Wednesday 31 October 2012

Interview - Conference on Epic Women: Participants speak - Lalitha Venkat

Kartik Fine Arts in association with Arangham Trust presents EPIC WOMEN, a conclave of talks, presentations and performances focusing on iconic women in myth, history, literature and life, from December 20 to 23, 2012 at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Chennai. The speakers and performers share their thoughts about their presentations.

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Monday 29 October 2012

Interview - Mayuri Upadhya: A big milestone for Nritarutya - Lalitha Venkat

Mayuri Upadhya, Artistic Director of Bangalore based Indian contemporary dance company Nritarutya, shares her experience of choreographing a mega production for superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s 70th birthday celebrations in Mumbai on October 10, 2012. A team of 80 dancers led by Mayuri Upadhya, performed to the tunes of the legendary poem “Madhushala” written by Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan and sung by Amitabh Bachchan himself.

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Saturday 27 October 2012

Ramayana: A dramatic presentation of the great Indian epic - Dr. Sunil Kothari

The genesis of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK) can be traced to a small sponsoring body Jhankar, set up in 1947. The Kendra formally came into existence in 1952. Since then it has grown and become a premier cultural institution of India, with an active focus on the preservation of the country’s cultural heritage and the promotion of its performing arts. The Kendra maintains a permanent dance-drama group whose objective it is to enshrine and present, as aesthetically as possible, the best of India’s religion, mythology and folklore.

The Ramlila (now titled as Ram), with over 2000 performances in India and abroad, is one of its major achievements. Shobha Deepak Singh, the dynamic director of the Kendra, has conceived, produced and directed the present Ram dance-drama, which is a runaway success and enthralls various sections of the society.  From the children, young students, parents and senior citizens, the crowds watch it unfolding with interest, even when the 'katha vastu' is familiar to most of us. It is a spectacular production and from the start to finish, it engages one in each sequence, so well planned is its presentation.

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Visiting Surat in South Gujarat - Dr. Sunil Kothari

I was away in Guwahati attending the Book Fair organized by Publication Board, Assam, but returned to honour my commitment and meet the faculty members of the two year old college of performing arts with graduate programs in dance, drama and music. The Chairman of SCOPA, Rajanikant Marfatia, my host, was keen on my interacting with the students as well as with other officers of the college for suggestions on developing the course and the difficulties institutions face when they start courses in performing arts. Rajanikant Marfatia is a dynamic person, past President of The South Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Surat, Chairman of SCOPA and connected with Reliance Industries Ltd, a visionary who did not leave any stone unturned to see that Surat had an airport and connected with Delhi and Mumbai. When I arrived by early morning flight at Surat and saw the svelte new airport, I was much impressed. Leave alone the efforts for placing Surat on air route, Rajanikant bhai’s interest in educational activities are very deep and I realized that lack of money or financial assistance are not major issues. The enlightened leaders and social workers in Surat have been donating funds. And today Surat with its progress has acquired a reputation with UNESCO as the major eighth city of India. 

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Sunday 14 October 2012

Geeta Chandran pays tribute to Gandhiji in ‘Gandhi: Warp and Weft’ - Dr. Sunil Kothari

On the occasion of the143rd birth anniversary of Gandhiji, Geeta Chandran presented her new choreographic work ‘Gandhi: Warp and Weft’ at Chinmayananda Auditorium on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti. A full house attended the performance and was in for an unusual presentation in dance. Geeta used classical Bharatanatyam vocabulary, free dance movements and also attempted abstract concepts imaginatively.

Dividing the presentation into six segments she began with Rama stuti rendered melodiously with hastabhinaya and expressions appropriate to the lyric and performed with subtle nuances. Depicting Rama as God whom Hanuman, opening his heart showed he resides there, Rama who killed Kumbhakarna, Ravana, had pattabhisheka when he returned to Ayodhya after exile in forest and so on, she indicated Gandhiji’s religious and spiritual synergy to his devotion to Lord Rama.                                          

Then Geeta showed shringara, love suggesting Gandhiji and Kasturba’s love play, later on Gandhiji’s decision to observe abstinence, and she touched upon multiple faiths, Hindu prayers and Muslim namaz, with small cameos, extending narration to several other issues.

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Wednesday 10 October 2012

Article - My experience at the Olympics - Seema Menon

London 2012 Olympics, a momentous occasion for me and an abiding memory for life. After enjoying all previous Olympics vicariously in front of the couch, I was thrilled to be selected to perform at the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies in November last year. I had never imagined I would participate in an Olympic ceremony when I moved to London almost 7 years back from Mumbai. I had always wanted to learn a musical instrument but couldn't follow through in my younger days and what better opportunity than to play the "drums" in the Industrial Revolution section "Pandemonium" under the direction of Danny Boyle at the Olympics! To perceive that it was such an iconic event and watched by millions gave me sufficient gusto to pursue the rehearsals with absolute diligence.

We began as novices, beating the plastic-buckets-modified-drums with varying rhythms and not once were the drumming teachers peeved at us. Instead, at all times, they provided great leadership and patience to galvanise this 1000 strong team of drummer volunteers from various backgrounds. Amidst all my initial doubts and anxieties, I was astonished that a project of this gargantuan nature could be so gently managed at the same time preserving the fun aspect whilst training. My biggest challenge was to manage my work schedule and family front but the support from all quarters and the encouraging words to participate in this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity kept me going. 

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Tuesday 9 October 2012

Profile/Tribute - Living a dream and dreaming a life; Remembering Guru Gangadhar Pradhan - Kedar Mishra

His career as a dancer and dance teacher was not an ordinary one. He was the leader and path finder of second generation Odissi. As a student he learnt the art forms from his elders, but as a creator he started weaving his own dream. To set a stylistic rupture from the very established streams of the great masters was not an easy task. He took the challenge and started composing on his own. His masterpiece Konark Kanti, Shiva Panchaka, many Ashtapadis from Geeta Govinda, Nava Rasa, Ashtanayika... the list is quite long and refreshingly original. He imbibed styles of three major gurus and created his own style of expression. Emphasizing more on the finer elements of body he restructured the movements, stepping and style of expressions. He was a wonderful communicator and explicit chronicler of textual details in group formation.

People know him as a brilliant choreographer, teacher and great organizer. Personally, I have seen him performing on and off the stage many a time. The memory of his mesmerizing performance as a Gotipua, at the age of 55, is still fresh in my mind. That was an exclusive lucky show for me and few of my friends. Prior to his untimely death, Guruji was involved with a grand ambitious project to document all kinds of folk dance forms of Odisha. He invited all senior Gotipua gurus to participate in a documentation camp and luckily I got an invitation from him to watch the camp. One by one, seniors like Birabar Sahu, Maguni Das, Gobinda Pala and many others spoke and demonstrated the raw style and techniques of Gotipuas. Finally came a frail looking, darker old man. He was introduced to us as Guru Bhagirathi Mohapatra, a contemporary of Gangadhar Pradhan.
Sakhi mu laje mali...mana karuthila kimpa mu yamuna ku gali lo... that was the song. Describing the blissful embarrassment of a Gopika at the bathing ghat and her erotic expressions for Krishna were enacted in a typical desi manner and the body kinetic of the man was superb. After Bhagirathi Mohapatra’s performance, I requested Ganga sir to perform the same abhinaya and to show us the transformation process from desi to margi. And Guruji transformed into a young, love sick Gopika and what a performance that was!!

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Saturday 6 October 2012

Dance India Asia Pacific Festival, Singapore - Dr. Sunil Kothari

When I learnt that Dance India from Milapfest in UK was becoming a part of Dance India Asia Pacific, and I was to visit Singapore on my way to Kuala Lumpur, I decided to stop over in Singapore for three nights before going to attend Ramli Ibrahim’s Tarikan Dance Festival on 2nd September onwards.

I am glad I decided to do so, as Guru Neila Satyalingam, the former Kalakshetra alumnus and a pioneer Bharatanatyam dancer, director of Apsaras Arts, who has trained a generation of dancers in Singapore, was a partner of Milapfest for this unique collaboration and bringing top dancers to give workshops and perform for young Singapore dancers. My dynamic friend Aravinth Kumarasamy, a versatile musician, veena player, music composer, nattuvangam artiste and classical dancer, closely associated with Apsaras Arts, welcomed me and arranged for my talk on my writing books on Indian classical dance, at Goodman Arts Centre on 1st September 2012. 

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Friday 5 October 2012

Article - Non-violence and dancers - Madhavi Puranam

“In necessary things - unity; in doubtful things - liberty; in all things - charity.”

Nothing could describe more aptly the need of classical dance today, than Richard Baxter's words as quoted above.

Unity, tolerance, a healthy competition (if at all artists must compete) and above all a collective vision seems to be the need of the hour of the classical dancers/teachers/students.

Bitter rivalries between dancers and gurus which pass on through their students are not new to the minuscule world of classical dance. Dance scholars/researchers today do not see eye to eye with dancers; colleagues in dance departments at universities and institutions do not work in cooperation; and the students suffer the lack of role models in the mediocre departments. Various universities do not cooperate to work for a common vision; musicians and dancers no longer form a progressive team; the divides are too many and too deep to bridge at times.

The pursuit of the classical arts demands a rigorous discipline from the practitioners. Maybe, it also seeks from the practitioners, liberty in thought and pursuit of liberty through discovery of self. 

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Tuesday 2 October 2012

Anita Ratnam presented AVANI...A HANDFUL OF DUST-September 15 & 16, 2012 Chennai

September 15 & 16, 2012 Chennai
Anita Ratnam presented AVANI...A HANDFUL OF DUST a dance theatre presentation. The choreography, music and film design draw inspiration from Tagore’s poetry and its inflections, focusing on its nuances and subtleties. The First Handful – Dust, Second Handful – Words, Third Handful – Flowers, Fourth Handful – Leaves and Fifth Handful – Gold, uses a combination of contemporary and classical soundscapes, spoken text. The choreography draws upon diverse vocabularies such as Kathakali, Bharatanatyam, Butoh, meditative movement, rehearsed improvisations and theatrical interventions.
At: Alliance Francaise, Chennai, 7.15pm

Reviews -

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