Saturday 25 May 2024

Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra's three day Ballet Festival - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman



The Indian Ballet as an art form, operating in a climate of artistic freedom, with style and technique, classical or otherwise, dictated by the need to experiment and expand the movement vocabulary in order to communicate to a cosmopolitan audience, has found its most fertile field of operation in Delhi's Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra. Aside from its magnum opus Ramayan and Krishna creations, the institution has to its credit over 60 dance drama productions, set mainly in movements of Kathak, Chhau, and Folk - their attraction and ability for luring large audiences, not lessening a whit over the years.

This year's Ballet festival projected over three days comprised three productions, Parikrama, Karna and Meera, each as different from the others as chalk from cheese. If Parikrama dealt with an abstract theme, Karna brought out the tragic story of a Mahabharata hero who despite being invested with all the noble qualities, was destined to a life of unmitigated misfortune. His unjust end came while fighting, ironically, for Dharma. Meera on the other hand, was the tale of the saint poetess, who, born in a patriarchal society and chained to the stifling orthodoxy surrounding royalty, courageously fights her way to emancipation. And given the fact that the same cast had to present three very different productions immaculately, with not a cue missed, on three consecutive evenings, one can imagine the scale of rehearsals and attention to detail in the preparation! 

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Thursday 23 May 2024

Article - The impact of songs in series like Heeramandi on Kathak artistes - Shruti Patki

Popular series like Heeramandi have a significant impact on Kathak artistes. While these shows spark interest in our beautiful dance form, they also create misconceptions and challenges. The sudden influx of beginners seeking quick lessons and the undervaluing of years of dedicated practice are just a few of the issues we face. Let's explore these challenges and gain a deeper appreciation for true dedication behind Kathak.


1. Influx of inquiries from inexperienced students
When a popular series like Heeramandi features a song with Kathak, it often leads to a sudden surge in inquiries from people wanting to learn Kathak specifically to perform that song. However, many of these prospective students have no prior experience or foundational knowledge in Kathak. This trend can be challenging for seasoned artistes as they have to manage expectations and explain the basics to those who might not understand the complexity and dedication required for this classical dance form.

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Article - Uday Shankar in Almora - Bharat Sharma



(Some thoughts on antecedents of new dance pedagogy in the 20th century as part of Liberal Education... written in 2022)

I will begin with a quote from a brochure brought out for a festival organized in 1984 in New Delhi by sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, commemorating 60 years of dance debut of Uday Shankar in London. The festival - Uday Utsav - brought together a full gamut of artists emanating from the legacy of Uday Shankar. Performances and workshops were organized in Siri Fort Auditorium and National School of Drama. In this brochure there was a significant summing up of Uday Shankar's legacy titled 'Almora- a creative peak', written by Professor Joan Erdman, an eminent Anthropologist from University of Chicago, who had by then done extensive research on life and art of Uday Shankar. 

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Sunday 19 May 2024

Week of varied fare - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The evening of Odissi dance at the Triveni was titled Sankalan. Conceived by Odissi dancer and teacher Anita Babu trained under late Gangadhar Pradhan at Orissa Dance Academy of Bhubaneswar, Sankalan presented the results of a four day workshop conducted by the present head of Orissa Dance Academy (who also happens to be the President of the Odisha SNA) namely Guru Aruna Mohanty, one of the senior-most of Guru Gangadhar's students....


It was a pitifully scanty gathering in the Stein auditorium, for the Bharatanatyam performance of Anju Chandran of the Chennai Kalakshetra alumni. But what heart warming applause after each item! It did not take long for the audience to understand that here was a dancer totally unaware of herself and utterly charming - the line perfect nritta, and restrained poise of the abhinaya, never attracting attention to the persona of the dance.....


In a fast changing world, passing on to the next generation of students the essence of an art form inherited as a legacy from past gurus, faces greater challenges - on how to keep the roots of the art alive, while adapting to a contemporary clientele of both students and audience. As usual the evening at Natya Tarangini's outdoor performance space with galleried seating, began with the wise words of Raja Reddy on prachisudha and bhinnaruchi and on keeping in mind while teaching the responsibilities in passing on the cardinal principles of the oldest living civilization, namely India....

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Friday 10 May 2024

Article - Why you must watch Madu - Dyumna Chhabra

Art doesn't create distinctions, people do. Madu is a testament to how access to learning and performing an art form can be a life-turner, and how passion can drive one beyond the walls they've known and persevered within all their life. This documentary follows the journey of a young Nigerian boy who gets to learn at Elmhurst Ballet School. Directed by Matthew Ogens and Joel Kachi Benson, it shows how passion can grow within creeks and how support can nurture it to fruition.

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Wednesday 8 May 2024

Article - Reframing Swati Padams: A conversation with Dr. Neena Prasad - Shereen Saif

As the haunting melody in Aahiri weaves a mood of pathos, a lovelorn woman confesses to her beautiful moon-faced friend: "Oh, Madirakshi (one with intoxicating eyes)! Alas! My heart can no longer bear this turmoil caused by Cupid. What am I to do?"

In another scenario, set to the tune of Asaveri, a pining heroine seeks out her lover, only to find him aloof. Emboldened by the sway she has over him, she questions, "Oh, Beloved! Why do you not speak to me? What wrong have I done to deserve this?"

"Panimathi mukhi bale" and "Enthaho vallabha", two widely performed padams in Mohiniyattam, trace their origin to the early 19th century in Kerala, a time of great creative resurgence in poetry, music and dance. The former composed by Swati Thirunal, the erstwhile ruler of Travancore, and the latter, penned by his celebrated court poet Irayimman Thampi are two classic love ballads of that era, steeped in the ethos of the Vaishnava bhakti movement that had by then gained prominence all over India. Much like Sufi poetry, the lyrical content of these padams is intimate, sensual and carries the passionate longing for an absent beloved. Treated allegorically, the yearning of the heroine is interpreted as the soul's aching and desire for union with the divine.

However, even though the intention of the poetry is anchored in the devotional, the dancer's path to evoke rasa lies not in portraying chaste devotion. Rather, the opposite! Through the explicit and aesthetic portrayal of passion. In the hands of a mature performer, a love-soaked padam can inspire a divine, transcendental experience says Mohiniyattam dancer, researcher and choreographer Dr. Neena Prasad.

To explore this subject in depth, a 10-day intensive workshop was recently organized exclusively for dancers trained at Sougandhika Centre for Mohiniyattam in Thiruvananthapuram, a kalari she established 20 years ago for research and development of the art form. The workshop curriculum covered Mohiniyattam movement vocabulary, abhinaya techniques, appreciation of Swati Thirunal's poetry and music and her approach to choreographing a padam.

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Monday 6 May 2024

Pug ghungroo bandh in Pune - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Pune is a unique city for dance. It is like Madras. Near perfect. People in dance field are pucca about their work, professional in attitude and perfect in interpersonal skills. They don't go overboard with emotion like North India or go ballistic, as in East!


For 20 years now, one has been going to that city. First, as the national director of America based Ngo in cultural education called the AFS. We helped start the Pune chapter and also steered it for three years. It was the most differently abled chapter in AFS network. Parents were demanding and kids were nicer! Well behaved, disciplined and kept to the course. That was 2004/5. A full 20 years ago. It was so nice to meet one such alumnus of AFS Yes program Valerie Apte, who was compering the Anuvedh festival on occasion of the World Dance Day celebrated with pomp and show by one of the biggest Kathak dance centres of Pune called Maneesha Nrityalaya.

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