Saturday, 31 December 2011

Globe trotter column by Sunil Kothari - In conversation with Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam, Vempati Venkat and Vempati Ravi Shankar

During the ‘season’ I have been staying for the past six years with Guru Vempati Chinna Sataym at his Kuchipudi Art Academy. On arriving from Bhubaneswar after the marathon international Odissi events, I saw few photos of Vempati sir being honoured at Vijaywada recently. As usual we started conversing, Vempati sir, his two sons Venkat and Ravi, and I.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Interview - Mad N Divine - Lalitha Venkat

Kartik Fine Arts and Dr. Anita Ratnam present the annual Natya Darshan Conference on December 23, 24 and 25, 2011 at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai. This year’s conference is curated and produced by Arangham Trust in partnership with Kartik Fine Arts for the academic component of the December dance festival. Dr. Ketu Katrak (University of California, Irvine) is the consultant for the conference.

The theme of the conference is MAD & DIVINE and it is a gathering of performers, poets, scholars, and cultural commentators on the varied nuances of the lives and creative works of India’s beloved female mystic poets like Andal, Avvayar, Meera Bai, Lal Ded etc. 

Tribute to Odissi Guru Bijoy Kumar Senapati - Ambika Docherty

On Thursday 8th December 2011, our dear Guru Bijoy Kumar Senapati passed away at the age of 75.

The legacy of his life that was dedicated to Odissi dance will continue through Chandrabhanu and the Chandrabhanu Bharatalaya Academy.

Read the tribute in the site

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Article - How Malavika Sarukkai led me first to heaven, then to hospital - Bruno Kavanagh

A plea for lower volumes in Carnatic music and classical dance presentations

Last Sunday morning I found myself deep inside the marvelous Malar Hospital in Adyar, where a doctor was probing my right ear with a long and pointed implement. He was attempting to remove a foreign object that had become lodged far inside my aural canal, dangerously close to the ear drum.

As he calmly and competently went about his work, I asked myself the question: “Am I the first person in history to be hospitalized as a result of attending a Bharatanatyam performance?”

Perhaps I should provide some context to this bizarre turn of events: my injury was sustained during a performance the previous evening by Malavika Sarukkai at the Sri YGP auditorium. It was self-inflicted: as is frequently the case at Carnatic concerts and dance recitals in Chennai, I had found the volume from the speakers stacked beside the stage (and throughout the auditorium) unbearably loud. But rather than complain, or leave (since I very much wanted to see Malavika perform) I decided that the best way forward would be to stuff the well-chewed corners of a paper napkin into each of my ears, to filter out the excess sound.

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Dance History Column - Subbudu - Ashish Mohan Khokar

There are critics and critics, some glorify their travels, some their connections. One man stood just by the power of his pen. His name was PV Subramaniam.

He would slide quietly into any available seat of a hall and inconspicuously observe. He did not wear flashy clothes to attract attention or hug and kiss, later only to knife in the back!  This man, our man, his opinion counted and his observation set the tone for the season. The man - PV Subramaniam - strode like a giant in the field of dance and Carnatic music criticism. “An Andhra family doctor friend never called us three brothers by proper names. As it happens in Telugu, he added ‘du’ to each of our names. Hence, Subbudu, Krishnadu and Ramadu.  My brothers shrugged it off. To me, it stuck like glue.”

Read the article in the site

Friday, 9 December 2011

Article - Sabha hoppers - GS Rajan

'Sabha hopping' is a commonly used phrase among the artists and innumerable rasikas visiting Chennai from various parts of India and abroad during the December music and dance season.

What exactly do these Sabhahoppers (S'hoppers, for short) do? Attired in their newly purchased wardrobes, most of them visit various sabhas to enjoy performances by their favorite artists. The schedule starts from morning and continues late into the night. Attending a seminar in the morning, having coffee and snacks in the sabha canteen, meeting artist friends in green rooms and wishing them all the best while being photographed with the artists - all these are important items on the agenda. The photographs are later posted in social networking sites like facebook, etc.

Read the article in the site

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Article - Pavakathakali - Kapila Venu

Pavakathakali or Puppet Kathakali is an art form that has had its share in making Kathakali, the classical dance theatre of Kerala, popular even from the time of its evolution.  It is possible to see in different regions across cultures the puppet version of their important art forms.  Bunraku is thus the puppet version of the Japanese Kabuki; the Chinese puppet theatre has elements that compare with the Beijing Opera.  The dance drama Yakshagana from Karnataka in India has with regional variations its incarnation in the Yakshagana puppet.  The fact underlined is that when children and adults see a character unfold through puppets, it leaves a strong impression in their minds.

In olden times, puppeteers all over the world travelled a lot.  They would bundle up their puppets and travel across villages, from house to house and perform in the domestic space for children and adults.  When such itinerant performers arrived in the ancestral homes, the hosts paid a lot of attention to take care of their needs for the performances generated a lot of excitement in children.
Read the article in the site

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Manipur Diary - Bhagyachandra National Festival of Classical Dances 2011: Edition IX - Dr. Sunil Kothari

When the renowned theatre director of Chorus Repertory Theatre, Ratan Thiyam called me at Delhi from Imphal two months ago to block my travel dates from 9th till 14th November, for the IXth edition of Bhagyachandra National Festival of Classical Dances 2011, I was delighted for the very reason that on 10th November, it would be Kartik Purnima and we would be able to witness in Shri Govindajee temple in Raas Mandap, Maha Raas being staged specially as a tradition on the full moon night.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Book Review - Down Memory Lane - Dr Sunil Kothari

The Dance Orissi by Mohan Khokar (and) Ashish Khokar
Abhinav Publications, New Delhi / First Edition 2011 / Price Rs 3,360
Pages 340 colour illustrations 163 black and white 258 / Size 30x 22 cm.

At the very outset, I would like to congratulate Ashish Khokar, for taking pains for more than 10 years to bring out the last book of his late father Prof Mohan Khokar on Odissi dance. He has done a commendable job as best as he could. For me, this book is like ‘down memory lane’ because Mohan Khokar was my friend, philosopher, guide and a mentor. It brought several memories alive for me.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Spaces for Engagement: art on a pavement (possibly) - Vikram Iyengar

During a recent trip to the UK, I encountered various examples of the relationship between artworks, the public domain and the rejuvenation of urban spaces. These experiences underlined several issues about how, why and where an engagement with the arts as a social concern is both possible and necessary. A space to learn, to play, to gather, to grow, to appreciate, to imagine … and to have a whole load of fun.

Read the article in the site

Monday, 14 November 2011

Bharatanatyam: Present and future at the hands of NRIs - Prathiba Natesan

In recent times, I have witnessed several jaw-dropping, wonderful performances in Dallas and Houston (Shijith Nambiar, Rama Vaidyanathan, Spanda) that I have left the auditoriums giggling like a teenager, almost drunk with the beauty of these performances. Today’s dancers, even the traditional ones, incorporate interesting and different movements in their dances to add dynamism – an excellent example of evolution.  At the same time, there also seems to be something that is stagnant in its practice and even an evolution in the wrong direction, if I may be so bold.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Uma Sharma - Ashish Mohan Khokar

“Nazar bana! Nazar bandh!” These words of my guru Shambhu Maharaj echo in my ears. He taught me how to use eyes for dance. He said, if you don’t know this, you are not meant for dance,” reminisces Uma Sharma.

Born in Delhi on November 20, 1942 to a family of litterateurs, which comprised of Acharya Pandit Vasudeva Sharma, Sanskrit vidwan for a father and Ratna Devi for mother, Uma grew up with her elder sister Rama.

Read the article in the site

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Natyapriya institute of Bangalore acquires a new open air auditorium - Dr Sunil Kothari

On 15th and 16th October 2011, Bangalore based Bharatanatyam guru Padmini Ramachandran, Director of Natyapriya, saw her dream come true. She had acquired a plot of land on which she by her own dint of hard work built an open air theatre, which was inaugurated in the presence of a large number of admirers, contemporary gurus, dancers and well wishers in Bangalore including leading gurus Radha Sridhar, Lalitha Srinivasan, Bhanumathi and others. 

Padmini Ramachandran's fond dream was of a centre for cultural excellence and well rounded education in dance and music. Therefore when the Government of Karnataka granted her an acre of land to build her cultural institution, she felt that her prayers were answered. Through dance, she has touched many lives and continues to mould the careers of the young generation.  The students of Natyapriya are known for their outstanding performances. Many have performed in national festivals at Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and main cultural centers in Karnataka. Several students are Central and State government merit scholarship holders. Her daughter and disciple Kanya Ramachandran Tayalia, has dedicated her life to carry forward the legacy of Natyapriya.

Read the article in the site

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Rathna Kumar: Cannot imagine my life without Kuchipudi - Lalitha Venkat

Hailing from a family of musicians and writers, Rathna Kumar is an internationally renowned dancer, teacher and choreographer. She trained initially in Bharatanatyam under Guru KJ Sarasa, and in Kuchipudi under gurus Vedantam Jagannatha Sharma and Vempati Pedda Satyam. She later learnt from Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam at the Kuchipudi Art Academy in Chennai. A child prodigy, Rathna Kumar was known as ‘Rathna Papa’ and performed around India from a very young age.  She emerged as a front ranking Kuchipudi dancer in the 1970s. She subsequently moved to the United States, where she established the Anjali Centre for Performing Arts (1975), the first Indian dance school in Texas and one of the first in the US, and the Samskriti Society for Indian Performing Arts (1994) at Houston. She has served as Dance Instructor at Rice University, USA, since 2002. As a performer-teacher and as a member of several organizations and committees, she has contributed significantly to the practice and promotion of India’s dance forms in the USA. 

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Malaysia Diary - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Asia Pacific International Dance Conference
Theme Hybridity in Dance: Researching, Performing and writing Old and New Genres.

Read the article in the site

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Video piracy - Ananda Shankar Jayant

There is a website that is uploading brief video clippings of Doordarshan recordings as well as DVD clippings of different dancers.

Monday, 26 September 2011

A Century of Indian Dance & Purusha in USA-Italy - Ashish Mohan Khokar

A Century of Indian Dance was culled, collated and curated to be presented by ICCR as part of the international exposition of Indian dance history and heritage.  The ICCR, under the enlightened patronage of Dr. Karan Singh, its President, and Director General Shri Suresh Goel, platformed India's largest dance collection, the Mohan Khokar collection, at a national curtain-raiser in mid July in Delhi. The Times of India hailed it as the dance exhibition of the century, as never before such treasures had been shown. This event in Delhi's Habitat was a precursor to a 10-city tour of USA and 2 cities in Italy during the last two months. As part of live costume display, 5 dancers were also additionally supported by ICCR to travel with the exhibition. They had performed and showcased the same in Delhi and are among the best of Bangalore's male soloists in each form: Bharatanatyam (Satyanarayana Raju and Seshadri Iyengar), Kathak (Muralimohan Kalva and Tushar Bhatt) and Orissi (Lingaraj Pradhan from Bhubaneswar). Satya could not travel as on the eve of departure, he fractured his ankle and wrist in an accident. Having conducted several Dance DISCourses for Alliance Francaise in Bangalore, yours truly put together the whole show and was also its sutradhara.   

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Lateral teaching - Nalini Raghu

Everyone loves to talk about the 'good old days' and say how wonderful things were in the past.  But change is inevitable in every phase of our lives, and change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a cure.  Artistes are very good at adapting to changing times and continuing tradition.  The very existence of our classical dance and music tradition is proof of this.
Read the article in the site

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

I have a lot more to give: Methil Devika - Lalitha Venkat

Methil Devika received her initial tutelage in dance at the age of four from Melattur S Natarajan, a disciple of veterans Balu Bhagavathar and KP Kittappa Pillai. In Kuchipudi, she did her formative as well as advanced training under Satyapriya Ramana in Chennai. Devika was also trained by Guru Vempati Ravi at the Kuchipudi Dance Academy of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. Devika took her Masters degree in Kuchipudi at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata with a first rank and gold medal.

Devika is trained in Mohiniattam under Girija Chandran, student of Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttyamma. She also trained for a brief period under Kalamandalam Leelamma mastering the technicalities of the much acclaimed Kalamandalam sampradaya of Mohiniattam.

She is associated with scholars like Dr. VS Sharma, Kavalam Narayana Panikker and Nelliyode Vasudevan Nampoothiri for their guidance in many facets of choreography.

Devika joined Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University in 2009. She has developed modules to enable the mentally challenged to express non-verbally. Devika has choreographed the song ‘Malar manchariyil vandineppol' in VK Prakash's film ‘Karmayogi.' She has a master's degree in business administration, with specialization in marketing. She is presently working for a doctorate at the Bharathidasan University. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

My mentor Dr. K Venkatalakshamma (1906 – 2002) - Dasappa Keshava

Though my guru, the late Dr. K Venkatalakshamma, was not born in a Devadasi family, she was appointed as a temple and court dancer by the great King Nalvadi Krishnarajendra Wodeyar. When Venkatalakshamma was an eight-year-old girl, she was brought from her village Tangli (near Kadur in Karnataka) by her grandparents to Mysore, to learn Bharatanatyam under the guidance of the well-known dance guru Jatti Thayamma. Thayamma was appointed as Asthana Vidushi when she was just fifteen years old. She went on to be honoured by Dr. S Radhakrishnan with the title ‘Natya Saraswati.’ Venkatalakshamma learnt the art of dance in the gurukula system and her ‘Ranga Pravesha’ was celebrated when she was twelve. She also learnt music and Sanskrit from Asthana Vidwans and performed with her guru for nearly 30 years. It was the time when the Mysore style of dance was at its zenith and in full bloom.

Venkatalakshamma used to tell me often about the great experiences she had during her service at the palace. It seems there were two different types of service: one, ceremonies in the court took place in the presence of the King and royal family only during major festivals, like Ganapati Mahotsava, Balipadyami, Dasara and the King’s birthday. The second used to be a general ritual which used to take place on all the religious days in the palace temples, where dancers and musicians - appointed as Asthana Vidushis and Vidwans - would offer or present their art to the deity. 

Mysore - Bangalore Diary - Dr. Sunil Kothari

When Dr. Mulk Raj Anand had invited me to edit the volume on Bharatanatyam in the early seventies, I had visited Mysore to gather more information on Mysore School of Bharatanatyam. Kathak exponent Maya Rao had worked on this tradition and written about it. She had requested Nirmala Joshi, the secretary of Sangeet Natak Akademi to arrange for documentation of this rare tradition and few exponents. Govind Vidyarthi, the documentation officer of the Akademi, visited the Mysore palace with Maya Rao and photographed palace dancers - among them the most renowned one was K Venkatalakshamma.

Read the article in the site

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Mangalore Diary: In praise of senior Bharatanatyam exponent Jayalakshmi Alva - Dr. Sunil Kothari

After her marriage, Jayalakshmi Alva moved to Mumbai from Ahmedabad (where she taught at Darpana) teaching several young dancers at Bhulabhai Institute including Sonal Mansingh (nee Pakvasa) and Maya Kulkarni. I used to attend her classes. Thanks to Prof. Mohan Khokar who had informed me about her being a disciple of Guru Dandayudhapani Pillai, her solid training and brilliant nattuvangam, I enjoyed meeting her and learning more about Kuravanji, dance-drama form, and her method of training young dancers without any compromise. She was quite strict, but also affectionate and proud of what she had inherited as art from her mentor.

Jayaben used to conduct nattuvangam for Sonal and Maya and ah, what riyaz they used to do. Bhulabhai Institute at that time was the meeting place of Pandit Ravi Shankar, painters MF Hussain, Dashrath Patel, Gaitonde and others. Soli Batliwala, trustee of Bhulabhai Institute, assisted dancers, musicians and painters. Can you believe, the institute used to charge painters rupee one only per day as rent for letting them use the studios there! Dancers practiced downstairs. The terrace theatre had performances of dance and music. Those were the halcyon days in Mumbai for performing arts. 

Roses & Thorns - Regarding some fake teachers - A concerned parent

My daughter took Bharatanatyam lessons from this teacher. She claimed to have learned dance from someone in Kerala. The classes went ok. But when my daughter started performing we got comments like the style, poses and the mudras were all wrong. This went on for some time, because we couldn't or didn’t know what to do. We are not from the dance background.

Read the article in the site

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Monday, 22 August 2011

General posting - August 2011

I f you wish to comment on an article in the site that has not been featured in the blog, you can add your comment at this posting.  Please make a reference to the article on which you are commenting.  Appropriate comments will be featured in the site.

Narthaki Teram

The Chandrasekhars - Lalitha Venkat

CV Chandrasekhar is a multi-faceted personality being a dancer, choreographer, researcher, musician, academician, composer and highly acclaimed teacher of Bharatanatyam.  He has been performing for the past six decades in India and all over the globe and is invited by many dancers the world over to teach and to choreograph.  His presentation of Bharatanatyam technique is at its finest and continues to be an inspiration for all dancers.  He has a number of music and dance compositions to his credit and his dance dramas have been highly acclaimed for their individuality and innovative approach.  

Read the interview in the site

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Mohan Khokar Dance Collection A century of Indian dance: 1901-2000 - Dr. Sunil Kothari

At the Habitat Gallery, New Delhi, this unique exhibition was mounted by Ashish Khokar, son of late Prof Mohan Khokar from 17th till 24th July 2011. It was inaugurated by Dr. Karan Singh, President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations, which had sponsored it and they have published a catalogue, edited by Ashish Khokar which indeed is a collector’s item. As a matter of fact, after the exhibition is over one browses through the catalogue again and again and relishes the rare photographs and several items which constitute Mohan Khokar’s mind-boggling collection. Several dignitaries participated in inaugurating several galleries as devised by Ashish and a veritable ‘who is who ‘of Indian dance attended the opening which indeed spoke volumes for dancers’ and aficionados’ affection for Mohan Khokar and respect for his efforts to document the history of Indian dance dating back to 1850!

Read the article in the site

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Roses & Thorns - Bharatanatyam for sale - Concerned Artists from India and North America

There is a disturbing and growing trend of exploiting Bharatanatyam artists from India when they come to teach in North America. We have heard of several incidents when the artist from India discusses the terms of the teaching work involved and the amount to be paid over the phone with teachers of Bharatanatyam located in the US and in Canada. Sadly enough, the verbally agreed upon terms are often violated in terms of the artists from India being made to work inordinately long hours, and often held in limbo without any payment at all until the end of their time with a specific teacher. Worse still, at times, the US or Canada-based teachers back out of the payment altogether citing that the artist’s work was not satisfactory; this is often articulated only after the India based artist has provided much time, energy and labor with two to three weeks of teaching.
To that effect, in consultation with legal counsel, we suggest a set of “best practices” that both artists and teachers who hire them would be well advised to.....

Read the article on the site

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Health Column - Dancer’s diet-Protein - Vishwa Kiran

The average adult only needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kg body weight to stay healthy. To estimate your protein needs, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36. For example, a 115 lb (52 kilos) dancer would require about 41 grams of protein a day (115 lb x 0.36 + 41.4 grams of protein). 

It is necessary that dancers maintain a standard intake of proteins on a daily basis. Recommended intake for dancers: protein - 15-20 % of total intake, 20% of protein intake should be essential amino acids (Chicken, fish, beef, pork or nonanimal complimentary proteins).  

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

In the land of Kalidasa, the poet of Meghadoota - Dr.Sunil Kothari

Performances by Ramli Ibrahim and his Sutra troupe from Kuala Lumpur, Sujata Mohapatra’s disciple Taissia Shpulnikova from Moscow, and from Bhubaneswar, Bichitranand Swain’s Rudraksha artistes Manasi Tripathy and Rashmi Ranjan Barik, and Guru Durga Charan Ranbir’s Nrutyayan artistes including dancer Rahul Acharya.
 On the last day in the morning, a special lec-dem for dance appreciation was organized during which Ramli’s dancers showed how Odissi is different from Bharatanatyam.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Article - Benefits of dance - Rajyshree Ramesh

A recent article in The Hindu about teaching Bharatanatyam for its therapeutic benefits to women and housewives acknowledges the importance of making dance accessible to all genres of participants. Even while dance continues to enjoy a professional standard, with the necessary training being imparted that grooms dancers for a performing career, such an acknowledgment coming from one of the stalwart gurus of Chennai, who is known for the professional dancers he has brought forth, underscores the fact that it is equally important to make the same professional standards of training available to those who may not be aiming at or reaching out for the stage. It exposes the relevance that is being given to its practice in a modern world, where we are looking beyond categorizations and segregations. It is an important step in the right direction. This aspect however also poses challenges to teachers, both in the methods of teaching and the approach to dance in general.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Health column - Dance age - Veena Basavarajaiah

“Young dancers are training at a very vulnerable time in their lives...So train the whole person, not just the dancer."
- Deborah Bull

Formal training in movement requires a very high level of discipline, longer attention span and the maturity to understand its nuances. Forcing the aesthetics of a form on to a child before its mind and body is prepared might result in a situation where the child develops a distaste towards the art form. Children below the age of 8 have limited attention span while their bones are too soft and muscles fragile. Therefore pre-training process is required where the child learns to move freely to music and rhythm and also develops self awareness. One has to let the child explore its creativity through creative tasks and games. Parents have to be aware that it requires a different approach to teaching at this age and must choose teachers with care.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Interview - Kathak guru Rani Karnaa’s journey of life and dance - Nita Vidyarthi

Kathak guru Rani Karnaa’s journey of life and dance - Nita Vidyarthi

Seemingly endless in the fertility of her imaginative choreographic and literary resources, Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Rani Karnaaa, the outstanding Kathak guru, has been enriching the dance form, resourcefully drawing from her treasure-trove of training under great gurus, integrating the traditions of Jaipur and Lucknow gharanas. Born in Hyderabad, Sindh, this very learned dancer and outstanding teacher has made Kolkata her home. The seventy one year old Guru, who lives for her dance and her students, who love and respect her immensely, managed time to answer some questions.

BSS Rao, art critic passed away in Mysore on July 4, 2011

BSS Rao, art critic, patron of classical arts and secretary of Mysore based Sri Lalithakala Academy Foundation, passed away in Mysore on July 4, 2011 at the age of 82.
Kolkata diary- Dr. Sunil Kothari

By a happy coincidence during my recent visit to Kolkata, I saw two productions quite different in character, one a classical presentation sponsored by The Peerless in Odissi, Sthapatya Satya by Aloka Kanungo in collaboration with four Gotipua dancers at Rabindra Sadan on 21st June 2011 and next day on 22nd June, a contemporary work of Sapphire Creations Dance Workshop as part of their Patton Quarterly Arts Series 2011, supported by Antiquity and adopted by Sanjay Dudhia and Patton, on exquisite wooden floor of the Palladian Lounge at the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Read the article at

Friday, 1 July 2011

Best talent of the 5th Naveen Kalakar

Best talent of the 5th Naveen Kalakar
The 5th Naveen Kalakar, an international level individual talent search program for young artists from 7 styles of Indian classical dances besides Kathakali, Indian classical music and instrumental music was held at the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalay’s mini auditorium from 10th to 13th June 2011 by the Devdasi Nrutya Mandir in association with Samskritiki (an organization run by dance critic Shyamhari Chakra) as well as with the Department of Tourism and Culture, Govt of Orissa.

Artistes from USA, London, Peru and many parts of the country participated for solo performance of Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Manipuri, Sattriya, Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam. Young classical singers of Odissi and Hindustani classical music and instrumentalists of flute, tabla and mardal also performed solo.

Click here to read the report

Ranee Ramaswamy: McKnight Distinguished Artist

Ranee Ramaswamy: McKnight Distinguished Artist- Lalitha Venkat
The Mcknight Distinguished Artist is an annual honor that includes a $50,000 cash award and recognizes individual Minnesota artists who have made significant contributions to the quality of the state’s cultural life.

On May 27, 2011 the McKnight Foundation of Minnesota named Minnesota-based dancer / choreographer Ranee Ramaswamy as the 2011 MCKNIGHT DISTINGUISHED ARTIST, in recognition of artistic excellence spanning more than three decades.

Ranee Ramaswamy is the first dance artist to be selected as McKnight Distinguished Artist that is now in its 14th year.

Click here to read the interview 

Stirring a hornet’s nest? - Book review

Stirring a hornet’s nest?
- Kiran Rajagopalan

In October 2010, Mumbai’s Sri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts & Sangeetha Sabha published a special commemorative issue of their quarterly magazine, Shanmukha, on the banis and latest trends of Bharatanatyam. Most of the major banis are adequately discussed in the first half of the issue by leading dancers, gurus and scholars including Kamala Lakshminarayanan, Alarmel Valli, Leela Samson and Ashish Khokar. The Vazhuvoor, Pandanallur, Kalakshetra and Kattumannarkoil banis are each represented through single articles by these authors. Interestingly, the Thanjavur bani is more extensively covered in the four articles on Kitappa Pillai (Dr. Sucheta Chapekar), Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir (Jyothi Mohan) and Dhandayudapani Pillai (Jayalakshmi Alva & Urmila Sathyanarayanan).

A commendable effort by the organization to compile such an exhaustive and informative issue featuring articles by so many different artistes. The editor of this issue, Radha Namboodiri, thoughtfully remarked whether this endeavor would “stir a hornet’s nest.” Hopefully, it will be a starting point for serious discussions about the future of Bharatanatyam.

Click here to read the complete article

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Leela Samson, currently chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi and director of Kalakshetra in Chennai, has been elected as the new chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) - film censor board. She will succeed veteran actress Sharmila Tagore, who ends her tenure on March 31, 2011.

For Reactions from the dance ecommunity on this additional posting to Leela Samson, visit
A dancer as Chairperson of the Indian Censor Board

Shanta Serbjeet Singh has been elected Vice-Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi

Eminent arts writer and columnist Shanta Serbjeet Singh has been elected Vice-Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the national academy of music, dance and drama in New Delhi, by its General Council. The Chairman of the Akademi is well-known dancer Leela Samson, who was appointed by the President last year. The Secretary and Chief Executive is Jayant Kastuar.