Friday, 6 January 2017

Of Earth, Earthy... - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Manjushri Chaki Sircar, the ace scholar-choreographer-dancer from India and the USA, had always her feet firmly rooted to the ground. Born to dance and already dazzling the arts scene from her Presidency College days of the early 1950’s, she chose anthropology for her scholastic pursuit in Kolkata and New York, but dance remained in her genes. While researching on Lai Haraoba rites practiced in pre-Vaishnavite Manipur, she was struck by the myths of earth’s creation prevalent among its priests: the Maitis and Maibis, and began formalizing her dance language, Navanritya (new dance), for exploring a new body dynamic. Thoroughly down-to-earth, Navanritya became an organic synthesis of several traditional Indian dance forms: an amalgamation of classical moves (Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Manipuri, Odissi), semi-classical forms (Mayurbhanj Chhau, Kandyan dance of Sri Lanka), folk forms and martial arts (Thang-ta, Kalaripayattu), blending them with earthy rituals, yoga and daily life gestures.
In a sense, Manjushri (and later her highly gifted dancer-daughter, Ranjabati) sought to apply ancient tools to express modern day tensions. Under their dual inspiration, Navanritya evolved as a training method which helped dancers to de-construct traditional movements so that they could be used in a new context and still continue to draw on representational abhinaya as a pointer to motivation. With its roots in a variety of forms, mentioned above, and in textual traditions, Navanritya gained its ground as well as grammar.

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