youth, so that there’s some element of ownership.” 

The younger programming team at the helm is also looking to expand audience reach. According to the Esplanade, the proportion of ticket holders aged 18 to 24 years has grown by four times from 2019 to 2022.

Among the Esplanade’s slate of cultural festivals, which includes Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts and Pesta Raya – Malay Festival of Arts, Kalaa Utsavam draws the highest rate of crossover audiences, with 36 per cent coming from non-Indian communities.

This is thanks in part to the theatre offerings, which often include English-language fare, as well as its popular children’s programme. 

A star attraction for 2023 embodying contemporary crossover appeal is celebrated dancer and choreographer Aditi Mangaldas, who is presenting a solo work, Forbidden.

The piece, which tackles the fears and taboos associated with female sexual desire, is a co-commission by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, London’s famed Sadler’s Wells dance group and Mumbai’s National Centre For The Performing Arts. 

The theatre programme offers some familiar names.

Comedian Kumar stars in The Great Indian Mix – Kumar Spills The Tea, which is on at the Esplanade Theatre on Nov 24. ...

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