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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