Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Bhasa Kavi’s Sanskrit rupak Dootavakyam - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Dootavakyam deals with Krishna visiting the court of Duryodhana to request him to give five villages to Pandavas, after their exile period is over. In order to insult Krishna, Duryodhana does not welcome him in his Mantrashala, even when all the kings present there, Bhishmapitamaha and others get up and welcome him with due respect. To further insult Krishna, Duryodhana asks his servant to bring the painting in which the humiliating scene of Draupadi being pulled by hair and Dushashana disrobing her during the game of dice, was depicted. Krishna does not like it and announces his mission as a messenger of the Pandavas. Duryodhana refuses to even give space enough for a point of needle to stand on. Krishna warns him about the consequences of war, which shall take place, if he does not return Pandavas their kingdom. When Duryodhana does not relent Lord Krishna assumes Vishwarupa. Duryodhana laughs and tells his servant to tie Krishna with a rope, disregarding the customary respect due to a messenger. He himself tries to tie up Krishna and is confused at his multiple images. 

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Monday, 19 May 2014

The dance we dance: Beginning of a new system of training in Odissi - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Sharmila Biswas presented during the annual day of her Odissi Vision and Movement Centre, at Tollygunj Club, Kolkata, a novel presentation which included a new system of training in Odissi. She dedicated the program to Kelubabu, explaining that it was he who laid the foundations on which she stands firmly and spreads her wings. It was very heartening to see this particular program and watch how Sharmila has been devising novel ways of teaching a large number of students ranging from age 4 to 8 for junior section mostly through games in which they learn about movements and space.

When the program opened in presence of an overflowing house with parents and dance connoisseurs, several children sitting on dais keeping tala and reciting, one was impressed by the sheer organization of such a large number of students. Sharmila introduced musician Aniruddha Bhattacharya (a disciple of Guru AT Kanan and Malavika Kanan), a junior guru himself, at Kolkata’s renowned Sangeet Research Academy, who teaches music to students every Saturday morning. His wide knowledge in classical Indian and Western music helps students to appreciate music from the beginning. Another young person introduced was Srijan Chatterjee, a disciple of Guru Arun Bhaduri. He provides a very crucial support for work on Odissi music for dance.

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Saturday, 17 May 2014

Roses & Thorns - L’Affaire Pasha-Rani - Anita Ratnam

It started with an e-mail from writer/scholar Ashish Mohan Khokar. The mail contained a link to an article from the Indian Express about the surprising arrest of dancer turned choreographer extraordinaire for Special Needs artistes, Syed Sallauddin Pasha. The report was shocking and very disturbing. As soon as I posted it on my Facebook page, a torrent of remarks poured in. Against the backdrop of the Nirbhaya episode in December 2012, society and lawmakers have been vigilant about screaming opinion and comments about rape, sexual abuse and the growing atrocities against women. Place this against the unsavoury practice of some male dance gurus preying upon their female students, and you have a blockbuster drama on your hands.
Pasha has won accolades for his imaginative choreography and his supporters from the Bangalore dance community were quick to react with shock and full scale support in his favour. His marriage to Kathak artiste Rani Khanam was reportedly shaky over the past few years and some say they were even heading towards a divorce.

With Pasha now in Tihar jail and his students of the AUF (Ability Unlimited Foundation) unable to get a hearing of their side of the story, it is difficult to mobilise sympathy for Pasha. Does this matter involve the land that was granted to him for his new institute? Is there more than meets the eye?

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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Interview - The classical and the contemporary: a comparative analysis - Shveta Arora

At a fusion dance event in Delhi that I attended some time ago, western contemporary dancers danced a segment with an Indian Kathak dancer. The contemporary girls had danced a few segments earlier, impressing the audience with their strength and conceptual robustness. But when the two dance forms were presented together on the same stage, it seemed to me that they had clear areas of strengths and weaknesses. While the Indian classical form relied heavily on grace, form and direct expression, the contemporary style was all about strength, athleticism and agility, presenting abstract concepts.
Classical dances of most kinds are bound in centuries of tradition and ages of evolving style and technique. The Indian classical dances follow a certain code or paradigm and have been handed down from gurus to shishyas through many generations. The dance is usually based on a mythological tale or a love lore. But to suit modern times, contemporary dance evolved probably from a classical form but defied any kind of structure. It does not follow any code, and usually depicts an abstract theme, emotion or idea. Many classical dancers too have experimented with contemporary in order to do something novel. The dance is usually based on some individualistic topic.

With World Dance Day having gone by recently, the focus of this article is to explore the physical and thematic aspects of the two dance forms, through conversations with a few well-known Indian classical dancers from various traditions who have some experience in, or exposure to, contemporary dance. Here, to a set of common questions, are the answers of Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas, Odissi dancer Reela Hota and Bharatanatyam dancer Geeta Chandran.

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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Viswanathan - Dance Drama

The term ‘dance drama’ is peculiar to Indian classical dance, particularly Bharatanatyam. The core idea of combining dance with a purely theatrical performance in which a story unfolds with each character played by a different actor can be traced to the Natya Sastra, at least for the sake of dating it. Ancient Sanskrit theatre subscribed to this concept, in which not only dance but also music played a vital role. Theatrical space was as important in ancient India as costume and make up. Writing for that classical theatre art known as NATYA was the challenge met by several medieval Sanskrit dramatists and poets. In Tamil Nadu, as early as the time of Raja Raja Chola, Natakams in which women also participated took place in the temples. Raja Raja Natakam and Manmatha Natakam were enacted in the Brihadeeswara temple.

In the early twentieth century of rediscovering many lost performance disciplines, new forms emerged to suit urban audiences. In Tamil Nadu, the star innovator was Rukmini Devi who had seen ballet with a story line while traveling abroad. She looked for a suitable parallel to stage in her own institution. She found the Bhagavatamela natakams replete with music, narrative and dance ideal to adapt. She also found the old Kuravanji natakams interesting to adapt. With her own inputs in stage craft she began her journey in ‘dance drama’ productions.

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Sunday, 4 May 2014

Article - Nritta - The journey into Shanta rasa - Padmaja Suresh

All dancers have to look deep and answer what nritta means to them, causes in them and the spectators. The avid sishya in me was introspecting. 'Laya', taken from ‘Pralaya’ is dissolution, absorption and concentration. Shuddha Nritta is pure, it’s Tala – Laya, the dance of Shakti and Shiva, Bindu and Nada. Nritt – aa / to cause to dance, blends male and female principles - Tadatmya identified as Ardhanareeswara. A cosmic creative vibration, Sphota / Nada, gets consolidated into Sabda Brahman or differentiated sound energy, symbolized by OM. From this arises cosmic intelligence, the creative spirit. Nritta is this pure creation, sustenance and destruction. Science today (Quantum physics) calls that GOD PARTICLE, the atomic dance of Nataraja. Nataraja does the Tandava in Shambhavi mudra, the meditative eyes in samadhi. He is NIRGUNA PARABRAHMAN in this perfect Jnani’s posture. The steady breath and the balance mean that the Naadis of Ida, Pingala and Sushumna or the sun, moon and fire are purified and the Vayus /Pancha Pranas are ascending towards the thousand petalled lotus of Sahasrara Chakra. It is the outwardly depiction of the inwardly esoteric Sri Chakra, consisting of the shapes and designs like the triangle integral in Bharatanatyam, besides others and constantly tapping to the sound. It is the fire of the mystery of Kundalini- serpent power. How can one do nritta well unless one practices and maintains the Asanas and Pranayama as in Yoga and tunes to music?

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Saturday, 3 May 2014

Mothers by daughters - For the rain to rest…: A tribute to N. Nagalakshmi - Ramaa Bharadvaj

One year ago on May 2nd, my beautiful mother wound up her connections with this life and moved on. Today while her black and white image gazes back from inside a photo-frame, I hope her artist-spirit is trekking the land of music and dance, painting and poetry. 
My mother was born an artist but her parents didn't tune in to that. She wanted to be a dancer - but dance was not in the accepted to-do list for girls.  So she would pull a sheet over a pillow to fool her father that she had gone to bed, and run off to participate in her school dances. She collected music notations and dance images from magazines and meticulously bound them into books.  Now they are a rare collector's collection.  

She knew nothing about the grammar of music - but could bring tears to the eyes when she sang her favourite song - "mazhai iLaippaarida kuttaiyundu" (for the rain to rest there is the pond).  It ended with the words "engaL aasai iLaippaara undo idam" (for our desires to rest, is there a place?).  I have searched for that song and can find it nowhere.  Maybe it was meant only for her to sing and only for us to hear. Her family didn't find a teacher to groom her in this talent either.  It was my dance guru Kamala (“Kumari” Kamala) who appreciated her. “Aunty, if only you had learnt music methodically you would be in my orchestra touring with me. I will never let you go.”

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Friday, 2 May 2014

Profile - Kathak Guru Dr. Maya Rao turns 86 today!

Internationally reputed dancer, choreographer, teacher, writer, academician and dance curator, Dr. Maya Rao is synonymous with dance. She was the first Government of India scholarship holder to study Kathak under the guidance of Guru Shambu Maharaj of the Lucknow Gharana. She also trained with Guru Sunderprasad of the Jaipur Gharana. Maya Rao initiated the need to codify and create a repertoire for Kathak in the 1950s. Her solo recitals and dance dramas imbibe both Jaipur and Lucknow styles, winning much acclaim in India and overseas.
Maya Rao was born on May 2, 1928 in Bangalore to Hattangadi Sanjeev Rao and Subhadra Bai in a family consisting of 3 sons and 3 daughters.  In 1945, Maya Rao finished schooling and joined Maharani’s College, choosing History, Economics and Logic as her subjects. Although she had a flair for dancing, Maya Rao was born and brought up in an orthodox middle class family, where elders did not permit their daughters to learn dancing. When she was 12 years old, she watched Uday Shankar perform with his large troupe of musicians and dancers at the BRV theatre in Bangalore and this performance left an indelible impression in her young mind. Initially, she was taught Hindustani classical music – vocal and instrumental (dilruba) – from Rama Rao. Impressed himself with Uday Shankar’s troupe, her father permitted Maya Rao to take up dancing.  “I started dancing when dance was taboo and to the progress we see in the dance scenario today, I feel proud to be part of this evolution where dance is seen as an important component of modern India and has percolated down to every household,” recalls Maya Rao. 

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