Monday, 22 May 2017

Novelty in Arts: An interesting dialogue - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Raza Foundation in association with Civil Officers Institute arranged a dialogue among architect Vikram Lall, Bharatanatyam dancer Rama Vaidyanathan, and poet / film maker Udayan Vajpeyi, at Civil Officers Institute in New Delhi. Ashok Vajpeyi, the Trustee of Raza foundation, introduced the speakers and the topic. What is novelty in performing arts? Is it deviation of tradition? Questioning within tradition? Sometimes such questions are seldom understood. He further said that when Ravi Shankar introduced long aalap in sitar, it was understood as novelty and later on became tradition. In classical dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi and other forms, novelty is seen as retaining continuum. He quoted Mallikarjun Mansoor, the legendary vocalist, who said that it would always be great if the rasikas sat in front row and responded, but even if they were not there and even if the hall was empty, his job was to sing. Such artists are rare now. Even if the audience was less for the evening, Ashok Vajpeyi said the evening had to carry on with few members present. 

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Friday, 19 May 2017

Ushering in Seasons - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


The rich culture of our subcontinent finds its own way to colour the regional New Year celebrations – under either lunar or solar calendar – with ample music and dance, resonating with the whispering winds rushing through the new crops. While Ugadi in the vast tract of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka is the time to get new clothes and getting satiated with good food, Gudi Padwa is, for Maharashtrians and Konkanis, an occasion to tie gudi (a piece of bright yellow cloth) to the tip of a long bamboo and a copper pot inverted on it along with a sugar garland. Baishakhi is the biggest harvest gala across North India, especially in Punjab and Haryana, celebrated with Bhangra and Gidha dance -- as the day of forming the Sikh Khalsa -- with festivities at the birth place of the Khalsa, at the Golden Temple and at Talwandi Sabo.

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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Book Review - Drama Queens: Women who dared to succeed in a man's world - Leela Venkataraman


Drama Queens, by Veejay Sai, is about women who created history in the theatre world between 1850-1950 when art traditions were being reinterpreted to usher in a new age, amidst a rigidly patriarchal Indian society where women regarded as lesser beings, in the entertainment world, were considered lowest of the low, confined to the edges of society. Staggering in the sheer range of material pertaining to interwoven threads of history, of politics, of social attitudes, of literature and performing arts like theatre, dance, music and film, the book indeed traverses many worlds - showing the interconnectedness in art streams. To unearth biographical details on unsung Bais, devadasis, kalavantulu, sanis and tawaifs, whose contributions so enriched our art world, is not easy. And one applauds this herculean research effort where source material comprised picking up shards of "a random passing gesture, a miniscule citation in a newspaper clipping", bits of material in defunct Urdu chronicles, old Tamil and Bengali journals, Marathi scripts, vernacular press clippings and not least, bits of information provided by the occasional surviving friend or relative - to make narratives out of. 

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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Natya Bharatiyam - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


International Dance Research and Training Centre, Hyderabad, presented a three day classical dance extravaganza Natya Bharatiyam consisting of solo Kuchipudi, group Bharatanatyam, group Kuchipudi, Kuchipudi dance dramas, group Odissi, group Kathak and also on the final day devotional songs at the Shilpa Kala Vedika auditorium at Madhapur, High Tech City, from 24th till 26th April in the evenings from 5pm. And every day it concluded around 9.30pm on account of a large number of participants. After the concluding day, I learnt from the organizers that in all 192 dancers and musicians participated. 

Madhavi Puranam, the editor of Nartanam quarterly, had a year ago arranged documentation of Kuchipudi dance dramas and Yakshaganas at Kuchpudi village in collaboration with Sangeet Natak Akademi. It was a huge affair. In December last year, Andhra Silicon Valley's Anand Kuchibhotla had arranged Kuchipudi Mahabrinda Festival at Vijayawada in keeping with his earlier similar Mahabrinda Festivals of Kuchipudi winning Guinness Book Records. It is on account of Anand Kuchibhotla's Andhra Silicon Valley group of people, whose organizing capacity is amazing, that such events are held on such grand scale.

The chief organizer of the three day Natya Bharatiyam is a young, 28 year old, traditional Kuchipudi dancer Dr. Tadepalli Satyanarayana Sarma from Kuchipudi village. His paternal grandfather Tadepalli Chandraiah was known for his Kuchipudi Pagativeshams and Kalapams. Satyanarayana's great grandfather Tadepalli Periya Sastry was the guru of Vempati Chinna Satyam. Periya Sastry and his lineage were known to support accompanists, mridangam players, nattuvanars, and literary figures for Sampradaya Bhagavata Melam. Satyanarayana is possessed with the idea of reviving the fast disappearing Yakshaganas and Kuchipudi Nritya Rupakas with the establishment of International Dance Research and Training Centre (IDRTC).

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Friday, 12 May 2017

Nine steps to visualising Tyagaraja kritis - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan


I belong to a Thanjavur ancestry. Therefore, the songs of Tyagaraja were literally the melodies I woke up to. My mother Alamelu Viswanathan sang and played them on the veena as her personal offering to Rama. She taught us some famous kritis, which have stayed with me ever since. I remember both myself and my sister Sujaya singing some of the easier songs at Golus during Navarathri. 

Learning vocal music from a young age created a singing repertoire for me, which was rich in range: from the demanding Pancharatnas to the evocative poems in melodious ragas of which Tyagaraja was the exclusive master. But listening to great singers was an even more enlightening experience. I used to marvel at the torrent of "sangathis" in some kritis and enjoy the variety of ragas.

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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Natya Vriksha's riveting salutation to dance matters - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Thoughtfully planned, each year's festival mounted by Natya Vriksha in association with the IIC, to celebrate World Dance Day, has had something original to offer. This year's two-day event began with well known critic and arts columnist Shanta Serbjeet Singh being conferred the first Natya Vriksha Lifetime Achievement Award for the many years of contribution to dance writing. 

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Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Sparks of passion - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Kandyan dance, originally performed by dancers who were identified as a separate caste under the Kandyan feudal system - aligned to the 'Temple of the Tooth' and with a significant role to play in the dalada perahera (procession) held each year by the local temple - waned gradually in popularity as the support for the dancers from the Kandyan kings ended during the British period. Now revived and adapted for the stage, Kandyan dance is reckoned as part of Sri Lanka's prime cultural heritage today.

Under UNESCO's laudable vision prevailing over a decade, there is no better means than dance for vividly illustrating cultural diversity and embodying rapprochement among communities and nations. As the ideal means for bringing together people from different countries, there could have been no better initiative, therefore, for the West Bengal Dance Group Federation than to celebrate the World Dance Day 2017 by presenting participants of a workshop under the eminent Kandyan choreographer Buddhi Edirisinghe from Sri Lanka. 

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Temples of BooM! - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar




BM in north and south - that's Bharata muni in south and Birju Maharaj in north, although both are relevant and respected in both parts of the country and beyond. 

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Monday, 8 May 2017

Article - The familiar rejection - Nayana Bhat

My mobile phone beeps to inform me of the new email I just received. No I am not expecting an email, rather a letter, because they would mean different things. Of course, they mean different things in today’s fast world, but that is not what I mean.

I nervously open the email, which cheerily reads: “Honourable dear Ms. Keshava!” Ah, sounds friendly…“Thank you very much,” it continues, “for your application for the ABC prize for 2017. The Jury, consisting of X, Y and Z had to choose from N number of applications and unfortunately, we have to inform you that the jury has chosen another application for this prize...”

Oh well...
And coming to think of it, this is not even the first rejection. Or the second. Or the 10th. Well, for this year, maybe the 10th. I am even getting used to the sound of it, let alone getting familiar with it. It often reads the same way, cheerily, and often comes after a long wait and sometimes, indeed, after a long wait, because I suppose it takes time to sort out those that did get accepted after all.

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Saturday, 6 May 2017

Article - Dance is one of the most caricatured art forms - Madhavi Puranam

(This article is an excerpt from the editorial of Nartanam, Volume: XVII, No. 1, Jan - March 2017)

In 1981 a German language film titled "Mephisto" was produced in Hungary. The film was based on a novel written by Klaus Mann and was directed by Istvan Szabo. It's the story of a German stage actor Hendrik Hoefgen who rises to great heights with his performance as Mephisto in the stage adaptation of Goethe's Faust. Hoefgen conveniently adapts his ideals to the requirements of the new ruling regime. Thus, he attains greater heights in his career. He distances himself from his near and dear. By the time he realises his mistake it is too late. The genius Istvan Szabo universalizes this theme in the film. Hoefgen could be in any country, he could be any artist, intellectual, writer or filmmaker. Artists do sometimes become sycophants of ruling regimes, compromise with their art for small or big favours and short time gains, losing sight of the bigger picture of the ART itself.

In the first quarter of 2017, I witnessed two well-known Kuchipudi dancers/gurus of Hyderabad present very inane productions - Rudrama Devi and Kakatiyam. The Kakatiya/Telangana horse cannot be flogged so often, so blatantly, and above all, with such mediocrity. The spectator manages to put up with it in silence while the critic does not dare/care to touch the holy cows.

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Friday, 5 May 2017

Calligraphy and Kathak - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


When Kathak and Odissi exponent Parwati Dutta invited me for her two day festival Vistaar (April 22 & 23), I was still in a black mood, having seen Kathak performances which had upset me that I told her I do not want to see any more Kathak and I am afraid I won't be able to attend the festival. Parwati Dutta was naturally surprised at my response and only said: "That is not fair, Sunil bhai. We would like to share our new choreographic works with you. If you can come, it will be a great pleasure for us."

After a few days I called her and confirmed my visit to Aurangabad. I am indeed an admirer of her work, performances and total dedication to dance. Having visited Aurangabad earlier and having seen the excellent work she is doing there both in Kathak and Odissi, arranging seminars, discussions, inviting scholars, critics, performers, instituting Sarngadeva Award, research, lecture-demonstrations, performances of different dance forms, summer workshops, starting a course in dance criticism and several other projects, and over 20 years, preparing an audience which has turned into rasikas, one simply marvels at her tenacity, determination to work against all odds. Luckily, the Mahatma Gandhi Mission has supported her all these years.

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Monday, 1 May 2017

Anita says...May 2017

“Some people seem to think that good dancers are born, but all the good dancers I have known are taught or trained.”- Fred Astaire 

As WORLD DANCE DAY slips past us and a new month dawns, I begin with the most recent experience of performing in FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH in New York City. 

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - May 2017

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Encouraging audiences for the ticketed Divinity Series - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman



For long, one has heard persons declaring from varied platforms that dance performances thrown open for free to the public at large over the years, has not just devalued the art, but also spoilt audiences, almost creating in them a feeling of entitlement. Little, however, has been done to change the situation. In the circumstances, taking the plunge to make a ticketed show of the 'Divinity Series' (held this year from April 6 - 8 at the Habitat Stein Auditorium, Delhi) annually mounted by Jyotsna Shourie Dance Centre, was a step in the right direction - and on the second and third evenings I attended, the satisfyingly full auditorium was reassuring that having to pay was no deterrent, provided the concerned event held promise of quality performances. One heard from the organiser that even on the first evening featuring a known Delhi artist Vidha Lal (in what till now has been a Bharatanatyam oriented festival) there was a decent sized audience with over a hundred tickets sold.

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Monday, 24 April 2017

Kumudini Lakhia on crisis in Kathak - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Raza Foundation presented Guru Kumudini Lakhia’s lecture on ‘Kathak in our times’ at Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Introducing the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Memorial Lecture, Ashok Vajpeyi, the Managing Trustee of Raza Foundation, spoke about paucity of performing dancers who are thinkers and can articulate the issues of the art form they are engaged in. The first lecture organized under this series was by Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam. And after few years interval now the Foundation has invited Kumudini Lakhia. She has earned a reputation as a thinker, engaged in the art form, raising the bar of the traditional form of Kathak and contemporizing it with innovations.

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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Article - On watching Malavika Sarukkai’s Vamatara: To the Light - Vikram Iyengar


If ever I was able to watch only one Bharatanatyam performer from the hundreds that exist, I would choose Malavika Sarukkai without batting an eyelid. Of course, after making that choice, the eyelid would bat crazily questioning why such a straitened situation existed at all. Similarly, soon after I began to breathe in the magic she created through primarily her own dancing in Vamatara: To the Light, niggling doubts began to assail me as to how to read the work and the professed content in our present-day scenario.

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Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column - Effects of chronic stress on performance - Ishika Sachdev

Think of the endocrine system as the hormonal hard drive. All the organs that make up the endocrine system, produce, store, retrieve and communicate with hormones that control and coordinate processes or activities all through the body. When this system is in balance, our hormones go on doing their respective jobs to maintain homeostasis. 

Now what happens in the presence of a stressor? 
Our blood sugar levels crash -> our adrenal glands fire cortisol (aka the stress hormone) -> our livers produce and release more glucose -> our blood sugar levels rise and our blood sugar balance is maintained. 

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Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column - Health Recipes 12: Bergedel Jagung - Uma Pushpanathan


Serves: 15 pieces
Per Serving: 143 calories per 100 gms
Cooking and Presentation Time: 45 minutes

View the recipe in the site

Interview - Dr. S. Vasudevan: Dance and music are like body and soul - Shveta Arora


Dr. S. Vasudevan, a disciple of Dr. Vyjayanthimala Bali and Jayalakshmi Ishwar, performed alongside Vanashree Rao at the Festival of Creative Choreographies held in Delhi last month. Vasudevan is a well-known Carnatic musician and vocalist, and on stage, I have seen him among the musicians more often than taking the stage as a dancer. After a rousing Bharatanatyam performance, I spoke to him about being both dancer and musician, and he explained that the division is more a modern phenomenon.

Read the interview in the site

A limitless lustre of love - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


It is not unusual among people the world over to perpetuate the memory of the dear departed, make efforts to compose tributes, build tombs and memorials, and initiate festivals in fond remembrance.  Poets have composed countless odes to the deceased and even expressed yearnings to let them reappear just once more. Kadambari Devi, Tagore’s sister-in-law and his childhood companion for long, was so close to the poet that in his lifelong creative oeuvre, the shadow of the beautiful lady always loomed large, her pensive eyes appeared in face after mysterious face in hundreds of paintings that he drew after some five decades since her unfortunate death by suicide, and his numerous letters and prose compositions carried a vision of pain and penance that he could never get over. 

It was not surprising, therefore, to find yet another artistic soul, Ashimbandhu Bhattacharjee, the noted Kathak exponent from Kolkata – who lost his mother about a year back – to have discovered the umbilical cord too dear to have been snapped so suddenly and needed a whole year to come to terms with the debilitating loss. Through this year he built an abstract theme named poignantly as Ananta – a lustrous garland of aesthetic grandeur that he wove to depict his own endless journey seeking his mother -- and invited other artistes to share their thoughts and build their own memorabilia.

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Sanjali’s tribute on Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s 13th death anniversary - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


On 7th April on the 13th death anniversary of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, his disciple Sharmila Mukerjee presented Pravaha as tribute at ADA Rangamandira in Bangalore. She has been organizing it every year for past ten years. This year she had worked on the character of Kaikeyi from Ramayana, inviting Pandit Nityananda Mishra to write the libretto in Sanskrit. It was a book of English poems which had set her thinking about the royal queen of Dasharatha. She felt that perhaps Kaikeyi is the most misunderstood character in Valmiki’s epic Ramayana. She wanted to go beyond stereotyping her as an evil queen and explore various shades of her character. She went to Bhubaneswar and met Nityananda Mishra who responded with enthusiasm to her proposal and wrote the libretto which was set to music in Ragamalika and Talamalika by Bijay Jena, with rhythm by Dhaneswar Swain.

The production began with Kaikeyi’s old age, reminiscing about her earlier life as a warm hearted, complex woman, who loved Rama as much as her own son Bharata. She was a warrior, brave woman, who had on battlefield at the right moment helped King Dasharatha and saved him.


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In a different tone: Amorous Delight presents a challenging theatre of love - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Pickling for over a decade in the minds of Ramli Ibrahim of Kuala Lumpur's Sutra Foundation and late Dinanath Pathy, art historian / painter et al of Odisha, Sutra Foundation's Amorous Delight, a group work based on the 9th century Sanskrit love poetry Amarushatakam traces its seed inspiration to the palm leaf manuscript illustrations based on this text by the unknown Sharnakula master of Odisha's Nayagarh district, the rare copy of which in the Zurich Museum Rietberg, Ramli Ibrahim happened to see. Late Dinanath Pathy and Dr. Eberhard Fischer of the Museum had collaborated on a book jointly authored on Amarushatakam

Ruminating over the challenges of such flagrant erotic verses on sambhoga and vipralambha sringar as base for a work in what has justifiably been called 'Contemporary Odissi', Amorous Delight draws on blended creative energies from Odisha and Malaysia - with late Dinanath Pathy himself as the visual and literary consultant, and with the musical base provided by Odisha's top artistes. Working with the dancers of Sutra Foundation was Odissi dancer Meera Das whose dance composition along with Ramli Ibrahim's group choreography aesthetics with artistic direction, designed this effort.

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Friday, 14 April 2017

Nritya Sanrachna: A festival of choreographic works - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Under the aegis of Sangeet Natak Akademi, Jawaharlal Nehru Manipuri Dance Academy and Manipur University a festival of choreographic works by leading dancers and choreographers from different states of India was arranged at Imphal from 22nd till 26th March 2017 at the new Maharaja Chandrakirti Auditorium, Manipur University. I missed first two days’ performances of Sharmila Biswas and her artists of Odissi Vision and Movement Centre, Kolkata, who had presented new work Trividh, a revival of choreographic work of legendary late Raj Kumar Priyogopalsana of Imphal, viz., Kabui-Kei-Oiba, and Prathibha Prahlad’s Silk Sutra. I had recently seen Vanashree Rama Rao’s Kalpakatha, dramatic tales from mythologies, at Khajuraho Dance Festival.

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Rasa theory facilitates holistic approach to school education - Chandra Anand

Holistic development of all students is the aim of education systems universally. Accordingly, education is focused on not only intellectual and physical development of students, but also their moral and emotional development. In fact, today's trend is to introduce teaching and learning methods where all aspects of students' personalities develop in an integrated manner. And, one such opportunity is seen through arts education which is being considered for inclusion in the main curriculum of schools. As a matter of fact, the aesthetic theory of arts facilitates a holistic approach to teaching academic subjects too.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Article - King Shivaji II, the last king of Thanjavur - Prince Pratap Sinha Raje Bhosle

The 185th death anniversary of multifaceted scholar King Serfoji II fell on 8th March 2017. His funeral had been attended by lakhs of people. His son, King Shivaji II of Thanjavur, authored Marathi drama ‘Natesa Vilasa,’ an excellent piece of Marathi literature based on ancient Sanskrit type of dramas and natakas.

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Impresario India gamely carries on - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Despite obstacles in procuring sponsorship, Impresario India mounted the nineteenth edition of its annual choreographic festival, National Festival of Creative Arts, on March 21 and 22 at Stein Auditorium, Delhi. For the curtain raiser was Kuchipudi performer and teacher Vanashree Rao reinventing herself, in her latest discovery as  group choreographer, harnessing a mixture of dance forms - Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam and Chhau. Rasa United, her group also has the able cooperation of Dr. S. Vasudevan wearing many hats as Bharatanatyam dancer/teacher/music composer/ nattuvangam specialist and choreographer. In partnership with vocalist K. Venkateshwaran, the two provide the musical scaffolding for Vanashree’s productions. 

Starting with the Tripura Samhara episode from the Shivapuranam, the entry saw dance visualization in Chhau with masked dancers Kuleswar Thakur, Anuraj Khichi, Prashant and Arjundev, with the ‘Tom Na’ syllables and alap in Revati, freezing in difficult contortionist yogic postures, impersonating Tarakasura’s three asura sons, whose uncontrolled might, thanks to Brahma’s boon of immortality, is finally crushed and destroyed by Shiva. After holding formations, requiring a balancing feat, the three strut around to Hathya Dhara movements.  With Mount Meru as chariot and Vasuki as the string to the bow and Vishnu himself as the arrow, with the graceful Kuchipudi dancers Ayona, Ranjini, Moutushi, Gulddin Sultana and with Vanashree as Shiva, enters the chariot in style and the end comes swiftly with Shiva catching the asuras in a row and killing them. One distinguishing feature of the group is having young expressive dancers (Chhau and Kuchipudi) endowed with fine stage presence as well.

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Moods, Movements and Melodies - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Contemporary dance scenario in India's Eastern metropolis, much in keeping with its Western counterparts in the current decades, has kept agog the spectators' interest. Keeping itself painstakingly away from the captivating panorama of the classical choreographic creations and the latter's diligent attention paid to Indian mythology, the contemporary dance has sought - with an ever-increasing span of attention - to discover new themes and attract non-traditional viewers to their fold. 

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Revisiting Ratan Thiyam’s Urubhangam - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Thirty seven years ago in November 1980, visiting Imphal, Manipur, for a dance conference with Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan and Usha Malik, by sheer fortuitous circumstances I saw Bhasa’s play Urubhangam in Meitei language directed by Ratan Thiyam. It was an eye opener. Today, Ratan Thiyam has acquired global appreciation for his outstanding theatre productions under the banner of Chorus Repertory Theatre. In all departments his theatre breathes perfection. A troupe of gifted Manipuri actors who know dance, music, singing, martial arts under Ratan’s watchful direction deliver excellent results.

Known as theatre of roots in the eighties, there was a movement to look at our traditional Sanskrit theatre, its construction, abhinaya as per the principles mentioned in Natyashastra, use of vachikabhinaya, movements, dance, music, aharya, costumes, and imaginative light designing, use of few props and seek continuity. Among them, late K.N. Panicker from Kerala and Ratan Thiyam from Manipur, worked in that direction producing outstanding Sanskrit theatre that illuminated the theory of Rasa as enunciated in Bharata’s Natyashastra.  

Ratan Thiyam chose Bhasa’s play Urubhangam getting it translated into Meitei-Manipuri language by A. Krishna Mohan Sharma. I had studied Bhasanatakachakra, the plays of Bhasa, during my studies of Sanskrit for MA degree and was familiar with the original Sanskrit text. Therefore, the Meitei language did not pose any problem. But Ratan’s design, music and direction were so eloquent that even when audience does not follow the dialogue, the sheer visual appeal of the production and abhinaya by the actors communicate a lot.

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Friday, 7 April 2017

Contemporary dance expressions beckon - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Costume designer Sandhya Raman’s studio in Ladu Serai, became the venue for an informal and unusual evening of Collisions, comprising movement exploration in contemporary dance, substantiated by a dialogue involving three reputed people in the dance world – Shirley Mordine from the United States, Bharatanatyam dancer Hema Rajagopalan settled in the United States - and Indian Contemporary dancer Astad Deboo, the third participant in this triangle. Interestingly, Shirley  who has  worked with Bharatanatyam dancers and collaborated with Hema in a few of Hema’s earlier productions, is unique in being drawn to the expressional aspect of Bharatanatyam - which dancers , specially contemporary dancers in the west, are least drawn to.  Collision (of which this is the second interaction) contrary to the generally understood connotation of the term referring to colliding forces, refers to varying cultural expressions coming together in interactions that enrich. Hema Rajagopalan called her work Sahridaya (meaning empathetic), which perhaps expresses for the Indian mind, the idea behind this effort better.

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Rachana Yadav received training in Kathak under Guru Ravi Jain and later on worked with Aditi Mangaldas, receiving further training under her as a member of Aditi's Drishtikon Dance Foundation, performing in the company for more than a decade. She also received training under Jaikishan Maharaj, son of Birju Maharaj, in Lucknow gharana. She has established Rachana Yadav Kathak Studio and has a troupe with which she has been presenting her own choreographic works.

She is the daughter of the celebrated Hindi authors Mannu Bhandari and Rajendra Yadav. Rachana also writes in Hindi and for the choreographic work Trishanku under review, she has written the four sections of poems, inspired from her mother's story of the same title. The work was presented on 1st April at Kamani Auditorium in Delhi. In her choreographer's note, Rachana mentions that she picks up subjects for her choreographies from her own life experiences. When she feels that she can express the chosen subject through dance, then only she undertakes choreographing it. The theme she chose for Trishanku is her own journey being a daughter of her mother, and herself becoming mother of her own daughter. This journey she further explains has been full of innumerable conflicts and contradictions. The problem she has posed is about how much to break from the past, how much to take from the future, and is there a perfect balance?


Tribute by Rama Vaidyanathan to her mother Madhavi Gopalakrishnan

Sarvam Foundation presented at Habitat Centre, Delhi, the inaugural event of Madhavi, a dance festival in honour of late Madhavi Gopalakrishnan, the mother of Bharatanatyam exponent Rama Vaidyanathan, on 3rd April. Madhavi Gopalakrishnan was a connoisseur of classical music and dance. For Rama she was a constant source of inspiration and stood by her till she breathed her last, always encouraging Rama to scale greater artistic heights. She passed away last year. In order to perpetuate her memory, her belief, love for life, its continuity and celebration, Rama planned an annual festival with help of Sarvam Foundation, several well wishers, and her own two sisters Indira Nayar and Meera Khanna. Rama presented a well conceived program by her disciples including her daughter Dakshina. Nehha Bhatnagar, disciple of Saroja Vaidyanathan and Rama, is founder president of Sarvam Foundation and took care of various other requirements.


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Thursday, 6 April 2017

Magical, Mystical, Monumental - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee



Just as cultivators today turn their gaze skywards in India, anxiously seeking signs of rain, so did their ancestors - several hundreds of years ago. With every passing dry day, their anxiety, too, turned to desperation and finally to prayers. The sages then offered to invoke Parjanya, the rain god, in their hymn in the Rig Veda
Sing forth and laud for Parjanya, son of Heaven, who sends the gift of rain... May he provide our pasturage. Parjanya is the God who lays in cattle, in mares, in plants of earth, and in womankind, the germ of life… Offer and pour into his mouth oblation rich in savoury juice. May he forever give us food…   
Parjanya Devata (The Rain God), a dance production blending Odissi and Western classical dance form, presented recently in Kolkata by Victoria Memorial Hall in association with South Gurukul Society, could not have been a more grandiloquent affair, in terms of all three elements needed for performative arts: space, time and characters. Its locale was the elevated backdrop of Western Quadrangle of a one-century-old colonial edifice, built in Indo-Saracenic style with picturesque Venetian, Egyptian, Deccani and  Islamic architectural influences.  The colonial behemoth offered a huge front fa├žade of 350 feet, rising to an awesome height of 200 feet, all in gleaming white Makrana marble, surrounded by the most spacious and luscious English gardens.



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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Fusion or Confusion? - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

With all the buzz about rightists and leftists, about fundamentalists versus the liberal minded, about secularism against 'majoritarianism,' it seems to me that somewhere people are losing a sense of proportion on what represents plain good taste against what goes for ugliness of mind and thinking. In an age when the ad world has never had it so good, and the media works overtime capturing politicians and important figures from all disciplines mouthing opinions and statements of every hue, we have the confused situation of demanding freedom and equal rights for the woman while trying to commission anti-Romeo squads to keep them safe from molestation!

In a global world, Contemporary art has gone viral with its fusion ventures and over the years one has witnessed the strangest cultural interactions of Kathak with Jazz, Bharatanatyam with western Contemporary Dance, Swan Lake in Mohiniattam done to Tchaikovsky's music, Kathak and Hip Hop dance and much more. We have also had famous Odissi artists performing to film music. But now comes a strange 4.25 minute long video of five freelancing Odissi dancers performing movements of a Pallavi, to Ed Sheeran's English number "The shape of you" as a promotional venture by 'Detour Odisha.' 

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Saturday, 1 April 2017

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - April 2017

Anita says...April 2017

"I will take what's mine with fire and blood!" - Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones) 


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NARTHAKI!!
Entering year 18!

And we are still here - bringing you the wonderful and often tumultuous world of Indian dance, into your lives!
Thank you all for the immense faith and continued support.
We are honoured to have your trust, admiration and engagement.
You share your work, your travails and often your personal histories.
We started off as a dance directory in 1993, published a second edition phone book in 1997 and went online in APRIL 14, 2000.

We continue... We believe... We persist and YOU SUPPORT!

Here is an official THANK YOU and STANDING CYBER OVATION to the indefatigable
Lalitha Venkat and Sumathi - my two pillars for all these years.

And now, Raksha Patel and Akhila/Aalaap who are part of our team and our dreams.
ALL OF US WONDER WOMEN... SO CHEER US ON!

Aaaaaaaaand...Here I go... 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Kala Prachara - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar


Dance needs discussing, even debate in today's clime of closed minds and doors. It needs dialogue, discourse and deliberations. Each city I go to (in a month, 3 on an average and this past month traversed Trivandrum, Pune, Delhi), makes me realize how badly dance needs catalysts so it cuts across binaries and boundaries.

Classical dancers are stuck in their mould. Modern dancers are unstuck because they don't have a mould! In between lies the thinking dance! That can think but not dance. Add the confusion in fusion and you have Bollywood as the only acceptable pan-Indian dance making a mark globally. No matter what classical or modern dance lobbies say most don't practice what they preach. I find myself uniquely placed between two worlds: old India and new; traditional and modern. Wah! What a palate. So I go like a wandering minstrel city to city doing kala prachar. Dancers do that too but they often are limited by their own form, bani, guru, gharana, labels, definitions.  

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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Article - Indian Dance in America began in 1880 - Rajika Puri


When Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham, (directors of From the Horse’s Mouth, a NY-based but pan-US dance institution) asked me to curate a special edition of their show to be entitled “Indian Dance in America”, I was delighted at this recognition of our US Indian dance community. Since the heart of the show consists of stories told by elder members of a particular dance community, I immediately began to think of those who first established Indian dance in this country – and realised that the story of ‘Indian dance in America’ actually begins in America; the early pioneers were all Americans! 

As early as 1906, Ruth St Denis had choreographed and performed a dance called ‘Radha’. This was even before she met Ted Shawn and they pioneered American dance itself, established the Denishawn School and company (1915) and, later, toured India with over a hundred performances (1926). I have always thought, thus, that 1906 was the beginning of ‘Indian Dance in America’, only after which came legendary dancers like Ragini Devi (mother of Indrani Rahman, born Esther Luella Sherman) and La Meri (Russell Meriwether Hughes) who invited Ram Gopal to New York to dance in her company (1930) and who, to complete the circle, started the School of Natya with Ruth St Denis in 1940!

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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

View the recipe in the site

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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