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. 

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