Thursday, 14 December 2017

Interview - CP Satyajit: Information is information, not knowledge - Thushyanthy Velauthan


C.P. Satyajit, as an experienced Bharatanatyam dancer, a yoga practitioner and a professional photographer playing 3 roles in his career, shared some interesting insights on his recent visit to Sri Lanka to perform in 'Aum Shiva Muruga' dance drama to raise funds for the re-construction of Thiruketheeswaram temple, Mannar.

Satyajit learned dance from his parents, The Dhananjayans, and since his dance debut in 1988, he has been performing Bharatanatyam all over India and abroad. His creation 'Mounakkural', a dance drama on women commissioned by the British Council to commemorate the UN women's conference in Beijing has received accolades. He is also experimenting and sharing experiences of yoga in dance. He has been working in the field of photography, mainly engaged in advertising related photography, which include: automotive, architecture, interiors, fashion, food, jewelry etc. 

Read the interview in the site

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Living movements serenade frozen movements in Konark - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The crackling air of excitement all round the Konark township during the annual festival mounted jointly by the OTDC and Odisha SNA, would seem to show that far from evoking ennui, this event, over the years, is attracting larger audiences from all over. What with the Sand Art exhibition on Chandrabhaga beach involving voluntary participation from several foreign artists, a day time literary festival, the grand temple site with Puri also just an hour away by road and handloom exhibition, this week long fare projects a mini art world of Odisha. The Pipli lamps, road strewn with rangoli patterns, trees and plants lit up in myriad colours, and guest houses decorated with exotic lighting, add to the atmospherics. And every year sees something new - this time the nifty drone camera taking pictures for simultaneous DD Bharati broadcast replaces the intrusive long armed Doordarshan contraption which used to obstruct view in earlier years. 

The festival fare devoted one half of each evening to an Odissi group presentation, with a non-Odissi projection in the other half - all watched by a handsome turnout in the massive open air auditorium. 

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Monday, 11 December 2017

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur Diary - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Singapore Diary

I arrive by 3pm at the stage door of Singapore's Esplanade main theatre to see rehearsal of Anjaneyam: Hanuman's Ramayana. I have to submit my passport to enter. Three years ago when I attended Angkor: An Untold Story rehearsal, I had gone through this exercise. Abroad, be it Lincoln Centre in New York, The Kennedy Centre in Washington DC, Barbican in London, Opera House in Sydney, the authorities insist on this strict procedure to safeguard against any untoward event. But in India, anyone can walk in backstage, and no one is bothered. I think we need to follow this procedure. I read the other day that at Ravindra Bharathi Auditorium in Hyderabad, several purses and mobile phones were stolen from green room when the performance was on. In past in Mumbai at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, thieves walked in and stole Grundig German tape recorder and valuables of dancers. Of late in Mumbai precaution is being taken at NCPA and other major theatres. Dancers beware in India. ....

Kuala Lumpur Dairy

The Blue Mountain Exhibition: Ramli Ibrahim is the most renowned dancer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He has been honoured by Malaysian Government with civil honour Datuk, similar to our Padma Shri award. His Sutra Dance Theatre has performed his several choreographic works in Odissi in major cities of India regularly. He has a huge following in India. The moment his shows are announced there is a buzz about him and the auditoriums are full. He had a close association with painter Dinanath Pathy. For his services to Odissi, Ramli has been honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award.....

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Saturday, 9 December 2017

Article - Ascending the ladder of bliss - Payal Ramchandani


Rasa can at best be described as the fuel that ignites the soul. There will be no exaggeration in saying that a performance is successful when the audience is transported into a parallel world of emotional consciousness, and hence it is only fair and sensible to get an experiential understanding at a place that provides the expertise, experience and the space.

As I stepped into the tranquil premises of Natana Kairali, I felt a deliberate pull into surreally serene zone from one where it could sometimes be challenging to hear the voice of the conscience. However, destiny takes you to places you've never been to and shows you things you never knew of and this workshop was a perfect example of how nature re-establishes this principle time and again. I however must admit here that the silence that enveloped the Natana Kairali campus, which the Venus have put together brick by brick, with so much love and hardship, did bring with it some apprehensions. Having lived for most part of my life in metropolitans, 'quiet' can be slightly unsettling, but not for too long in this case. Apprehensions were tenuously transformed into a firm assurance as we met GopalakrishnaVenu or Venuji as he is lovingly called.

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Friday, 8 December 2017

Remembering Ram Gopal - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


I went to Kuala Lumpur at the invitation of Ramli Ibrahim to inaugurate the exhibition Blue Mountain by late Dinanath Pathy and ten painters from Odisha at Sutra Foundation's Gallery on 25th November. He had also arranged my illustrated talk on 'Remembering Ram Gopal,' the legendary dancer with screening of a rare film on his dances at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Indian Cultural Centre, a branch of Indian Council for Cultural Relations, on 23rd November.

The Centre has moved to another building with more space. Classes in Kathak are being conducted by Praveen Gangani. Other classes in Carnatic and Hindustani music and Bharatanatyam are also being conducted by expert teachers in these fields. Yoga classes are very popular. The Centre observes two holidays on Monday and Tuesday in order to accommodate programs on weekends when people have holidays and can attend in large number. On weekdays at times there is a less crowd, but at least around 100 persons turn up.

Ram Gopal was a charismatic dancer. He passed away in 2003 and since he had settled in London, with the passage of time, few remember him. Therefore with excerpts of his dance on a film, it was important to introduce him to the young generation. As good luck would have it Bangalore based visual artist, designer and a film maker Ayesha Abraham, daughter of legendary cartoonist Abu Abraham, has made a film on Ram Gopal titled 'I saw God dance'.

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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Interview - With changing mindsets, the dance also has to change: Kumudini Lakhia - Shveta Arora


Kathak legend and pioneer Kumudini Lakhia during a workshop in Delhi recently, was telling both young and experienced dancers, “Put a story in your movement, aise hoti hai choreography.” The workshop was part of the Naval Kathak Utsav in Delhi on 15th and 16th of November, during the morning sessions at Meghdoot Theatre. In the workshop, she was assisted by her senior disciple Sanjukta Sinha. The morning breeze had a nip in it, as the workshop started punctually despite the Delhi smog and traffic snarls. It was an honour to be a part of this workshop. In a brief chat, Kumudini-ji emphasized that dance space has to be ‘landscaped’ or ‘designed’, and that every movement should be graceful, like a brush stroke, not abrupt or jerky. After that, Sanjukta came straight to the nritta portion. The first day, she taught that, aamad, and the second day, gat, baant and a paran.

Kumudini Lakhia’s list of awards and honours, national and international, is endless. Equally well-known is her reputation for being something of a ‘rebel’ in Kathak. However, the outspoken doyen of Kathak insisted that she never broke away from tradition – “It’s all I know!” she said. She just tried to find more within the tradition than the limited form that was popular with audiences, she said. In this interview, the 87-year-old Kumudini Lakhia’s formidable, vital outlook shines through as she declares, “The dance has to change, because it’s a living art form.”

Read the interview in the site

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Miracle on wheels - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Syed Sallaudin Pasha trained in Kathak and Bharatanatyam at late Guru Maya Rao's institute in Bangalore, has for the past three decades carved a niche for himself by forming India's first inclusive dance company promoting the talents and abilities of people with special needs. It has been providing an equal platform for artists who are differently-abled along with abled artists. Their special needs are no different from the rest of the society. As Pasha says, they have extraordinary talents which are often ignored. The company brings them into limelight and showcases their skills across the nation and abroad.

Sponsored by My Skill Foundation in Kuala Lumpur for the first time, Miracle on Wheels company had an engrossing performance at Civic Centre. The Foundation arranged five more shows in different cities of Malaysia. For the past six years the Foundation has been rendering yeoman's service by providing young boys support, 'transforming lives of high risks youth', bringing them on right path to lead a normal life. 'Tears of Joy,' a brief documentary screened before the performance gave audience a glimpse into the lives of young people who after their wayward life - joining gangsters, attacking people, skipping classes in schools, moving in bad company - have their lives changed with help from the Foundation. The performances by Miracle on Wheels were one more apt choice to expose the youth to how the differently abled can overcome their inabilities and perform on wheelchairs with tremendous confidence bringing joy to one and all. My Skill Foundation has now acquired land and received financial assistance from the Government to build a permanent home for the youth for transforming their lives.

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Monday, 4 December 2017

Mega Hanuman - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan


Aravinth Kumarasamy is a man who is passionate about Bharatanatyam and other classical forms. Decades ago, Neila and Sathyalingam, who had honed their dance and musical skills in Kalakshetra, settled in Singapore and did pioneering work in teaching dance. On one of my visits years ago they introduced Aravinth as the person to whom they were handing over the mantle to run their well established institution, Apsaras Arts. Little did I guess that one day Aravinth would be a leading figure in the Arts scene of Singapore. Well, hard work, imagination, a spirit of adventure, and a certain commitment beyond the merely commercial have taken him places.

His early experience with music (the veena), choreography (Temple of Fine Arts) and mentoring by Neila, have helped in establishing his credentials. With serious intent of unity in diversity, he has formed links not only with innumerable artists in Singapore and other South East Asian countries, but also with Chennai based dancers and musicians. Added to this is his bringing some buzz into the dance community every summer uniting many students and teachers at a lively camp called Dance India Asia Pacific in collaboration with Milapfest of Liverpool. His latest achievement was to fill up the big theatre of the Esplanade with an enthusiastic crowd to watch ‘Anjaneyam’, which had a huge cast of dancers and musicians. 

Read more in the site

Friday, 1 December 2017

Anita says...December 2017


"Everything comes to us that belongs to us, if we create the capacity to receive it."
- Rabindranath Tagore

And just like that we come to the end of another year Eleven months of whirling around the globe, sharing, teaching, learning, watching, discussing, applauding and DANCING.
It is this month when thousands of artistes and art groupies descend upon my city to soak in the month long festival of performances. This is the time for dancers to glisten, glimmer and glide through crowds like a shimmering scythe - cutting through audiences who will gape, stare, admire and covet our very special aura that we will exude.

Sitting in the ancestral home in my native village - deep in southern Tamilnadu - I look back on the year that was... another year... but not like just another... it has been a time when the #METOO campaign has resulted in a literal purge of the US entertainment industry and in India we are also coming to grips with our deep rooted prejudice and fear of male privilege in the arts and society. We are witnessing a hyper-nationalism and any whisper of dissent or argument is being construed as unpatriotic.
The arts are under attack more than ever.
Remember the killing of theatre activist Sardar Hasmi on the streets of New Delhi... Recall the mutilation of guitarist Victor Jarra in Chile by dictator Pinochet...
What happened in November? Plenty... So let's begin to wrap my head and my galloping fingers across the keyboard.



Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - December 2017

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Housing tradition and innovation - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


In the closing years of the last century, one almost despaired of finding the eastern region artistes in the empanelled lists of ICCR. This was not so much for lack of guidance from gurus or absence of talents as such, as for want of performance space where the youthful skills in music, dance and all other arts could be honed for their full flowering. Even theatre suffered from the same handicap, which appears to be considerably redressed in the new century. One of the glittering facilities that played a significant role in this opening up is that of ICCR itself, making available nearly 3,500 sq. m. of brand-new space in downtown area for Kolkata's cultural efflorescence exactly a decade ago. Initially designed by the redoubtable Charles Correa, the four-storey, glass-empanelled, architectural marvel - with a complex of multiple art galleries, court spaces, green rooms, seminar rooms, projection room, library, café and, above all, a 375-seat auditorium with superb acoustics and décor, has successfully emerged today as a location and a platform for exchange of cultural insights, of sharing of artistic and aesthetic views, and as a venue for the meeting of minds from across the country and overseas, even accommodating an active organ on indigenous arts and crafts of Bengal. 

ICCR's own Horizon Series for budding artistes has gathered vigorous force, as exemplified by the recent Kathak performance of Sucharita Dutta. Groomed in Bharatanatyam by Thankamani Kutty and Kalamandalam Venkitt, and then in Jaipur Gharana of Kathak by Amita Dutt and Susmita Mitra, Sucharita is a gold-medalist from Rabindra-Bharati University, having done doctoral research in the manifestation of Kathak in Rajput and Pahadi miniature paintings. Having accompanied Pt. Birju Maharaj and Saswati Sen in some of their all-India tours as Radha in Gita Govinda, she seemed to be a right choice to be encouraged by ICCR.

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Women to the fore - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


In November, National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, organized a Festival of Contemporary Dance. Opening the annual event was this year's Sangeet Natak Akademi awarded Dr. Anita Ratnam.

During her succinct and articulate introduction, Anita carved her aesthetic style that embraced the contemporary on the lines of her own journey from being a classical dancer to a contemporary dreamer and a modern woman. While classical forms like Bharatanatyam are limited to certain areas in Mumbai like Chembur, Sion and Matunga, the Mumbai city has the most thriving contemporary dance and theatre scene in the country. As a relentless collaborator and a passionate supporter of new expressions in the live arts, Anita is a very important presence in the landscape of modern Indian arts. 

In an interview published in NCPA's ON STAGE magazine a week before her performance, Anita has been quoted as saying that her personal vocabulary of NEO BHARATAM was a long sought excavation of various movement vocabularies for her maturing body. She said, "I wonder why dancers, when they mature, want to look young. How does one remain relevant in a society that is obsessed with youth and air-brushed beauty? Neo Bharatam hopes to provide one of the answers. It is an exciting time for contemporary dance in India, which is looking at a sunrise moment."

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Sunday, 26 November 2017

Tagore, the early women’s libber - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Chitrangada, a major verse-play penned by Tagore in 1892, had the eponymous character and all her cohorts taken from the epic Mahabharata. Its narrative had begun on the note of an abject offer of surrender of the protagonist’s womanhood at the altar of a macho man: to be his companion, charioteer, follower in hunting, his night guard, devotee, servant and subject.

Over four decades later, when Chitrangada was turned by the poet into a dance-drama, he catapulted the image of the Manipuri princess to almost a transcendental level. In the 1936 adaptation, when the world had already seen the rise of the ugly Nazi machismo in the West, Tagore made her utter -- with all the emphasis at her command – the prophetic feminist words: “I am Chitra. I’m no goddess to be worshipped, nor the object of conjugal pity to be brushed aside like a moth with indifference. If you deign to keep me by your side in the trail of danger and daring, if you allow me to share the real duties of your life, you will then know my true worth…” 

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The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance - Leigh Melander - ANCIENT FUTURES:Thoughts on myth, legend and beyond

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

Our theme at the Joseph Campbell Foundation this month is gratitude. We are celebrating both Campbell's ideas and works, and all of the people around the world who have brought their own particular genius to the ongoing relevance and understanding of mythology.

As you may know, Campbell spent almost fifty years married to one of the pre-eminent dancers of the 20th Century, Jean Erdman. Together, they created the Theater of the Open Eye, a home for dance and theater pieces that celebrated the intersections of myth and the performing arts.

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Roses and Thorns - Rani Padmavati

Devdutt Pattanaik enters Padmavati debate, calls its 'valorisation of woman burning herself for macho clan'
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/devdutt-pattanaik-calls-padmavati-a-valorisation-of-woman-burning-herself-to-honour-macho-clan/articleshow/61701169.cms 


A woman tears into Devdutt Pattanaik for his shameful commentary about Rani Padmini
- Sanghamitra Purohit, November 19, 2017

Devdutt Pattanaik ji, 
Let me begin by admitting I haven’t read the great many books that you have written. So I will refrain from commenting on them. I have, however read your tweets and the recent ones about Rani Padmini of Chittorgarh have compelled me to write this letter to you.
(http://www.opindia.com/2017/11/mr-devdutt-pattanaik-rani-padmini-did-not-choose-death-she-chose-immortality/

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Friday, 24 November 2017

Delhi diary - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The dance component of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s 9th consecutive Sangeet Samaroh (Nov 6 – 8, 2017) predictably sponsored traditional fare. Bharatanatyam by Priyadarsini Govind had the blend of extreme lavanyam and sensitive abhinaya which, over the years, one has come to expect as the hallmark of this dancer. Starting with a Gambheera Nattai opening attached with a homage to Muruga in Shanmukhapriya, the dancer went on to the centrepiece of the varnam in Ragamalika set to rupaka talam, the composition a vintage piece from the time honoured repertoire. “Sami  nine  kori  naanu  raa,” the nayika declares her overwhelming love (prema  meera) for the Tanjaipuri vaasa. But after the statements set to Todi, Shankarabharanam, Athana, in the Kalyani part, there is a sudden change of tone and mood as the besotted devotee drowned in love, becomes the confident swadheenapatika and addresses the Lord that he will not find another like her. Persuasive in her subtle mood changes, the yearning of the nayika who looks longingly at the divinity on top of the hill, looking from where she is, so unapproachable changing to the feelings of a woman so sure of her love in the latter half was well brought out. The nritta links, even while Priya’s rhythmic exuberance has a quieter expression now, retains the correctness in movement profiling.

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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Lights On - Magical experience to be on stage - Aalaap


Kathak dancer Prashant Shah speaks about his state of mind and routine on the day of performance. 

What is the state of your mind on the day of a performance?
Performance is an experience that is different each time depending on various factors like the duration of performance, content of performance, purpose of performance and many others. The body plays an important role along with mind on the day of the performance. Personally, I always tell myself to stay relaxed and calm. It does not matter to me on that day whether the performance will be appreciated or not. It is what it is, and there is no need to worry about a performance as it is always a magical experience to be on stage!

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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Patna Diary - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

I had visited Patna some 20 years ago; the last visit was to Rajgir Dance Festival. Therefore visiting Patna once again evoked nostalgia. The first visit was in 1965 with Manipuri dancers, the Jhaveri Sisters. On our way to Kathmandu, Nepal, they were performing at the Indian Embassy. Young Priyamvada, daughter of Dr V. Raghavan and disciple of late T.Balasaraswati, gave a Bharatanatyam performance. 

We had stayed overnight at Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir established by late Hari Uppal, a disciple of Guru Atomba Sharma at Shantiniketan. He had studied Kathakali also there under Kelu Nair. He was one of the four organizers for the All India Dance Seminar convened by Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1958. We had remained in touch. He was extremely hospitable and looked after us showing us his disciples in Manipuri and Kathakali. There were also Bharatanatyam classes run by a young dancer. Her name escapes me. Hari Uppal's daughter Stella Uppal studied Bharatanatyam at Kalakshetra and participated in Buddhavatara dance-drama choreographed by Rukmini Devi. She has moved to London where she performs and teaches Bharatanatyam. 

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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Branding - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar


Dance as brand ambassador... For long, we have read bio data (some are best pieces of creative writing. Most go to one city on East coast and one on West coast in USA and describe it as "a coast to coast tour"!) that have all kinds of claims. ‘Ambassadors of dance’ is an often used phrase. What's that today when FB and other social media can reach out it nano seconds? In days of yore, when Ram Gopal, Uday Shankar and Madame Menaka travelled with big dance groups, mostly by ships that took months to reach, few labelled themselves as ambassadors of culture. It was first coined by the western press and mostly in its laudatory manifestation. 

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Thursday, 16 November 2017

Poetry in out-of-the-book art translations - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


The vigour, gut involvement and passion of Beemumbai offering creative verbal and non-verbal translations in an interactive  multitude of art languages, of poetry exploring the inner voice which dares expression titled by Arundhati Subramaniam ‘When God is a traveller,’  has to be experienced to be believed. Kathak dancer Sanjukta Wagh with her dance training under Rajashree Shirke and Hindustani music under Pandit Manohar Lal Shukla is with three other fellow travellers on this art journey - singer Sruthi Vishwanath trained in Carnatic music under Kala Acharya B. Krishnamoorthy and Komaanduri Seshadri among others, guitarist and composer Hitesh Dhutia and tablist Vinayak Netke - all creating magic in music, dance, theatre and rhythm, exploring select pieces of Bhakti poetry in a new persuasive blended art union full of conviction. The excellent lighting effects are provided by Deepa Dharmadhikari who studied lighting design at the University of Minnesota-Twin cities, while pursuing a BFA in Dance. As soon as Sruthi in her rich soprano voice started Kabir’s “Jeeni Jeeni” (A weave that dares to embrace air as contemporary poet Arundhathi Subramaniam said), the longing in that voice seeming to seep into the mysterious spaces of one’s heart and soul, you knew that this evening was going to be different from one of those innumerable art offerings. 

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Saturday, 11 November 2017

From roots to efflorescence - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


It was the beginning of the beginning. If one places oneself at the earliest of Vedic traditions, one discovers the many gems in Rigveda abounding in Bari Suktam, Prakriti Suktam, Nasadiya Suktam, et al., outlining hymns of creation in the realm of cosmology. 

Granthan (Chronicling), presented recently by Parampara in Kolkata, saw Rittvik Bhattacharya – carrying on his very young shoulders the sacramental legacy of his devout grandfather – proceed from the farthest corner of the auditorium to sanctify the viewing space as well as the performance space. He did so by sprinkling water from his sacred pot and recited sonorously Purusha Suktam from Rigveda: The Purusha (Universal Being) has thousand heads, thousand eyes and thousand feet (thousand signifying innumerable and pointing to the omnipresence of the Universal Being); He envelops the world from all sides(that is, pervading each part of the creation), and extends beyond ten directions (represented by ten fingers)…

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Friday, 10 November 2017

Madhavi Mudgal's choreographic works in Odissi - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Under the aegis of Rasaja Foundation, at IIC Fountain Lawns in Delhi, on a specially constructed stage, Madhavi Mudgal presented her disciples in group choreographic works in Odissi to the music composed by Madhup Mudgal. Few months ago, Madhavi had released DVDs of her group choreographies. Produced with excellent technical support these works are a commendable record of Madhavi's creative works along with Madhup's creative collaboration and melodious music.

Some of these works were selected by Madhavi for presentation for Rasaja Foundation. Whereas the excerpts of the DVDs when screened had created a visual record with exquisite lighting and technical support for filming, the experience while watching the live performances was enjoyable on a different level. Gautam Bhattacharya, a long time associate of Madhavi, provided suffused lighting, painting as it were, the dancers in various hues and textures. The chiaroscuro effect, the light and shades playing upon the dancing bodies was interesting to look at. The recorded music of a very high standard almost gave a feeling of live music.

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Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Article - The dynamic new gen Bharatanatyam teachers of Chennai - Part II- Lalitha Venkat

(This article was commissioned for the 2016-2017 issue of Attendance - edited by Ashish Mohan Khokar - that had focus on Guru-Shishya Parampara. Reproduced here with permission.) 

Many established dancers in Chennai are quietly doing their bit to impart the aesthetics of dance to the current generation as well as the employed who attend late evening dance classes to unwind from their work stress. Some of these dynamic teachers share their experiences about their own training, what they imbibed from their gurus and how they are passing on their knowledge to the present generation while also adapting to the current scenario. 

Read the article in the site

Article - The dynamic new gen Bharatanatyam teachers of Chennai - Part I- Lalitha Venkat

(This article was commissioned for the 2016-2017 issue of Attendance - edited by Ashish Mohan Khokar - that had focus on Guru-Shishya Parampara. Reproduced here with permission.) 

Chennai has been the hub of Bharatanatyam training, since the times of the great masters who migrated to the city for brief or extended periods of time, to pass on their knowledge to the new class of aspiring dancers, who in turn turned teachers to meet the ever growing demand for learning the art. It would be no exaggeration to say that almost every other street in Chennai has Bharatanatyam dancers and teachers. Kalakshetra veterans like the Dhananjayans, Chandrasekhars, C.K. Balagopalan, Savitri Jagannath Rao, A. Janardhanan, Vasanthalakshmi, Ambika Buch, Leela Samson are evergreen gurus as are Rhadha, Chitra Visweswaran, Sudharani Raghupathy and Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam. Alarmel Valli and Priyadarsini Govind have few disciples in the public eye while Malavika Sarukkai has turned mentor to a couple of bright talents. 

Kalakshetra Foundation, Madras University, MGR-Janaki College, Kumararani Meena Muthiah College of Arts all based in Chennai, Annamalai University (Chidambaram), Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts (Trichy), Sastra University (Thanjavur) are reputed institutions for courses in Bharatanatyam. ABHAI conducts yearly camps. Bragha Bessell and Indira Kadambi are sought after for their abhinaya skills. A. Lakshmanaswamy's Nrityalakshana is like a "finishing school" for dancers from far and wide. Meenakshi Chittaranjan, Urmila Sathyanarayanan, Binesh Mahadevan, Jayanthi Subramaniam, Vijay Madhavan, Sheejith Krishna and many Kalakshetra alumni are busy teachers. The current rage is of course to learn 'items' from various dancers. The budding students of Sheela Unnikrishnan dazzle with their superb coordination and almost perfect synchronization on stage. Anitha Guha's dance dramas are famous for the skilled dancers many of whom are also good soloists. So many established dancers in Chennai are quietly doing their bit to impart the aesthetics of dance to the current generation as well as the employed who attend late evening dance classes to unwind from their work stress. Some of these dynamic teachers share their experiences about their own training, what they imbibed from their gurus and how they are passing on their knowledge to the present generation while also adapting to the current scenario. 

Read the article in the site

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Young dancers to the fore - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Ashok Vajpeyi under Raza Foundation has initiated a programme of providing young hitherto unknown dancers a chance to perform - a much needed thrust in an area where sponsors are not very willing to venture beyond established names. The program under the title of Uttaradhikar presented its first dancer Rupanshri Kashyap - a disciple of Guru Kumudini Lakhia - at the Stein auditorium, Delhi, and it was a welcome trend for the teacher to introduce her student saying that as one who had been grooming Kathak students for years, what she aspired for in her training was to inculcate the ability in a disciple to be her own dancer - rather than becoming a copy of the guru or for that matter any other artist. This could only happen when the student developed an inner understanding of the identity of the art form he or she was trying to learn. 

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Monday, 30 October 2017

Solo, the soul of Bharatanatyam - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan


At first it seemed rather unusual to be invited to give insight lectures on solo Bharatanatyam on three consecutive evenings as part of a festival titled Eka Bhavana in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, once I formulated my thoughts on the subject it became clear why it was important to articulate the core idea of solo dance, and also why I was chosen to do it. I have always been a votary of the virtue of "thinking clearly" about the arts. And I had carefully studied the principles of the dance both as practitioner, and observer.

The nuances of classical dance as I know it, are so refined and aesthetically appealing that there is no way its contours can be compromised or watered down. From the time I was a novice, I consciously developed the subtleties and suggestive quality of dance. I think the mastery of technique has an inbuilt regulatory concept. Based on the adavu system, which the nattuvanars taught us, I could sense the well thought out geometrical strength of my dance. I understood the beauty of the perfect outstretched arm in Alarippu, the triangle formed by the Araimandi, the straight lines and curves of the arms and the shift of the body across the stage in a delightful variety of angles, as parts of a composite whole which produced the visual impact of the solo dance. Less is more, I learnt, from my gurus.

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Saturday, 28 October 2017

Post Uday Shankar, any which way? - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


The iconic contemporary dancer Uday Shankar came into his destined vocation almost fortuitously. As a fresh youth of 21, he had gone to London to join William Rothenstein (1872-1945) to learn painting, when the great British master advised him to look at traditional Indian paintings first, at the British museum. This was to let him gain an Indian insight, since his exposure to his country’s culture was limited, till then, to the lakes and palaces of his birth-town Udaipur, and temples and river banks of Banaras, his maternal uncle’s place. Soon, he was spotted – for his handsome physique and visage -- by the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova who offered him a partnership in a couple of dances with her at Covent Garden. When, later, Shankar expressed keenness to join her troupe for a permanent career in ballet, Pavlova firmly turned his mind back to his own country and urged him to study the heritage of Ajanta and Ellora in the first place. Shankar did so, opened his own dance group to conquer the world and, in a nutshell, a star was born. To him, till the very end, dance remained a philosophy and a way of life.

After witnessing his public performances a few times in Patna, Kolkata and Jamshedpur in that order, it was fascinating for this critic to hear him speak out his love of nature in a rare private reception in the Steel City. After a young maiden’s dance to felicitate him -- to the tune of Tagore’s famous song: Remove all shackles, O Nataraj, with the rhythms of your dance…, done on a specially flower bedecked floor -- he quietly observed, “Rather than see her perform, I was moved to see how the breeze was stirring the flower petals to and fro; that was the real dance to me…” 

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Salute to heroes: A tribute - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Bangalore based Subhashini Vasanth, disciple of Vyjayantimala, formerly trained under late Guru Narmada, gave a Bharatanatyam performance at Chowdiah Hall on 21st October under the aegis of Vasantharatnam Foundation for Arts. Vyjayantimala conducted nattuvangam for Subhashini. It was for a noble cause. The Foundation was established ten years ago by Subhashini in memory of her late husband, Vasanth Venugopal, Col. of the 9th Maratha Light Infantry regiment. He was martyred fighting with terrorists at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir area. With his troupe he had succeeded in eliminating all the terrorists before he was killed. He was awarded the Ashok Chakra. 



Subhashini was devastated. Overcoming her personal tragedy, she decided to establish the Foundation to empower the martyrs’ families, by providing them financial assistance, extending its scope by offering educational grants to children, memorial awards to schools, where martyrs’ children study,
birthday gifts, empowerment programmes for the women, skill building workshops like computer and English classes etc., in collaboration with Pegasus Institute, Samvada, and Anekataa.

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Evening concerts after morning deliberations in Nartanam Conclave 2017 - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Morning deliberations on dance treatises, involving scholars, artists and university research students, during the three- day Nartanam Conclave 2017, mounted at Hyderabad's Hotel Plaza, were substantiated by recitals of different classical forms in the evening. 

One could hardly have wished for a better start to the evening concerts than what was provided in 'Within Boundaries' by Bangalore's Bharatanatyam practitioner Parshwanath Upadhye and his Punyah group in 'Sat Gati.' Apart from finished dancers led by a young artist who has been exhibiting a flair for presenting his own work, cutting edge proficiency of the entire presentation was also due to an equally enterprising and involved group of musicians who in their inspiring musical accompaniment, were right through, fellow travellers on the same artistic journey as the dancers. The group comprised two fine vocalists Rohit and Abhishek , Kartik Datar providing bristling nattuvangam and kanjira support, Harsha Samaga on the mridangam, flautist Mahesh Swamy and Sumarani on the sitar. 

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Friday, 27 October 2017

Lights On - Centering Matters - Aalaap


Dancer Navia Natarajan speaks about what’s going through her mind and body on the day of a performance….

How do you feel on the morning of a performance?
I am usually quiet and I keep to myself. I try not to think of the performance or the things associated with it. Rather, I focus on centering myself. 

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Monday, 23 October 2017

Dissolving borders - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


When Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, the foremost cultural organization of that country, showcased recently their folk dance and music festival in New Delhi and Kolkata (Oct 12, 2017), there were high expectations of the treasure trove they would open and the cultural nuggets it would reveal. Their eminent folk-poet Abbasuddin Ahmed had written once, “Because all village people are simple, because they think simply, because their songs are simple, because their subject matter is simple, they talk of their simple joys and sorrows, and because people, the tune, the subject matter is simple -- all folk songs of the world are alike.” This applies to folk dance as well.

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Saturday, 21 October 2017

Dance theatre with confluence of dance traditions - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman



Female dance traditions of Kerala in Sita Sambhashanam 
At the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay hall of the IIC, Bharati Shivaji's Mohiniattam Collective presented Sita Sambhashanam on Sept 27 in a confluence of female dance traditions of Kerala, namely Mohiniattam, Nangiarkoothu and Kathakali stree vesham. The presentation of each form was based on sahitya in a different language - Avadhi for the Mohiniattam segment, Sanskrit for the Nangiarkoothu part and Manipravalam for the Kathakali section. The Avadhi script by Mohan Maharishi had music set by Yatindra Sharma. 

Powerful theatre by Rasa United
Yet another very powerful presentation based on a confluence of dance forms was on the concluding event of the Purana Qila festival of Choreographies on Indian dance mounted by the Sahitya Kala Parishad in conjunction with the Department of Art, Culture and languages, Government of Delhi with Dramatic Tales spearheaded by Kuchipudi dancer Vanashree Rao and presented by Rasa United, her recently set up group.

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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)

Introduction:
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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