Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Courtesan Extraordinaire - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee



The early Buddhist literature, beginning with the ancient Jatakas, is replete with a surprising number of parables and legends. One such treasure trove is  Mahavastu Avadhan which, among others, narrates the didactic tale of the  court dancer Shyama and her sudden passion for the handsome stranger Vajrasen – caught on a false charge of theft – for whom she does not hesitate to sacrifice her young lover Uttiyo at the gallows. On the felony being revealed, she is summarily discarded by her ‘new’ lover Vajrasen. The two main protagonists, Shyama and Vajrasen, are surrounded by the king’s minions – headed by a crafty Kotwal -- entirely prompted by the power of lucre and the royal dancer’s companions acting as a ‘voice of conscience,’ a well-known ploy inherited by the Bengali folk theatre Jatra essayed by Vivek, literally meaning ‘conscience’. 

Shyama, Rabindranath Tagore’s delectable dance drama – presented recently in Kolkata by Jahnavi and Sutradhar – was based on the above story line. The 1938 play (preceded by an 1899 long poem by Tagore on the same theme) was set first in a public avenue, moving to Shyama’s private chambers, to the solitary prison cell, to the luxury yacht carrying the lover duo, to the forests on the river bank, and finally to the point of no return. The plot had amour propreplayed out between the lovers: now infatuated, now querulous and then desperately estranged. The point of view was entirely Shyama’s: besotted with passion and eager to elope, the admission of her felony, and her eventual desertion. The mood was of the urgency of the lovers’ union, only to fall apart. The tone was, for both lovers, psychologically resonated. The primary beauty of Shyama was the heaving rise and fall of its conflicts and their Spencerian tempo, almost like Western music’s overture, leading to the waxing and waning of the passage of ardour between the two principal contenders.

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Nupur: 23rd Classical Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


The 23rd edition of Nupur, the three-day classical dance festival was flagged off at Shree Mahalsa Sausthan, Mardol-Goa, by Sushant Khedekar, Vice Chairman of Kala Academy, Goa, with other dignitaries on the evening of 18th March 2017.

With the backdrop of the temple with deepa stambh and deepamala, the dance found a devotional ambience. At the very outset, I would like to congratulate the organizers for giving opportunity to young Goan dancers under the guidance of Shama Bhate of Pune in a group choreography of Kathak for four dancers under the scheme of workshop organized by the Directorate of Art and Culture. They included Varada Bedekar, Prerna Palekar, Arpita Shirodkar, Tejaswini Loundo. They did Shama Bhate proud with their neat and unhurried graceful Kathak which consisted of traditional numbers like thaat, aamad, paran, parmelu, bol baant ki tihai and footwork. All of them performed with clarity and confidence. Kajari by Dr. Prabha Atre for abhinaya dwelt upon abhisarika nayika. Music by vocalist Vikrant Naik, Amar Mopkar, and Swapnil Mandrekar (tabla), Prasad Gawas (harmonium), Sonik Velingkar (flute) and recitation by Guru Shama Bhate complimented the dance. 

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Mothers by Daughters & Others - To Mother, with love - Srinidhi Chidambaram


Behind every successful Bharatanatyam dancer, is her mother. This is something I can swear by. Of course, fathers, husbands and in-laws do play a hugely supportive role, but the role of the mother of a dancer is something else entirely! She performs the combined roles of a guru, companion, confidante, aesthetic guide, stage designer, make-up artiste, program consultant, costumer, nutritionist, fitness coach, and much more…

In my own case, I have been lucky to have had two such strong and nurturing women, my maternal grandmother and my mother, by my side throughout my dance career. My life as a dancer began at the age of three, when I started my training with Kamala. For the next ten years, it was really my grandmother who steered me through classes, school, homework, performances and travel. Until this day, most old timers from the Chennai Bharatanatyam scenario, remember her with affection. Following that, my mother has been the one nurturing and supporting me, for the last 45 plus years of my career as a Bharatanatyam performer.

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Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column - Health Recipes 11: Sake Steamed Chicken - Uma Pushpanathan


Serves: 2 
Per serving: 800 kJ
Preparation and Cooking Time: 40 minutes

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Friday, 24 March 2017

Interview - Nilesh Singha: Dance is expression of the soul - Vijay Shankar


Acclaimed as one of the best male classical dancers of Mumbai, having won several accolades, Nilesh Singha is gaining recognition as a painstaking teacher and choreographer and his institute, Shivoham Institute of Performing Arts has successfully completed eleven glorious years, having produced students who have become professional dancers as well. Nilesh narrates his experience as a performer and teacher that spans more than two decades.

How did you get fascinated with dance?
Dancing has come naturally to me. When I was a kid I started dancing at the start of music on the radio or television. My parents observed my passion for dance and decided to put me into a dance class. Those days we used to live in Dombivali in Thane district. The class that I was enrolled in was for Kuchipudi and the teacher was the established exponent Guru Vijaya Prasad. After completing the course, I started participating in competitions and become a regular first ranker for more than ten years at the competition organized by Swar Sadhana Samiti at the national level.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Spring Mood - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Mother Earth does seem to extend her best foot forward at the advent of spring every year. In land after land, post-winter, spring invites an unmatched floral kaleidoscope from nature. In the harsh northern clime, while Holland sees its expansive gardens swathed in breathtaking colours of flowers, Birmingham in England bursts all over into a colourful extravaganza with many-hued tulips. It is not without some pride (if not actual devotion) that Robert Browning sang: The year's at the spring, And day's at the morn, Morning's at seven, The hillside's dew-pearled, The lark's on the wing, The snail's on the thorn, God's in his heaven, All's right with the world!

In the far away land of the Rising Sun, the country waits with bated breath for its first warm winds at the winter's thaw. And when that happens, all the cherry trees everywhere suddenly sprout blossoms: unbelievably all together and entire communities - from schools and colleges, offices and factories - come out in the wide open to observe holiday and witness the wonderful spectacle. It is Ohanami festival, the aesthetic nation's only unchartered holiday on the calendar. If in Myanmar, it is the water sprinkling festivity, in India, it is sharing gulal and crimson-coloured water, and shouting Holi hai in unison.

Eons ago, Kalidasa composed his unique ode to nature, Ritu Samharam, creating metaphor after exquisite metaphor for seasons. If it was Ashadasya prathama divase megham ashlishta sanum... for the rains, it was a beautiful damsel striking with her left heel the Ashoka tree to let it bloom; and it was for a bashful bride to pluck at the mango grove, allowing it to spread fragrant offshoots. Kalidasa was emphatic: then and only then it would be spring, not otherwise.

A millennium had to elapse before a worthy successor would arrive to pen his tender thoughts on India's all six seasons. In an outpouring of 293 songs on nature as many as 96 were on spring, written by Tagore. Unfailingly in Vasanta Utsav every spring, his dream scion Santiniketan erupts into a flurry of dancers' and singers' processions of colourfully attired youth and the old - meandering through roads and meadows - carrying red abir and singing, Come out, you domestic denizens, it's spring on waters and earth, in the wood's cool corridors...

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Margam is ever new - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

One of the highlights of a superbly mounted, third consecutive annual two-day Sindhu Festival in Pune by 'Sankhya' headed by Bharatanatyam artist Vaibhav Arekar, with its thematic accent this year on the Margam, was the dancer's own solo presentation - premiering a centerpiece comprising Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar's Varnam strung in raga Vasantha and tala misra jhampa. “Dani korikenu niraverchutakide tagina samayamu, raa tamarasaksha,” pleads the sakhi with Lord Vishnu conveying to him her friend's message, entreating that he hurry to her to assuage her pangs of love, for the time is ripe for their union. “Dayadoochi dani,” she begs for his compassion to answer her friend's call forthwith. Supported by an excellent team of musicians led by nattuvangam by Kaliswaran Pillai (son of Kadirvel Pillai), melodious vocalist in G. Srikanth, taut mridangam accompaniment by Satish Krishnamurthy and impactful interventions on the violin by Narayana Parthasarathy, Vaibhav treated the audience to the grandeur of Bharatanatyam nritta and interpretative dance at its best. The theme is as old as the varnam though its translation in Vaibhav's myriad danced images was anything but hackneyed. 

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