Saturday, 19 December 2015

Article - Contemporary Nayikas: An innovative approach - Shruti Patki

When we ask dancers why they dance, we get to know many perspectives. Some say they do so for their happiness and peace; some do so as it is their first love; and some consider it as a pathway to connect with the Divine. Speaking for myself, I find it important to connect with my audience; but most importantly, to connect with my students while teaching them.
Recently while teaching Bharata's Nayika descriptions to my students, I realised that they had a very different mindset about the whole situation the Nayika was in. While the traditional Virahotkanthita was engrossed in great sorrow due to the separation from her Nayaka, my students felt that she should develop her own life/career and a circle of friends rather than mourning over the estrangement. After giving it a fair thought myself, I too came to the conclusion that maybe new areas of abhinaya need to be explored.

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Monday, 14 December 2015

Book Review - ‘My Journey: A Tale of Two Births’ by Ileana Citaristi - Nita Vidyarthi

Acclaimed Odissi dancer Ileana Citaristi’s third book My Journey: A Tale of Two Births is a gripping piece of literary work where she elaborates her mountain stream like journey to success. Though termed an autobiography, her lucid style and recounting of her life has a fictional hue that interests and tends to push the reader to complete the book at one go. The writing is an honest account and candid outpour of emotions and feelings with a cluster of images that reveal the strength of character of the dancer-writer.
The first part of the book that is redolent with the beautiful land of her birth, where she grew up and spent her early years, does not shrivel her account of her quest for a meaningful life in an alien Indian atmosphere, as a matter of fact Odisha and the Odias with whom she has had the closest harmony. The details of the Bohemian, reckless and aimless colour of her lifestyle devoid of social scaffoldings (punctuated with personal loss of dear ones), stimulate the reader’s curiosity to run to chapter 6, ‘The second beginning’ when she landed at Mumbai airport. 

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Friday, 11 December 2015

Roses & Thorns - After the Chennai floods: To perform or not to perform?

Article - When will I break free? - Rashika Ojha

This India's Independence Day, the Battery Dance Festival "Erasing Borders" in New York had a grand show, followed by 'Swarna Utsav' by disciples of Guru Rajee Narayan for the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Nritya Geetanjali on 16th in Mumbai and much later Ranjana Gauhar's ‘Sare Jahan Se Accha’ exploring ultimate freedom in Delhi. India's spirit and happiness of Independence echoes all over the world and as always multiplicity prevails.
With technology one has the privilege to be everywhere in the world at any given time. I can get a glimpse of a festival taking place in London or Tokyo or Bangalore when I am actually sitting at my place in Abu Dhabi sipping tea. Yes, the world has turned into a global village and this healthy shrink happened to the world of Indian classical dance and music. Today we see a mushrooming of Indian dance and music festivals all over the world. And these festivals touch me and also others through Facebook, Google, YouTube and many more digital mediums and bring us all together into a close network. Dwelling deep into this phenomenon especially in the sphere of Indian classical dance I felt a turbulence of queries and I wish to share this entangled state of my mind with my fellow artists and readers. This I feel is important to understand the state of Indian dance in totality. 

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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Profile - Kadamb’s Suvarnotsav: Anchored by tradition, the impulse is to explore - Dr. S.D. Desai

Kumudini Lakhia has remained a mugdha nayika of the form of Kathak she has evolved. Her Katha-k has retained its etymological meaning even as she has added nuances to it. Past the initial stages of virtuosity display, traditionally romantic narratives and stray explorations in themes relevant to the time, her choreography now, by 2015, when Kadamb Centre of Dance and Music is all set to celebrate Golden Jubilee with ‘Suvarnotsav’ (December 11, 12, 13), tells what beautiful is in temporal art – time-bound in its expressional mode and of this earth in sensory appeal.

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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Roving Eye by Anita Ratnam - December 2015

Anita says - December 2015

As I write this column on the last month of this year, I have a confession to make.
It is increasingly difficult to feel optimistic about art and its location in the larger discourse of public life. Everywhere I look there is discord, unease and unrest. Opinions are freely dispensed by babes with thumbs stuck in their mouths and elsewhere anxiety is on the rise. Stuck as hundreds and thousands of Chennai-ites were in their homes with the furious rains and subsequent flooding last month, my son recommended that I watch a documentary called WINTER ON FIRE. This true story of the Ukrainian public resistance to Soviet bullying had brilliant interventions by pianists, singers and artists. Music in the midst of bombs and rubble, passionate voices lifting frigid bodies in the relentless winter was tremendously moving. Risking their lives and standing on the front lines facing police bullets, these artists stood arm in arm with their fellow citizens, “speaking out” as best they could - through their art.

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Monday, 23 November 2015

TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar - Dance awards and rewards

Trend: National awards are becoming notional and notional awards are becoming national.
When relevance is lost, when anyone with push and pull can get their own children or students or favourites, national awards like the SNA or other state awards, then these awards become meaningless. 30-40 years ago, we used to think that ultimate honour and sign of professional arrival, for a performing artiste, were the SNA awards. It was given in the name of the President of India. The ceremony was simply done in Delhi’s only halls of note: the Sapru House or Mavalankar Hall or the Constitution Club. When not available, a shamiana (wedding-type tent) used to be constructed in the lawns on Rabindra Bhavan itself, where the 3 Akademis are housed (the elegant and airy building itself designed by famous dancer Indrani Rahman’s architect husband Habib Rahman) in 1960s and 70s and the likes of great historian and culture/education ministers like Maulana Azad or Prof. Nurul Hassan or cultured talents like K.P.S. Menon or Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (who were also its Chairman) used to bestow the awards, when and if the President could not do so. 

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Thursday, 19 November 2015

Interview - In conversation with Lakshmi Mani - Deepika Acharya

Lakshmi Mani is considered one of the finest of Kuchipudi dancers, having received acclaim for her grace and abhinaya. A tete-a-tete with Lakshmi Mani, who was in Bengaluru recently as the chief guest for the Kuchipudi Parampara Natya Utsav.
How do you find the Kuchipudi scene here in Bengaluru?
Bengaluru has been very encouraging and welcoming to all forms of dance. Kuchipudi is particularly popular here and this is something I’ve been observing ever since my first performance in this ‘Garden City’ almost two decades ago in the famed Chowdiah Hall. Even today, I see a lot of enthusiastic, committed learners here. However, to rise above mediocrity, it is the responsibility of the local gurus (many of who are my good friends) to channelize the energies of these young aspirants in the right way.

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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Article - Trials, travails and tribulations - Ranee Kumar

Whenever you come across a young brilliant, starry-eyed dancer with passion and commitment, your flagging hope on the future of our classical art form gets resuscitated.  But as you delve into the present environs under which dance has to be nourished and advanced, well, your spirits sink!  The big question mark rises to a point blank range and one is bound to wonder if this is a level playing field at all? 

In my two decades-old career, I have acquired the sensibilities to assess an artiste’s potential within the first 15 minutes, an up-and-coming dancer or musician being no exception.  And I’ve also seen them make a mark in the field another five years later. Meteoric rise is not possible under normal circumstances in any creative arts field.  

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Roses & Thorns - Intolerance in our work culture - Madhavi Puranam

(This editorial by chief editor Madhavi Puranam in the Nartanam - Quarterly Journal of Indian Dance - issue Volume XV, # 3 – July-Sept 2015 - has been reproduced here with permission)
The aggressive spokesperson of a political party whose aim is to argue even if he strays from reason and ethics while making his case, the brash neta whose tirade is far removed from any finesse, wisdom or culture, the compulsive jargonmuttering corporate executive obsessed with graphs, pie charts and figures working at a lightning pace, the busy corporate doctor who forgets that a humane touch could work wonders in the treatment of the patient, the ever so humble artiste who can transform into a belligerent expletive-mouthing socialite, all seem to be the often-seen prototypes of the respective professions. The recent utterances of our Culture Minister have done nothing to dent this prototype. Today the common thread in the work culture is the aggression and the “competitiveness” in the pursuit of fame/propaganda which is often confused with “success”. In this issue (Nartanam Vol  XV no3.) we bring a moment from the past—the 1954 Inter-University Youth Festival—which underlies all the values that one knows to be sterling but which one seldom encounters within ourselves and all around us—the spirit of discovery, wonderment, and competing within the ambit of inquiry, sharing and unity. Arshiya Sethi, in her effort to chronicle the events of the first ever youth seminar in post independent India and its landmark artistic fallout, beautifully brings out the finer sensibilities of the times and the thrust behind the event. 

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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Article - My dance and culture trip to Tamil Nadu - Tara Panicker

This year I had a very special start to my summer holidays. From the 20th to the 25th of July, I travelled with my dance teacher, Usha Raghavan, and six of her students (along with their guardians) on a temple tour around Tamil Nadu. We visited four temples: first, the beautiful Thillai Nataraja temple at Chidambaram, then the quietly resplendent Gangaikondacholapuram temple, the impressively grand Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjavur, and most significantly, the seat of dance, Thyagaraja Temple at Thiruvarur.

Teacher has organised trips like this before: taking her students from UK and Italy on a tour of temples which are associated with Bharatanatyam and sometimes even other dance forms. This trip, however, was different, in that the first week would be spent in Tamil Nadu, and the second would be touring dance performances in Sri Lanka.  The India tour hence was incredibly busy, but also incredibly enriching. Though this was a tour of some of the most significant temples in Tamil Nadu’s history, it was not restricted to just that. We also visited some fantastic sites which offered us a wider understanding of the history and culture of Tamil Nadu and South India: the Dakshinachitra model heritage village in Mahabalipuram, a village in Tanjavur where the famed Tanjore sculptures and paintings are made, and even a veena-making shop.

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Sunday, 8 November 2015

Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan - Vintage Varnams re-visited

I was invited along with other senior dancers to present traditional Varnams as part of the Spanda anniversary in July 2105 in Chennai, curated by Leela Samson.... (What an idea ! Her FB page had numerous compliments). It was an event to highlight the core ideas of the traditional Varnam, particularly those of the Tanjore Quartet. I understood what she meant when she announced it was a seminar. So, one had to speak? Share one’s understanding of this magnificent piece in the Bharatanatyam repertoire? Yes indeed. When Leela came over to invite me to participate in the event, rather spontaneously I said I will take up Dhanike in Todi and Viriboni in Bhairavi. I never think before jumping into such things....quite like when I agreed to write a book on M.S. when the editor at Roli Books asked me. A few days on....the thinking (worrying!) starts. To dance on stage, even if it were just excerpts from a big Varnam, one has to concentrate on multiple aspects. Well, I worked on the Varnams like a jigsaw puzzle and it all came to a crescendo on stage! An appreciative and knowledgeable audience.... getting rare... was inspirational. 

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Sunday, 1 November 2015

Roving Eye by Anita Ratnam - November 2015

Anita says - November 2015

Hello November from the crisp air of New York City.
An intense week spent watching so much dance and theatre in my former home town that I have a sensorial overload. Contemporary ballet (Ballet Memphis) exploring many themes including Gospel music; the magical Misty Copeland (America's first black Prima Ballerina); SANKAI JUKU in contemporary Butoh, modern dance (John Kinzel),  Egyptian tombs, Picasso, Philippine Gold treasures (Asia Society), dancers with robots (Wendy Whelan) and brilliant contemporary music ensembles (Macarthur genius grantee Claire Chase). This is what the fabulous NYC offers on a daily basis to its residents and visitors. And, and, and....THIS is the annually perfect personal RESET AND REBOOT button for yours truly.

However, the more interesting encounters have been with dance writers and dance passionistas. Robert Johnson and Elizabeth Zimmer shared their despair about the vanishing space for honest criticism (we have heard this before right?) and the impatience of today's American youth who don't care about dance. Newspaper surveys conducted in the NYC metropolitan area revealed that less than 2% of the readers care about dance. Meanwhile, there are more and more dance studios and rehearsal spaces opening up in the city. Dancers seem to be everywhere, stretching, flexing, moving… and yet… there is less and less money in the NYC area for independent artistes. New York dance audiences, however, are among the most sophisticated in the USA, guarded with their praise and watching with enthusiasm and not awe. Young dancers are eager to watch as much as they can (and can afford) and that is a welcome change from what I see in India. Major theatres have a policy $29 seats for those under 29 years of age. But what about those in their 30s? When tastes mature and bank accounts wither? Many Big Apple dance lovers are asking questions about how they can continue to support dance if the ticket prices soar each year. 

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Friday, 23 October 2015

Obit/Tribute - Pt. Arjun Mishra - Ashish Mohan Khokar

Senior Kathak guru and performer Pt. Arjun Mishra passed away on October 22, 2015 on the auspicious Dussera day in a nursing home in Lucknow. He has been seriously ill with bone cancer and related issues.
Pt. Arjun Mishra was an ace disciple of Kathak samrat Birju Maharaj

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Interview - Gayatri Sriram: Samarpana Festival in Singapore - Tapati Chowdurie

Gayatri Sriram, artistic director of Sruti Laya, recently celebrated Samarpana - The Asian Festival of Classical Dance in Singapore at the prestigious Esplanade Theatre. Samarpana has taken long strides in a very short time. In the very fourth year of its existence, Samarpana has been helped by Jyoti Ramesh of Jade Group International, Singapore and supported by National Arts Council Singapore. 
Though she hails from a family of bankers, “My father's side was artistically inclined. My  paternal grandfather, though a lawyer was a wonderful mridangist. I was introduced to Bharatanatyam at the age of five and Hindustani classical music as well. I think in a certain way my mother wanted to dance through me. I think it is her vision of me as a Bharatanatyam dancer that set the stage in some way. I also learnt the veena for several years. My interest in dance for the first few years were mostly driven by my mother’s push," she said exuberantly, in an informal get-together. 

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Obit/Tribute - Sudarshan Dheer - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Kathak dancer Sudarshan Dheer hailed from Punjab and settled in Mumbai and later in the UK, teaching in far off places like London, Slough and Glasgow. He took lessons in Kathak from Ashiq Hussain in Benaras Gharana and also from Hazarilal, husband of Sunayana Hazarilal, who taught Kathak at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mumbai. He also worked with Gopi Krishna for a while in Mumbai.

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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Article - Education in spiritual values through Bharatanatyam - Part XII Varnam - Chandra Anand

The content in arts pertains to the aspects of life. They are portrayed in artistic work through the medium of the expression of thoughts and feelings of the spirit of man.  A work of art expresses the feeling and thought of a single moment, by which, the viewer is made deeply aware of the intense emotions of that moment. Development of the idea for expressing the moment is based on the empirical experiences of human beings.
The content in varnam:
Similarly, in the varnam, one aspect of life is showcased. Varnam is the main item of a traditional Bharatanatyam repertoire. It is about the relationship between man and woman. The content highlights a romantic moment. It showcases the state of being, at the moment, when feelings of yearning for union with the beloved take over the mind of man.

The story line:
Naturally, the dancer portrays a lovelorn heroine (nayika), pining for union with the hero (nayaka). With fervor, she conveys her love and devotion to him by speaking about his goodness and greatness that attracts her to him. Visibly, she considers him as the epitome of perfection. Furthermore, she pleads with her friend (sakhi) to help her. 

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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan - Memory recall - Papanasam Sivan

His name was familiar to me even in my childhood. Years before I was born, he had established links with my parents and uncle Director K. Subrahmanyam who cast him in the role of Shambu Sastri, Baby Saroja's grandfather in the iconic film Tyaga Bhoomi based on a story written by Kalki Krishnamurthy. In fact, he was kind of re-christened at that time, with the prefix PAPANASAM, the place where my father and uncle grew up as children of a famous advocate - C.S. Krishnaswamy Iyer of Kumbakonam. Sivan lived there for a while, conducted Margazhi month bhajans, and became a friend of the family. Almost all the pioneering directors of cinema needed composers of music, and Sivan was in great demand. His compositions for cinema are remembered to this day.

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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Roving Eye by Anita Ratnam - October 2015

Anita says - October 2015

A breathless month, filled with so many viewings of dance and theatre. Thirty days of almost nonstop watching and also performing, teaching and listening. So far, this has been my stellar 4 weeks of the year - as a rasika, an artiste and a dance explorer.
So here goes...

September began with a moving and sentimental tribute to the Sanskritist and scholar sans pareil, S. Sarada of Kalakshetra. It was a beautiful and heartfelt evening of dance, speeches and gently nudged memories through scenes from iconic Kalakshetra productions. When the four stalwarts, VP Dhananjayan, CV Chandrasekhar, Balagopal and Janardhanan entered the stage to share the collective responsibility for the varnam ROOPAMU JOOCHI, the audience burst into a spontaneous applause. When VPD and wife Shanta posed as Rama and Sita for the final Tillana/Daru scene, it made many senior alumni wipe their eyes in nostalgia. The packed Rukmini Arangam was heartfelt in its standing ovation to the confluence of experience and art.  I did, surprisingly, fall in love with the elegant and intelligent framing of the ‘teernamans’ and ‘sancharis’ of ROOPAMU JOOCHI, forgetting how this one ‘varnam’ almost damaged my knees and lower back with Sarada Hoffman's insistence on deep, deeper, deepest ‘araimandi’ and strong footwork. Today, this varnam represents the essence of Rukmini Devi's vision of modern  Bharatanatyam as well as the gender neutral choreography that has become the global  signifier of "clean technique." A memorable evening.

I missed the memorial to guru Narasimhachari a few days later which was also very well attended. The passing of another creative spirit, along with a host of invaluable seniors over the past 9 months has surely diminished the creative landscape of dance and music. Perhaps it is now time to do a special issue marking the contributions of these creative dance and music makers.  A volume of 100 names who have revolutionized the tapestry of modern Indian dance in the 20th century. I use the word ‘modern’ consciously. We tend to forget that classical dance, as we know it today, is really a modern form - reconstituted for the urban elite post India’s independence and made attractive for larger consumption. It is a far cry from the art of the "sadir" and the artistes that made dance and music their entire life!. 

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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Obit/Tribute - Luise Elcanness Scripps - Ashish Mohan Khokar

Luise Elcanness Scripps, patron, artiste, India lover and main supporter of Balasaraswati's art in USA (and of her family art as represented by Lakshmi, Aniruddha and Douglas Knight), passed away last week in USA. She with her husband Samuel Scripps started many initiatives on west, then east coast to help Indian arts and artistes. 

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Friday, 18 September 2015

Article - Education in Spiritual values through Bharatanatyam – Part XI The training of adavus based on the maxims of methodical teaching - Chandra Anand

This article is based on the identification of the use of the Maxims of methodical teaching for giving training in dance. It is seen that the use of “maxims of methodical teaching [1]” help organize and grade teaching matter according to the age, background and psychological make-up of the students to be taught. The judicious and ingenious use of these maxims also helps expedite the teaching-learning process of the students in the academic curriculum.
The researcher has attempted to expose the use of these maxims in giving training or teaching Bharatanatyam by using as a model the curriculum design of Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharatanatya Kala Mandir (the Alma Mater of the researcher, therefore the progression of lessons is as learnt by the researcher then). The researcher has been fortunate to learn under all the gurus of the institution and observe their teaching methods at close quarters; particularly of Late Guru G. Karunambal, the co-founder of the institution Sri Rajarajeshwari Kala Mandir, Mumbai, who taught at the Chembur branch. There, with her, the researcher has worked as trainee, assistant teacher and teacher for nine years. Through observations and analysis of her mentor’s teaching methods as a trainee, the researcher attempts to document the commonly used teaching methods of Bharatanatyam under the varied techniques as per the list of maxims of methodical teaching.

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Friday, 11 September 2015

TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar - New Natya Shastra

Natya Shastra must be the most used and abused word today. Wherever I go, Pune or Paris, Baroda or Bolivia, this is one random word thrown by those who wish to impress their bookish, inapplicable knowledge of Indian dance. It is another matter when I ask some obese dancer or guru what NS has to say about age and weight of a dancer fit for stage or what dimensions stage ought to be, then they look blank or have excuses that it was WRITTEN eons ago and not applicable in its entirety today! Some silly teachers have drilled NS so much into ears and brains of poor unsuspecting students that most students are lost today and are feeling dance art is too heavy and redundant. Imagine, even modern dancers are suffering from this overdose of NS. One beauty from Bombay asked me, “Sir, how to use NS in modern dance by Bombay beach?" (as though its content and concepts of purvarangam or rasa theory would be used differently in mountains of Almora or sands of Jodhpur!).

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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Article - History and ritualistic significance of Odissi dance today - Monica Singh Sangwan

Abhinavagupta, the commentator on Bharata’s Natyashastra says that the origin of dance (and of Art) is not something that can be traced. It is as ancient and ever existing as the knowledge contained within the Vedas themselves. Every generation rediscovers it, re-interprets it and gives it its own identity according to their own evolution, state of mind and understanding.
Dance, the representation of joy through our only vehicle, our body, seems to hold universal appeal and continuity. Yet, because we are human and contain intellectual facility to think, to reflect and to wonder and then to come to a conclusion about our place in the universe, a stylization enters that elemental representation of joy and beauty.

The aim of dance according to him is to either entertain or to enlighten. The universe in its abstractness and vastness holds a mystical power over the human mind. The human body is endowed with an incredible tenacity to display the most mystical and vast phenomenon of the universe through its minutest gestures.  Dance is that representation of the infinite through the finite and perishable body of a human soul.

While the history of Odissi dance too is as clouded and obscure in the passage of time as any ancient art is, historical evidence of the dance form suggests a 2000-year-old antiquity and beyond.

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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Culture tourism or tourism culture? - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan

The most beautiful aspects of Balinese dance which leaves an unforgettable impression on visitors are the locations and spaces where dances are performed everyday of the year. The architectural beauty of temple entrances, the ambience of blooming frangipani trees, the subtly lit courtyards of palaces, the long bamboo poles adorned with flags swaying in the island breeze, fire lamps circling the stage.....the whole picture is one of aesthetic pleasure for the viewer.

Bali (Indonesia) is an island of beauty and Art. The people are gentle, practice their version of Hinduism, believe in tradition and dance like angels. Visiting Bali again after a decade filled me with enthusiasm on the one hand and trepidation on the other. I knew things would have changed, but hoped the old atmosphere was not forsaken entirely for tourism. The famous city Ubud, an ancient capital with a royal palace in central Bali is still a centre for the Arts, but has become over crowded. However, there are still many spots in Bali which have a quiet charm, not yet over run by tourists.

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Sunday, 6 September 2015

Article - Kalasutri Bahuliya: A dying puppetry art of Maharashtra - Charanya Gurusathya

Since the days of remote past, rich traditional heritage of arts and culture in India have continued to prove their creative magnificence. With the passage of time and advent of globalization, we have witnessed the emergence of a consistent macro-culture. Under the influence of such a voracious macro-culture the arts and culture of our country is suffering from attrition and erosion. The development of art and cultural organizations has been closely related to government policy to create an environment that is more favorable to arts, artists and cultural development.
Puppetry is a very ancient art form that originated about 3000 years ago. Natya Shastra by Bharatamuni in the second century brings much evidence on puppets. The producer-cum-director of the human theatre has been termed as ‘Sutradhar’ meaning the holder of strings. Puppets have been used since the earliest times to animate and communicate the ideas and needs of human societies. Although puppets have been employed by various disciplines and community, little has been written about their use as a communication tool in research. A qualitative research study on string puppets of Maharashtra is conducted to explore the origin and history of puppetry, to revive the art and to explain how and why traditional art forms continue to have educational efficacy for contemporary developmental projects.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Anita says - September 2015

August is Madras month. It was 376 years ago on August 22 that the British leased a small strip of land from the Dutch on a date which is now widely marked as the birth of Madras - Madras Day.  While the celebrations began in a modest way several years ago by a small group of citizens who wanted to revive the "idea" of Madras and its colourful history, the week has now grown to become an entire month filled with talks, heritage walks, and rare cuisine offerings, music, movies  and even standup comedy! Theatres, cafes, art galleries, hotel lobbies, heritage buildings and private homes became venues for the month long celebrations.
For a dancer, it was a dream month. A chance to watch the legends talk, share and perform. To watch practitioners in their seventies and beyond make us gasp and sigh in admiration! 

Read in the site

Roving Eye by Anita Ratnam - September 2015

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Tribute - Remembering my Guru Maa Dr. Maya Rao - Syed Salauddin Pasha

On her first death anniversary which falls on 1st September 2015, I dedicate my work to Guru Maya Rao without whom I could have never made it this far. She is one person who dedicated her life for her students. I was very fortunate to receive her love. I grew and gained world recognition under her guidance and blessings.  Only two weeks before her sudden demise, she attended my show in Good Shepherded School auditorium in Bangalore and blessed all my wheelchair-bound dancers. She always had time for me whenever I called her and made it a point to attend my new productions and give her insights. Some of her favourites were ‘Sufi on wheels’, ‘Yoga on wheels’, ‘Bhagavad Gita on wheels’ and ‘Bharatanatyam on wheels’. I remember in 2001 how she specially flew down from Chennai to attend my production of ‘Women of India’ performed by hundred hearing-impaired children at Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Bangalore. She was moved to tears.

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Friday, 28 August 2015

Tribute - Memories of a gentle genius: S. Sarada - Anita Ratnam

The image slowly pixellates onto the mind screen. Like a million small pieces of information gleaned from memory, reflection, direct experience and nostalgia, each molecule falls into place onto the large canvas of history. What we see is a giant portrait - of a savant, scholar, musician, student, lifelong seeker, psychological salve, cultural archeologist and a lifelong loyalist to the cause of Theosophy and the vision of Kalakshetra.
S Sarada (Periya Sarada teacher) was a shadow. Not invisible, but more like a clear silhouette, a visible presence whose mind proved a perfect catalyst to Rukmini Devi's dazzling imagination. The founding of Kalakshetra in 1936 attracted many great minds - Tiger Varadachariar, Budalur Krishnamurthy Sastrigal, Mylapore Gowri Ammal, Mysore Vasudevachariar and Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer. Each was a giant in their own right, every one a stalwart. But one young woman became the pillar of the institution. She was 24 years old when she joined and became such an integral part of Kalakshetra that Rukmini Devi herself acknowledged that "Srimati S Sarada is my right hand and a rare embodiment of knowledge, devotion and artistic ability." 

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

A missing link to past and present Tribute to a centenarian: Periya Sarada of Kalakshetra - The Dhananjayans

As children we always wondered about this wonderful lady genius.  All those who were interested in delving deep into the subject of music and naatya dreamt of scaling her heights, an impossible task indeed.  Periya Sarada teacher’s presence in the Kalakshetra campus was a great boon and inspiration to everyone, irrespective of whether they were teachers or students. Any subject, anytime and anywhere - a person of her scholarship was available in Kalakshetra to us students and she liberally shared her knowledge with others.
Periya Sarada was one of those great souls who have sacrificed their lives for the development of Kalakshetra, with total commitment from the inception. We used to wonder how Rukmini Devi managed to produce her monumental dance drama productions in the languages she did not know.  Whether it was Telugu, Tamizh, Malayalam or Samskritam, only Sarada Teacher could convincingly explain the deeper meanings of the words to match the creativity of Athai – the other genius.  Only Sarada Teacher could convincingly interpret Athai’s compositions and attribute a deeper meaning to her choreography.                                             

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Monday, 17 August 2015

Article - Transformational Teaching in Dance - Julianna Gaillard Hane

Our society is now experiencing the affects of information overload. Notifications and blinking lights bombard us 24/7. Anyone with a smart phone can find out just about anything they could ever want to know via the Internet.
If our students can access information anytime, then why even have school? What does a teacher offer that no other system can?
The answer is meaning or purpose (Rosebrough and Leverett, 2011).

Only a teacher can show students how to think for themselves and use information for a greater purpose. Only mentorship can inspire meaning in life.

Mentorship contains a very important ingredient that no form of technology will ever reach – the human element.

The education process is not a dumping of information into an empty vessel, but the nurturing of transformation, as in peeling away the layers of an onion to reach its core. This process is also known as transformational teaching.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Tribute to my Guru Shyamala Mohanraj - Vasugi Singh

It was with sadness and shock that I recently learnt about the passing away of my beloved dance Guru Shyamala Mohanraj.

I was very fortunate to have Shyamala as my guru. My late father Jugaheesan R. Devar accompanied me to Chennai (Madras) in 1973. Today I believe that providence led my dad to Shyamala Akka who agreed to be my teacher of Bharatanatyam. 

Read the tribute in the site

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Interview - Aniruddha Knight: A dialogue on manodharma in dance - Ranee Kumar

An evening with the illustrious Balasaraswati’s only grandson, Aniruddha Knight and you feel enlightened on the most exceptional expression of dance-manodharma.  A long forgotten feature with performing artistes of today’s dance world, it was this very manodharma that made Balamma immortal. Aniruddha has proved to be a chip off the old block when it comes to a holistic approach to dance. He is an excellent musician with an expert ear for rhythm, imbibing the intricate nuances of dance with intuitive manodharma. What sets him apart from the rest of the performing dancers is the striking clarity in holding mudras that it is difficult to take one’s eyes off his hands when he is performing.  

Read the interview in the site

Friday, 7 August 2015

Interview - Madhavapeddy Murthy as Shiva - Bhavanvitha Venkat

A mere mention of the word Kuchipudi readily evokes visions of grand drama of gods and goddesses. From the delicate feelings of Satyabhama, Rukmini, Usha to the aggressive Bali Chakravarthy, Mahisha, Bhasmasura, and divine heroes like Lord Rama, Krishna and Siva, we visualize all these wonderful characters. It is interesting to note that in spite of Kuchipudi being a rich dance drama tradition, there are not many who became synonymous with any character for extended duration. Legendary Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma who played the role of Satyabhama remains one of the very few names of this exceptionally rare artistry.
With that introduction I should mention that Madhavapeddy Murthy, disciple of Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam is one who belongs to such rare and unique accomplishment. He continues to play the character of Lord Shiva since the last few decades and that is something incredible. It did come as a surprise that it is Tamilnadu that honored him with Kalaimamani award and Andhra is yet to acknowledge such a fantastic achievement. Please note that he plays Lord Shiva opposite none other than actress Hema Malini.

A visit to Siva Foundation, Murthy’s dance school in Chennai and interaction with him in his class and in his home about his contribution to dance, threw up some interesting information. 

Read the interview in the site

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Article - Transformational learning - Mamata Niyogi-Nakra

My curiosity in finding out about Transformational learning sprouted a few years back when ballet dancer and dance historian, Vincent Warren, referred to me as a Bharata Natya guru. I pointed out to him that I think of myself as a dance teacher and prefer not to be called a guru. He came back with a quick repartee, "Your own Guru Krishna Rao gave you Maha Maya Award in 1992 as one of the distinguished gurus he was honoring." I did not have an answer to that and have been looking for one ever since.
For some time now, I have been personally grappling to find a definitive answer to who is a Bharata Natya guru - to enumerate the qualities of head and heart that make him one, to define his distinctive style of training and to discern the profound paradigm shift that not only affects his immediate circle of learners but others that follow, even when he is gone.

Sunny Cooper in an article On Transformational Learning mentions: "The study of transformational learning emerged with the work of Jack Mezirow (1981, 1994, 1997)." According to him, "Transformational learning is defined as learning that induces more far-reaching change in the learner than other kinds of learning, especially learning experiences which shape the learner and produce a significant impact, or paradigm shift, which affects the learner's subsequent experiences (Clark, 1993)."

Read the article in the site

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Roving Eye by Anita Ratnam - August 2015

Anita says - August 2015

Will dancers stop to think about the annual Music Academy awards that are given out in December? This year the prestigious Sangeeta Kalanidhi is being awarded to Carnatic vocalist Sanjay Subramaniam and the Natya Kala Acharya to Bharatanatyam artiste Alarmel Valli. The second award has been instituted less than 15 years ago and shows the schism between dance and music. Did you know that Balasaraswati was the only dancer to be awarded the Sangeeta Kalanidhi title by the Academy in 1973? Why has there been no dancer since to merit this award? Why has music been dislodged as an inseparable component of the dance learning and practice? With greater attention to the body, line, technique and the ephemeral "perfection" that is being sought, recorded music and ready make solutions seem the easy go-to option.

More and more young dancers in India and certainly in the USA lack the awareness and choreographic imprint of one particular style or teacher. We are witnessing a generation of generalists - dancers who flit from one workshop and weekend tutoring from a large smorgasbord of visiting performers, grazing at everything and digesting nothing. This emerged from my conversation with contemporary dancer Mandeep Raikhy at the GATI premises in New Delhi.  Every year many apply for the opportunity to be mentored in contemporary dance techniques by a roster of respected professionals. Each passing year elicits less engagement and responses to the basic questions about choreography and intention. The malaise is everywhere. Less interest in process and more attention on the final product. Learn one "dance item" and drop that into the dance menu box. Next! With these trends, maybe it is time to reconfigure the familiar guru-sishya relationship. Guru Purnima Day should now include not just the first dance or music guru but the various  teachers, mentors and life coaches that populate our creative lives.

Is there a true community of dancers bobbing about in our minds but not in reality? Is the idea of a dance community a mythical entity, floating in our minds but not a reality? Social media is filled with dancers posting their events on several dance pages but the question is WHO IS READING THEM? Are dancers discussing their friends' performances or even recommending other shows to watch? I don't see much interest on these pages except for self serving notices about who is dancing when and where along with a stream of missable comments. Can the newly formed DANCE UNION by GATI begin to address these lacunae in Indian dance? Can we engage within ourselves and other interested entities to create a web of dance lovers, supporters and dance advocates? We have to hope that it will be possible.

One topic that is sweeping across tongues in India is the return of Akram Khan. This British-Bangladeshi superstar of contemporary dance was first seen in 2000 at THE OTHER FESTIVAL at the MUSEUM THEATRE in Chennai. I remember meeting with Akram's manager Farookh Choudhry at the South Bank Cafe in London to discuss his India visit. I had been blown away after watching Akram and Mavin Khoo in NO MALE EGOS, a duet that brought the NAVADISHA 2000 conference in Birmingham to a close. THE OTHER FESTIVAL, India's first annual contemporary arts festival had just begun in 1998 and Akram was THE rising star of British dance.  Inviting Akram was the natural option and he graciously said YES. I recall him rehearsing on the uneven stage of the Museum Theatre, smiling as we scrambled to create the most professional atmosphere and delighted as we watched the audience rise to their feet in a unanimous standing ovation.  

Read more

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Article - Do we need the revival? - Ranee Kumar

Surfing the television on a sultry Sunday afternoon, Sringaram caught my eye and the first ten minutes through, I got engrossed in the movie, which triggered off my dormant thought process once again and here we go into this journey about Devadasis and their art. Being a dyed-in-the –wool newspaper journo for decades, I wouldn’t like to linger on historical happenings and the fall out but come straight to the point.
Coming across a section of dance veterans/gurus who have gone hammer and tongs to delve into  the Devadasi dance and that era of ‘divine’ romanticism verbatim,  recreate it on the public platform and propagate it under the banner of an individualised art form.  Their peg: the Devadasi dance is the fountainhead of all the present day classical dances, urgently in need of resurrection.

Read the article in the site

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Obit / Tribute - Gracious Guru Jayalakshmi Alva - Ashish Mohan Khokar

In the passing away of Guru Jayalakshmi Alva on July 21, 2015, the era of gracious gurus comes to an end, almost. In her persona, the very quintessence of what a real guru ought to be, rested. Never one for limelight or attention, she carried on teaching Bharatanatyam till her end.

Read the tribute in the site

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Interview - Sundara Swaminathan: 25 years of Kala Vandana - Poornima Ramaprasad

Sundara Swaminathan, the founder and artistic director of Kala Vandana Dance Company is a well known exponent of Bharatanatyam. A graduate of Kalakshetra, Chennai, she was fortunate to be trained under Guru Rukmini Devi and other eminent teachers at Kalakshetra.

Sundara's expressive eyes, graceful movements and precise footwork have gained acclaim for her both in India and in the USA. Besides being an excellent dancer, Sundara is an expert choreographer and a dedicated teacher who has influenced many of her students with her dance training and life lessons. She has presented many excellent productions to the Bay Area audience over the years - Shraddhanjali, A Child's world, Return to Tradition, Lord of Dance, Dasavataram, Glory of Muruga, Tales of Temple Dance and Gopika Krishna to name a few. She has done several fundraising events for notable causes as well.

Here are excerpts from an exclusive one on one with Sundara Swaminathan.

What were your inspirations and aspirations that brought you to where you are today?
When I started Kala Vandana Dance Center, I wanted to establish an institute that taught dance as a life education, and not just as a form of performing arts. I wanted every student to understand the meaning of hard work and discipline, to know the power of their potential and realize that there is no limit to what they can accomplish, that they could achieve and excel without competing. It brings tears of joy when I hear from alumni when they share with me how Kala Vandana has shaped their life beyond dance and the stage.

Read  the interview in the site

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Obit / Tribute - To my teacher Shyamala, with love - Ashwini Karthikeyan

The passing of my dear teacher of classical dance, Shyamala Mohanraj (1941-2015) on July 14, leaves a large vacuum in my being. I met her for the first time two years ago, and it was love at first sight! Her curious, soft eyes and her gentle, kind smile melted all hard edges within. Before I found her, I had been learning with gifted teachers, yet a restlessness burned inside of me.

Read the tribute in the site

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Article - Education in Spiritual Values through Bharatanatyam - Part X Epic Grandeur of the Tanjore Quartet margam (TQM) - Chandra Anand

The Tanjore Quartet margam is the codified formula of presentation that a Bharatanatyam artiste follows to display her/his art. The concept of the jivatma yearning for the paramatma is the main theme in the repertoire of TQM which denotes the quest for self-realization as explained in Hindu philosophy. This kind of serious theme requires an elevated style of presentation. Therefore the Tanjore Brothers have made use of the epic style which is known for its grandeur. Thus we analyze the TQM features with the characteristics of the epic style of writing.

Read the article in the site

Friday, 10 July 2015

TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar - Whither Dance Education?

Is anyone interested in dance education in India? Not learning dance alone, or items. But dance education. Its history and heritage. Its nuanced feel, its layered approach. Is anyone interested in learning anything academic? Most dancers or dance teachers today (under 30/35) have no sense of history or heritage, save their own guru/bani/gharana/style or region/city/caste! When they are not politicking (talking ill of their immediate competition), they are busy on next performance and trip to here, there and everywhere. They have no interest in art or books, only Facebook! One Bangalore teacher (having 500 students) came to buy attendance, the yearbook, and wanted student discount (half price) and left paying the same. Such is our lot.

Youngsters are asking how to earn not learn. Earlier dance learning was an ideal state of mind, not for earning or performing alone - that happened by chance and was at best, a by-product. Now, a student or parent is more concerned about returns. Earlier, a guru saw potential and taught accordingly. Now, gurus are factories teaching all. Should they be called gurus? Or teachers? Our basic definitions are not in place, no standardization in teaching and thus we are making half-baked dancers. These dancers have no real devotion to dance, just themselves. That’s why one sees dancers having 400 students! They cut each other out in charging least fee to get maximum students. The laws of diminishing returns have set in.

Read the article in the site

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Viswanathan - Yagnaraman - a tribute to the proverbial Sabha Secretary, a cultural phenomenon of our city

At the inauguration of the Yagnaraman July Fest in Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, I was invited to speak about the pioneer of dance festivals who had served the sabha for fifty one years.
YAGNARAMAN... the name denotes one who does a Yagam. He indeed has done Yagam for dance and music. A man of vision and fine taste. One can find many things to say about someone like him. Some people may think I am exaggerating. I follow what Rukmini Devi used to say. Do not find faults in greatness..... great people are also human... appreciate the good things and learn from their example.

I have to begin with my personal association with Yagnaraman. 

Read the article in the site

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Roving Eye by Anita Ratnam - July 2015

Anita says - July 2015 message

It's a stage, an arena, a crucible, a cauldron, a theatre, a temple..."
Words in a documentary describing Wimbledon's Centre Court.

As I spend most of my precious free time watching my favourite sport, memories of a recent holiday in Greece cling to me. For years – no, five decades - I have longed to visit. Raised on the twin mythologies of India and Greece by my grandmother who would tell these fabulous bedtime stories of the Gods and Goddesses, the soaring pillars of the Parthenon, the magical acoustics of the Acropolis and the glistening waters of the islands were never far from my mind. When a dance conference beckoned, I answered. Although ticket booking snafus ensured that I was only able to attend the event for a few hours, the country seemed like a coming home for my spirit. Everything about Greece seemed familiar.  The chaos of Athens, the view of the Acropolis from almost every   hotel restaurant in the city, the abandoned theatres of Dionysus, the splendour of history and battle speaking through the vast ruins and magnificent museums, the creativity of design in textile and jewellery, the amazing food (oh that yogurt with honey, olive oil, black salt and fresh bread!), the smile of the Greek people, their pride holding amidst the crumbling economy and grim future - it all seemed so familiar and comfortable. I conducted a parallel narrative to the tour guide's description of the heroics and follies of the male Gods with our own stories of antics and mishaps from Indian lore. My family was repeatedly embarrassed with my continued enthusiasm and poked fun with my impromptu singing inside the Acropolis and dancing in the vast theatre at Delphi. It was MY moment. Unapologetic. Unforgettable. I am returning. 

Read the message in the site

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Roses & Thorns - Whines and Wails

He is the ‘bete noir’ of Carnatic music. T.M. Krishna, TMK to his legions of fans, dropped a bombshell stating on FACEBOOK that he will no longer perform during the December Chennai season. The brouhaha that erupted outside his native Tamilnadu brought up the tired arguments of caste, class and exclusivity all over again. In his home town of Chennai, he is being roundly criticized for his statements and both audiences and presenters are moving on, without missing a step. 

Read all about it…

Monday, 15 June 2015

Article - Education in Spiritual values through Bharatanatyam – Part IX "Audience and the Art" - Chandra Anand

An Indian classical performing art plucks at the heartstrings of spectators, by presenting an emotional human experience that is universal in nature. This aesthetic theory is the underlying belief and philosophy of all Indian classical arts called rasa theory.
The rasa-sutra
The goal of any natya is only to create rasa.  Rasa is the enjoyment of an aesthetic bliss derived through witnessing or reading a dramatic or literary piece of work. “Vibhava anubhava  vyabhichari  samyogad  nishpattih” is the famous rasa-sutra of Bharata, which is a formula-like, succinct statement about how rasa arises. …..In formulating the sutra, Bharata is explaining the factors of art creation; he is also suggesting that an emotion or an emotional experience, which is content of art-presentation, cannot be stated in words or narrated; it has to be poetically constructed in order that it conveys not merely information or knowledge of the emotion but also produces an appropriate emotional response.  The factors or components of this art construction are the determinants and the physical and mental consequents, which the sutra states.  It is also suggested that an emotional experience constructed through the art components can alone reach the reader or spectator, evoke an emotional response in him and lead him to enjoy it. This is rasa; and the sutra, in a way, presents to us an anatomy of rasa-experience.”[1] Therefore, the success of the art-presentation depends on the audience response (relish of rasa) to the dominant emotion (sthayibhava); or their identification with the idea i.e., content of art-presentation.

Read the article in the site

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Book Review - Ashish Mohan Khokar's attendance: The Dance Annual of India 2014-15 - Bhavanvitha Venkat

The feel in the hands of this edition is the same as it is of the expectation as compared with that of attendance 2013-14 ‘Telugu Traditions.’ The pleasant surprise is in the difference of the content and in the emphasis this time around. Yes, the content is of different bandwidth and presentation altogether. Attendance 2014-15 focuses in this edition about numbers, about significant milestones, on some memorable dancers, and wonderful institutions as they approach important anniversaries.  The cover mentions the importance of numbers vis-à-vis the above topics (of 100+ years of Zohra Sehgal or the golden jubilee of SPA Mauritius so on).The  editorial is a simple note, Ashish’s wish and appeal to the readers to encourage more reading of the dance annual and his acknowledgements to the various contributions of individuals. I observed that in the previous version edited by Ananda Shankar Jayant, there was no section on male dancers and I am glad to have found that the male dancer got his due attention by way of a detailed article this time. The “opportunity-taboo and the career-dilemma" angles are covered nicely and Bharatanatyam dancer Praveen Kumar and Kathak dancer Muralimohan Kalva contributed their thoughts on how it is being a male dancer.

Read the review in the site

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Interview - Yamini Saripalli: Doctor and dancer - Bhavanvitha Venkat

US based Yamini Saripalli is a Kuchipudi dancer trained under legendary Kuchipudi guru Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam. She is a regular performer in both the US and the Chennai Marghazi Season. At present she is learning from Vempati Ravishankar, son of Dr Vempati. Yamini is a practicing physician as well. She also organized several dance programs for charitable organizations. Being a direct student of an illustrious guru who shaped the art form to the entire world and whose choreographies continue to attract more students from different walks of life, I felt that her dance and her thoughts would prove to be useful for many a Kuchipudi dancer.
Yamini, please let us know how your dance life started.
I come from a family of doctors and engineers. But then, I have always loved music from my childhood. My mother says that I would make my parents record songs with certain ragas I liked so that I could listen to them over and over. Any kind of music has always moved me to dance.

My introduction to Kuchipudi was through my first dance teacher Sujatha Vinjamuri in my home town of St. Louis, Missouri. I then seriously started learning Kuchipudi in high school after being inspired by my guru’s dance drama Hara Vilasam. Once I started learning under Master and his son Vempati Ravi Shankar, I knew that this was what I wanted to pursue for my lifetime and from that point on, I have never looked back.  

Read the interview in the site

Monday, 1 June 2015

Roving Eye by Anita Ratnam - June 2015

Anita says - June 2015 message

Sizzle, Snap, Pop.
The summer heat may have fried some of our brains with 45 degree scorching days, (America - get with it! work out the burning temperatures from Fahrenheit into the global norm) but the dancing feet did not stop. Like THE RED SHOES of the famous Hans Christian Andersen's  children's story that never stopped its wearer from moving, Indian dancers and musicians were leaping and twirling across the oceans to one nonstop gig after another. Premieres, reviews, previews, contests - we received so much information this month on our news desk that it did not seem like a summer vacation was taken by any dancer!

Read the message in the site

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Base notes - Reflections on beauty as an element of aesthetics - Shanta Serbjeet Singh

Some months ago I was in Chennai.  I was heading for a cultural program in a city auditorium.  Suddenly, the car that I was travelling in braked, the busy traffic ahead of us slowed down.  Then it started to re-align, following the directions of the young man standing in the middle of road, waving his hands, directing the traffic to the left and right of the central obstruction.  And what could that be, I wondered, since I could see no truck or bus or an identifiable road block.   But soon I noticed what it was that the young man was ‘protecting’--   a huge kolam being drawn in the middle of the road, its abstract circular design being deftly filled in with rice flour and organic colours.  A group of women were bent over the pattern,  saris tucked knee-high, hands busy  giving final touches to the design.  A narrow swathe of tarmaced road on either side was being left free, to let people to go about their daily business.
But for those involved in this ritual of making art on a busy, city road, this was what the  business of life was all about.  It was an expression of an individual’s inner need to make art, a process that begins alone but becomes true for all those who are engaged in it, even  for those of us who were just looking. Suddenly it was a common endeavour, for an auspicious purpose, to mark the annual festival that night of the Kapaleeswarar temple, towering over the scene at a stone’s throw distance, offering a tryst with both beauty and art as we all chose to perceive it.  For me it was a validation of the classical core of Indian aesthetics, satyam, shivam, sundaram, that which is truthful, that which is auspicious and that which is beautiful. 

Read the article in the site

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Article - Our heritage, our identity - Ananda Shankar Jayant

(This article first appeared in The Times of India’s edition of Essence called Vijayibhava, Vijayawada, May 4, 2015)
Have you ever noticed? Whenever any country showcases its strength, presence and intent, it does so with its culture! From the Olympics to our own Republic Day Parade; it is culture in its entirety that gets encapsulated and presented. Culture, creativity, entertainment; all these are slippery concepts. Culture in its broadest terms, demands an engagement of the actor and the viewer, the performer and the audience: engagement being the key word here.

Our world, today, celebrates the genius of scientists and technology pioneers, and uses their discoveries and inventions with panache. Yet, this still is the outside world. There is another world - the internal that stays alive with the creativity of centuries, a world that is the collective unconscious of a society, which sometimes precludes even formal learning, distilled as it is over eons of transmitted knowledge. A world, that is being snatched away from the young generation.

Stop any young iPod holding, jeans clinging, sneaker scuffing, young lad or girl, and ask any of these three questions :
■ Who is Annamacharya?
■ What language did Thyagaraja sing in?
■ What are the two major styles of Indian classical music?
■ Which place does Kalamkari painting come from?

What do we get? A perplexed look, mumbled and unsure answers, something on the lines of, “I am not interested in this old stuff”. Replace the questions with all things related to western culture, and you will have your answers pat!

Read the article in the site

Friday, 15 May 2015

Roses & Thorns - Managing / mismanaging culture - Madhavi Puranam

The first issue of Nartanam of this year is a first for our banner in more ways than one. It is our first special issue on folk forms, a first issue with colour plates, and a first to have been backed by the vision of a bureaucrat, accused in a variety of ways for heaping attention on the Performing Arts of Odisha. Ashok Kumar Tripathy, a dynamic Indian Administrative Services officer of Odisha, with a rare cultural sensibility, empathy, and vision steered at least half a dozen performing arts festivals in Odisha including the Konark and the Dhauli, to become the most prominent festivals of the country. Tripathy roped in the best of the state’s artists and pooled in their sensitivities to curate these festivals.
As Secretary, Odisha Tourism and Culture, Tripathy’s far reaching strategy of ensuring that the visiting media was exposed to every cultural nuance and form of Odisha when they were covering these festivals brought in criticism that the media was lavished with unnecessary attention. The local press resented the national press being sought after. But for the inclusion of Nartanam as a media guest covering Odisha festivals, we would not have gained ready access to the regional scholars, photographers, libraries, archives, artists, and art forms of Odisha. It has helped us put together the content of this issue written by the best of the regional scholars of Odisha at such favourable and competitive production costs that no publishing house or government can envisage. Nartanam is bringing this issue with 50 colour plates to showcase the vibrant folk colours though we cannot afford the high costs of colour printing.

The returns for the money spent on various counts under culture cannot always be tangibly evaluated. Culture demands a work style which is not bureaucratic in nature. In a country where the culture budgets are far lower than most other countries we are also clueless and apathetic to administering / managing culture. It’s time that Indian society, especially the arts community, takes some time off their individual trials and tribulations, and reflects on what ails our Ministry of Culture (MoC).

We raise here a few issues along with the ones highlighted by a High Powered Committee (HPC) set up by the MoC, through an Office Memorandum (No.8/69/ 2013-Akademis) dated the 15th January 2014 to examine the issues related to the mandate, composition etc. of the cultural organizations viz. National School of Drama (NSD), Centre for Cultural Resources &Training (CCRT), Lalit Kala Akademi, Sahitya Akademi, Sangeet Natak Akademi, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts (IGNCA) and Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs) etc. and to suggest measures to monitor their performance.

The most pertinent question is whether the MoC is equipped to deal with its mandate of administering culture. Can the MoC which deals with matters of intellect, aesthetics, and creativity, be run the way most other Ministries are run? Does it have the expertise and manpower to deal with its mandate? Even the simplest of its duties are not discharged efficiently. 

Read the article in the site

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Book Review - Roshan Date’s Kathak-A-dikathak - Nilima Devi

This pioneering book, written in Hindi, one of the major world languages, presents inspiring and unique discussions about the historical relationships between Kathak dance, sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, archaeology and other forms of fine arts. Venturing to discuss a vast array of topics in an introduction and 15 major chapters, this book challenges readers in terms of its agenda, its expressiveness of language and also through its sheer breadth of coverage. The key argument appears to be that since ancient times, human forms of movement and expressions can be and have been identified as forms of ‘dance’ and that from those very early times onwards such forms of movement and related artistic and communicative expressions may be identified as prototypes of what is today known as one of the major classical Indian dance styles, Kathak. Altogether, this constitutes an intriguing resource of rich information, including especially many magnificent pictures, for art lovers, students and teachers. This book provides much inspiration for further research and also helps in guiding dance practitioners’ minds today towards new artistic directions to combine old and new elements. 

Read the review in the site

Sunday, 10 May 2015

TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar - 108 Reasons to dance...or not!

108! What’s so special about this number, an Algerian diplomat asked me at the recently concluded World Dance Day, which Alliance Francaise de Bangalore (AFB) presents every year and each year, the event has grown from 8 main dancers to 108 dancers, dancing through the day. Actually, organising it (I’m just the helper - a team of 5 - Tushar Bhatt, Praveen Kumar, Padmini Ravi, Madhulita-Imran and AFB are the panchabhutam supported financially and culturally by BSM, HCG, PRDA, OPERA PROMO and many well-wishers. Putting this mega event together, I realize there is so much talent that if we did one each month, there will be enough audience! The metro audiences are hungry and curious, and how!

Read the article in the site

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Viswanathan - Celebrating Dance 2015

I think dancers know that every time they dance, be it for the public or in a rehearsal studio, they are celebrating Dance. It is a matter of body and mind coming together to make one forget all else for those magical minutes....hours, whatever. Celebrating Dance worldwide is quite a concept. Many events took place everywhere I believe, and brought the focus on Dance in India to new levels of appreciation and involvement.

I had a ringside view of one dance school going all out to celebrate dance. They did it with style, dedication and joy. Natya Vriksha of New Delhi and the founder Geeta Chandran are famous. A dancer of renown, she had her training with Swarnasaraswati, and later Dakshinamurthy Pillai. Geeta has trained girls from innumerable families of New Delhi, and has planted the seeds of culture by taking on the responsibility of shaping their daughters into skillful Bharatanatyam dancers. One could feel and see the pride of the parents as their daughters danced in glorious abandon.

Read the article in the site

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Article - Education in Spiritual Values through Bharatanatyam - Part VIII Maxims of teaching and the adavus of Bharatanatyam - Chandra Anand

The art of dance is created through the symbol of movements. Cadences of movements are combined in different permutation and combinations to make dance patterns. In Bharatanatyam, “The small units of dance patterns which emerge as a coordinated pattern of movement of the feet, thighs, torso, arms, hands, neck, head and the eyes is known as adavu.” The name adavu falls from the word “adaibu” meaning to integrate cadences of movement into dance patterns. It is actually a Tamil word, for the Sanskrit word “karana.”  “The adavus of Bharatanatyam have like karanas, the sthanaka, the basic standing position; the chari, the movement of the leg and the feet; and the nrittahasta, the decorative hand gesture.” These are the common points between adavu and karana. Adavus form the base for all the major dance patterns called the korvais and jatis. These different dance patterns form the nritta of Bharatanatyam.

Araimandi – the fundamental feature of Bharatanatyam
Bharatanatyam adopts the araimandi as its fundamental stance and thus limits its movements to those that stay close to the ground level only. Its use of aerial space is pretty much nil. The posture of araimandi is described thus: “In Bharatanatyam, the principal stance of the dancer is one in which the body is broken up into a series of triangles. The triangle is formed with the line joining the two knees (flexed and outstretched as in the demi plie in the first position of the classical ballet) as the base and with its apex at the heels (where the feet are outturned as in the first position of the ballet). Another triangle is formed with the waist as the apex and the line joining the knees as the base. A third triangle is conceived with the waist as the apex and line joining the shoulder as its base. This is further emphasized by the outstretched arms, which make yet another triangle in space on either side of the vertical median. The flexed position of the knees known as the ardha mandali is an imperative in Bharatanatyam and the entire dance is executed with a few accepted exceptions in this position. The leg extensions, the jumps and the pirouettes all emphasize this and the entire technique of dance – cadences is one which deliberately seeks to emphasize covering of space, in terms of many varied triangular patterns.”

Read the article in the site

Friday, 1 May 2015

Profile/Tribute - Remembering Maya - Madhu Nataraj Kiran

May 2, 1928: The Hattangady family lovingly welcomed into their fold, their first daughter and named her after the Devi- Maha Maya, endearingly known as ‘Baabli’ at home.

“Maya means, one born in May,” her Russian family would say, fondly calling her Mayichkaa, during her Moscow days.
Maya didi, was probably her universal identity.
Maya ji, Maya didi, Mayichkaa, Ma, Dr Rao... Maya Rao’s name became synonymous with dance. Pioneering Kathak dancer, path breaking choreographer, ubiquitous mentor, founder of India’s  first college of choreography, revivalist, curator, Guru....she donned all these and several other hats. Her passion for dance and her career trajectory are chronicled for over 7 decades in books, journals, documentaries and more recently in her autobiography and DVDs produced by us at the Kampni and so I will not go into those details.

Very little is known of how she spent time with her precious circle of family and friends which I will share in the near future, but today is about the 2nd of May, her birthday.
Here’s a short, staccato retelling of those memories which flow and collide in my mind, congealing into a body of experiences, of remembrance