Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Choreography Connect - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Classical ballet in the West, especially in Russia, has been a long established genre and well known for its aesthetics and rigorous technique, such as pointe work, turnout of the legs, and high extensions, its flowing, precise movements, and its superb qualities. There are several standardized, widespread, classical ballet training systems: each designed to produce a unique aesthetic quality from its students. Some systems are named after their creators. In contrast, American style ballet is not taught by means of any standardized training system. French ballet, too, has no standard training system, with each major French style ballet school employing a unique training system of its own. In contrast, contemporary ballet in the West is a genre that employs often classical pointe technique, but allows far greater range of movement of the upper body and is not constrained to the rigorously defined body lines and forms found in traditional, classical ballet. Many of its attributes come from the ideas and innovations of the 20th century modern dance, including floor work and turn-in of the legs.

Contemporary dance in India encompasses a wide range of dance activities and includes varied choreography for the celluloid, for modern Indian ballet and for experiments with existing classical and folk forms of dance. All major classical Indian dance forms have drawn sustenance from the Natya Shastra -- especially with elements of nritta, nritya and natya – and have contextualized sattvik, vachik, angik and aharya abhinaya, also having developed their own grammar and cannons of choreography. Not many institutions practising contemporary dance in India can boast of clear-cut grammar and systematic training methodology that can be shared across the board.

Sapphire Creations, an “experimental dance company” from eastern India, felt a need to create abstract movements free from external influences and over last 20 years, is striving to develop an organic, radical, dynamic and alternative idiom of movement, keeping its focus fixed on innovation. Its movement technique imbibes the whole range: from ancient Indian body history, to Western breathing techniques, to modern contact, improvisatory and tuning solo and group work methods. Its choreographic oeuvre comprises issues of gender, art, relationships, society, polity, consumerism and HIV, from a global perspective. Currently, Sapphire has both a training academy and a professional repertory.

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Article - Andhranatyam: History and Revival- Kalakrishna

(This is a condensed version of Guru Kalakrishna's presentation on June 1, 2017 at the seminar on '100 years of Nritya Bharateeyam' at Chennai)

As we know the dance traditions in India are categorised under Natya mela and Nattuva mela traditions. Andhranatyam belongs to the Nattuvamela tradition. Andhranatyam, the ancient classical dance form of Telugu region (Telangana, Rayalaseema and Andhra), has been in vogue for the past 2000 years. It may sound new to people but it is as old as the temples constructed. To start with, it was performed in the Buddhist Aramas, temples and royal courts by the cultured and dedicated female artistes of Telugu region.

Unlike other female dances like Bharatanatyam, temple and court dances, Andhranatyam had become inert at one point of time. It was later revived in 1970 and is being propagated for the last 47 years at national and international platforms, more particularly in the Telugu speaking regions.

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Visual poetry - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Come September and Delhi is all agog with dance festivals. There are so many festivals organized simultaneously, that they overlap and one finds it difficult to make a choice as to what to see and what to forego. The Purana Qila Dance Festival, which is a continuation of Ananya Dance Festival, was formerly organized by Sanjeev Bhargav with the help of Ministry of Culture, Delhi Government. Now it has been taken over by the Delhi Government's Department of Art, Culture and Languages, and is mounted with assistance of Sahitya Kala Parishad, keeping the format more or less the same.

Purana Qila is a magnificent monument renovated during Emperor Humayun's rule in the year 1533 AD. Sher Shah Suri of Suri Dynasty had defeated Humayun in 1540 AD as per the historical records. Popularly known as Purana Qila, Old Fort with its vast complex offers a spectacular view. In recent years in the early 70s it was director E. Alkazi who had used it for the play Andha Yug for National School of Drama. In later decades it has been the venue of various important theatre events and concerts. The dance festival has been one of the most popular events.....

A factual description of Kanjeevaram sari by sociologist Arati Kalra inspired Malavika Sarukkai to explore the design of play of thread. For two and half years she worked upon the seed of concept and she created in Bharatanatyam the journey of sari as a metaphor for life. Thari - The Loom, offered her a certain freedom to work with the classical form and expand its range. She says that inspiration was like an ambush. It led her to meet weavers to understand how the loom functions, its rhythm and how she could work with it in terms of dance. Stepping out, taking risks she has tried to do things, going outside of the narrative of classical repertoire, the figurative and descriptive, and exploring the abstract....

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Thari exquisitely weaves the warp and weft of life's saree - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

There is no flamboyance or over abundantly grand narrative. But in the 75 minutes of non-stop group presentation in Thari -The Loom conceived and choreographed by Malavika Sarukkai, the audience after having experienced artistic excellence of exquisite subtlety, leaves the auditorium with a mind filled with the lurking poetry hidden in that unstitched traditional garment - the saree. Reflecting on the primeval rhythm tat taka taam of the loom, grew the perception in Malavika of how closely the very different activities of dance and weaving are guided by the same concerns, to quote the words of Thari's creative collaborator Sumantra Ghosal of "space, structure, motif, symmetry, proportion, relationship (and ) alignment." Much like the coming together of the warp and the weft in weaving, dance and music are required to work in "total coordination, rhythm and measurement and design." The production, lacing the proven movement technique in Bharatanatyam with the alchemy of the choreographer's creative contemporary mind, converts past inheritance into not something back there and lost, but a vital presence constantly alive, expanding its horizons.

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Interview - The Reddys: A family dedicated to dance - Shveta Arora

Once upon a time, it was natural for children to follow their parents into their profession. But today, when children are given the choice to choose their own professions and often choose to do something ‘modern’ in their careers, it’s interesting to hear from youngsters who have followed their parents’ footsteps in an ancient classical tradition. In a conversation with Kuchipudi Guru Raja Reddy and his daughters Yamini and Bhavana Reddy, I was impressed by how both the girls have adapted their modern upbringing to further the Kuchipudi tradition. Below are excerpts from a chat conducted during the Reddys’ Parampara Dance Festival in Delhi recently.

Raja-ji, how did you think you could initiate both your daughters into this tradition? What was the pressure as a parent?
Raja Reddy: Being in the Reddy family, we were not supposed to learn dance. But since childhood, I was very interested. Same goes for Radha – we married, and her parents and my parents were not happy about it but we were mad about dance. Then we came to Hyderabad and both Radha’s parents and grandparents told her, “Get a divorce from him, he is sure to end up penniless!” See, in our region, dance was dismissed as a profession for the lower classes. They (those who looked down upon dance) didn’t even know that Shiva is the creator of dance. Without Radha, my dance would have been incomplete. Nobody would have seen my performance; it was possible only because Radha was there to handle things. 

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Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Mythologist and the Muses - Stephen Gerringer - ANCIENT FUTURES:Thoughts on myth, legend and beyond

(Reproduced here with permission from Pacifica Graduate Institute, USA)

In this Practical Campbell essay, Stephen Gerringer examines the role of the arts in Joseph Campbell's life and work, along the way touching on the roots of creativity.
In my writing and my thinking and my work I've thought of myself as addressing artists and poets and writers. The rest of the world can take it or leave it as far as I'm concerned. 

Joseph Campbell, quoted in Fire in the Mind, by Robin & Stephen Larsen (from Campbell's final lecture, to art students), p. 556 
When reading Joseph Campbell, many people naturally focus on the universal motifs found in mythologies of different cultures, or find themselves taken by the parallel between mythological themes and one's own life journey - but just as significant is the central role the creative imagination plays in Campbell's world. 

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Saturday, 14 October 2017

Dance reflecting an approach not tethered to form - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Black Box, G 54 Foundation for Contemporary Culture, a delightfully intimate space, with its convoluted address of ‘Lakshmi Mills Estate, Shakti Mills Lane, Off Dr. E Moses Road, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai’ is typical of the spaces within spaces this city specialises in. It was in the compact auditorium of ‘Black Box’ that the well-known magazine of the Arts, Marg had organised the release of its latest issue on Contemporary Dance in India on October 9, 2017. The word ‘contemporary’ is a loaded term and its connotation with respect to dance will always be contested, with classical dancers not willing to believe they are anything less than ‘contemporary’. Contemporary Dance practitioners, however, for long have nursed a feeling of deprivation about their efforts not receiving the kind of government support their colleagues in the classical art forms get. 

After the formal release function followed a short but varied and arresting programme, which dancer Astad Deboo with his aesthetic refinement, had curated.

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Friday, 13 October 2017

Mega Shows - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

And one thought there were no audiences left for dance, when one saw pathetically filled halls in metro cities. 100 people on a good day. Often, there were none because it - the dance - had no real connect with the people. I must qualify the above with one additional word. Classical  dance.  

I’m coming from 7 cities in 7 days (with bad stomach flu to boot!), where I’ve seen thousands in each dance gathering - Bengal pandals and Gujarat Navratri celebrations. These are to be seen to be believed. A true, people’s festival. Thousands in each neighborhood. All dancing and happy.  Classical, folk, Bollywood, jazz, rag, tag call what you will. It is Indianised dance. Trust us to assimilate all cultures and make it our own. MAKE IN INDIA has a totally new meaning in dance.

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Friday, 6 October 2017

Parampara finds the right dance/music blend - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Natya Tarangini's 'Parampara' festival (Sept 22 - 24) observing its 21st consecutive year of celebration, attracted large audiences to the Kamani Auditorium, Delhi, for what, this year turned out to be fare offering a magical dance/music blend. Shivaleela, the inaugural Kuchipudi event by the host organisation featuring the entire Reddy family of Raja/Radha and Kaushalya (nattuvangam) with their two dancing daughters Yamini and Bhavana, in the well rehearsed tautness of presentation - was a more evolved production than what one was treated to during its less formal premiere at the Reddy home on Shiva Ratri. 

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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Bharati Shivaji's institution Centre for Mohiniattam presented on second day of Mohiniattam Festival, 'Sita Ram Parinay' based on chaupais of Tulasidas's Ramcharitmanas at IIC Kamala Devi Complex auditorium on September 28, Delhi.....

For Lalitarpan Festival 2017 of dance and music, which Shovana Narayan arranges every year under the aegis of her dance institute Asavari, in memory of her mother, she had invited from Vienna the celebrated dancer and choreographer Radha Anjali (Angela) with her Natya Mandir Dance Company.....

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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Obit/Tribute - Shirin Vajifdar - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Shirin Vajifdar, 92, passed away in Mumbai peacefully on September 29, 2017. 

She was a pioneer among Parsi community to take up classical dancing in early 1930s. She and her two sisters Khurshid and Roshan performed together as Vajifdar Sisters. Shirin studied Kathak under Jaipur gharana maestro Sundar Prasadji and later on studied further Kathak and other styles like Manipuri and Kathakali at Madam Menaka's Nrityalayam at Khandala, near Mumbai

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Sunday, 1 October 2017

Anita says...October 2017

"Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide."
- DW Winnicott

The party is never ending. There was a 19 day respite between Dussera (September 30) and Diwali (October 18) but no more. Indian communities across India and elsewhere have geared up for nonstop celebrations. From the jam packed streets of Newark Avenue Garba frenzy in New Jersey to boulevards in many parts of the UK and of course India, sticks click away, skirts swirl, laughter overflows and food and drink help the mood build to a lively frenzy. DURGA may have performed HER time honoured ritual of slaying darkness and restoring balance to the universe. SHE has been immersed yet again amidst cheers and tears but calm has not descended over her devotees. As you read this, many will be preparing to dress up to attend fabulous Ram Lila pandals and card parties in North India which have already started as a curtain raiser to Diwali.

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Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - October 2017

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

A magical evening - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

After a few years if the dance aficionados were to discuss and recollect the arrival of Sunanda Nair from USA where Houston was submerged in water, to perform for Sai Nrityotsava 100 on September 1, 2017 in Bangalore, they would not believe that she had made it on time to perform at JSS Rangamandira, without showing slightest sign of jetlag! To put it in terms of mythological context, it would not be an exaggeration to say that some very special guiding angel, must have flown her across the ocean and placed her invisible to the eyes of the mortals, in the green room. For, when she arrived in her full Mohiniattam regalia she was a Mohini, enchantress, who mesmerized the audience. She was ushered into the auditorium with a resplendent royal red umbrella over her head with the hosts Sai Venkatesh and his wife Suparna and other retinue members following her with fanfare! That was dramatic enough to set the celebrations for the 100th evening of dance performances.

Never-say- die Sai Venkatesh had started presenting on the first of each month, young up and coming dancers. That was for eight years and four months. And during this time he never missed any date. For the record, months ago he had planned the 100th dance as a gala event inviting four senior dancers like Sunanda Nair from Houston for Mohiniattam, Sujata Mohapatra for Odissi from Bhubaneswar, Manju Bhargavi for Kuchipudi from Bangalore and Dhananjayan and Shantha for Bharatanatyam from Chennai. 

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Events with an identity - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

More than just a festival
Dance festivals are a dime a dozen. To make each event stand out with a flavour of its own requires imagination to curate. Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, in its very enterprising fashion has designed festivals wherein a theme or a selected line or verse from Sanskrit literature is made a compulsory part of each dancer’s recital, the interpretation being left to the individual dancer’s creativity. Bringing back to central focus the solo dancer who ultimately represents the core strength of a dance tradition, and featuring young dancers who are the future torch bearers, Prastaar, the Vidyalaya’s latest event mounted at the Kamani auditorium, prescribed as central motif and as bonding thread a verse for interpretation by all artists, from Subhashitavali 1049 (Shringarapadhdhati), compiled by Vallabhadeva in the 15th century, providing immense possibilities for abhinaya elaboration.

A fitting festival for Kelucharan Mohapatra
Yet another festival, which has begun acquiring a stature of its own is Srjan’s Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival, carefully nurtured over the years by the Guru’s son Ratikant Mohapatra. The mood is set, right from the entrance to Bhubaneswar’s Rabindra Mandap, where one sees the carefully grouped enlarged photographs of the participating artists outside -- with the modest lobby of the auditorium transformed into a photographic history down memory lane, with old priceless pictures of Guru Kelucharan on various occasions. One climbs the steps to be greeted by a large photograph of the Guru at whose feet exquisite rangoli floor design has a burning lamp in the centre. One could spend a long time just going through these pictures. 

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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Spectacular musical Mughal-e-Azam - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

My generation of people who have seen K. Asif's film Mughal-e-Azam both in black and white and in colour will remember with great nostalgia, Madhubala as Anarkali singing "Pyar kiya to darna kya" in Emperor Akbar's court to the choreography by legendary Lacchu Maharaj. The film took seven years to be ready for screening. The melodious music by Naushad Ali has produced evergreen songs which have captured the audiences all over India and wherever Indian Diaspora is. 

It was a big challenge for Feroz Abbas Khan to adapt Mughal-e-Azam for theater from the film. It could have been a monumental failure also. But with his passion to make it stage worthy, with a reputation for making productions like Broadway Musicals and vast experience of making films, working for television and directing plays, Feroz Abbas Khan created history on 21st October 2016 when he staged Mughal-e-Azam, his dream, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai.

I had seen Feroz Abbas Khan's musical West Side Story, his plays like Mahatma Vs Gandhi, Tumhari Amrita and was quite familiar with his work. But like many others, I too was apprehensive before watching this mega production in Delhi at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium. How would it compare with the film which I had often seen and also during my lectures on classical dance in Bollywood films, shown that very famous song "Pyar kiya to darna kya" by that enchantress Madhubala. 

The challenge of choreography was given to Bangalore based contemporary dancer Mayuri Upadhya of Nritarutya. Having choreographed 'Madhushala,' an original piece of musical work for Amitabh Bachchan and 'Make in India' for Hannover Messe for representing Republic of India, Mayuri had earned fame for choreographing large productions. Such works had inspired confidence not only in her but also in director Feroz Abbas Khan that Mayuri Upadhya would deliver the goods.

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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Article - Tihai and its types: Elaborate analysis - Rajashree Oak

Tihai is a distinguished feature of all the Indian music forms. Vocal, instrumental and dance, all the forms have their own unique fashion to use tihai and thus tihai is given different treatment in every form of music.

Cultural and historic context
The number three and trio have special importance in the ancient Indian concepts. Many such trios or trinities are seen such as Triguna, Trimurti, Trilok etc. This importance of trinity is reflected in the concept of tihai. In addition to this, the concept of tihai is thought to be originated from the oral recitation tradition of Vedas called as Ved-pathan. In the oral tradition, without any written scripts, the last pada or the phrase of the line was repeated thrice to show the end of the line. This thrice repetition denotes the end of the current line as well as the beginning of the next line. Scholars consider this tradition as the source of the concept of tihai in music.

Tihai is repeating a rhythmic piece identically three times with equal interval in between the repetitions. In the context of dance, when a rhythmic pattern beginning from any matra of the taal cycle, is repeated three times with equal intervals to reach the sam, it is called as Tihai.

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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Crisis of critical analysis in music and dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Even as our traditions of music and dance have survived thanks to an inbuilt dynamics of preservation of eternal verities of tradition while accommodating individual creative innovations, a large repertoire of critical writing articulating new concepts and analysing the changes, subversions, innovations over the last half a century is missing. From the marginalised Devadasi to the elitist Diva of today, the nationalist framework in which so many changes took place in what has been singled out as classical (wherein resistance to the colonial was not a factor) to the folk, continuity has been stressed above deviations and innovations, and what with altered notions and dynamics of orality of the changing nature of audiences, the proscenium space and the fact of the utter perishability of music and dance at the point of creation itself, it is surprising that a more dynamic body of critical work has not emerged. Supporting a greatly felt need for interaction on this aspect, The Indian Institute of Advanced Study at Shimla, under Ashok Vajpeyi as convenor, organised a National Seminar from September 4 - 6, 2017 to deliberate on Music and Dance: The Absence of Critical Attention and Analysis - with the historic Viceregal Lodge at Shimla as venue for a gathering of musicians, young dancer scholars, music and dance critics and thinkers. 

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Friday, 15 September 2017

Obit/Tribute - Ritha diva! - Ashish Mohan Khokar

There was always something frail yet strong about her. Pint sized, there was nothing short about her talent though. 

Born on 6 Dec 1924 to a family of litterateurs of Assam, she was the granddaughter of Sahitya Ratna Lakshmirath Bezbaruah. She took great pride in her lineage, also linked to Rabindranath Tagore as a great grand niece! It was however in Indian dance her life lay. She was unstoppable where dance was concerned. She was possessed and sacrificed her everything including her marriage to Indra Chatterjee for cause of dance.

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Voice and vision of Bhakta Salbeg - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Years later, there is another historical figure of Salbeg (or Salabega), born of a mixed marriage of a Mughal nobleman and a Brahmin window in the 17th century. The chronicler Nilamani Misra narrates the biographical events of his life, while the folkloric musical Bhakta Salbeg (1982) captures on the celluloid his times somewhat on a mythological level.

One respectfully approached some gurus and senior practitioners of Odissi dance in our land with the following three queries:

1: Since Salbeg is undoubtedly Odisha's heritage figure cutting across narrow religious barriers and since his compositions are copiously sung in the holy Ratha Yatra Festival of Lord Jagannath, would you regard Salbeg as a worthy symbol of inter-denominational amity and universal peace?

2: If you do, would you like to add Odissi choreography on Salbeg compositions in your own rich choreographic repertoire?

3: Do you think there should also be a regular Salbeg Festival, where you could join other Odissi dancers, with your choreographic oeuvre, to highlight the message of tolerance and harmony of Salbeg?

Reproduced are the responses received (presented in alphabetic order) to the three queries.

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Manipuri Guru Bipin Singh's centenary celebrations in Kolkata - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Guru Bipin Singh’s centenary celebrations were flagged off in Kolkata by Manipuri Nartanalaya on 23rd August on his 100th birthday by Dr. Anuradha Lohia, Vice Chancellor of Presidency University at West Bengal Rajya Sangeet Natak Akademi. A large number of disciples of Guru Bipin Singh from Kolkata and also from his birthplace Silchar, from Bangladesh, Mumbai and New Delhi were present.

From among Bipin Singh’s principal disciples, Darshana Jhaveri, the youngest of the four Jhaveri sisters reminisced about their early years of training in Mumbai when Guruji had come to Mumbai after working with Madame Menaka’s Nrityalayam. He was in great demand, said Darshana. No sooner was their tuition over, the car would be waiting downstairs to take him to another student. Later on, the Jhaveri sisters made arrangements for him to stay and give them training instead of running around and devote time to research and choreographing new numbers.

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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Article - The joy of sad tales! - Padmaja Suresh

The philosophical rationalization of the esoteric science of energy, Tantra Shastra interprets into its assimilation to aesthetics.

In the Yoga of classical dances, with Nada - music and Laya - perfect tempo in movement, along with the inherent principles of a Shastra or science embodied in it, there is a mystical journey in aesthetic experience. What is it that travels, in a performance? If one is keeping the foreground as dancer-actor being extremely skilled and involved and background as a spectator with a heart to receive without bias or conditioned thoughts, one can witness this flow of empathy. This is a kind of positive energy which travels from poet to the spectator. Rasa, the bliss supreme, is in the seed and pertains until the flower or fruit. Word becomes song, written and then composed and dramatized or danced. 

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Monday, 11 September 2017

Obit/Tribute - Mala Gaur (Nov 4, 1952 - Sept 8, 2017)- Ashish Mohan Khokar

Mala Gaur and students
Photo courtesy: Ambika Paniker 

Goa's prime ballet and Orissi talent and teacher passed away on 8th Sept 2017 of cancer. Mala Gaur was born on Nov 4, 1952 in Kolkata into a family that was linked to Bengali theatre and films. Moving to Delhi as a child, she was exposed to various arts - Bengali theater, dance and music - one of her older sisters being Aloka Paniker, who is the well known Orissi dancer and teacher

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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

8th edition of Nrityantar's Naman Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Madhulita Mohapatra, a disciple of Aruna Mohanty, has done her guru proud. When Madhulita planned to settle down in Bangalore, Aruna lent her all assistance and support. Within a period of eight years with untiring zeal, hard work and passion Madhulita has been teaching Odissi to several young spirants and school children. Over the years she has evolved her technique of teaching children with such affection and care that they perform with confidence. Two six year old girls Shrinika and Angeleena Avnee have under her training displayed great promise as child prodigies. 

Every year in August, Madhulita's institution Nrityantar holds a two day festival Naman, showcasing the progress made by her over 200 students from six branches across Bangalore. They include senior dancers who are part of her choreographic works. She invites established Odissi dancers from Bhubaneswar to the festival with a view that not only her students but also the Bangaloreans get an opportunity to witness senior dancers. This year was an artistic coup on Madhulita's part to invite three celebrated dancers in solo performances on the second day - Sharmila Biswas from Kolkata, Aruna Mohanty from Bhubaneswar and Surupa Sen of Nrityagram from Bangalore. Therefore there was a buzz about their participation when their names were announced. And they gave their best to the Bangalore audience with their creative works.

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Monday, 4 September 2017

A pedigree ensemble's classical filigree - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

If Chennai city has the distinguished sabha tradition of holding dance and music soirees throughout the holy month of Margazhi each year, the metropolis of Kolkata has grown and sustained a six-decade-old tradition of annual whole-night music concerts, terminating with the glorious Republic Day sunrise. What began in 1952 with sundry music lovers getting together to enjoy January evening's touch of cold with crystal clear classical melodies, soon gathered momentum with Narendra Singh Singhi's offer of his palatial residence precincts at Singhi Park on Dover Lane as the earmarked venue. Before long, the enthusiastic listeners made it four consecutive whole night functions every January with overwhelming demand for tickets, laced the ragas with classical dance cadenza as per audience request and shifted the location to the more commodious Nazrul Mancha. The rest, as they say, is history.

A Festival of Indian Classical Dance presented by the Dover Lane Music Conference and the Dover Lane Music Academy - both still functioning from the haloed original precincts - is now a separate and more manageable 3-day offering of four dance styles daily, barring three forms on the last evening in order to close with a celebrity dancer, allotted unlimited time. While last year the final dancer was the youthful Kathak prodigy Vishal Krishna from Banaras, this year it was Sujata Mohapatra, whose dance style was honed over 18 long years by the legendary guru Kelucharan Mohapatra after Orissa's temple friezes of engraved danseuses.

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Sunday, 3 September 2017

Ratikant Mohapatra: Good art will always triumph - Lalitha Venkat

September 3 is the founding day of Srjan. As Srjan gears up to conduct the 23rd edition of the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival from September 5 to 9, 2016 at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar, its director Guru Ratikant Mohapatra shares his thoughts as an organizer and choreographer. 

In a place that has dance programs and festivals through the year, what do you think makes GKMA Festival special / stand out from the rest?
The popularity of our festival can be gauged by the near riot conditions outside the hall among those who do not have invitation cards. Over the years the audience has had a taste of the meticulous preparations made for every minute of this five day festival. The audience keeps coming back, in overflowing numbers, because they have experienced the “perfectionist” attitude of our organization.

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Friday, 1 September 2017

Anita says...September 2017

"We are our choices.
Build yourself a great story."
- Jeff Bezos, Founder of AMAZON 

"I am the me I choose to be."
- Actor Sidney Poitier 

The month of August brought 31 days of nonstop activity for my home town. Officially founded 379 years ago, the MADRAS WEEK celebrations have expanded to fill the entire month! Alongside India's 70th Independence Day celebrations, August turned out to be overflowing with social and cultural activity.

Read on...

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - September 2017...

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

In praise of Guru Bipin Singh - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Manipuri Nartanalaya celebrated the birth centenary of Guru Bipin Singh with Kathokchaba on August 23 and 25, 2017 in Kolkata. On the occasion of his 100th birthday celebrations, we pay tribute to the great visionary. 

Soon after the All India Dance seminar in April 1958 at Vigyan Bhavan, convened by Sangeet Natak Akademi, where I had seen Guru Bipin Singh's presentation of Manipuri dances with the Jhaveri sisters, establishing it as a classical dance form, I got an opportunity to visit Manipur with a research team of Devi Lal Samar's Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur.

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Sublime Kathak by Divya Goswami - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Treated to so many run of the mill variety of Kathak recitals, the sheer elegance and understated beauty of Divya Goswami Dikshit’s Kathak recital at the Stein auditorium, Delhi, came as a heart warming experience. Under the tutelage of Guru Munna Shukla of the Lucknow Gharana for the last few years, the evolved maturity of Divya’s dance became obvious right from the start with the  Meera Bai Pad wherein the protagonist expresses her total absorption with Banke Bihari deity of Brindavan. Not a redundant move or eye glance marred the dancer’s complete concentration in paying homage to the Lord. That the musical accompaniment with Shakeel Ahmed (tabla), Amrita Mazumdar (vocal), Ghanashyam Sisodia (sitar), Kiran Kumar (flute), with Padhant by Jyotsna Banerjee had the sur-filled melody with all the classical virtues, added to the performance.

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Monday, 28 August 2017

Dancers as organizers - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Dancers are being innovative in trying to create all kinds of performing platforms for their art. Patronage systems are such that today there are more dancers than platforms available. Look at Balasaraswati’s time or 20 years later still, in Yamini Krishnamurthy’s era. In each form, there were a handful of dancers only. Say 5 in Bala amma’s or Shambhu Maharaj’s times; 10 in Yamini’s or Uma Sharma’s; 20 in Valli’s and now 200!  Every bio-data boasts of awards, rewards, tours and titles. It seems it has never been so good for the dance and dancers. India is dancing! 

And celebrating special occasions are dancers: Jigyasa Giri of Chennai takes her Kathak to Delhi, to perform for a cause while Ranjana Gauhar of Delhi brings artistes from all over India to showcase in her Saare Jahan Se Acha festival. A Kalari initiative next to Adishakti in Pondicherry premieres its work called BHU and to BHU (Benaras Hindu University) comes ace Kathak talent from Mauritius, Dr. Putanjani "Vandana" Purgus, to admit her niece in this famed university. In Baroda, Harish Gangani is all set to retire after decades of serving Baroda MSU Dance Dept., which his father late Guru Pt. Sundarlal Gangani first came to when my father engaged gharana gurus to teach at university level - Tanjorkar for BN and Sundarlal ji for Kathak, Saxena sahib for table… And in Chennai, the season is agog with thematic events.

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Sunday, 27 August 2017

Teacher and taught in Sare Jahan Se Achha - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It was like a cosy club of dance teachers and their disciples at Utsav’s efficiently organised, annual, two- day event  Sare Jahan se Achha (Aug 17 & 18) at Habitat’s  Stein auditorium, Delhi. The time of the old dance Nattuvanar gurus whose sole profession was training aspirants, has, barring rare instances where a few from the old clan still remain, been largely taken over by the innumerable dancer divas who also teach, and are the gurus of today, the occasionally voiced protest from the old guard about teachers usurping the title of gurus notwithstanding. The theme chosen this year for the festival was Guru/Shishya.

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Remembering Protima Gauri (Bedi) - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Protima passed away on 18th August in 1998 in a land slide enroute Mansarovar yatra. She had left Nrityagram in charge of lights designer Lynne Fernandez and her disciples Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy. They arrange an annual event every year in memory of Protima. Some close friends of Protima invariably attend it. 

This year Surupa who choreographs new numbers, could not on account of performances and travels. Therefore it was decided to have brief performances by the students, children and elders some of whom had studied for more than 8 years and some who were learning recently, but had mastered few numbers. 

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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

"An epic spectacle nonpareil - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Each traditional hymn in India, indeed every incantation available, ends with the invocation: Om Shantih, Om Shantih, Om Shantih. Yet Mahabharata, the largest and the most revered epic in India alongside Ramayana, is built upon one unending quest for war and violence, fratricidal battles and relentless bloodbaths that leave virtually no family unscathed. Introspection would show that as many as fourteen principal dramatis personae of this epic had existential crises in their distinguished lives, or had personal crosses to bear all the while, or bore unintended curses on their heads that dogged them down to the end of their sojourn on earth. On a single count by the traditional Sillakeyata Mahabharata of Karnataka, these major characters were: Shakuni, Yudhisthira, Draupadi, Amba/Shikhandi, Abhimanyu, Arjuna, Jarasandha, Dronacharya, Duryodhana, Dussaasana, Karna, Ashwathama, Gandhari and Krishna (deemed God).

Mahabharata, presented (at GD Birla Sabhagar in Kolkata on August 20) by Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust from Delhi, took an especially grand look at the Karnataka musical version of the epic and blended multiple media to bring alive a synoptic panorama on stage that was neatly choreographed all through. Making Karnataka's Togaly Gambiyetta (colourful two-dimensional shadow puppets that use double eyes, a la Pablo Picasso canvases) as its staple, to start with - accompanied by most sonorous singing by the gifted Kannada puppet-artiste Gundu Raju - it soon launched a delightful animation that has seldom accompanied the manual craft and created lines of marching infantry and clutches of flying arrows on the wide screen. There were ubiquitous rod puppets and moppets (human puppets), Kerala's Kalaripayattu and Manipur's Thang Ta, highly ingenious use of Japan's Bunraku (hand-held full-length puppets, operated by two or three puppeteers: clad in black and supposedly invisible) and animated human actors - all moving around with a large dollop of Mayurbhanj Chhau to provide controlled rhythm and aesthetic harmony among characters.

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Sunday, 13 August 2017

Interview - Prateesha Suresh: Responsibility towards my art - Vijay Shanker

The Sattriya dance of Assam has been recognized as one of the eight classical dances of India but many are still unaware of it. Prateesha Suresh is the sole and leading exponent of Sattriya dance in Mumbai. She has also trained in Bharatanatyam at the famous Kalakshetra in Chennai. Prateesha has been consistently promoting Sattriya dance through performances, workshops and seminars in India and abroad.

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Friday, 11 August 2017

Farewell to an era - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

When death embraces a colleague with whom you have been on the same orbit of activity for well nigh forty years, there is a sense of emptiness not easy to shake away with the mind reliving incidents from the past. Shanta Serbjeet Singh and I had been dance writers (she had started years earlier than I had) for a few years before we came to know, accidentally, that we shared more than the same profession. It was in the 80s and we were both invited to what was then Calcutta, to cover a rare, dance event mounted by a company. The performance woven round the Gita Govinda was designed as a site specific performance, staged on the impressive steps and verandah of the historic Victoria Memorial, featuring high profile performers led by Pandit Birju Maharaj directing and designing the dance and playing Krishna (some scenes had Kathakali Guru Balakrishnan in the same role) to the Gopis - played by Saswati Sen, Leela Samson, Bharati Shivaji, Preeti Patel and Madhavi Mudgal . At the hotel where we were booked to stay, Shanta and I at the reception desk got busy filling the form with details asked for - one of them, being the date of birth. Looking over the shoulder and seeing Shanta write 11th January 1936, I said, somewhat intrigued, "Shanta they are asking for your date of birth, not mine." And Shanta replied, "That is mine!" That is how we leant that we were born on the same day - a few hours away from each other!

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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Rasa Rangini - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

The first edition of Rasa Rangini was successful in its premier attempt. One would like to suggest that to showcase his own talent, Debasish should present more dance numbers of Deba Prasad bani which is vibrant and enjoyable.

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Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column - Health Recipes 14: Sweet Potato Soup - Uma Pushpanathan

Serves: 4
Per Serving: 900 kJ 
Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes

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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Interview - Aniruddha Knight: Any burden pushes us towards perfection - Shveta Arora

Aniruddha Knight is the grandson of the legendary T Balasaraswati, and besides carrying on the dance legacy of the long family line of artists, also carries on their musical legacy as a singer. Aniruddha, trained by his grandmother and mother, divides his time between the US and India. When he performed in Delhi as part of the World Dance Day celebrations organized by Geeta Chandran’s Natya Vriksha, I interviewed him about his lineage and style. 

Explaining his style and bani, he said, “Particularly in Balamma's style, the eye movements and head movements are limited in the nritta. It is felt that the egregious use of drista-bhedha is uncalled for in the nritta as it takes away from the natural flow of the dance and seriousness / complexity of the choreography. The pauses are also taken between ideas in the manodharma - one, to think about the next improvisation, and two, for starting "with a clean slate" of fresh ideas. That pause brings back (the dancer) to the reality of this world instead of the constant world of imagination and creation. The dancer falling out of character at that moment adds stark contrast within the piece, engaging the audience in the moment of creating dance from sahitya.” 

Aniruddha, articulate and expressive, had some strong views about how people perceived the style he performs. 

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Sunday, 6 August 2017

Off the beaten track - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

One offers heartfelt thanks to the rain Gods for their munificence to Delhi and its environs, notwithstanding the water logging on the streets posing bottlenecks with commuting problems - compelling most programmes to start later than scheduled. This is a small obstacle when viewed against the havoc of floods as in the north east and Gujarat, or the totally dry parched earth with drought in the southern cities causing endless water scarcity.

Monsoons would seem to have stirred a new love for dialogues and discussions on art matters, gripping the performance calendar this month with all art institutions busy organising interactions on various themes. The IIC auditorium as the venue for a series of lectures on different subjects attracted a modest, motley and moving gathering of people of different age groups as listeners. Prerana Shrimali, an established Kathak dancer spoke on her perceptions of the dance form she represented. As a Rajasthani living in Jaipur, she was pushed as a child into learning Kathak. Studiously performing her ta thai thai tat footwork as a part of the process of growing up, she had no knowledge that what she was doing was Kathak. 

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