Sunday, 23 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

View the recipe in the site

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

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

Read the interview in the site

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, 14 April 2017

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

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

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Rasa theory facilitates holistic approach to school education - Chandra Anand

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

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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Friday, 7 April 2017

Contemporary dance expressions beckon - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

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

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

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

Tribute by Rama Vaidyanathan to her mother Madhavi Gopalakrishnan

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

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Thursday, 6 April 2017

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

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

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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Fusion or Confusion? - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

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

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

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Saturday, 1 April 2017

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - April 2017

Anita says...April 2017

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

Entering year 18!

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

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

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

And now, Raksha Patel and Akhila/Aalaap who are part of our team and our dreams.

Aaaaaaaaand...Here I go... 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Kala Prachara - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

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

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

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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

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

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

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

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Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Courtesan Extraordinaire - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The early Buddhist literature, beginning with the ancient Jatakas, is replete with a surprising number of parables and legends. One such treasure trove is  Mahavastu Avadhan which, among others, narrates the didactic tale of the  court dancer Shyama and her sudden passion for the handsome stranger Vajrasen – caught on a false charge of theft – for whom she does not hesitate to sacrifice her young lover Uttiyo at the gallows. On the felony being revealed, she is summarily discarded by her ‘new’ lover Vajrasen. The two main protagonists, Shyama and Vajrasen, are surrounded by the king’s minions – headed by a crafty Kotwal -- entirely prompted by the power of lucre and the royal dancer’s companions acting as a ‘voice of conscience,’ a well-known ploy inherited by the Bengali folk theatre Jatra essayed by Vivek, literally meaning ‘conscience’. 

Shyama, Rabindranath Tagore’s delectable dance drama – presented recently in Kolkata by Jahnavi and Sutradhar – was based on the above story line. The 1938 play (preceded by an 1899 long poem by Tagore on the same theme) was set first in a public avenue, moving to Shyama’s private chambers, to the solitary prison cell, to the luxury yacht carrying the lover duo, to the forests on the river bank, and finally to the point of no return. The plot had amour propreplayed out between the lovers: now infatuated, now querulous and then desperately estranged. The point of view was entirely Shyama’s: besotted with passion and eager to elope, the admission of her felony, and her eventual desertion. The mood was of the urgency of the lovers’ union, only to fall apart. The tone was, for both lovers, psychologically resonated. The primary beauty of Shyama was the heaving rise and fall of its conflicts and their Spencerian tempo, almost like Western music’s overture, leading to the waxing and waning of the passage of ardour between the two principal contenders.

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Nupur: 23rd Classical Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

The 23rd edition of Nupur, the three-day classical dance festival was flagged off at Shree Mahalsa Sausthan, Mardol-Goa, by Sushant Khedekar, Vice Chairman of Kala Academy, Goa, with other dignitaries on the evening of 18th March 2017.

With the backdrop of the temple with deepa stambh and deepamala, the dance found a devotional ambience. At the very outset, I would like to congratulate the organizers for giving opportunity to young Goan dancers under the guidance of Shama Bhate of Pune in a group choreography of Kathak for four dancers under the scheme of workshop organized by the Directorate of Art and Culture. They included Varada Bedekar, Prerna Palekar, Arpita Shirodkar, Tejaswini Loundo. They did Shama Bhate proud with their neat and unhurried graceful Kathak which consisted of traditional numbers like thaat, aamad, paran, parmelu, bol baant ki tihai and footwork. All of them performed with clarity and confidence. Kajari by Dr. Prabha Atre for abhinaya dwelt upon abhisarika nayika. Music by vocalist Vikrant Naik, Amar Mopkar, and Swapnil Mandrekar (tabla), Prasad Gawas (harmonium), Sonik Velingkar (flute) and recitation by Guru Shama Bhate complimented the dance. 

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Mothers by Daughters & Others - To Mother, with love - Srinidhi Chidambaram

Behind every successful Bharatanatyam dancer, is her mother. This is something I can swear by. Of course, fathers, husbands and in-laws do play a hugely supportive role, but the role of the mother of a dancer is something else entirely! She performs the combined roles of a guru, companion, confidante, aesthetic guide, stage designer, make-up artiste, program consultant, costumer, nutritionist, fitness coach, and much more…

In my own case, I have been lucky to have had two such strong and nurturing women, my maternal grandmother and my mother, by my side throughout my dance career. My life as a dancer began at the age of three, when I started my training with Kamala. For the next ten years, it was really my grandmother who steered me through classes, school, homework, performances and travel. Until this day, most old timers from the Chennai Bharatanatyam scenario, remember her with affection. Following that, my mother has been the one nurturing and supporting me, for the last 45 plus years of my career as a Bharatanatyam performer.

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Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column - Health Recipes 11: Sake Steamed Chicken - Uma Pushpanathan

Serves: 2 
Per serving: 800 kJ
Preparation and Cooking Time: 40 minutes

View the recipe in the site

Friday, 24 March 2017

Interview - Nilesh Singha: Dance is expression of the soul - Vijay Shankar

Acclaimed as one of the best male classical dancers of Mumbai, having won several accolades, Nilesh Singha is gaining recognition as a painstaking teacher and choreographer and his institute, Shivoham Institute of Performing Arts has successfully completed eleven glorious years, having produced students who have become professional dancers as well. Nilesh narrates his experience as a performer and teacher that spans more than two decades.

How did you get fascinated with dance?
Dancing has come naturally to me. When I was a kid I started dancing at the start of music on the radio or television. My parents observed my passion for dance and decided to put me into a dance class. Those days we used to live in Dombivali in Thane district. The class that I was enrolled in was for Kuchipudi and the teacher was the established exponent Guru Vijaya Prasad. After completing the course, I started participating in competitions and become a regular first ranker for more than ten years at the competition organized by Swar Sadhana Samiti at the national level.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Spring Mood - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Mother Earth does seem to extend her best foot forward at the advent of spring every year. In land after land, post-winter, spring invites an unmatched floral kaleidoscope from nature. In the harsh northern clime, while Holland sees its expansive gardens swathed in breathtaking colours of flowers, Birmingham in England bursts all over into a colourful extravaganza with many-hued tulips. It is not without some pride (if not actual devotion) that Robert Browning sang: The year's at the spring, And day's at the morn, Morning's at seven, The hillside's dew-pearled, The lark's on the wing, The snail's on the thorn, God's in his heaven, All's right with the world!

In the far away land of the Rising Sun, the country waits with bated breath for its first warm winds at the winter's thaw. And when that happens, all the cherry trees everywhere suddenly sprout blossoms: unbelievably all together and entire communities - from schools and colleges, offices and factories - come out in the wide open to observe holiday and witness the wonderful spectacle. It is Ohanami festival, the aesthetic nation's only unchartered holiday on the calendar. If in Myanmar, it is the water sprinkling festivity, in India, it is sharing gulal and crimson-coloured water, and shouting Holi hai in unison.

Eons ago, Kalidasa composed his unique ode to nature, Ritu Samharam, creating metaphor after exquisite metaphor for seasons. If it was Ashadasya prathama divase megham ashlishta sanum... for the rains, it was a beautiful damsel striking with her left heel the Ashoka tree to let it bloom; and it was for a bashful bride to pluck at the mango grove, allowing it to spread fragrant offshoots. Kalidasa was emphatic: then and only then it would be spring, not otherwise.

A millennium had to elapse before a worthy successor would arrive to pen his tender thoughts on India's all six seasons. In an outpouring of 293 songs on nature as many as 96 were on spring, written by Tagore. Unfailingly in Vasanta Utsav every spring, his dream scion Santiniketan erupts into a flurry of dancers' and singers' processions of colourfully attired youth and the old - meandering through roads and meadows - carrying red abir and singing, Come out, you domestic denizens, it's spring on waters and earth, in the wood's cool corridors...

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Margam is ever new - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

One of the highlights of a superbly mounted, third consecutive annual two-day Sindhu Festival in Pune by 'Sankhya' headed by Bharatanatyam artist Vaibhav Arekar, with its thematic accent this year on the Margam, was the dancer's own solo presentation - premiering a centerpiece comprising Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar's Varnam strung in raga Vasantha and tala misra jhampa. “Dani korikenu niraverchutakide tagina samayamu, raa tamarasaksha,” pleads the sakhi with Lord Vishnu conveying to him her friend's message, entreating that he hurry to her to assuage her pangs of love, for the time is ripe for their union. “Dayadoochi dani,” she begs for his compassion to answer her friend's call forthwith. Supported by an excellent team of musicians led by nattuvangam by Kaliswaran Pillai (son of Kadirvel Pillai), melodious vocalist in G. Srikanth, taut mridangam accompaniment by Satish Krishnamurthy and impactful interventions on the violin by Narayana Parthasarathy, Vaibhav treated the audience to the grandeur of Bharatanatyam nritta and interpretative dance at its best. The theme is as old as the varnam though its translation in Vaibhav's myriad danced images was anything but hackneyed. 

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Saturday, 18 March 2017

Rani Jayalakshmi Nachiyar, The dancer Pandanallur Jayalakshmi (1930-2017) - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan

With the passing away of this renowned dancer this month, the world of Bharatanatyam has lost a legendary artist who blazed an unforgettable trail in her youth.
The name of Pandanallur, a temple town near Kumbakonam is synonymous with the most renowned Guru Meenakshisundaram Pillai. Equally famous in her time and remembered as the darling of Pandanallur is the dancer JAYALAKSHMI who became a legend in the short time that she danced. A star at a young age when most dancers were in fact young girls, she gained a reputation unmatched in the history of Bharatanatyam. In her own words: "It all happened so fast that even I never imagined that I would be so famous and so popular." It was a dream run for the young girl, her talent shining with each performance, so much so that long after she stopped performing she was talked about as one who was "born to dance" and was blessed to bring fame and name to both her guru and her homestead....the village of Pandanallur. Today the temple of Pasupatheeswara stands tall. When she was an eight year old, Jayalakshmi had her arangetram on an auspicious day in this temple. The house of Guru Meenakshisundaram Pillai is still there in its modified form. So is the house of Jayalakshmi, with the walls adorned with portraits of her and the Rajah of Ramnad, her husband. A bygone era lingers only in memories. A visit to the temple and its beautiful precincts presided by Shiva the Lord of the dance makes us believers sensitive to a lost history.

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Friday, 17 March 2017

Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column - LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) lunches: Desi style - Sathya Nagaraj

Hope you have enjoyed the “Go Green Smoothie” and have incorporated it as your main breakfast food. I have become so used to it, that I can’t think of any other breakfast now for the past 8 months. Leaving our idli, dosa, pongal, upma is a big step, but remember this is a lifestyle change and not a diet. As you make the Green Smoothie a habit, you will realize it is an energetic start for the day! If you are comfortable with your change in your breakfast, you are ready for the changes for your lunch.
A bowl of cooked vegetables and a bowl of lean meat for non-vegetarians, or a bowl of cooked vegetables and a bowl of salads for vegetarians is an ideal lunch. I did it for a week or two, but missed my sambar rice, curd rice etc, and this is when I found a recipe on cauliflower rice. It was a treasure, I tried different variations and it suited the lunch menu perfectly.

We are so used to rice, sambar, rasam, curd, veggies, meat etc for regular meals… So, I incorporated that in a slightly different way. My meal will be Cauliflower Vegetable Biriyani or Cauliflower Vegetable Pulao or Cauliflower Bagala Bhath in place of our rice, this helped me most in sticking to my lifestyle change. So, you have a rice, vegs and salad…. It is so filling that you will not be hungry till 6-7pm.

View the recipes for Cauliflower Vegetable Biriyani & Thai Veg Tofu Curry in the site

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Article - 20 rare facts about King Serfoji II in the field of dance and music - Prince Pratap Sinha Raje Bhosle

King Serfoji II devoted his life, interest and wealth for the cultural uplift in spheres of literature, medicine, music, dance, drama and other fine arts which paved the way for an upheaval in art, literary and cultural fields.
Swati Thirunal, Maharaja of Travancore, kept contact with King Serfoji II ((Maharaja of Thanjavur from 1798 to 1832) even before he came to the throne and exchanged scholars, musicians and even their personal compositions. Saint Tyagaraja, Syama Sastrigal, Muthuswami Dikshitar - the musical trinity - were the contemporaries of Rajah Serfoji II. Eminent dance masters like Gangaimuthu, Salapathy, Subbarayan, Mahadana Annachi, Tanjore Quartet and Sundari were patronised by Serfoji. 

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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Kathak Mahotsav’s re-look at old traditions and compositions - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

In a three day event based on traditional teacher to disciple lines, with their stylistic identities and signature compositions, this year’s Kathak Kendra Mahotsav featured solo recitals, duets and group presentations, in that order each day. With her winsome stage presence, Nandita Puri, a prime disciple of Roshan Kumari, presented the uncompromisingly erect-bodied Kathak, with straight hand stretches, unrelieved by   needless filigree-like minimal gestures of fingers or torso, in the severe style of her guru. Starting somewhat timidly with the “Shantakaram Bhujagashayanam” chant, the occasional missed chakkars and footwork in nritta, unable to articulate all the mnemonic syllables impeccably, revealed a lack of ‘riyaz’. But after that she warmed up somewhat to compositions like the Chakradhar Paran, the 9 syllabic Chhand, the idiosyncratic grouping of syllables in “Makadi ki jaal” (spider’s web) like travelling on a bumpy road, and the Kaliyamardan Kavit “Jamuna ki tat par.” “Aavat mori galiyan me Giridhari”, the abhinaya projection even with its simple word/gesture translation would have had more impact if the loud singer Vaibhav Mankar had been more in sur. The “moramukut manohar sohe” concluding in chakkars with two layers of the kurta unfurling like an inverted open parasol, made a fine visual picture.

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Roses and Thorns - Kuchipudi - Formation of a global association is the way forward - Sudha Sridhar

It is indeed sad to come across the news item that the State Government of Andhra Pradesh on Women’s Day 2017 has nominated a novice as Youth Ambassador for ‘Classical Kuchipudi art form with fusion’ without any sort of consensus, in a right manner to a deserving person befitting the onerous responsibility of being a role model of the classical art form to the world at large with State grants and orders.
This has understandably irked a large section of the Kuchipudi fraternity stirring quite a few to take refuge to social media protesting with emotions running high, painting the pictures of Kuchipudi seer Siddhendra Yogi, doyens Vempati Chinna Satyam and Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma blindfolded. Further some artists, organisers, art lovers are imploring the social media users to post their protest by way of status message seeking for the revocation of the orders and so on. We are more emotional than most countries and the art world thrives on emotions so to say and the reactions were on expected lines.

However, this is not a black day for Kuchipudi art form as much as it is a black day for the present day stake holders of Kuchipudi, who have failed in taking adequate timely action together when noticing proceedings going awry. Instead all that was shown was indifference looking away from the main problem and thus the stakeholders should wear black or more preferably close their eyes and repent looking deep into their hearts to answer the seer, the legends if and when we have to meet them in heaven.

This is not the first time that Kuchipudi classical art form has been misrepresented and misunderstood for one has seen umpteen number of articles, references in movies in derogatory way the female personification role portrayed in Kuchipudi Yakshaganam to the extent of misquoting and distorting one such specialist Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma’s views and linking to performance of stree vesham being one of the social problems leading to AIDs by a reputed journalist in a national level daily.

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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Astad Deboo’s Rhythm Divine II: River Runs Deep - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Ever seeking new challenges and scaling artistic heights, contemporary dancer Astad Deboo choreographed Rhythm Divine II- River Runs Deep, with traditional drummers from Imphal, Manipur, in collaboration with Shree Shree Govindaji Natsankirtan headed by Guru Seityaban Singh. Presented by Astad Deboo Dance Foundation and Raza Foundation on March 3 at Kamani Auditorium, Delhi, the show was a runaway success from the word go.
Astad has been working with Manipuri martial artists and drummers for the past 16 years. Ten years ago, the young, vigorous, steeped in their own cultural traditions Pung Cholom drummers performing in a comforting cycle of familiar security, and he started working together. Astad interacted with them with help of Guru Seityaban Singh, and planned   contemporary work, exploring the tradition of Pung Cholom with eight drummers drawing inspiration from their movements, extracting the essential movements minus drums, resorting to abstraction, choreographing sections which reflected, as Astad explained in his program notes, more open articulation of old fears through bold, new creative with music and movement, a brasher engagement with restlessness and frustration.

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Thursday, 9 March 2017

Shruti Mandal heralds half a century of service to Indian Arts - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

I recollect how in 1964, eyes shining with fiery plans for spreading art knowhow in Rajasthan, particularly Jaipur, Kaushal Bhargav had in a private conversation told me about how he had started Shruti Mandal in Jaipur with the patronage of a prosperous local business magnate - late Prakash Chand Surana who shared his love for the arts. For Kaushal Bhargav, a bachelor who spent all his life’s efforts in the cause of creating and spreading art, any production on the theme of Rajasthan, the land, the tableaux, getting group dance scenes of dances of Rajasthan, presenting classical dances before the general population, exchanging ideas with Jaspal Singh who headed the cultural unit of Ashok Hotel, was forever engaged in myriad art spreading activities.
He started the Uday Shankar festival in Jaipur and one remembers the early instances when a variety of dances were featured in different venues. Going through the fifty year activities documented in their publication ‘Adi sadi ka sunahara safar’ is like going through a who’s who of the Indian performing arts world. It is replete with photographs of archival value - a very youthful Yamini Krishnamurti, Sonal Mansingh, Uma Sharma, or a young Basavarajaguru or Sharan Rani Mathur, or a boyish Vijay Kichlu -all in the starting years of their career looking at you in these pages. There were, I remember, in Jaipur of those days, the odd few art scholars like Komal Kothari who were engaged in doing very detailed, sophisticated research while providing patronage and working with Rajasthan’s (what have now become) world famous musical families - the Manganiyars and the Langas.  Kaushal Bhargav’s efforts were more for the general public and his contribution to Rajasthan’s art encouragement is highly valued today. Shruti Mandal, now celebrating fifty years of work in promoting art, remembers with a deep sense of gratitude the pioneering zeal and guidance provided to their organization by the founder, Kaushal Bhargav.  

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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Male messengers of the muse - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Are our classical dances, especially in the manifestation of Bharatanatyam – revived and revitalized around Independence – already tending to become somewhat gender specific? Do the viewers, especially in north India and among the vast Indian diaspora, show any special preference for the female dancer with ‘prettification’ ruling the roost and gaudier, the better? In a land where dance as a performative art draws its genesis as well as entire inspiration from Lord Shiva as Nataraja and Lord Krishna as Natabara – both revered as dancers nonpareil -- would a trend such as this not appear to be anachronistic?
There is another germane issue about the male dance teachers who nourished and nurtured the muse, giving it ‘a local habitation and a name,’ beginning from the legendary Thanjavur Quartet, who shaped the early Pandanallur form, followed by a string of illustrious gurus who honed Bharatanatyam in its various manifestations, including Meenakshisundaram Pillai who aided Rukmini Devi Arundale in conceiving the Kalakshetra style. Then there were Bhagavatars and masters from Andhra and Chennai who moulded Kuchipudi; Kalamandalam products, International Centre for Kathakali and others who guided the Kathakali dance-theatre to achieve its present pattern; stalwarts from the ‘Jayantika’ conclave who conceived the modern day Odissi; the Bindadin family and a host of others in Lucknow, Jaipur, Banaras and Raipur gharanas who showed Kathak the way forward from being mere storytellers; Manipuri Sankirtan and Raas Lila leaders who lovingly brought Manipuri to the open; and, by the turn of the twentieth century, the Sattra adhipatis who brought the male Sattriya dance to the fore. While, no doubt, the female dancers joined wholeheartedly in this exciting fray, it appeared for a long while that the male of the species was the dominant dancer-scholar-choreographer-conductor in the performance arena. Is this scene now in for an almost irrevocable change? 

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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Festival of Festivals: 43rd year of Khajuraho Dance Festival-Part 2 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

I missed the Kathak solo by Rasmani Raghuvanshi, but saw Manjiri Kiran Mahajani's solo Kathak. Trained by Rohini Bhate, Manjiri has grasped her guru's Kathak style faithfully. Since it was the day of Mahashivaratri, most of the dancers concentrated on Shiva theme. Manjiri also chose story of Daksha Yagna, written by Rohini Bhate as kavit Kathak form. To the recitation of the story through abhinaya she described the humiliation of Sati, and Lord Shiva's Tandava, Lord Vishnu appearing and requesting Lord Shiva to regain peace. Full of natya element it was a memorable number. Another noteworthy presentation was Tirvat in Bihagda. Few dancers present this number which has melodious musical element. Munnalal Bhar (vocal), Nissar Hussain (tabla), Praveen Arya (pakhavaj) and Amala Shekhar for padhant, gave Manjiri musical support with customary finesse.

 Bharatanatyam exponent Rukmini Vijayakumar from Bangalore, disciple of Padmini Ravi, late Guru Narmada and late Guru Sundari Santhanam from whom she received training in karanas, gave a scintillating performance with her commendable technique and natural gifts. Of the two numbers, she presented Swaraguchha in talamalika, a string of swaras, rhythmic phrases. Rageswaravali was composed by Raghuram and jati composition by Gurumurty. 

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Saturday, 4 March 2017

Festival of Festivals: 43rd year of Khajuraho Dance Festival 1 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

I know of no other dance festival in India which has continuously lasted for more than forty two years. This is the forty third year of Khajuraho Dance Festival (Feb 20-26) with extended art activities transforming the venue into a multi-art event, engaging cross section of visitors to Khajuraho, be they tourists from within India and abroad, performing artists, painters, sculptors, litterateurs, film buffs, photographers, musicians, event managers, bureaucrats, dance critics, or common men who out of sheer curiosity walk into the grounds where for seven days from ten in the morning till ten in the night there is  enough for each one to savour, relish.

From among the organizers, it often happens that someone is bitten by the bug, as they say and bring his vision to fruition with likeminded persons, who are willing to stick their necks out, work tirelessly against all odds and difficulties, surmounting them and creating opportunities to expose those who visit Khajuraho to various expressions of culture besides classical Indian dance forms.

Having been associated with the festival from early years, I see its growth from mere presentation of the dance forms to dialogues with dancers, art historians, critics, thinkers, film makers, theatre workers, painters, photographers and from this year beginning a new series of interacting with neighbouring countries, beyond borders, drawing attention to interconnectedness, sharing common traditions, that transcend gender, caste, religion and bring to one an awareness of human quality but also universal truth, offer space to reflect and elevate one through art to a higher level not only of enjoyment but also to involve and care and concern for people.

I have been attending the festival again since last three years and am delighted to share with readers the magic spell the festival is casting with these added activities. I have shared with a team of people and in particular Rahul Rastogiji, along with Chinmayji, their vision which with Rahulji’s natural leadership quality and ability to galvanize his colleagues and convince the government officers to raise the bar of the festival.

Right from turning the ground in to a festival area, where workshops with crafts people, who mould shapes from earth into objects of art, earthen wares, the weavers that weave magic with warp and weft, their looms, the boundless variety of handloom, handicraft, textiles from different parts of the country, the exhibition Art Mart of painters mainly from Madhya Pradesh, sculptors, venue for Kalavarta, also sharing in the afternoon screening of documentary films not generally seen, but carefully selected, involving actor Raja Bundela,  and at a special enclosure Nepathya where each year focusing on a particular state and its dance heritage with exhibition of costumes, masks, objects of rituals, floor paintings, designs, and performances between 6 and 7pm and then leading audiences to main event of dance with the backdrop of Chitragupta temple metamorphosing the ambience  transporting onlookers to a dream world. Stars shooting in all directions, crescent moon resting like ardha Chandra on jata of Lord Shiva, appearing in sky above, resting on shikhara of the temple prepare the audience to relish the classical dance forms with enchanting music.

To weave around the main event of dance, all that I have mentioned above is fascinating. And when the dancer appears in solo from the side to strains of music its appeal visually is stunning. The temple provides a context, a setting for unfolding of mythological stories, which dancer enacts, stringing the chords and evoking archetypal memories. Be it a prayer to Sun God, or Ganesha or Lord Shiva, the audience gets ready to receive it in moments of bliss. What the rhetoricians call Rasa, the relish is experienced with this god given setting of Khajuraho temples.

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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Anita says...March 2017

How much dance can one watch in a month?
For yours truly, it becomes difficult to attend shows more than 4 times a week, since feelings and images blur and bleed into one another and the distinct memories and architecture of each performance dissolves to leave one large incomprehensible stain. February was one such month. So much dancing, rehearsals, touring, watching.... the year's shortest month flew by.

February also gave me the opportunity to be a part of a dramatically diverse swathe of dance experiences. Erotica, arangetrams, doom as personal diary, the evergreen Krishna as protagonist, an outdoor performance in an open maidan, day long immersion seminars, clueless university professors - I was thrown into the thick of them all!

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Roving Eye - A section of impressions, images and inspirations - Curated by Anita Ratnam - March 2017

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Think! - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Think what are dance aspirations of the marginalized, small town India? What facilities they have by way of halls, support systems and students. Small town India aka two tier aka smart cities are offering more culture than an over-fed metro. Look at the contrasts: in big cities audiences are sparse; one often bombards people with emails, telephone calls, WhatsApp then last minute reminders! After all this effort, max 100 turn up. Contrast this with smart cities aka small town India: Halls are full, audiences are eager because of many reasons: rarely outstation artistes come their way. Often on the same day, not much is taking place. More importantly, in small town India halls being very few, once booked others know there’s no venue left so they plan accordingly.  Add abundant audiences that come anyway hearing the name of known or unknown artiste or simply to be nice to the organizers, who must be known socially or professionally.

An email comes from one Radhika Shetty from Mangalore, asking: Sir, will you please attend our dance festival? I ask, not assuming I'm much known in moffusil India, “Who gave you my name or email id to invite?” She says, “I read you on narthaki and have most copies of attendance.” (In south India I've learnt to be polite so I can't ask, “Who are you?” Internet sometimes can give a clue nowadays but there are many similar sounding Radhika Shettys on the net!) So I ask instead for a list of who is dancing. 3 out of 6, I want to see (their progress in art, having seen them grow up) - Purvadhanashree, sincere student of Swapnasundari and daughter of Kamalini and Kuber Dutt of Delhi Doordarshan, and B.P. Sweekruth, Kathak talent from Bangalore. Add Dakshina, the dancing daughter of Rama Vaidyanathan, I have never seen before on stage.  Rama was Yamini Krishnamurthy's best student and now Saroja Vaidyanathan’s bahu. So I catch a train from Madras and reach Mangalore.

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Monday, 27 February 2017

Mothers by Daughters & Others - Spontaneous, yet measured - Chitra Chandrasekhar Dasarathy

A favourite story that my mother likes to tell my children is when during a performance, I as a little girl fell asleep in the wings after dancing a Jatiswaram while she danced the Varnam! She came in and woke me up in time for the Tillana!
My mother Jaya Chandrasekhar, from the time I can remember, balanced her multiple roles and continues to amaze us with her energy for her varied interests. She went out to teach at The Vasanta College for Women at The Krishnamurthi Foundation, Banaras, in the mid-sixties in the last century.  She later also taught dance at the Banaras Hindu University. Among my circle of friends in a small town like Banaras, I soon realised that Amma was one of the few women who worked. She managed a home and family not to forget a steady stream of visitors who came to Kashi as pilgrims and she danced! She has always had a perspective which was large and inclusive, she probably inherited it from her father, whose interests ranged between astrology, Tamil classical literature and American politics (he worked for the USIS in New Delhi) and her mother who encouraged her to study and graduate in law, learn  to dance and sing! Amma   trained in Bharatanatyam and performed for long years. Her fluidity of movements in dance is something I cherish and describe to my students when I teach.

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