Friday, 16 November 2018

Nityananda: The one-legged miracle dancer - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


That no hurdle barring ultimate death can hold back the determined dancer can be seen from the life of Nityananda Das. A young enthusiastic student of Odissi in Bhubaneswar, learning under his Guru Bimbadhar Das, the lad showed real promise of a bright future as an artist, till misfortune in the shape of a grievous fall, resulted in an operation robbing him of one leg. Moving on crutches, a sobbing Nityananda greeted his teacher who angrily looked at this mess of self pity standing in front of him, and in one fell sweep taking away the crutch, ordered him to join the dance class and learn to dance with what he had! Thus started hours of indomitable courage and effort, by both teacher and taught to get the body used to balancing on one leg. And today watching the aplomb with which Nityananda performs, one can only come away astonished at the tenacity and resilience of the human material. 

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Saturday, 10 November 2018

The political spectra - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


If the historical curtain could open on the turning point of the first Christian millennium's end, one would accost the loose "confederacy" of Baro Bhuyan (Twelve Landlords) as a relic of the erstwhile Kamarupa kingdom that covered all of Assam, North Bengal and large portions of Bangladesh. When eventually the central Kamarupa kingdom fragmented, the system of small chieftains remained. In Bengal as in Assam, the Baro Bhuyans were found in regions within the traditional boundaries of the erstwhile large kingdom.The more prosperous ones gave themselves the epithet of Raja (the King). In times of aggression by external powers, they generally cooperated in defending and expelling the aggressor. In times of peace, they maintained their respective sovereignty. In the presence of a strong king, they offered their allegiance.

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Friday, 9 November 2018

Nakshatra Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


The Nakshatra Dance Festival of NCPA (October 12 – 14, 2018) originated in 2009, and is held every October to feature innovative group choreographies. The festival featured two choreographic works on the first day - from Kolkata, Bimbavati Devi’s Ghana Baari Barikhata in Manipuri and Vikram Iyengar’s Shunya Se, a contemporary dance work based on Kathak.

Bimbavati is the daughter of late Guru Bipin Singh and Kalavati Devi. Dance is in her blood. Brought up in a house where dance was taught to young dancers round the clock she imbibed the best from both her parents. Over the years she has proved to be not only a brilliant solo dancer but also as a choreographer. Ghana Baari Barikhata (Reflections in a raindrop) is her latest choreographic work that I saw in Dhaka on a large stage with large number of dancers and at Rabindra Sadan in Kolkata when she presented it as a part of concluding program of centenary celebrations of Guru Bipin Singh.

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Monday, 5 November 2018

Impressive Sattriya dance drama captures life of Sankaradeva - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


It was by all accounts an impressive curtain raiser for Satraranga's collaboration with JNU; the latter unfortunately of late have been in the news for the wrong reasons. Developed as part of a Production Oriented Workshop for the Sattriya training classes held in the University, the choice of a dance drama on the life of the founder of Sattriya, viz. the religious teacher who compounded in his person the talents of artist, poet and dramatist, was very intelligent, for it provided scope for all levels of proficiency, enabling both novices and trained dancers to come together. 

Concept, Script and Direction for 'Dhanya Toho Srimanta Sankara' were by Dr. Bhabananda Barbayan with Niranjan Saikia Bayan working as assistant Director, and Rupashree Mahapatra, Gargi Goswami, Kiran Borah and Sukanya Boruah as the dance teachers. The manner in which the choreography was designed had to be lauded, for while enabling trained dancers to present their expertise in traditional group segments like Gayan, Bayan, Ojha, through experts from Uttar Kamalabari Sattra in Majuli, the narrative seamlessly wove in movement sequences by less experienced amateurs, without diluting the aesthetic totality.

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Sunday, 4 November 2018

Article - The rise and fall of Jayantika - Ileana Citaristi

The word ‘Jayantika’ rings a bell in the mind of each and every Odissi dancer, old or new, upcoming or established, professional to amateur. All of us know that towards the end of the 50’s an association was formed among the gurus, intellectuals, dance researchers  and practitioners with the intent to systematize the practice and teaching of the Odissi style as it was known till then. Repertoire and technique was discussed, dress code was decided and fixed and guidelines were laid down for the future generation of Odissi dancers. In few words, if we are existing today and dancing Odissi in the four corners of the globe, it is largely thanks to Jayantika and the people who took part in it. 

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Thursday, 1 November 2018

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - November 2018

Anita says...November 2018

Do not be daunted 
By the enormity 
Of the world's grief
Do justly, now
Love, mercy, now. 
Walk humbly, now
You are not obligated
To complete the work
but neither are you free
To abandon it. 
- THE TALMUD

As this newsletter drops into your INBOX, the debate about the world's most famous hashtag rages on in India.

I will begin by getting some of the dance events out of the way so I can focus on the most crucial issue that is hitting the performing arts scene in India. 

Read the message in the site

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A post-Plassey phantasmagoria - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Tagore wrote perceptively: The weighing scales of the shopkeeper reappeared as the royal sceptre once the night was over... The poet's allusion was to the ignominious Battle of Plassey (Palashi, in Bengali), waged near the then capital Murshidabad in 1757 between the Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, and the British East India Company, and led by Colonel Robert Clive and Admiral Watson. The British, worried about being outnumbered, formed a conspiracy with Siraj-ud-Daulah's demoted army chief Mir Jafar, along with others such as Jagat Seths (Mahtab Chand and Swarup Chand), Umichand, Rai Ballav, Rai Durlabh and others. The conspirators assembled their troops near the battlefield but made no move to actually join the battle. Siraj-ud-Daulah's army with 50,000 soldiers, 40 cannons and 10 war elephants was defeated by 3,000 soldiers of Robert Clive, owing to the flight of the Nawab from the battlefield and the inactivity of the conspirators.

Judged to be one of the pivotal battles for the control of Indian subcontinent by the colonial powers, the battle - lasting only 11 hours on a hot June day -- paved the way for the British to wield enormous influence over the Nawab and consequently acquired significant compensations for previous losses and fresh revenue from trade. The British further used the money to increase their military might and push the other European colonial powers such as the Dutch and the French out of South Asia, thus leading to the eventual rise of the British Empire. 

Mir Jafar, presented on September 25 in Kolkata by Kalindi Bratyajon, recapitulated on a grand scale the turbulent time period ranging from four months after that historic battle in 1757 till the year 1764, just before the battle of Buxar, waged by Mir Kasim as one final effort to dislodge the usurping British traders, but to be decisively quashed by the latter. In the play, the murky annals of Bengal were played out almost like a fantasia: as a sequence of real or imaginary images quite often like that seen in a dream. 

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Seeking an institutional framework: #MeToo and the unorganized domain of dance and music - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

Was the last column clairvoyant? Just about fifteen days after I wrote the "Me too in Dance" column, formally tilted"#TimesUp", and It is Your Time Now: Why the dance world needs to think about #MeToo", inspired by the #MeToo exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum at Toronto, the #MeToo broke out in India, first with Tanushree Dutta's outing of Nana Patekar, icon of regional pride, and then the outing of Minister of State for External Affairs, M. J. Akbar's toxic abuse of his editorial power, through acts of sexual harassment, by no less than twenty women journalists. 

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Sunday, 28 October 2018

Book Review - Dancing into eternity: Life and work of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra - Lalitha Venkat



Reams have been written about the legendary Odissi Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, who was one of the key figures in the Jayantika Movement of the 1950s, that was instrumental in getting classical dance status for Odissi, as a major classical dance style of India. His son Ratikant Mohapatra, Director, Srjan, who is diligently carrying forward his father’s legacy, pays his tribute in his own special way.  The pictorial tribute DANCING INTO ETERNITY - AN ENDEARING VIEW OF HIS MULTIFACETED LIFE AND WORK: GURU KELUCHARAN MOHAPATRA published by Ratikant Mohapatra, was formally released on September 9, 2018 at Bhubaneswar on the final day of the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival.

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Friday, 26 October 2018

Natarani theatre: A gift to the performing arts - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


By fortuitous circumstances and also because of serendipity, call it just luck, to be at the right place at the right time, I have been able to cherish so many moments of my career as a dance critic, researcher and a writer. Among them, one is of inauguration of Natarani open air theatre at Ahmedabad many years ago as a tribute to that legendary diva, Mrinalini Sarabhai. The performing arts scene since then in Ahmedabad has changed so much.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Creativity in classical orbs - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Is the spinning earth spinning out of control with its overload of human problems? Large segments of humanity, swathed and overwhelmed under depraved conditions -- without any fault of theirs -- are virtually beggars at the doors of the more fortunate and the affluent. At the other end, is the gap between the world of artistic expression and this horrific social reality of today's world becoming an over-widening chasm? Is our artistic reaction to our times aimed at all towards interpreting the ever-widening divisions created by hate and greed, through art's message of peace and harmony? Can Indian classical dance, in particular, play a role -- as was poignantly asked by the dance connoisseur Anita Ratnam, in one of her recent perceptive comments -- beyond depicting endlessly the images and icons to the tunes of the ethereal song, Krishna ni begane baro...?

Sangam presented on September 29 in Bhubaneswar by Art Vision, took up this challenge. ....

Artha Shringara directed by Sandhya Purecha, followed as another highly innovative item, derived from her research on theory and practice of Kalasa Karana and Sthanaka-Mandala Bheda.....

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Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Article - #MeToo : Need of the hour - Establishing redressal mechanisms - Ananda Shankar Jayant

The #MeToo movement showing the darker side of many, from the worlds of cinema, arts, publishing etc., also brings to light the complete non-existence of a redressal machinery whatsoever, in these sectors.

The implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, and the earlier 1997 Vishakha guidelines, has seen most of us bureaucrats, serve on these Committees, conduct detailed enquiries leading indicting many, and recommending to the administration various degrees of punishment, even as we also sifted through many false allegations. These Committees are taken very seriously and over the years, this robust system has emerged as a powerful deterrent factor, making the Government workplace much safer, as has a strong and empowered HR, for Corporate enterprises.

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Sunday, 14 October 2018

Of interpretations, Indic thoughts and dance dilemmas: A tale of twin cities - Dr. Sujatha Maringanti

As a keen observer of the cultural scene for well over a decade, I attempt to make sense out of a cultural phase that my city is going through. Let me conjure up a magic carpet and take the readers along. 

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Saturday, 13 October 2018

Performances at the 2nd Nartanam Conclave - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Along with the day-long discussions on Music for Dance, evening performances were organized for four evenings of the 2nd edition of the Nartanam Conclave from Oct 5-8, 2018 at Hyderabad. It was in fitness of the things, as the participants and audience got a better understanding and appreciation of music for dance.

On the opening night, Pune based Shama Bhate's four dancers presented traditional Kathak dance to recorded music of a very high order. Each of the four dancers displayed a thorough training in Kathak and sound understanding of music. Parampara Ke Pada Chinha, the impress of footprints of tradition, was revealed in Shama Bhate's group compositions. In Shiva Vandana, the use of Om Namah Shivaya was imaginative. The rarefied atmosphere was evoked. Isham Ganesham, Gunatita rupam, Bhasvaram bhasmanga bhushita - five aspects were explored artistically. It was followed by Tarana in Todi raga. The synchronization was perfect. The use of tatkar, footwork, in seven beats Rupak tala, amad, paran, uthan ke tukde, expressions of body line, upaj ki tatkar, in Natwari the dugun ki bandish, were highly enjoyable for technical excellence.

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Friday, 12 October 2018

The spark and the sparkle - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Suddenly the stage was all ablaze. Fiery particles were thrown from the performing faces, limbs and torsos, scattering in all directions and lighting up the surroundings. Suddenly, the bemused spectators discovered that they were in for - no, not the traditional Kathak, but for unmitigated innovation, offered only by the likes of Akram Khan and Aditi Mangaldas that glitter and glisten in the dark. The relatively arid dance scenario of Kolkata offered, for a change, fruits of imagination that did not vitiate the rigorous canons of the hoary style one bit, but soared the sky on wings of sheer, scintillating joy, in the glow of creativity.  Nava Disha presented on September 10-11 as the annual festival of Upasana Centre of Dance steered by Ashimbandhu Bhattacharya, was devoted to a wave of unbridled creativity on the second evening, as witnessed by this critic. 

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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Experts discuss theatre today and cultural transformation - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


“I can think only with theatre, because theatre has its own word syllables to express itself,” said Ratan Thiyam - one of the greatest post independent theatre personalities of India - speaking under Art Matters series of the Raza Foundation. He thought of theatre as a contemporary conversation between performer and spectator. Taking Bhasa’s liberalism on the one hand and Bharata’s code and art prescriptions on the other as examples, Thiyam maintained that theatre could be very simple or very complicated.  Inclusive of all other art disciplines in its totality, Theatre, the speaker said is also a relationship with empty space and sound.

Calling it a courageous and bold art form, Ratan Thiyam maintained that Theatre is ultimately a language of protest and in the last 2500 years, he said that no work had hesitated to stir and attack the establishment. Indian theatre’s uniqueness while creating a dialogue with people lay in its regard for soundaryabodh or aesthetics according to him, with dance and music too as part of it.

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Saturday, 6 October 2018

Mallika Sarabhai's Mother River is an unusual work - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Mother River, Mallika Sarabhai’s latest choreographic work directed by Yadavan Chandran for the world premiere of newly renovated Natarani theatre at Ahmedabad on Sept 21, 2018, was an unusual work. Breathtaking, innovative, using latest state-of-art technology, breaking notions that only men can play drums, she has eight to ten young female dancers striking drums with vigour, suggesting women power, drumming to a variety of musical genres, connecting few episodes not immediately comprehensible, but on reflection, making sense, connecting the non-narrative elements. Before the performance starts, in the plaza, we hear, as we do when in Kerala before the Kathakali performance, the sound of chenda drumming announcing the play to take place. 

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Friday, 5 October 2018

Interview - The role of accompanying artists in dance - Shveta Arora


Just a few years back, musicians accompanying dancers live would be seen sitting on one side of the stage, facing the dancer. At the end of the performance, their names would be announced and that would be about all the credit that they got. But these musicians that we are going to talk about have been seen sitting either with their backs or their faces towards the audience, being very much a part of the performance, in the frame with the dancer. It is then that you come to realise that they are one of the building blocks that go into the formation of a production. 

Faraz Ahmed, Mohit Gangani and Ashish Gangani are all members of Aditi Mangaldas’ Drishtikon repertory. Faraz is the seventh generation of the respected Moradabad gharana, continuing the tradition in Hindustani classical vocals and sarangi. Mohit and Ashish are from the famous and widespread Gangani clan of the Jaipur gharana, known for Kathak and percussion. All three are now fixtures in every production and performance by Aditi and Drishtikon.

Read the interview in the site

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Fury, frustration and family heirloom - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


When the curtain opens, there is a splendid disarray of furniture, bedsteads, upholstery, almirahs and what not, lying in decrepitude for last thirty years or so, when the father died in relative penury.  In this milieu, gradually gathers a motley crowd, each with his or her own agenda. First to arrive is a police sergeant, approaching his fiftieth birthday and heading for retirement. Although a bright student, he had given up going to college to support his father and had often gone through very hard days to eke out an existence, often unable to eat two square meals a day. After 30 years, he has returned to sell his parents’ estate and looks forward to coming to examine the root causes as to why he had to put up with his life-long sacrifice. His wife, a fairly self-effacing house-maker, is still frustrated why her husband had to be so supportive of his self-willed father and would not mind seeing the end of their lowly standard of life. Then there is the elder brother, a successful doctor, who deserted the family quite early in life in quest of greener pastures and never bothered to support the parents thereafter -- to whom the younger sibling had not spoken in years. Finally, there is the wily antique dealer, an octogenarian, who has come to bid for the property in his own crafty terms. 

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Monday, 1 October 2018

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - October 2018

Anita says...October 2018

My castle, formed by bows of light
I led my armies to the field of existence
Melodic voices, my banners in the eternal war
Fine threads, my armour in the fluid body
- Greek designer Ionna Kourbella

You are all reading this as I am en route back home after a 5 week tour of two continents.

What does it mean to tour? To pack and unpack all the elements of costume, props, sets and SELF from one theatre to another? From one city to another? From hot and humid to dry and windy? What kind of toll does it take when you are not accompanied by a core team who understands and anticipates your needs? How do you communicate and coordinate the social, technical and artistic demands of the work, each time to a new set of people? 

It has been exhausting, rewarding, irritating, gratifying, uplifting, depressing but overall, FULFILLING!

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Friday, 28 September 2018

Kathak dance evolving out of a cultural process - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


A serious scholar whose theories are based on information gathered by delving into sources and doing field research, Dr.Navina Jafa spoke on her perspective of how Kathak evolved as a dance form in a programme Safarnama comprising a talk followed by a short dance presentation at the Alliance Francaise, Delhi. The nodal point of what she was saying was that rather than looking at the dance history as a linear development, one should look at it as a cultural process in circularity, evolving out of the eco system in which art lives - its various aspects comprising performance ingredients from different groups of people, who for various reasons, political, climatic, social, migrated and settled in different parts plying their respective trade.

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Monday, 24 September 2018

Article - Transitions in Tradition - Purvadhanashree

 


Transitions and Tradition – both are multidimensional terms and I think they are like Yin and Yang. One has the seed, the possibility of the other. A true traditional form gives itself to transition and there is transition because the form is rooted in tradition. At the end of Natyashastra, Bharata Muni says, “Whatever I have said is not the final word on art forms. They must evolve, if they have to survive.” And that is why we all are here in 21st century discussing, learning, practicing, teaching, celebrating dances which are centuries old. 

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Saturday, 22 September 2018

Fluent, fragrant, flamboyant - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Living in Delhi, one comes across a very large number of highly esteemed Indian artists, including those from the performing arts of dance, having made the capital their centre of activities, for residence as well as performance. This seems to happen primarily for two reasons. First, the capital remains an assumed source of patronage from various quarters. And second, one gets to witness -- and thereby get intellectually stimulated -- by the visiting foreign artists, who always touch the capital in order to count "having done" a country, much like any other foreign tourist. Living in a far away eastern metropolis however, one perceives that Kolkata is disadvantaged precisely on the same two scores. 

At the beginning of a well-organised, three-day Festival of Indian Classical Dance, presented on September 7-9 by Dover Lane Music Conference and Dover Lane Music Academy at the ICCR Kolkata, when the latter's regional director made an observation on the relative absence of artist quality as well as audience enthusiasm in the classical dance scene, it was immediately pointed out by the secretary of the venerable Dover Lane authorities -- who have been organising these festivals every year very much on quality criteria alone -- that out of nine eminent performers this year, as many as five are from this very city. It became an interesting exercise for this critic to examine both these points and counter-points. 

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Interview - Watch dance, it will give you joy: Dr. Sunil Kothari's life in dance - Shveta Arora


Dr. Sunil Kothari received the Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowship from the President in January this year, but his is a name that has been associated with dance since the 1950s. This intellectual personage, frail, with greying hair and an affable smile, is a well-known figure in dance circles. A dance scholar, critic and author, he has travelled extensively in India and abroad for his work and penned many books. The story of how he came to be associated with dance and the people who have enabled him on this journey is told in most part by Dr.Kothari himself, and some information taken from others who have chronicled it.

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Thursday, 20 September 2018

Celebrating hundred years of Guru Bipin Singh's Manipuri Nartanalaya - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Manipuri Nartanalaya is synonymous with its founder late Guru Bipin Singh, who has left behind a legacy of innumerable good students and a fund of goodwill, with programs in his memory organized all over the country for a year now. Heralding 100 eventful years from August 23, 1918 to August 23, 2018, when yeoman service has been rendered to Manipuri, by spreading its message to different parts of India and even abroad, a special event in Kolkata as a thanksgiving to this institution and its Guru, sponsored an evening of a group expression - Ghana Baari Barikhata: Reflections in a Raindrop - comprising a part of Manipuri's very traditional repertoire of songs as part of the rites of living, tracing the pangs of a nayika. On an evening sponsored by Darshana Jhaveri and Srimati Kalanidhi Devi of Manipuri Nartanalaya, one only had to hear the fulsome observations of all the distinguished guests during the inauguration, to know what a significant influence Guru Bipin Singh was on Manipuri. A traditionalist with a very contemporary mind, he worked with the belief that tradition while necessarily changing to be relevant to the people of each age, had to be anchored in the eternal verities prescribed by the texts. 

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Wednesday, 19 September 2018

#TimesUp, and it is your time now: Why the dance world needs to think about #MeToo - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi


I had different plans for this column till I visited the Royal Ontario Museum and realised that the coming month of October marks a year since the "Weinstein moment" and the start of the "Times up" and "Me too" movements. I felt I owed it to dance, in fact to all arts, to talk about this unhappy reality of our world. For too long have issues like this been pushed under the carpet, weighed down with discomfort in dialoguing, wrongful restrictions of 'respect', and all of this has always worked against us women.

In Canada presently for lectures, and a chance to spend some time with my son, I went one morning to one of Canada's largest museums, the Royal Ontario Museum, where an exhibition of photographs by one of India's most iconic, visionary and celebrated pioneers in colour photography, Raghubir Singh (1942-1999) were on display, in a special exhibit, a career spanning survey of his work, titled "Modernism on the Ganges". The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art with the cooperation of Succession Raghubir Singh, and made possible by Nita and Mukesh Ambani and the Reliance Foundation. 

Singh who was known for his "democratic eye", and his ability to capture moments of eternal truths despite the constant movement of India's hordes, in the continuous play of multiple colours, seems to have failed in these qualities closer to home. 

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Saturday, 15 September 2018

Obeisance to an icon - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Now that Odissi has assumed a paramount place in the Indian classical dance landscape -- both in the country and overseas -- and signal contributions of a handful of Odissi's great gurus loom large on its dance horizon, one can safely look back and assert three verities about arguably the greatest of them: Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. First, among the conclave of the Jayantika's very senior choreographers and scholars of the late fifties, his was perhaps the utmost attention paid to the kinaesthetics of the dancer's body and limbs that has stood the test of time. Second, Kelubabu's unique insight into the Odissi hastamudras and mukhabinaya, derived from his illustrious childhood upbringing among the Patachitrakars of Raghurajpur hamlet and honed by the later life exposure to the Odisha temple sculptures which he painstakingly surveyed and copied down with a scholar's eye that helped him enormously in widening his imagination that enabled him to provide ever new insights to his disciples. And third, talking about disciples, perhaps his was the largest number that has been created for Odissi - due to his indefatigable workshops conducted frequently especially in Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi, outside his normal ambit within Orissa, throughout his lifetime, resulting in a very large circle of knowledgeably groomed dancers in India and abroad. 

Shraddhanjali, organised on August 25 and 26 in Kolkata by the Odissi Dancers Forum, to pay a joint tribute to their illustrious guru, was an appropriate occasion to observe, over the two days, how the savant's contribution has borne fruit in the eastern part of our large country, especially to let his solo choreographies proliferate into group compositions, thanks to his well-nurtured disciples and the latter, in turn, aiding to create a new line of millennial generation versed in Kelubabu's signature style.

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Thursday, 13 September 2018

Reaching for the skies prematurely - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The desire to explore new terrain among young dancers must be encouraged. But one has to realize that there are no short cuts to fame, even when one has the good fortune to command facilities and chances not easily available to most upcoming dancers. Watching the collaborative endeavour at the India International Centre, between Sikkil Gurucharan, the eminent young Carnatic vocalist, and Bharatanatyam dancer Aranyani Bhargav, who for some time now has veered away from the Margam into new areas, the first thought that occurred to me was of the imponderables on which this event was built. First was taking Annamacharya's Adhyaatma Sankeertanas for interpretation through dance. Even under normal circumstances, Annamacharya is not an easy poet/musician to understand and his metaphysical poems which are more in the nature of an expression of a stream of consciousness, by their abstract nature almost defy translation into a language of gesture and expressions. As for the two artists, while the ability to interact is all to the good (though one wonders if Gurucharan would agree to sing even for other established senior dancers) , the dancer must be brave to think that having a singer like him will not overwhelm the performance taking attention away from the dance. 

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A Kathak-Bharatanatyam jugalbandi - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Aseembandhu Bhattacharya and Rajdeep Banerjee are both established names in the Kolkata dance scene, as young gurus in Kathak and Bharatanatyam respectively, running their institutions 'Upasana Centre for Dance' for 26 years and 'Parampara' for 18 years now. Aseembadhu had an early grooming in Jaipur gharana from guru Susmita Mishra, continuing studies in Rabindra Bharati University. He was later trained by Pt. Birju Maharaj in Lucknow gharana. Rajdeep was initially trained in Bharatanatyam under Ambali Praharaj and then under Ganga Thampi of Chennai, a stalwart choreographer and performer of Kalakshetra style. It was quite creditable for them to get together and perform a Sawal-Jawab with a great degree of improvisation from both sides. Such innovative jugalbandis among disparate forms of our classical dances are relatively rare, though - as it turned out -- this can open up imagination and mental horizons a great deal.

Anuranan presented on August 30 in Kolkata by Parampara (in close cooperation with Upasana) opened with a Bharatanatyam recital by Sayani Chakraborty.

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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

8th edition of Parampara Dance and Music Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


It was eight years ago that Sattriya exponent Anita Sharma, disciple of Guru Jatin Goswami, had started the national festival of classical music and dance at Guwahati. She and her husband Samar Sharma pooled their resources together and invited leading dancers and musicians from all over India to give an opportunity to local Assamese people to witness their art. Though difficult, with goodwill and support of their friends and institutions they generated an interest among the connoisseurs and lay public for these arts welcoming the dancers and musicians to Guwahati to present their art.

Anita Sharma was interested in classical dance forms from her very childhood, having studied Sattriya and then Odissi under Gourima Hazarika. It so happened that when she saw Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's performance, she was completely mesmerized and decided to study under him. She visited Bhubaneswar from time to time to study from Kelubabu, spending three to four months at a stretch and mastered the nuances of Odissi. Not only that but also with blessings of Kelubabu, she established Abhinaya Society at Guwahati inviting Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra to train young aspirants in Odissi. Thus began a new chapter in the East for popularity of Odissi.

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Love is like a red, red rose - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Eternal love embeds time within itself and uses it as an element to build upon. That is what makes all love ethereal. And this ineffable love is fairy tale to some, a sacrificial saga to others. One seeking the other, finding consummation or distancing oneself unto eternity - these are the stuff folklores are made of: also longing without desire, attainment without fulfilment. 

Giving "a local habitation and a name" to all the world's lovers are the Sufi and other esoteric legends carried down the ages. In our land of myriad cultures, they cover Laila-Majnu from the rugged frontier provinces, Heer-Ranjha and Soni-Mahiwal from the Five Rivers of Punjab, and Dhola-Maru from the desert sands of Rajasthan. If these heroes and heroines are marked by palpable divinity of the Upper Himalayas, they also bear the vigour of valorous river crossings of the fertile Doabas, and the treacherous sand dunes and formidable forts of the Western terrains. And, almost without fail, they ebb into sunset, reaching forlorn horizons from where no one returns. 

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Saturday, 1 September 2018

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - September 2018

Anita says...September 2018


Being very good will not change the world
Excellence will
- Usain Bolt, Olympic athlete

Cheers from Durban!

With seasons and hemispheres upturned, our faithful #TEAMSITA spent a full week in this historic South African city. Replete with references to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, we had a chance to visit many of the sites that triggered my country's independence movement and influenced South Africa's destiny. 

With 1 million Indians making up 25% of the city's demographic, I saw Indians everywhere! Dressed in saris even as I exited the airport, silks, shiny crystal dipped georgettes, bling shoes, hair in various tiers of curls and clips- I had to look around to confirm that I had actually left T Nagar!

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Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Interview - Bhavana Reddy: Kuchipudi should become as popular as ballet - Dr S.D. Desai


Bhavana Reddy, daughter/disciple of Raja Reddy at Natya Tarangini Institute of Kuchipudi Dance in Delhi, has been selected for Ustad Bismillah Khan Puraskar in the Kuchipudi dance category this year by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, in appreciation of her work so far in the form and the promise she holds out.

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Monday, 27 August 2018

The good, the bad and the ugly - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


In the variegated schema of life, there is seldom any certainty which qualities one is going to encounter over the entire range of urban society and its deep entrails. Can there be a wide enough canvas to draw one’s urgent attention to the prevailing ills and can there be a flicker of light that may just per chance lurk at the end of the tunnel of darkness? 

The veteran playwright Manoj Mitra can wield an acerbic pen if he chooses and still retain his sympathy unerringly with the underdog. In his pen-portrait on the melting pot of the rampant ills in the emerging middle class of Bengal’s metropolis, he uncannily lists them as the old parents’ solitude with the generation next emigrating to greener pastures;  the rape as an unmitigated evil and its devastating effect on the survivors; the menace of promoters out to grab the available urban property; the vicious nexus of the political and the business class; the oppression of women belonging to the marginalised community; and the one-way push nudging the hapless aged towards the lonely old-age homes. And, yet behold, the downtrodden can unite and rise, literally like a Phoenix, from the ashes!  

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Book Review - Bharata Natyabodhini - Arjun Bharadwaj


Today's aspiring artists in general and dancers in particular are grappling with access to resources that deal with the basics of their respective forms of art, presented in an easily comprehensible manner. While honing performance skills is one dimension of an artist, which is usually aimed at perfecting the grammar of the art form, a thorough understanding of aesthetics, classical literature, art history and the life stories of artists of the past can enrich the content of the art form. A remarkable attempt in this direction has been made by Dr. BN Manorama, a thorough scholar of classical Indian dance and aesthetics with an insightful understanding of the underlying philosophy and aided by practical experience. 

The work 'Bharata Nāṭyabodhini' released on 12th August 2018 in Bangalore can act as a stepping stone in a dancer's career by laying strong foundation in the fundamentals of the art form.

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Sunday, 26 August 2018

The grace of gratefulness and the activism behind Thanksgiving - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi



At the recently concluded seven day dance festival and seminar, evocatively titled "Looking Back to Move Forward," organised by Odissi, Chhau and Manipuri dancer and guru, Sharon Lowen, under the aegis of her organisation Manasa-Art Without Frontiers, something happened that impressed me very much, set my mind buzzing and compelled me to write this piece, the second in the series 'Soch'- a thought.




Young, Vilasini and Bharatanatyam dancer Purva Dhanashree, recipient of the Bismillah Khan Yuva Puruskar (2008), spoke in a session on 'Transitions and Traditions'. She opened her address by offering her gratitude and thanksgiving to generations of Devadasis that had practiced dance before her and nurtured and enriched it since centuries. 

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Monsoon Moods - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Just when lauding the increasingly healthy audiences for IIC's annual Monsoon Festival, this year's attendance dipped - thanks to inbuilt resistance to an all-male dance festival, albeit chosen with care. Instead of a festival only for male dancers which is aimed at helping them, but which again looks like ghettoizing male performers into a separate class, the better idea would be a mixed festival, with one male and one female dancer each day. A fine Manipuri dancer like Yum Lambam Bidya Nanda from Imphal (now Kolkata) sadly had to perform to a very scanty gathering. Imphal trained and now under Hemanth Kumar of Shantiniketan, working for a PHD, this aesthetically costumed dancer, right from the opening Dashavatar based on the Gita Govindam ashtapadi, impressed with his light footed excellent technique, full of grace, in Tanchep tala and Dashkosh. The physical balance and ability to evoke emotion through angik or bodily stances while maintaining a serene countenance, showed the all-round grip over Manipuri dance.


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Thursday, 23 August 2018

9th edition of Naman Odissi Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Come August and Bangalore is all agog with a series of dance festivals. Principal among them are two major ones: Nrityantar’s Naman, a two-day dance festival and other is Nrityagram’s in memory of Protima Bedi’s death anniversary on 18th August. I make it a point to attend both festivals to see what new choreographic works are created by Madhulita Mohapatra of Nrityantar and by Surupa Sen of Nrityagram.

On first day 11th August at ADA Rangamandira, from 3pm Madhulita presents the several students studying under her and their parents. She also presents her main dancers who form a core group of hers to showcase their progress and with whom she creates new works. When I arrived at the auditorium it was a pleasant surprise to watch Shankarabharanam pallavi by women in age group of 40 plus learning for past two years. 

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Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Article - A Dancer Looks Back - 45 Years in India: Photographic Exhibition - Sharon Lowen


Manasa-Art Without Frontiers founded by Sharon Lowen, Kamalini Dutt and Naresh Kapuria organized a 3 day festival LOOKING BACK TO MOVE FORWARD from July 25. Part of it was the photographic exhibition, A DANCER LOOKS BACK: SHARON LOWEN'S 45 YEARS IN INDIA. It offers a historical glimpse of the cultural activity of the time.

The resurgence and awareness of classical dance traditions of India in the second half of the 20th century brought legendary artists and rare dance genres to public attention. These images captured in Delhi, Kolkata, Imphal, Seraikella, Baripada offer a unique entre into the cultural activity of the 1970's and 80's.

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Thursday, 16 August 2018

Indian dance as part of the world cultural community - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


In the three-day festival of Manasa- Art Without Frontiers 'On looking back to move forward' one of the morning panel discussions pertained to Indian Classical Dance Transnationally. Though the point was not discussed, one realizes that in many countries of the west, Indian dance has a fringe presence particularly in the main festivals and that its high activity is restricted to the Indian diasporic circles, particularly in the States and the U.K. But this is not the situation in all countries and that our dancers are constantly vying with one another to be sent on tours by the ICCR for participation in festivals, is well known. As part of the world cultural community, the discussion featured Rama Vaidyanathan and Arshiya Sethi, and the person who was supposed to be on the panel Riva Ganguly Das, the ICCR DG, was not present. The session had Ambassador Amarendra Khatua as moderator. 

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Sunday, 12 August 2018

Tales of the bull and the tiger - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Known for her excellent productions of Panchatantra and Seagull, when Ananda Shankar Jayant announced the premiere of ‘Tales of the Bull and the Tiger,’ one expected something on the line of the two dance choreographic works. But trust Ananda to explore through the two vahanas of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, and the vahanas of  their two sons Kartikeya and Subrahmanya,  the stories of ‘Him’ and ‘Her’! Come to think of it, it is Shiva and Parvati who appear as gods with a family. To suggest it, naughty Mushika runs, there is sound of vessels falling and someone calls ‘Mushika!’

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Saturday, 11 August 2018

Interview - Dr. S. Vasudevan: Without an understanding of music and rhythm, dance is impossible - Shveta Arora


The dancer takes the stage. The performance has the rock-solid foundation of a guru’s teachings, knowledge and many years of sadhana. The musician, singer and dancer Dr. S. Vasudevan has been an integral part of many classical performances in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi as a composer and vocalist. He practices and teaches in Delhi, and has been a disciple of Dr. Vyjayanthimala Bali and Jayalakshmi Ishwar. It was after his very moving dance performance at the Sangeet Natak Akademi’s event Sanskriti that I got to talk to him about his views on music in dance. His latest works have been very impressive, for example, the music for Anekanta, dance and music for Dramatic Tales by Vanashree Rao, music for Pavitra Bhat’s Shri Ranga Kshetra and Dakshina Vaidyanathan’s Shri Venkata Kshetra, among the most recent ones.

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