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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Friday, 15 March 2019

Book Review - Universal dance and drama - Nita Vidyarthi


Universal dance and drama-A collection of my articles
By P. Medini  Hombal
Luminous Books Varanasi
136 pages, Soft covered
Price  Rs. 295
ISBN 978-93-8514-968-9

This very first book by the young author, an Assistant Professor of  Bharatanatyam, IKSVV, Khairagarh (C.G.) is a slim 136 page compilation of the author’s articles and research papers related to dance and drama of India and South East Asia, presented in journals and national and international seminars. Hence the approach is academic, direct and comprehensible. Divided into twelve chapters, the focus is mainly on Bharatanatyam with information on its basic grammar.

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Interview - Watching a performance through my camera is like meditation: Avinash Pasricha - Shveta & Anoop Arora


I am brought back to the same vision - a beautiful dancer on the stage, presenting abhinaya as the lovelorn heroine, and then nritta with several movements and chakkars. But your memory cannot retain these visions to be seen later by you or your friends. Words alone would not be able to describe the moment, and that particular movement. And so click, click, click goes the camera, and all is preserved for posterity.

Many a time, in trying to explain a movement, I have to consult my husband, who's a photographer, and he can show me the exact picture. And at times, multiple images of the same movement, which are clicked every fraction of a second, capture almost every aspect of the movement. I think my article would be incomplete without the pictures.

Here, I am profiling a person whom I've met at several performances in the past few years. In almost every performance in Delhi, he is there with his wife Santosh, sitting among the front row audience. This unassuming person is the legendary photographer Avinash Pasricha, who has worked extensively with many dancers and dance forms for over half a century. His contribution to dance is unparalleled. My husband and I interviewed him together, since there were technical aspects of photography that the two could discuss better. 

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Tuesday, 12 March 2019

First edition of Kalahrnisham National Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


For readers who do not know Dombivli, a suburb of Mumbai, it is next station to Thane on way to Kalyan. The well known young Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher Pavitra Krishna Bhat, originally from Mangalore, moved with his parents some thirty years ago to Dombivli. As a child he had great passion for dance. His parents indulged him. He only studied elementary Bharatanatyam from his first teacher but that did not deter him from performing anywhere. His parents also pushed him to perform during occasions like Satyanarayana puja or Ganeshotsava. With complete involvement Pavitra performed and made onlookers happy with his endearing personality and dancing.

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Friday, 8 March 2019

Article - Dancing from Diaspora to Disney - An artist's Margam - Ulka Simone Mohanty


When we think of dance in mainstream corporate entertainment, specifically in North America, we rarely expect to see representation of Indian classical dance forms. Certainly, Bollywood styles have now become very prevalent and en vogue, but the mainstream awareness of the classical forms is still relegated to a niche, and somewhat exotified specialization. 

As a South Asian classically trained dance artist and choreographer growing up in the Canadian diaspora, similar to that of the United States where “classical dance” meant only ‘ballet,’ there was always a struggle of having to clarify what Bharatanatyam was, and how, no, it wasn’t the same as ‘bellydance.’ There was a certain self-consciousness and self-worth associated with continually having to validate and explain the many years of dedicated rigour required of one’s art form and I would often find myself wishing I had trained in ballet instead. Because at least then there would be an unquestioned validation. 

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Thursday, 7 March 2019

Social and metaphysical narratives in Odissi - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Vrityant
Human civilisations are replete with events where patriarchy has held sway over a generally submissive matriarchy and the latter had allowed the dominant masculinity to take over control and assumed a nurturing role of providing care and comfort in the society. History has, however, known other occasions when patriarchy had bludgeoned the female species into submission and extracted a most heinous price from the latter.  The glaring cases – happening mostly in wars and anarchy -- were the “comfort women” forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories before and during World War II, drawn  from occupied countries, including Korea, China, and the Philippines. Similar instances, nearer our time, have been the Khan soldiers in East Pakistan before the liberation of Bangladesh and, more recently, by the IS troops in the Middle East “using” women as sex slaves.....


Ananta
The cosmic quest of the world and beyond starts from the viewpoint of Pancha Bhuta (five elements), manifest as an coalescence to form the life force and then  disintegrates to ensure a celestial traverse at the atomic level. An innovative production in the lyrical Odissi style, Ananta was an exploration of some of the most profound philosophical concepts from the ancient Vedas and Upanishads. Choreographed by Arnab Bandopadhyay in Odissi style, the visualisation also blended creative movements, classical and contemporary music, and Vedic chanting, with the latter rendered soulfully by the noted classical vocalist Dr. Subhadra Desai..... 

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Sanchari Festival of Films on Dance 2019 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Hot on the heels of Kalavardhini’s 40 years Parikrama in honour of Dr. Sucheta Chapekar’s 70th birthday at Pune, Kalavardhini arranged a two day festival of films on dance in collaboration with Pune’s National Film Archive of India, and Loud Applause, on 16th and 17th February in two sessions a day. This was the second year of their screening of films on dance.

The venue is one of the finest film halls with latest state-of-art facilities, excellent projection and acoustics. Being national film archive theatre, it is very clean, neat, sound proof and with best facilities for projection. Thereby it adds to the pleasure of watching the films. It was a pleasure meeting the present director Prakash Magdum, who has been in office the last four years. 

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Friday, 1 March 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - March 2019

Anita says...March 2019

The old has collapsed
But tries to stitch together its fallen pieces
To weave another tapestry
To give it a life span
But staggers at every step, and falls apart again
It tries to patch work - but now
Even that doesn't work
It has come to a halt!

- Excerpted from the New Vision statement of AUROVILLE 

Let me open by saying that despite all the social media posts and discussions, reviews and blogs about performances, THIS monthly editorial seems to be more anticipated, quoted, excerpted, dissected, discussed, debated and shared. It is both a compliment and a marker for the changing styles of dance discourse. This once a month observations on performances and dance related events were always meant to be subjective. 

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Tuesday, 26 February 2019

A month of many greats - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar


February is now about the great Balasaraswati, who passed away on 9th February. Her acolyte Dr. Nandini Ramani celebrated her centenary in a grand 2 day function held in Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai, and a monograph compiled and written by Nandini Ramani, published by SNA was released on the occasion. Bala's story is stuff myths and history is made of and in India now her principal follower-disciple Nandini Ramani, with sister Priyamvada - both talented daughters of giant scholar Dr. V. Raghavan - continue to worship and propagate her art. Aniruddha Knight, Bala's grandson, was only 5 when Bala died and has lived and grown and worked mostly in USA. 

Bala was celebrated in a big way when Chennai dancers came together (a riot of talents and colours) to dance for her or speak on her. Nandini Ramani and family left no stone unturned to propitiate Bala's memory and art. 

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Saturday, 23 February 2019

Obit/Tribute - Gina Lalli - Joe Daly


Gina Lalli died on 16 February 2019 in Austin, Texas, after an extended illness.

Gina was born in Binghamton, New York. Her intrepid nature drove her after initial Bharatanatyam lessons with Nala Najan (a student of Muthukumaran Pillai) in New York City to  India where she shared a time of vigorous training in the 1950’s with Gina Blau under Chokkalingam Pillai. Subsequent travel to India and chance path-crossings brought her to learn Kathak, first from Vikram Singh and then over an extended time from Birju Maharaj. She credited her acquaintance with and profound admiration for T. Balasaraswathi for encouragement to keep dancing and enjoyed a close friendship with Bala’s brother T. Ranganathan. She also trained under Nageswara Rao on the veena and learned to play pakhawaj and tabla when she went to Lucknow and Delhi. 

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Friday, 22 February 2019

When dancing is a pleasure for birds as well - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi


Steeped as we are in our love for dance, we fail to recognise sometimes that we are not alone in the dancing world. Many more species in nature dance as impressively if not more, than man. It is while watching the migratory birds visiting Delhi that urged me to talk of dance in the avian world.

Actually, very few animals really dance - that is to say that they can consistently move to music. I will talk about this in a subsequent column, but for the moment I must point out that the most attractive dancing is by birds.

There is a well-documented case, also a case that was the first to be scientifically explored, of a cockatoo called Snowball. This species come from Australia and New Guinea, where sadly they are regarded as pests. Snowball, with a distinctive, almost punky sulphur crest, had a rare talent. Snowball could dance, nodding and stamping to a variety of tunes, but his especial favourite was the Backstreet Boys tune, "Everybody". Snowball used his skills to appear on TV, initiate neuroscience research and raise funds for disadvantaged children. He was featured on an episode of 'Animals at Work', which described Snowball as a professional dancer. 

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Thursday, 21 February 2019

Article - Social Media and Dance - Archis Abhay Kulkarni


(First 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) 

Just yesterday, I was browsing on YOU TUBE, when one video caught my attention. It included a “Bharatanatyam Fusion Dance” on the famous pop song “The Shape of You”. When I glanced to check the number of views, lo and behold – One Million!! And surprisingly the views included not only Bharatanatyam learners or lovers, but people from diverse fields across different states and countries! This got me thinking on how wide and crucial the impact of social media is on various facets of dance including of course, the Indian classical dance. 

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Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Article - Guru Shishya Parampara and today's Pedagogy of Dance - Charanya Gurusathya


(Second winner in the senior category in the 'Nrutya Shabda' essay writing competition conducted by Neha Muthiyan's Loud Applause and Swarada Dhekane's Samvaad blog) 

Restoring Indian tradition and culture 
Indian traditional dance styles are more than two thousand years old and there arises the need to create awareness and interest in the minds of younger generation, so that they are able to enjoy classical dance learning and performances in the real sense of the term keeping our age old tradition and culture intact. 

The perception of guru-shishya has endured despite all the contemporary methods adapted in dance pedagogy in India. The modern guru-shishya relationship is an intermingling of the traditional gurukul system and the modern teacher-student relationship. It is constantly changing by inventing new methods of teaching, innovative choreographies, differently interpreting our mythological stories but tries to maintain the hierarchy and unquestioning respect that existed in the traditional gurukul system. The modern guru-shishya trend is yet to find its balance in the space between tradition and modernity that Indian dance is currently undergoing. 

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15th Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav 2019 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


I have been regularly attending the festival since its inception in 2003. Held at the backdrop of Dhauli peace pagoda, its ambience is enchanting. The Dhauli stupa and nearby temple are lit up. The artists, dignitaries, organizers are invited on the opening evening to hold mashals, the torches aloft and to the sound of the conch, the festival is inaugurated. The ceremony is awe inspiring. It suggests cherishing the idea of love, peace, compassion and humanity. The festival is a grand celebration of harmony between history and modernity. This is the very place where after the Kalinga war, on banks of Daya River, emperor Ashoka took to Buddhism. The festival held on this spot gives signals for peace in contemporary times.

At the very outset, I would like to congratulate dancer, choreographer, guru and an organizer par excellence Aruna Mohanty for mounting such an amazing festival. A worthy disciple of late Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, she has imbibed his style admirably, runs Orissa Dance Academy, teaches there and has to her credit several large scale dance works, doing her guru proud. The first opening ‘Gita Mahatmyam’ and the final ‘Make in Odisha’ took one’s breath away. The conceptualization and flawless execution using the classical dance forms with stunning visuals and melodious music are the hallmarks of these productions. 


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Book Review - Bharathanrithyam with a new focus - Dr.Nita Vidyarthi


The 128 pager gets straight down to charting how to focus on the credibility of the name 'Bharatanatyam' with attention to 'untold' and 'uncontemplated slips' and moves process of dance subjects. The work attempts basically to coin the term Bharatanrityam instead of the earlier name Bharatanatyam and subsequently Bharatanatyam, interpolating technically the name and content of the latter. The preface by her mentions that "sustenance of rudimentary entity and continued research," authenticates the work to coin the term 'Bharatanrityam.' Dispersal of the term Bharatanatyam and justification of Bharatanrityam is the running thread of the book.

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Monday, 18 February 2019

Unrequited Love, Unrelenting bigotry - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Cyrano de Bergerac, the famous 1897 play by the dramatist-poet Edmond Rostand, is cast in the mould of the proverbial parable of 'Beauty and the Beast', except that the Beast here uses the vision of a handsome, yet dumb male upfront - as a friend to support -- to entice the incurably romantically-minded Beauty through recitations and verses. Only at the very end, the Beauty realises that the Beast was her destined lover, Cyrano. Rostand's memorable dialogue alludes to the final recognition: The Beauty says: I love you. And the Beast's ugliness falls like a magic veil...

Syed Waliullah (1922 - 1971) was a Bangladeshi novelist, short-story writer and playwright, whose 1948 award-winning debut novel, Lal Salu (translated by the author, calling his English version as 'Tree without Roots'), castigated fundamentalism and religious bigotry in Islam - as perpetuated by orthodox self-seekers - with whiplash sarcasm. Made into a memorable film, Lal Salu -- by Bangladesh's prime cineaste, Tanvil Mokammel -- went on to win many laurels.


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Saturday, 16 February 2019

Sight for the gods: Rukmini Devi's Ramayana - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


It is no exaggeration when I write 'sight for the gods.' The eternal appeal of Ramayana and its six series presentation by Rukmini Devi transports us to another world. I had first seen it in Mumbai at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan during the World Vegetarian Congress. I was under a spell. I had never seen anything so aesthetically beautiful in all its departments, be it music, lighting, sets, design, costumes, dancing, abhinaya - the overall impression was indelible. I still see before my eyes Adyar Lakshman enacting the role of Dasaratha, Dhananjayan and Balagopalan as Rama and Lakshmana, in that unforgettable sequence of Sita's anxiety if someone else would break the bow, and looking from a window, the way one young Uma as Sita was framed. Even after sixty one years, the impression remains so vivid!

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Monday, 11 February 2019

A good start on discussions on Dance Issues by Academy - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Unlike the past when dance was only to be practiced and seen, today there is a willingness to discuss issues in the world of dance and it is encouraging that a body like the Music Academy has taken the step of organizing Dance Discussions coinciding with its annual festival of dance. Still in its nascent stages, this small beginning can lead to more ambitious interactions. Conceptualised by Kami Vishwanathan and Sujata Vijayaraghavan, the first discussion on 'Teaching 21st century skills through classical dance' (which is another way of looking at what classical dance offers for the world and concerns of today), had Rajika Puri now settled in the USA as Moderator. Nalini Prakash, a board-certified dance/movement therapist and co-director of Spilling Ink, a multi arts organization in Washington D.C, spoke about the collective empathy and multi sensory expression derived out of learning not just Bharatanatyam but other art expressions (from puppetry to pottery, she became more exposed to in Spilling Ink) , which she as a certified movement therapist draws on to help set right the disconnect in body, mind and spirit in her clients. She finds the non threatening language flowing from these arts most suitable vocabulary for a movement therapist.

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Monday, 4 February 2019

The Youth Brigade of Odissi - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


How does grooming of a classical dance form for the tiny tots make progress from year to year -- under the vigilant eyes of a dedicated teacher? It was a rare opportunity for this critic to observe four budding artistes - Asmita Kar, Tanishka Roy, Moumita Pal and Shinjinee Bhattacharya -- literally grow from last year's Taranga Dance Festival to this year's event, nurtured with the loving care of Nandini Ghoshal, a second-generation Odissi guru. Nandini herself was first initiated into her classical style under Poushali Chatterjee of Kolkata and then received a sustained teaching process under the redoubtable Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra for 17 long years, graduating into the leading roles of his dance dramas thereafter. Handed over the reins for youngsters now, how did Nandini handle her onerous mission?

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Saturday, 2 February 2019

Ensemble productions in three dance traditions in Drishti National Dance Festival - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


For some reason, Bengaluru's Drishti Art Foundation's annual festival is called the National Dance Festival - which can mean everything or hardly anything. But what held my attention was the Art foundation established by T.M. Vikranth and artiste Anuradha Vikranth, the curator of this event. Visiting the studio with its indoor and outdoor spaces, and having a brief interaction with a few of the students, I was struck afresh with a sense of irony, about Bharatanatyam which despite its many students does not easily attract large audiences for its performances, holding such a fascination for many youngsters qualifying for or already qualified in, other-than-dance professions like medicine, law, teaching, science etc. From a scientist father-in-law with deep fascination for the arts, and a life partner in Mr. Vikranth working round the clock supervising out-of-performance matters, Drishti Art Foundation is more like a family enterprise established by T.M. Vikranth and Anuradha Vikranth with Dr. T.M. Manjunath as chief patron. From what one could make out, the aim of the foundation was not just the Dhristhi or (treating people to) a view of the arts but also educating them by bringing about an awareness through the experience of seeing - leading hopefully, to more discerning audiences.

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Friday, 1 February 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - February 2019

Anita says...February 2019

HOPE has two daughters
Their names are ANGER and COURAGE
Anger at the way things are
And Courage to see that they do not remain as they are
- St Augustine of Hippo

When it's over, I want to say, 
All my life I was married to amazement
I was the bridegroom, taking the world in my arms
- Mary Oliver, American poet 

A loud round of cheers for two wonderful dancers we admire! NARTHAKI NATARAJ and PRABHU DEVA. Bharatanatyam has been their cornerstones and both have taken it in different directions with stunning success. On stage and on screen, these artistes have created an aesthetic and kinetic that is being admired and applauded. 
NARTHAKI, student of Natyacharya Kitappa Pillai
PRABHU DEVA, student of Natyacharya Udupi Lakshminarayana
MILENA SALVINI, for her contribution to Kathakali 
PADMASHRI AWARDEES - TAKE A BOW! 

And congratulations to all the performing artistes in theatre, various music genres and other folk arts who were recognized by the Government of India.

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Monday, 28 January 2019

Vive la Republique! - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar


So, the new year began in right earnest where I was born, Baroda. The Dept of Dance at MSU was the happy venue for many dance academicians to meet and greet; eat and interact. Small town India is what big towns once were: happy, happening and healthy! Distances are easy to commute; people easy to bond with. 

Harish Gangani, the current head of the dance department outdid himself by hosting and organizing the best ever gathering, an international one, on 4th and 5th January, where dancers and researchers came from all over - from as far as Trinidad and Tobago and Mauritius; from closer home in Sangli or Telangana. Biggest number of participants came from Punjab. They were happiest in the assembly, perhaps reflecting mind over matter. Many delegates felt more time was spent in eating than on seminar. Many participants were disappointed too, since venues were three, so audience got split but how else to accommodate so many applicants?

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13th edition of The Music Academy Dance Festival - Part 1 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari


Dance aficionados eagerly await the annual Dance Festival of The Music Academy that takes place from 3rd till 9th January for the past 12 years. 

This year's Nrithya Kalanidhi award was conferred upon Shanta Dhananjayan for her distinguished career as a dancer, guru and choreographer. Her husband V.P. Dhananjayan was conferred the Academy's Sangita Kala Acharya award in 2005. The award now has been titled as Nrithya Kalanidhi award. 

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Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Book Review - Gotipuas: the Boy Dancers of Odisha by Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi - Krittika Mondal


Dr. Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi is one of the pioneers of Odissi. It was her dance at the Inter-University Youth Festival, New Delhi, which Dr. Charles Fabri hailed as the 'discovery of Odissi'. With her brilliant academic perspective, coupled with some personal anecdotes, Dr. Mohanty Hejmadi-s commentaries on dance are a treat. In the Gotipua Dance Festival of 2012, for the benefit of the many Hindi-speaking viewers of DD Bharti watching the live telecast at home, Dr. Mohanty Hejmadi was asked to give a brief introduction to the dance form. As soon as she descended from the stage, Ashok Kumar Tripathy (I.A.S.), Principal Secretary of Tourism and Culture (Odisha), proposed that she write a monograph on Gotipua. After much deliberation, Dr. Mohanty Hejmadi agreed, eventuating to her most-recent work, Gotipuas: The Boy Dancers of Odisha - a formidable attempt to elaborate on this traditional art form.

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Monday, 21 January 2019

Seven Nymphs from Manipur - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Silhouetted in the rear horizon, the angelic nymphs are painted still, in white gossamer chiffon. Then, in ever slow steps, they descend as though from heaven to the soiled earth in front stage, beginning their journey through the muddle of anguish and sorrow, the quivers of joy and ecstasy. Edging along and deciphering on their journey many wayward challenges through their rituals and traditions, they carry the seeds of human identity and culture -- inherited from the very distant ancestors - and move through the past, present and future, negotiating peace of sky, peace of earth, peace of water, peace of trees and peace of man. The nymphs are flying towards 22nd century . . .

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Saturday, 19 January 2019

Concept to execution: ANEKA a clean winner - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


In both concept and execution of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha's 38th Natya Kala Conference titled Aneka, Dr. Srinidhi Chidambaram, convenor for the third successive year, has raised the bar of the event so high, that it is going to be a hard act to emulate for the successor who takes over the baton. Under three categories of Timeless, Transformative andTrending, Aneka became the umbrella covering in its daily deliberations, "the old and the new, the young and the old, the accepted and the problematic, the global and the local." 

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Monday, 14 January 2019

The Quintessential Calcutta - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Amidst all the anguish and agony of a troubled daily life, and all the squalor and scampering of an ever-busy pace of city living, the denizens of the eastern metropolis never ignore their utsavs (festivities) and melas (fairs), which seem to anybody caring to observe, as dime a dozen. The current powers-that-be have added an unending string of Public Holidays to bolster up the spirit and there you are, moving from one celebration to another -- all through the year! And yet, the two occasions the enthusiasm and frenzy of enjoyment reach their peaks are: the autumnal Durga Puja and the vernal Yuletide wave, when the lights are set ablaze; the whole city pours out on the amply-lit and copiously-decorated streets and persist on staying out enjoying and merrymaking till the wee hours of the morning! Though not quite at par with the Marghazhi frenzy of Chennai this is quite something that the people ardently look forward to. Here follows a random sampling from the enthusiastic and colorful dance scene this Christmas and New Year Season...

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Saturday, 12 January 2019

Article - Response to Srividya Natarajan's interview on 'The Undoing Dance' - VP Dhananjayan

('This (pseudo) spirituality made dance boring': Srividya Natarajan by Vaishna Roy)

I know Srividya as an accomplished Bharatanatyam artiste from the lineage of Natyacharya Thanjavur Kittappa Pillai who carried the Thanjavur Brothers' legacy till he lived. Though I have not read her new novel 'The Undoing Dance,' I could trace a kind of frustration in her tone of narrating the incidents in the story, irrespective of whether the characters are fictitious or real. 

First of all, I want to reiterate that Srividya is talking about the specific tradition called Sadirattam or Dasiattam later rechristened as Bharatanatyam by the Madras Music Academy by a resolution passed accepting the suggestion of E. Krishna Iyer. Taking the new nomenclature Rukmini Devi popularized that name to attribute dignity and divinity to the performing art form and maybe we can say she did give a new lease of life to this ancient natya which I suppose has an antiquity of more than 3000 years. But Srividya questions the antiquity of the existence of Natya Sastra, a treatise on Bharateeya Kala attributed to a sage called Bharata. She says it is completely made up. Practitioners of Bharateeya Natya traditions, irrespective of the various regional classical forms, may not accept her theory as these verities of traditions that flourish in this century are offshoots of the mother text, the Natya Sastra. Definitely every one draws inspiration from these monumental texts available today. Natya Sastra being the original 'Panchama Veda' or the fifth Veda, the texts that came later have the umbilical cord of the mother book. I don't understand Srividya's vehement contention of casting away all these monumental scriptures as 'pseudo' spiritualism. 

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Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Profile - Lalitha Srinivasan celebrates 40 years of Nupura - Sunil Kothari


On the occasion of the 40th year of Nupura Academy of Dance, I pay my humble tribute to Dr. Lalitha Srinivasan who shall continue to do her remarkable work in classical Indian dance. Lalitha Srinivisan has every reason to celebrate this landmark of her institution. Training scores of dancers in Bharatanatyam, she is herself a distinguished exponent, and believes in transmitting the best of Bharatanatyam to her disciples.

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Kadamba of Natya Darshan flowered without rambling - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


It never rains, it pours! And with so much happening at the same time, my preference was for attending morning discussions, which are generally ‘once only’ happenings, whereas the chances of catching up with the artists featured in the evening performances, at some other event, are always greater. Natya Darshan’s Kadamba - the flowering Path, under its curator Priya Murle, very wisely spread its events with different venues like the Forum Art Gallery, Bharata Kalanjali, Kinsley Manor and the Government Museum – not just highlighting the inter-relationships existing among art disciplines, but also making festival proceedings accessible to people living  in different areas. 

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Friday, 4 January 2019

Colours of Kashmiriyat - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Are the agonies of displacement to be experienced in perpetuity by humankind? What happens when a long-settled community of social beings are suddenly ordered out of their peaceful living environment - on grounds of ethnicity, religion, language or whatever -- and thrown to the four winds? Years of happy existence are forgotten and the simple, contented folks are suddenly made homeless, without any address and become a drifting mass of humanity, like flotsam and jetsam of the high seas! Who accounts for their uncalled-for distress and disarray? 

Fiddler on the Roof penned by the Jewish author Joseph Stein, is just one such saga from the beginning of the twentieth century, when Jews and Orthodox Christians lived in a nondescript little village of the pre-revolutionary Russia of the Czars. In episode after little episode, the tale of the poor dairyman and his faithful wife - with their five growing daughters - unravels how life holds for them its joy and sorrow; its rituals of orthodox matchmaking and avarice of the rich old men for the hands of the nubile maidens; its little escapades of love and amour between the indigent tailor and the dairyman's daughter, and again between the visiting student from Kiev and yet another daughter, and all hell breaking loose in the final liaison between the Christian youth and now the third daughter. 

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Thursday, 3 January 2019

Book Review - Art begets what art gets! - Kasturika Mishra


I started encountering the artiste T.M. Krishna from a tweet by my arts world friends and found a man similar in taste. He was barred from entering Delhi to perform in a cultural festival managed by the government due to his unconventional thoughts. That led to a melting point when I held Krishna's book in hand to read. 'Reshaping art' is a series of deep thoughtful essays on practices in art forms and the psychology of the artist in classical and folk traditions of India. Quoting his words, "The greatest obstacle in freeing the arts from their burdens is convincing insiders that they are indeed unwelcoming. Whenever I raised this issue with the torchbearers of high art, the immediate response is: we have never said, 'Don't come!'"

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Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - January 2019

Anita says...January 2019

I would rather be a meteor
Every atom of me in magnificent glow
Than a sleepy and permanent planet

- Jack London

Chennai was aglow and in full bloom in the last month of 2018.
All the cliché words used to describe this South Indian metropolis rang true during the month of MARGAZHI.
(Non Tamilians merrily said MAARGAZZZZZI with aplomb and we just smiled in unison!)

Silks, gold, jasmine, sandalwood, kajal, bindis, beaming faces meeting old friends and everyone discussing DANCE in excited chatter made us feel that WE WERE INDEED in the centre of the universe, even if it was just a 30 day illusion!

Between conferences and daily performances, culture tours and cuisine, Chennai was the hub of the Indian dance universe for a brief and glorious time. I was fortunate NOT to perform this season but promised to watch as much dance as I possibly could. 
And I did.

Here are my observations. They are random and not in any particular order.

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