Saturday, 25 May 2019

A for arangetram - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Earlier, a guru decided when his or her ward - shishya - was ready for the stage to be presented to the society of peers, family and friends. Today, a student is ever ready! Parents are more ready (read, often over ambitious) and most gurus too want to show off their wares, in the hope that seeing the debutante on stage more may join the guru's class, raising both the income of a school or chances of a teacher to shine with a prized pupil. 

Arangetrams also means gifts that a guru gets (move over days of gold chains and saris, one in Madras takes a car per arangetram and had so many lined up in their street that neighbors thought the guru was a car dealer too!) hosting such a do akin to a wedding. From the card, to hall, decor, costume, even food, everything looks like a mini wedding, a glittering gathering.....

Qualities of heart one looks for in artistes. If they don't have it, how can they even claim to be one? Most are mistaking skill for art. Anyone who learns little dance or music thinks they have become an artist! They have only acquired a skill. Like plumber does, or an electrician. Only after years of practice a skill becomes a craft. Once a craft is honed and sharpened it sometimes becomes art. Artists are born, not made. It's not mere training but attitude. Unless you are a born genius like some legends were - Ram Gopal, Uday Shankar, Guru Gopinath - Balasaraswati whose centenary just got over and IGNCA under a truly cultured head Dr. Sachidanand Joshi, made effort to mount a two day focus in May. Trustees Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam and Dr. Sonal Mansingh, flanked by another great Pt. Birju Maharaj recalled her life and work. Thus, the month of May was fulsome.

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Article - Guru-Shishya Parampara: Then vs. Now - Madhur Gupta

There have always been profound discussions on the difference between a teacher and a guru. It's often said that a teacher teaches skills but a guru imparts knowledge of how to efficiently use those. Guru-Shishya parampara where the relationship between a student and his teacher extends beyond the realm of gaining knowledge and delves into a deep seated personal equation, has always been an integral part of the Indian education system. This tradition though now diluted, is still followed by Indian classical dancers and musicians where the guru creates a talented artiste out of the student and also tries to ensure that the student retains the necessary humility to go beyond greatness. 

The tradition of classical dance and music is an ever flowing river. An individual is but a tributary of this greatness. I met some of the revered gurus of today and delved into their own journeys as a student and now that of a guru.

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Friday, 24 May 2019

A medley of classical dances - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Most major metropolises in the world - spanning from Havana to Shanghai - go gaga on the International Dance Day holding flagship events with dance performances participated by the young and the old alike, literally on the select streets and city squares. Created by the Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute, the main partner for the performing arts of UNESCO, the event takes place every year on April 29, the anniversary of the birth of Jean-Georges Noverre, the creator of modern ballet. Kolkata is no exception to this endearing global frenzy, with select conclaves at Rabindra Sadan and Govindan Kutty Auditoria in particular. Out of the score or so performances at the latter venue witnessed by this critic, here is a select view of the significant performances of the evening.

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Sanjali's Pravah Dance Festival in memory of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

Opening the Pravaha Dance Festival organized by Sanjali Dance Company of Odissi dancer Sharmila Mukerjee at Chowdaiah Hall, Bangalore on 13th April, Anita Ratnam presented in her Neo Bharatam style, her work 'Ma3ka' that she had conceived and choreographed in 2009. In her choreographer's note, Anita mentions: 'Every ten years I revisit a work of mine because I want to see if what I created continues to be relevant. Today the audience demographic is almost new, their attention span is much shorter, and also to reach out to the new audience it is important to retrace past works. I was inspired reading Shri Aurobindo's book The Ma3ka, I explore the three facets of Aurobindo's the divine feminine - Saraswati, Lakshmi and Meenakshi.'....

Geeta Chandran and her daughter Sharanya Chandran presented Bharatanatyam, solo and duet. Geeta is a seasoned dancer, with lot of experience performing as a solo dancer and also as a choreographer. Under the aegis of her institution Natya Vriksha, she and her husband Rajiv Chandran organize for past 15 years, a two day World Dance Day festival, curating it with thematic talk.....

Sharmila Mukerjee has choreographed the dance-drama in memory of the anniversary of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Though I had seen it four years ago, it was refreshing to watch it once again. As a matter of fact, I have liked Shookshma better than Hansika that Sharmila choreographed recently. While both are different in content and approach, Shookshma has more gravitas. It is about a woman who is blessed with the ability to transform into a flowering tree as the name suggests. It is subtle, intangible, all pervading spirit that manifests in the form of a boon for the protagonist. The flowers in abundance bring progressive changes in the life of her sisters until tragedy strikes....

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Sunday, 19 May 2019

More praise than dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Some of the emerging formalities of late have made me wonder if strict rules should be insisted upon on how long a master of ceremonies or the compere can speak. A new trend is now being noticed of three or more dancers featured in one performance, each presenting one item! The large part of the evening is spent on formalities with a row of chief guests having courtesies extended to them – and more importantly the master of ceremonies praising them and reciting details of their achievements – including those of the bureaucrat who is called for obvious reasons. Suramya organising Nritya Darpan recently at the Habitat Stein auditorium, had senior dancers with titles to their credit as chief guests, invited to the stage with lengthy introductions. It was as if they were being recommended for the Padmashri, which, on their own merit, most had already earned – and which was the reason they were being called as chief guests, one presumes! So where was the need for these long winding introductions for such well-established dancers? The formalities took up precious time. And I wondered how four dancers slated to perform could be accommodated in the rest of the time. I need not have worried for each had one item to perform!

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Saturday, 18 May 2019

Article - Origin of Gotipua Parampara - Prajna Mishra

In Odia, Goti means "single" or "one" and Pua means "boy". The tradition of boys being dressed as girls and performing abhinaya in praise of Lord Jagannath was named as 'Gotipua' dance.

It is believed that during reign of the Mughals in Odisha, the devadasi tradition was under threat and devadasis feared for their own safety. As a result, to continue the tradition, boys were dressed as girls and trained to dance. According to an anecdote, during the reign of Pratap Rudra Deva (King of Odisha from 1497 to 1540), the famous Vaishnava saint Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 to 1534) had visited Puri. And Vaishnavism gradually flourished in Odisha. Devotion and love for Sri Krishna found its way into the hearts of many. Numerous people imagined themselves to be the consort of the lord, who alone was considered as a man. They dressed themselves up as women and expressed their deep love and devotion to him through dance and music. They became completely engrossed in it. Many people believe, this is how the Gotipua dance came into existence.

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Friday, 17 May 2019

Obit/Tribute - Musical Footsteps in Poetic Dance: Jamuna Krishnan - Dr. Navina Jafa

"Come to me, Abhinaya and poetry is healing!" It was a time when I was facing several personal challenges, and this invitation by the iconic Guru Jamuna Krishnan was hard to ignore. It galvanized me to travel dusty roads from Delhi to Faridabad once a week for two years. Arts is a process of image making, and awakening imagination, but the entry into the universe of Jamuna Krishnan ignited the process to access an unimagined cosmos. 

As one entered her home, you encountered- the invigorated painted image of a Kartikeya riding a parrot, a carved wooden masterpiece of Krishna under the bower, a bronze of a dancing Shiva; host of books in different languages neatly packed in plastic bags, a beautiful carpet, birds singing in the porch outside where hung different plants in terracotta pots - multiple beauties that took each artist to an imaginative sphere.

I would sit, Rita, her house-help dressed in magnificent South Indian saris promptly served me one of the best South Indian filter coffee; and then - dramatically Jamuna Akka came in holding a small, beautiful embroidered bag carrying her mobile phone. The cerebral warm ups to the class of abhinaya were unique - every class began with conversations about latest news in the world - cricket matches, movies, arts, crime and of course dance. Looking back, it was a distinct way she prepared the mind by transporting it into variety of spheres of existence, the tempo built and she would take out a diary and say, "Now get up and start..." 

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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

A fairy tale and a morality play - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Return Ticket presented on April 15 by Natyaranga was a very brave attempt to create a similar parable in the practice of clinical psychology. Here an almost maniac psychiatrist turns the conventions of therapeutic practice on their head and develop his own radical solution to provide his patients much sought-after relief. The story stands in three legitimate assumptions. One, the cause of each mental illness is different. Two, the role of medicine in treating mental illness is undoubtedly important, but usually the relief provided is short-term. And three, the mental state of such patients is seldom understood by the family and even less so by the society.....

Bhalo Lok (A Good Person) presented on April 24 by Sayak -- a nearly 45-year-old group of theatre enthusiasts -- was faithfully adapted by Chandan Sen to an Indian milieu reflecting a placid rural background in a village 'Majher Char' on the Bhagirathi river bank, where the breeze of urban culture blows but mildly though. Directed by the thespian Meghnad Bhattacharya, we locate two childhood friends, Satyacharan and Dhurjati, both disciples of an erstwhile great man Nityananda in socio-political ideology. But the two friends are eons apart in their inclinations. ....

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Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Article - Abhinaya - The most relevant and contemporary of our repertoire - Amrita Lahiri

As a teenager, I watched Priyadarsini Govind dance for the first time, at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. in the 90's. I thought a sculpture had truly come to life! I tried to find some flaw, but she was simply perfect from every angle. Back then, it was her pure dance movements that impressed me the most- the stretch of those long arms, the aramandi, the rhythms, the dramatic poses....all the aspects of dance that impress teenagers. Over the years, I watched her again and again, as I did many of the others I admired - Leela Samson, Malavika Sarukkai, Alarmel Valli, Swapnasundari, Pandit Birju Maharaj - and I found my perspective changing - the nritta pieces were not so exciting to me anymore. Over the years I started noticing how much they could say with the smallest of movements - turn of their head or a raise of their eyebrow or a slight glance. It was the abhinaya I most looked forward to seeing. 

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Monday, 13 May 2019

Interview - I can weave through many interesting identities and roles: Ramli Ibrahim - Vijay Shanker

Acclaimed as a brilliant Odissi exponent and contemporary western choreographer, credited for his flamboyant and aesthetic performances, Malaysia's 'Datuk' Ramli Ibrahim commenced his career as a dancer with Western Australian Dance Company and later established Sutra Foundation (2007) in Malaysia with a team of talented dancers, travelling all over the world with spectacular performances. In an exclusive interview, Ramli talks about his India tour, his career that spans more than four decades, how he placed Odissi on the world map and much more. 

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Saturday, 11 May 2019

Nrutya Rangoli Samanvay Art Festival: Part 2 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

On third day, the morning session began with Kuchipudi by Dr. Saraswati Rajathesh. She presented Vempati Chinna Satyam's choreography of his popular "Jayamu Jayamu" in Bilahari raga, set to music by Bhujangaraya Sharma, with nattuvangam by Vempati Ravi. Disciple of Veena Murthy, despite avoirdupois, she was light on her feet.

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Nrutya Rangoli Samanvay Art Festival: Part 1 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

It was a Bangalore Bonanza, the three day (19, 20 and 21 April) Nrutya Rangoli Samanvay Art Festival organized by that dynamic dancer, guru, choreographer, curator, and an able administrator Dr. Veena Murthy Vijay, held at Chowdaiah Auditorium. 

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Arts in whole-child education - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

An excellent symposium at the IIC (which as collaborator provided the venue) mounted by Kri Foundation and Kala Bharati (Montreal) on Arts Education for Youngsters, presided over by Arshiya Sethi, resulted in some valuable interaction on a topic which is crying out for intelligent discussion among the art minded and artists. Dr. Sunil Kothari in his paper drew attention to the path breaking work done by late Dr. Harbans Nakra, an electrical engineer by profession, who took private studies in psychology, neuroscience and who was very interested on the role of dance in child development. Along with his wife Mamata Niyogi Nakra, an internationally known Bharatanatyam guru, scholar and writer (who runs the institution Kala Bharati in Montreal) who was also deeply interested in dance education for youngsters, the couple attended and took part in several Dance and the Child International Conferences. 

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Friday, 10 May 2019

What we need to remember on World Dance Day - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

This column was meant to be written for World Dance Day, but foreign travels took priority and I decided that just so much happens around and on World Dance Day, that the delay will probably be welcome to a mind already buzzing with dance overload as happens on World Dance Day.

World Dance Day is more than a celebration of dance. It is an acknowledgement of the important role dance plays as a language of human expression. It also recognises the way dance benefits us all by way of mental and physical well being. In fact, the healing capacity of dance has long been recognised in India, and that is why it is called a Yoga, but around the world today this truth is being acknowledged and respected.

World Dance Day also has a political underpinning. It is a day we acknowledge that dance is not permitted, in fact it is declared illegal in many countries in the world. In some countries and societies certain groups, separated on religious lines, gender cohorts and social stratifications, are denied the right to dance. Dancing bans are also imposed on certain days and at certain times and places.

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Thursday, 9 May 2019

Prism - First Presidential address by Biranchi Narayan Rautray in the first meeting of Jayantika established on June 22, 1958 (Translated from Odia by Malabika Patel, edited by Ileana Citaristi)


Human beings have an important and vital aspect to their lives which is of great significance besides their economic and social life. This is their cultural life. The evolution and development of cultural life bestows inner happiness in human beings. The gamut of culture is vast, it encompasses dance, music etc which is an integral part of life. If this part is deformed, it distorts the entire society. The equipoise is disturbed. Hence, all of you working in your respective field of dance should realize its importance in the society and understand your duties and responsibilities. Like all other forms of education, this also calls for tenacity and grit. Without hard work, indomitable courage, patience and perseverance, it is difficult to achieve excellence in dance. So, those of you, who have achieved this or have been striving for it, should not feel inferior but consider yourselves equal to other well educated elite class.

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Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Profile - In praise of MBE awardee Kathak exponent Pratap Pawar - Dr. Sunil Kothari

A few days ago I received a call from my friend Pratap Pawar in London informing me that he was awarded MBE, ‘Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’ in the Queen’s New Year’s honour list for 2019.  I wished him my heartiest congratulations. From among the Indian dance community in London, he is one of the few artistes to receive this award.

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Saturday, 4 May 2019

Samsmaranam: 15th anniversary of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Srjan, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Nrityabasa presented a two day program of Odissi dance by Srjan Ensemble and Shivagni Musical Ensemble on 6th and 7th April at Rabindra Bhavan at Jalpaiguri, West Bengal. I was told by senior local Kathak dancer Kuntal Raha that she had seen Guruji on television for the first time and invited him to Jalpaiguri in the year 1998. Many saw Guruji and were completely won over by his affectionate nature, minus any arrogance that he was a great guru. 

Paushali Mukherjee, a disciple of Guruji and also a mardala player, a student from Rabindra Bharati University trained in turn many young disciples, among whom was Pompi Paul from Jalpaiguri, who established Kalpodrum institution there to start teaching Odissi. Two years ago, Pompi arranged an evening of Odissi dance in Jalpaiguri but I could not make it. However, this year I got an opportunity when Guruji's son Ratikant Mohapatra, after visiting Jalpaiguri for a workshop, accepted the suggestion of Ritu, a member of Srjan Ensemble, to have Guruji's 15th anniversary program in his memory in Jalpaiguri. With help of her brother-in-law and renowned theatre director, actor Amalkumar Sengupta, Srjan planned a major event including Shivagni Music Ensemble. Thereby hangs a tale.

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Friday, 3 May 2019

Delving into Partition's realpolitik - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Trust Utpal Dutt (1929-1993) – the redoubtable Indian actor, director and writer who was a radical figure in Bengali theatre and all-India cinema for more than 40 years – to have written controversial Bengali political plays. He was perhaps best known for such political drama, which he often produced on open-air stages in rural Bengal, as well as for his commitment to a strong leftist ideology. His plays became an apt vehicle for the expression of his Marxist ideologies, visible in socio-political plays such as Kallol (1965),  Manusher Adhikar,  Louha Manob (1964), Tiner Talwar and Maha-Bidroha (1989).  He was arrested in 1965 and detained for several months because the ruling political party feared that the enormously successful play Kallol was provoking anti-government protests in West Bengal. His stay in jail unleashed a new period of rebellious and politically charged plays and he continued to direct and stage his plays even when he was in prison. During the 1970s, as many as three of his plays were continually staged and drew capacity crowds, despite being officially banned!

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Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Anita says...May 2019

Every day brings a chance for you
To draw in your breath
Kick off your shoes
- Oprah Winfrey

There have been flood of celebrations across India for WORLD DANCE DAY (April 29) that it would seem as if the day was created by an Indian. The fact is that the day, follows World Music Day (June 21) and World Theatre Day (March 27) and all three were created by - Jack Lang, Maurice Fleuret (Music) / International Theatre Institute (Theatre) / Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute (Dance).

India does not stop dancing. Performances occur throughout the year with a deluge during the months between October and March. However, a single day to commemorate the very act of dancing also focuses on issues and reflections on those individuals who have shaped and tinted the gorgeous, gritty and glamorous world of dancing and dance making. 

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Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - May 2019

Sunday, 28 April 2019

A well-articulated April - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Art articulates and a few genuine artistes, really articulated April well. 

First - Mysore Nagaraj - who is a unique character of Mysore, settled in Bangalore, who learnt Kathak from veteran Kathak guru, the late Maya Rao - has served arts selflessly. A good guru himself now with well-trained students, Mysore Nagaraj presents through his Articulate Foundation, a monthly event in Mysore and a yearly one in Bangalore. Yeoman service he does to dance and mostly, selflessly. He is what can truly be called a rasika, a genuine art lover. Only a true art lover can honor and value other artists. I'm happy to note ten years ago, our Dance Discourse at Alliance Francaise started the trend of honoring gurus who were missed by the system, through the attenDance Awards.

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Saturday, 27 April 2019

Prism - Inventing of a Notation System for Mudra: The language of Dance and Theatre in Kerala-Part 2 - G. Venu

It was in 1977 that for the first time the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi organized a dance workshop which was directed by Guru Gopinath. Guru Chandrasekharan, Kalamandalam Gangadharan and myself were assistant directors. All the gurus of classical dance styles in Kerala participated in the lecture demonstrations and encounters in the workshop. It was after my discussions and interviews with prominent figures in Mohiniyattam including Kalyanikutty Amma and Satyabhama that the idea to study in detail the mudras in this style evolved in my mind. The field work towards this end was done by my wife Nirmala Paniker. Nirmala had trained under Kalyanikutty Amma for a long time, and as part of our study of the mudras did a short term course at Kerala Kalamandalam. It took us four years to complete the work on notations that analyzed the hand gestures in the then existing repertoire including Cholkettu, Padam, Varnam, Slokam and Saptam.

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Prism - Inventing of a Notation System for Mudra: The language of Dance and Theatre in Kerala-Part 1 - G. Venu

Dance Notation
Dance Notation is the medium by which the body movements are scientifically analysed and are delineated accordingly through the appropriate use of symbols. There is documentary evidence to show that from the 15th century itself dance was notated in the West. Recently I happened to read that even many centuries prior to this, the dance steps of Buddhist rituals in Tibet were documented using signs. The most popular notation systems available for Western dance is 'Labanotation' and 'Banesh System'. I did try to learn 'Labanotation'. In the Western style of dance, importance is given to the movement of the parts of the body and choreography. But in Indian dances, equal importance is given to all the constituent parts and subparts from the head to the foot. The different parts of the body have different movements. The notation system of the West and their symbols is not sufficient to document the Indian dance forms. Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan who had studied 'Labanotation' much earlier has also made similar observations. I have devised a dance notation system to record Kathakali mudras in 1965. This article is about delineating and publishing 1752 mudras of Kathakali, Mohiniyattam and Kutiyattam over the years which has become perhaps the world's largest collection of hand gestures.

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Article - Aharya Abhinaya - Pallavi Shidhaye

(Second winner in the junior category in the 'Nrutya Shabda' essay writing competition conducted by Neha Muthiyan's Loud Applause and Swarada Dhekane's Samvaad blog. This is a translated essay.) 

Aahaaryo Haarkeyur Veshaadibhi: Alankruta

An act which is adorned by external accessories like garland, ornaments around the arm and costume is called Aharya Abhinaya. The concept of acting (abhinaya) has its origin from Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra. Acting is an art of expression. Aharya Abhinaya plays a significant part in the classical form of dancing. Abhi is a Sanskrit word and means "leading an audience towards" the experience (bhava) of a sentiment (rasa). 

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Thursday, 25 April 2019

Interview - Saswat Joshi: Teaching was in my genes - Tapati Chowdurie

Saswat Joshi has carved a niche for himself as an Odissi performer and teacher. Young Saswat of Titilagarh in Bolangir district of Odisha started his Odissi training under Kumkum Mohanty, continuing later with Ileana Citaristi. He is the brand partner of Odisha Tourism and the Folk dances of Odisha globally. Rabindra Bharati University in Calcutta awarded him the Sangeet Ratna title with a gold medal in Odissi dance. Saswat was featured in the film 'The Journey' by Hollywood director Sandrine Da Costa in 2012. His Sambalpuri dance performance of Rangabati in the film 'Koun Kitney Pani Mein' has been widely acclaimed. Currently associated with Tamilnadu Tourism for Incredible India Project, he has kickstarted Odissi institutions for the promotion of classical and folk dance in Italy, Hungary, Japan, France and United Kingdom. He is founder/director of Lasyakala, besides being a guest faculty at Rajasthan Central University. In the movie 'Month of May', he became famous for his Sambalpuri folk dance in front of Eiffel Tower, Paris. 

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Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Odishi Raga Utsav - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Held at Delhi’s Triveni auditorium, with the finest of floral decorations, arrangements and a plethora of courtesies extended to each of the participants by the organizers of the event - Odishi Academy of Gopal Panda - the title of the Utsav almost forced the question out of me, “So what’s changed with all your efforts?” Ever since I can remember, Odishi music has been fighting for a place in the firmament of classical styles. The great Jayadeva from Odisha in his 12th century kavya Gita Govinda mentions ragas like Gundakeri, Varadi, Desavaradi, Mangalagujjari and the 15th century Oriya Mahabharata written by Sarala Das of Odisha mentions modes like Bhairavi, Malasri, Garri, Bhairava, Vasanta, and even talas like Khemta are mentioned. “All these and ragas like Sree and Prathamamanjari are part of our Odishi music system,” claims Pandit Gopal Chandra Panda who has been at the forefront of the movement for Odishi music to recapture its old glory and bring back into circulation its old ragas. 

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Monday, 22 April 2019

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

Under the aegis of Kri Foundation, the dance festival in memory of Madhavi Gopalakrishnan, mother of Rama Vaidyanathan, on 3rd April at Habitat Centre, Delhi, explored two dynamic female characters: 'Shoorpanakha' by Dakshina Vaidyanathan Baghel, daughter of Rama Vaidyanathan and 'Still I Rise' centering round Draupadi, showing her plight, as of all women, by Vidhya Subramanian.

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Friday, 19 April 2019

Creative dances surging ahead! - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Contemporary dance in India, as practiced in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi, is generally known by the same name, but in Kolkata, the prevailing nomenclature is "creative dance". Whatever, they all draw a clear divisive line from the classical dance practices in India, now clearly categorized and recognized by Sangeet Natak Akademi. Nabanritya, the brainchild of Manjushri Chaki Sircar (and her gifted daughter Ranjabati: both, alas, no more!) had veered more towards the creative dance genre since its inception in the 1950s and 1960s, with a very inclusive outlook in its bold formulation. 

With clear roots in the dance theatre of IPTA in the post-Independence years, Manjushri allowed herself to be influenced by Manipur's pre-Vaishnavite Lai Haraoba and later Vaishnava traditions on one side, and Purulia Chhau and Bengal's folk dances on the other side, simultaneously encompassing Indian classical genres to define techniques, movements, costumes and even music, as might suit them.....

Presented on March 31, Dream without wings at the Sapphire Annual Gala 2019, by the Sapphire Creations Dance Troupe and Sapphire Dance Academy, was an extravaganza, performed by some 50 dancers - spanning the age groups between 4 to 45 years - to tell the story of our children and what they aspire to be. Directed by Sudarshan Chakravorty, who has led Sapphire for all 26 years, the choreography was cascaded - in age -- from the younger lots to the gradually older ones, till one arrived at the professional company, who backed up to provide the "mirror image" of what the toddler alongside wanted to become -- or was it not to become? -- and be fulfilled, or frustrated, as the case might be. ....

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Thursday, 18 April 2019

Article - Indian Dance through the eyes of a Yogini-Kapila Vatsyayan - Dr. Navina Jafa

The Indian classical dancer today is challenged to constantly reinvent themselves to survive the contemporary socio-economic space defined by capitalist economy, technology, social media and synergies of complex patronage systems. The market demands recorded music, fast pace padded with technical productions that can grip the audience. The Indian classical dancer exists in a swirl of a dizzy environment constantly negotiating the manner, the content and the aesthetics can be innovatively presented to sustain the central place in organizer's lists. This article refers to Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, her views on innovations in Indian classical dance. 

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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Rango'ntaratma: Multi-media presentation with a difference - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Anugraham Classical Community, a charitable trust with a discerning membership presented Rango'ntaratma, a multi-media presentation conceived by Kamalini Dutt, ex-founder director of the Central Archives Doordarshan, where she pioneered the release of over 100 DVDs of intangible cultural heritage. The theme is inspired by Kashmir Shaivism in its non-dualistic approach (surprising when viewed against the backdrop of what is happening in Kashmir today) going back to that great son of Kashmir, Abhinavagupta, but for whose commentary, understanding of the Natya Sastra would have proved very difficult. 

Built round the central Sutra of Shiva Sutras concerning the inner consciousness as the performance arena where life is played out, this production tries to catch that unseen essence to be expressed through the language of music and dance.

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Wednesday, 10 April 2019

5th edition of Nrityodaya's Nrityolsavam Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Ayswaria Wariar is a name to reckon with in the field of Mohiniattam. She has been organizing classical dance festivals annually in Vadodara inviting dancers from different parts of the country. Trained in her childhood by her mother, she later took lessons in Kathakali under Udyogamandal Vikraman which helped her to master netrabhinaya and mukhajabhinaya. She studied further under Kalamandalam Saraswathi in Kerala. She worked with Kavalam Narayana Panicker, and learnt items based on Sopanam music as devised by Kavalam. Ayswaria has also studied Bharatanatyam under Sucheta Chapekar in Pune. Nrityodaya offers training in both Bharatanatyam and Mohiniattam. Among her other accomplishments Ayswaria has choreographed, directed and acted in Nilima, a film on Mohiniattam. 

Nrityolsavam took place from 22nd till 24th March at CC Mehta Hall, Vadodara. 

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Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Impresario evening impresses - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

While large audiences for dance recitals have become rare, Impresario India continues to impress with good responses to all its shows. Over the years, the organization has developed a very faithful clientele of members and well-wishers. This for me stands out as one of the finest achievements of the organization. Its annual festival sponsoring new choreographies, was this year restricted to just one day with two productions featured - Tagore's Chitrangada visualized as a Nritya Natika in Odissi by Ranjana Gauhar and Saptaavart in the Kathak style produced and visualized by Prerana Shrimali - both proving to be laudable presentations.

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Prism - Classification and serial order of Odissi dance (1975)- Pankaj Charan Das, Translated from Odiya by Ileana Citaristi

(Paper presented on the occasion of the Seminar on Odissi Dance organised by Sangeet Natak Akademi at Bhubaneswar on 28-29 July 1975) 

When I start to write about the classification of Odissi dance, the first thing that comes to my mind is the way Odissi dance got its name. My affiliation with the Mahari tradition which is the genealogical dance culture of Sri Jagannath temple is almost lost in the passage of time. I was the first artiste to bring outside the yard of the temple whatever I had learned about this style of dance by teaching it to my first student Laxmipriya in 1946. That day for the first time it was presented in ABHISEK, a play of the writer Ashwini Kumar Ghose on Arnapurna drama stage of Cuttack. 

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Saturday, 6 April 2019

Tribute to Kalanidhi Maami and Rasa Purna Festival - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Kalanidhi Narayanan (1928-2016) - 'Maami' to one and all - has been a legendary figure in Indian classical dance. An early non-devadasi girl to learn the dance form and showcase it on stage in the 1930s and 1940s, she had a brief performance span in the 1940s; but her return to dance in 1973 after 30 years and a full married life -- to become the most notable teacher of abhinaya - was nothing short of phenomenal. She had trained more than 1000 students in her cherished art of abhinaya till she was alive. Her sporadic, yet much sought after appearances in Delhi for lec-dems at India International Centre or intimate soirees at the Defence Colony premises of Jamuna Krishnan, the Bharatanatyam exponent and aesthete, would be the most cherished moments with 'Maami' recalled by this critic......

Rasa Purna Festival
Presented at ICCR Kolkata on March 25 and 26 by Natyanova Performing Arts Centre in collaboration with Kri Foundation and Sparsh Studio, this was a two-day gala with workshop, seminar, guest performances and Natyanova repertory's new production. Bharata's Natya Sastra around the 2nd century had described bhava and rasa in performing arts, but it was left to the insight of Kashmir's Shaiva philosophers who analysed the Rasa Sutra with philosophy and literature and it was Abhinavagupta among them who had elaborated Rasa theory with clarity. Indeed, the Rasa Sutra provides an underlying unity in all Indian art forms.

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Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Silver Jubilee of Guru Pankaj Charan Das Utsav and Centenary celebrations of Pankaj Charan Das: Part II - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

In memory of Pankaj Charan Das, Adi Guru of Odissi, his son Sarat Das and Guru Pankaj Charan Odissi Foundation in collaboration with Govt. of Odisha, GKCM Odissi Research Centre organized a five day dance festival at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar from 17th till 21st March.

Day 3 & 4

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Silver Jubilee of Guru Pankaj Charan Das Utsav and Centenary celebrations of Pankaj Charan Das: Part I - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

In memory of Pankaj Charan Das, Adi Guru of Odissi, his son Sarat Das and Guru Pankaj Charan Odissi Foundation in collaboration with Govt. of Odisha, GKCM Odissi Research Centre organized a five day dance festival at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar from 17th till 21st March.

Day 1 & 2

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Monday, 1 April 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - April 2019

Anita says...April 2019

I don't see why one shouldn't be fascinated with the human form. We go through life in this wonderful envelope. Why not acknowledge that and try to say something about it?
- American artiste, Dorothea Tanning

The challenge of compressing an entire month's thoughts is heightened when a flurry of events unfold on the first day of the previous month!

I write this from New York City, my former home for over a decade, where my two children were born and where I had an exciting career as a Television host and producer. This image is of me standing under the canopy of my former office. Inside the historic ED SULLIVAN THEATRE building on 53rd Street on Broadway, the same building that now houses the exciting late night talk show of the irrepressible STEPHEN COLBERT.

30 years since I left NYC and my previous life, it still continues to inform and energise me with its chaotic, eccentric energy. 

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Thursday, 28 March 2019

April Phool - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Phool in Hindi means flowers and if this spring was to go by, what an abundant spring! Flowers everywhere. They give joy, don't talk back, remain neutral and nice and unless broken, last for long. However, giving flowers at functions, especially dance functions, is painful to both the flowers and the recipient. They wilt in the heat as these are wrapped in plastic and brought to the hall often many hours before the event; they lie limp and by the time these are given to the performer or the dignitary, these are in coma if not dead! Like most things Indian, we just do, without thinking much.

Why not for same money buy a book and gift? Or a music CD? Or dry fruits? What is good and applies to flowers applies to those shining, cheap shawls too. Never to be worn again, what use are these shawls but token of respect shown? One can't even make curtains out of it as not long enough and besides, shining glare hits the eye. Doormats? But that is showing disrespect to the giver, even if given out of tokenism. So again, gift a book, a CD or dry fruits. Please remember this next time you as an organizer or dancer, or both as is often the case nowadays, do this. 

So March brought many interesting ideas and events to fore. I chose a few to show how dance matters in society or can. 

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Sunday, 24 March 2019

Smrutikusumanjali - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

I happened to be in Mumbai when Dr. Sandhya Purecha, disciple of Guru Parvati Kumar, celebrated his 99th birthday on 27th February at Ravindra Natya Mandir Mini Hall in presence of Guruji's wife Sumati Parvati Kumar and several leading dancers and disciples of Acharya Parvati Kumar. The Late Guru brought the Marathi Nirupanas, a set of 18 rare items written by Raja Sarfoji II, from Tanjore to Maharashtra, composed and choreographed them and even compiled them with intelligible notations in the form of a book called the Thanjavur Nritya Prabandha. 

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Women and Ecology - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

A three day festival on Woman and Nature, recalling passages from traditional arts, from culture and lifestyle studies not omitting folklore, held at the IGNCA, saw the Sattriya exponent Mallika Kandali perform along with her group. Divya Prakriti Parva focused on woman's role in preservation and conservation of ecology and environment. The dancer naturally had to go back to the work of Sankaradeva, the Neo Vaishnavite reformer (1449-1568), credited as the father of the Sattriya tradition. In his ritual plays (Bhaona), though a direct reference to women in the mentioned role is hard to come by, his female characters like Rukmini and even Sita for instance are very strong people, far from the weepy, cringing types. But the reformist was very conscious of ecology sustained with a belief that every micro aspect of the cosmos reflected the macro identity of the Infinite. Sensitive to nature as Sankaradeva was, one comes across delightful verses describing nature in different moods, and through the description of seasons, and how women responded to them one could deduce and arrive at some ideas on how emotively women related to nature. The female characters in Sankaradeva's plays while not clinging vines compared in literature to creepers, had their beauty like that of Mohini compared to various flowers.

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Monday, 18 March 2019

Article - Navarasa Sadhana: An inner awakening - Sonali Mishra

Evoking rasa in a performance is the pinnacle of the Indian arts tradition. The rasa-bhava concept is integral to Indian performing arts and is explained in great detail in Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra. However, while extensive studies have been conducted on this subject, its practical applications are often lost in the theoretical analysis, disengaged from a contemporary outlook and understanding. G. Venu, dancer, scholar, and devoted practitioner of Koodiyattam, has developed a unique training program in acting/expression that allows for a practical application (and understanding) of particular aspects of the Natya Shastra, one that incorporates breath, imagination and sensory awareness to invoke the feeling and mannerisms of a particular character. This unique system has been growing in popularity amongst actors, dancers and other artistes seeking a means of channeling emotions in a systematic manner. Using his extensive experience and study in Kathakali and Koodiyattam, Venuji has answered the question that so very many artistes/dancers ask: is there a way to 'practice' abhinaya/expression? The Navarasa Sadhana technique allows for a systematic and routine practice of each of the nine rasas.

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Sunday, 17 March 2019

The Lyrical and the Intellectual - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The Little Clay Cart
Shudraka, the playwright of the well-known Sanskrit play Mrichchakatika (The Little Clay Cart), belonged to the hoary years even prior to the beginning of the first Christian millennium. There is one theory that he wrote under the pseudonym of Shudraka, meaning a "low-caste servant", to imply that he actually completed an unfinished play by Bhasa, Charudattam, calling himself 'the servant' of the well-known dramatist. The other conjecture is that he was, on the contrary, a mighty king of his time. Whatever the reality about the author, the play was a striking departure from the prevailing forms of drama, of necessity, to be written about the royalty and noblemen, as enumerated in the Natya Shastra and, instead, incorporates a large number of peasant characters who speak a wide range of Prakrit dialects. Remarkably enough, the play has been widely staged not merely all over India, but also in the West, namely as a highly romanticized French adaptation, Le Chariot d'enfant, that premiered in Paris in 1850, as well as a critically acclaimed 'anarchist' interpretation, called Le Chariot de terre cuite that was produced by the Theatre de l'oeuvre in 1895.....

Six Characters in Search of an Author
Sei Personaggi in Cerca d'autore (Six Characters in Search of an Author) was a famous Italian play by Luigi Pirandello, written and first performed in 1921. An absurdist meta-theatrical play about the relationship among authors, their characters and theatre practitioners, it premiered at a theatre in Rome to a mixed reception, with shouts from the audience of "Manicomio!" (madhouse) and "Incommensurabile!" (incommensurable), a reaction to the play's illogical progression! Reception improved at subsequent performances, especially after Pirandello provided, in 1925, a foreword clarifying its structure and ideas. The play had its American premiere in 1922 on Broadway and was performed for over a year off-Broadway, beginning in 1963. Astonishingly, this play - together with his Henry the Fourth - has remained the only two most often-performed works by Pirandello, out of his equally remarkable oeuvre of 44 plays, in all!

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