Sunday 31 March 2013

15th National Festival of Creative Arts - Dr Sunil Kothari

I am a great admirer of Bijon Mukherjee, an indefatigable organizer, art lover and never-say-die enthusiast, who after retiring from  Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), upon a suggestion of Lalit Mansingh, the then Director General of ICCR, started an institution Impresario India, presenting group choreographic works in ‘ National Festival of New Dance Choreography’ annually.
For the past 14 years, Bijon-da has organized several other functions covering Rabindra Sangeet, recitation of poetry, plays, folk dances and what have you. He cast his net wide and encouraged several artistes. The annual National Festival of New Dance Choreography became extremely popular and brought to the Capital senior and young choreographers with their new group works, in different dance forms, including Sattriya recently recognized as the eighth classical dance form.

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Monday 18 March 2013

3rd edition of Ashtapadi Festival - Dr Sunil Kothari

Now in its 3rd edition, Ashtapadi Festival of dance featuring classic, recent and new choreography of Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda (March 9 & 10) at the Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi, received a rousing reception. Not a seat was vacant and the rasikas stood on the side and sat on the gangway. It was presented by the Sri Geetagovinda Pratishthan, Puducherry, established by scholar and cultural organizer late Dr. Raghunath Pani in 2001 to propagate Indian and Odishan culture. His younger brother, the noted scholar and musicologist, Dr. Subas Pani, who has brought out Cds of all the ashtapadis of the Gita Govinda as Sampoorna Geetagovinda, presented during two former editions of the festival, new choreography to the songs of Gita Govinda in Odissi.
This year in the third edition, the festival expanded its scope to feature the Gita Govinda in major classical dance forms of India. Of the twenty four songs, thirteen songs were presented in four dance forms - Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi and Mohiniattam. Of these, eight dance numbers were specially choreographed in these four forms and were presented for the first time. Dr. Subas Pani wears many hats including that of an author, translator, composer, scholar with research interests in India’s cultural heritage, Jagannatha and Jayadeva.  As a creative director of the festival, he had curated the entire festival along with his daughter Sanhati Pani, the festival director.

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Friday 15 March 2013

10th National Dance Festival at Ahmedabad - Dr Sunil Kothari

By a fortuitous circumstance during my visit to Gujarat both at Baroda and Ahmedabad, I was lucky to attend and review two major dance festivals Nritya Parva and 11th Kathak Nritya Sangeet Mahotsav at both the cities.
It was Kathak exponents, husband and wife team of Maulik Shah and Ishira Parikh, who introduced me to Chandan Thakore, Bharatanatyam exponent, teacher and choreographer. I was delighted to meet him and learn a lot about Nrityabharati institute established by his mother, the well known guru Elakshi Thakore....

Chandan invited me to attend the 10th National Dance Festival (Feb 18 – 21) at Samutkarsha, near Prahlad Nagar. The venue accommodates nearly a thousand people. With a large stage with black backdrop and better viewing facilities and commendable sound system and lighting, the performances by participating dancers were engaging.  On the opening night, in Naari choreographed by Chandan, young dancers dwelt upon the theme of women through ages. From Vedic age, women of eminence like Gargi and others, have been respected for not only their beauty but also intelligence. Praising them the journey of women through ages has been quite fascinating. Woman as mother, wife, friend, playing several roles is indeed Shakti. The feminine principle was well emphasized.  

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Article - Role and function of dance: Historical context (Part 5) - Dr. Anonna Guha

(Final excerpt from the Phd thesis ‘Dance in the urban culture’ under the guidance of Dr. Sharit Bhowmik.)
The fact that scholars and theoreticians found the performing arts worthy of their attention from a very early period is a significant indication of attitudes toward dance and drama. However this interest was not the sole force governing the relationships of dance and dancers to society in general. Gradually many changes took place in the performing arts. Art became a product of India’s caste system and the practice of developing traditions of art within specific communities indeed within families was observed. The schools of art descended through teacher to disciple lineages. Since professional dancers traditionally tended to belong to specific communities within the caste system and they earned their livelihood through it, amateur performers were rare. The castes from which dancers and musicians were drawn, like those supplying sculptors and painters were comparatively low on the ancient systematic scale of ritual purity and social status. There were some exceptions where some forms of music and dance drama were performed by brahmans, exclusively by males. The performing communities of brahmans were marked lower on hierarchy as compared to those brahmans whose special duties involved learning and teaching of the Vedas or other ancient texts. Even the communities of dancers, had to be of sufficient ritual purity to be allowed to perform within temple premises. In Orissa for example, female temple dancers – maharis - actually performed before the sanctum, while boys impersonating female dancers – gotipuas - performed in less exalted surroundings in other outer precincts. The actor - dancers of Kutiyattam Sanskrit drama in Kerala who perform in specially built theatres within the temple grounds are lower ranked brahmans according to some authorities, according to others they are the highest among the Kerala Ambalavasis or temple servants. The actresses and musicians of Kutiyattam are of the next highest rank.

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Wednesday 13 March 2013

Bharatanatyam Festival by Samskruthi, Bangalore - Dr Sunil Kothari

A three-day Bharatanatyam festival from March 1 to 3, 2013 showcasing young and senior dancers from Bangalore was mounted at Ambedkar Auditorium, Andhra Bhavan in Delhi by Samskruthi institution run by Satyanarayana Raju.  Usha RK in collaboration with Adilila Foundation and Andhra Bhavan, New Delhi, helped in organizing it.

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Monday 11 March 2013

11th Kathak Nritya Sangeet Mahotsav - Dr Sunil Kothari

Hot on the heels of Nritya Parva 2013 in memory of Anjali Merh by Anjali Memorial Committee, followed the 11th Kathak Nritya Sangeet Mahotsav organized by Kathak Darshan Trust on 16th and 17th February at the Abhivyakti Sanskritik Sthal, the open air theatre that late Maharaja Ranjitsingh Gaekwad established for the performing arts.
The renowned Kathak exponent from Baroda, Pt Jagdish Gangani, son of the legendary traditional Kathak dancer of Jaipur gharana, Sunderlal Gangani, has been organizing this festival for the last eleven years at the same venue, drawing record crowds. Last year Shovana Narayan, Pandit Birju Maharaj and Saswati Sen from Delhi were invited to perform. It was a huge success. I had attended the performances and was delighted to see Kathak being appreciated with such enthusiasm.

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Sunday 10 March 2013

Khajuraho Festival of Dances - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Now in its 39th year, Khajuraho Festival of dances has added several features along with the festival. When one approached the festival venue located on the Western complex of Chandella temples, one entered into an area which covered several arts. Right from the delicious variety of food of Madhya Pradesh, one moved on to see the looms, weavers weaving amazing patterns on saris, block prints, then a potter, who carved out beautiful shapes of earthen wares. A store next to it had publications on art. From there on one entered the Art Mart, a welcome addition for tourists to buy paintings. Adjacent to it was an exhibition of paintings by artists from Madhya Pradesh, arranged in an eye catching manner.

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Tuesday 5 March 2013

Article - Interfacing with India in Italy - an artistic oasis - Madhu Nataraj

There are phases in one’s life when the spirit seeks an oasis; a space where one can absorb, recharge and welcome a metaphoric stillness. I experienced this much needed phase in Italy at the Teatro Tascabile di Bergamo. This is how it happened.

Last year I was awarded the ‘Mohan Khokar award for excellence in Dance’ at the ‘Attendance’ awards. The Attendance awards were initiated in 2010 by Ashish and Elisabeth Khokar who along with an eminent panel of jurists, acknowledge the contribution and sustained efforts of dance practitioners, pioneers, choreographers, curators. Since last year, the jury has been honoring senior gurus too. Unlike most awards which honour an artiste with a citation and memento, a purse even, this award is refreshingly different. The Attendance committee offers residencies and presents awardees at prominent fora.

I was awarded a 2 week residency at Teatro Tascabile di Bergamo. Bergamo is a stunningly beautiful medieval town tucked away at the foothills of the Alps, about an hour’s drive from the vibrant and busy city of Milano. From the time I was received at the airport, until the time I returned, I was witness to the amazing warmth of my impeccable Italian hosts. 

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