Monday, 19 March 2018

Shimla Diary: 1st edition of Classical Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

The Gaiety Theatre
After our last visit to Shimla in September last year for a seminar at Institute of Advanced Studies, when I received an invitation to attend a three day classical dance festival organized by Department of Language and Culture of Himachal Pradesh, I was delighted to accept. More so, as my confrere Leela Venkataraman was also invited and the artists from Delhi - Jaipur Gharana exponent Rajendra Gangani, Bharatanatyam dancer Geeta Chandran - and from Kolkata, Manipuri exponent Bimbavati and her troupe were to perform, we knew we would have a dance fare that would not only be enjoyable but also the company of the artists would give us opportunity to catch up with the latest.....

The Himachal Pradesh University and Art Gallery of Prof. Him ChatterjeeI had met painter Professor Him Chatterjee at Khajuraho few days ago at the dance performance. He invited Leela Venkataraman and me for breakfast on Sunday morning to visit his residence and gallery, some seven kilometers away from our hotel. 

Son of Sanat Kumar Chatterjee, the celebrated painter, disciple of legendary painter Asit Halder from Shantinketan, Him Chatterjee is a prolific painter. He is at present Dean and Professor of the Visual Arts Faculty. He has obtained two acres of land on which he has built two storey residential quarters and also his studio and a gallery which houses rare Bengal School  paintings of his father, few of Asit Haldar and a couple of rare original photographs of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Well designed, it is a treasure trove and I recommend that visitors, dancers, must visit it......

The Dance Festival 
Shimla is on the hills and its hairpin roads would scare those who are not used to it. The experienced drivers and those who have been living here can negotiate the small roads with ease. Whenever we went to the Gaiety Theatre for performances, our hearts were in our mouths, as the driver negotiated the car. If a car came from opposite direction, he drove back to let the other car go. The plaza, the more than hundred year old Christ Church, the view from the top, the 108 feet tall statue of Hanuman, the restaurants etc., located on height, people walking and some sitting on the benches made the scene colourful. The crowds strolled in the evening. By six in the evening the lights illumined the hills. The festive mood prevailed....

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Sunday, 18 March 2018

Samabhavana churns out myriad starry thoughts on new directions in Indian dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Indian Contemporary  dancers, a vibrant presence but without the kind of establishment support their colleagues representing other dance categories seem to command,  have over almost a century functioned as an isolated group comprising diverse individualistic movement expressions. The odd stock taking events looking at this side of Dance Exploration were The East-West Dance Encounter in 1984 and later in 1993, and new explorations featured in Sangeet Natak Akademi’s ‘Nava Nritya Samaroh’ in 1989. Now, in Kolkata comes the latest effort at bringing dancers, scholars and writers to interact on the nature of Contemporary Dance in India, and its future prospects.

Curated with great care by Sudarshan Chakravorty and Paramita Saha of Sapphire Dance Creations of Kolkata, the two day  SAMABHAVANA effort on new directions in Indian dance, churned out varied thinking on the dancing body, which, through history, has had to deal with institutions of power controlling culture – whether temple, court or an elected government. The entire history of dance in India at one time was written on the body of the Devadasi, resulting in this traditional group of professional entertainers being crushed.

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Thursday, 15 March 2018

Sensibilities of a Modern Man - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

What is Indian dance and what could be its new directions? Is there anything ever new, when it comes to the human body in terms of its form and what it should seek to portray in terms of content? These and other provocative questions were pointedly raised in Samabhavana, an impressive, two-day national level meet in Kolkata on March 3 and 4, 2018: to debate about directions, possibilities and developments in Indian dance. This was spearheaded by Sapphire Creations who has striven, since 1992, to create first an idiom and a language, and then a whole vocabulary of contemporary dance in eastern India over the last quarter of a century.

Playing the role of an agent provocateur, this critic, when invited, premised his broad thesis on the modern man’s perceptions of what he is and what he is not.  He is certainly not the one-dimensional man portrayed by Herbert Marcuse. Nor is he the Fallen Man -- tumbling headlong into a bottomless abyss – as painted by Krishen Khanna nor is he the bewildered entity looking with bemused eyes into the fast-receding past, from the back of a speeding truck surging ahead. Au contraire -- aware that he is born in the present century – he has his sensibilities in the right place and, among other things, is reasonably aware of his heritage as well as potency of the visual and performing arts that are civilization’s gifts to him. 

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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Samabhavana: Celebrating New Directions in Indian Dance - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Sapphire Creations Dance Company, Kolkata, commemorated its 25th year with historic moment in the Indian Arts by organizing a two-day dance conference on 3rd and 4th March at ICCR's Nandalal Gallery under four segments - Provocations, Explorations, Transformations and Negotiations - at Abanindranath Gallery and performances at Satyajit Ray Auditorium. The second day performance Beautiful Thing 2 by Padmini Chettur was held as part of Pickle Factory Season 1 Festival opening performance at Gem Cinema. The sessions were held from 11am back to back in a tight schedule with a large number of participants with a clear agenda to see how New Direction in Indian Dance have moved forward from earlier times. 

By fortuitous circumstances, I had participated in the historic East West Dance Encounter held in 1984 by Dr. Georg Lechner, Director of Max Muller Bhavan in collaboration with NCPA in Mumbai, followed by another in 1985 titled New Directions in Indian Dance. The other conferences which followed like one organized by Rabindra Bharati University inviting Mrinalini Sarabhai, Kumudini Lakhia, Chandralekha, Manjushri Chaki Sircar in Kolkata in1985, followed by Nava Nritya Samaroha in Delhi in 1989 by Sangeet Natak Akademi and in Toronto, Canada, by Sudha Khandwani and Rasesh Thakkar also titled New Directions in Indian Dance in 1993 and one more in Delhi by Max Mueller Bhavan in 1997 provided the background for the present Samabhavana to celebrate, debate and dissect the yesterday, today and tomorrow of Indian Contemporary Dance.

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Monday, 12 March 2018

Interview - You are just as good as your last performance: Geeta Chandran -Shveta Arora

Bharatanatyam exponent Geeta Chandran has won many accolades and awards in her career, the latest being the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. Grateful for the honour, the dancer says that the attention and impact of awards is nevertheless temporary, and that a dancer is only as good as his/her last performance. The real award, she says, is when audiences can be moved by classical arts, and when education begins to include the arts. Excerpts from a chat...

Your thoughts on receiving the SNA award... 
Every award comes with a sense of responsibility. Youngsters start looking up to you. Everything you say or perform becomes like a sponge that they absorb from. So you have to raise the bar because then it becomes the yardstick. Secondly, there is the joy of getting it exactly 50 years after my first guru, Swarna Saraswati amma, got it. It is really prestigious that you are in the same list as your guru. And when you read the list of artists that you have grown up watching, being inspired by, now you are also a part of that erudite list. 

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Thursday, 8 March 2018

Malavika's new creative spurt - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Dancing with greater energy than ever, Malavika Sarukkai seems to be going through a fresh spurt of creativity, breathing new life into her Bharatanatyam art. Performing on Feb 25 at Sannidhi Auditorium of the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya with its intimate ambience and an audience of discerning art lovers, Malavika's recital had an electrifying start with Sthiti Gathi, a work done a few years ago. Based on music in Madhuvanti composed by Prof C.V. Chandrasekhar, the dancer sculpts space with form, movement and stillness as two sides of a coin not only needing each other, but their contrasting natures enabling both to draw their own individual identities, from the other. And exploring this principle through the technique of Bharatanatyam lines and rhythm, Malavika has created movement of visual geometry, which holds the viewer spellbound with energy packed movements dotted with the silence of sudden freezes. The designing with accented points of movement beautifully echoed in the nattuvangam by Sreelatha (with mridangam and music in sync) with footwork of rhythmic phrases of syllables at cardinal points, doubled or trebled, along with the perfect symmetry of stances, made for dramatic fare.....

Impressive start to Kalavahini's sponsorship of excellence in dance
By all yardsticks, it was an impressive start on Feb 23 at the IIC auditorium for the Kalavahini Trust (Malavika Sarukkai's brainchild) in its goal of sponsorship and support for young excellence in dance - comprising passionate, committed and thinking dancers. Other envisaged programmes include Dance Immersionwith four intensive days of interaction on dance matters, fellowships and financial support to help ease the burden while creating new productions.

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Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Profile - Koodiyattam maestro P.K. Govindan Nambiar - Padma Jayaraj

Chakyarkoothu and Koodiyattam are temple arts of Kerala. The origins of Chakyarkoothu can be traced to folk theater of Tamilnadu. Traditionally performed in temple theatres, it is dramatized dance worship by a group known as Chakyar, which began in feudal times and still continues as ritual worship. Association with Sanskrit drama helped it rise to a unique mimetic theatre with a history of 1000 years. Changed by daring stalwarts, the Sanskrit theatre has marched on to modern proscenium theatre of the world..... 

P.K. Govindan Nambiar was one among them who followed the footsteps of his father and guru. Born in 1930 as the second son of the legendary artist Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar, P.K. Govindan Nambiar has the art in his genes. For him, the heritage became a way of life. He had his 'arangettam' at the age of 14. In those days, the life of an artist, especially temple arts like Koothu and Koodiyattam, was one of dedication. He has continued his pursuit of excellence in this field for more than seven decades now. Initiated by his father/ guru, Nambiar displayed an inexhaustible passion for his first love. Innumerable are his contributions. He has excelled not only as a classic performer of Koothu, Koodiyattam and Padhakam but also as a writer with a number of notable publications to his credit. A versatile artiste, he has performed on several stages outside the temple premises. 

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