Friday 31 May 2013

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan - Renaissance Man

E. Krishna Iyer is the one dominant name you hear whenever Bharatanatyam is discussed from a historical perspective.  I had no idea about his importance when he presided over my Arangetram held at the Mylapore Rasika Ranjani Sabha in 1951. We used to meet Krishna Iyer often in Mylapore, the hub of cultural events in Chennai. My family too belonged to Mylapore who's who, except that we lived in Sullivan Street in Santhome in an Art Deco bungalow surrounded by a jasmine garden.
Krishna Iyer, an advocate by profession, took to dance in his teens!  Many in Thanjavur district had been exposed to Bharatam as Bharatanatyam was known because of it being part of the sacred enactment of Bhagavatamela natakams in villages like Melattur, Soolamangalam and Saliymangalam. Amateur theatre of this type attracted many young men in the early twentieth century as Bhagavatamela was performed by an all male cast. The young lads with pleasant features learnt dance from Nattuvanars to play the female parts. Krishna Iyer was born in Kalladaikuruchi, but was influenced by the strong Thanjavur culture.  He learnt to dance and as a young man he performed, dressed in the typical female costume.

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1st International Convention of SPIC MACAY (20th-26th May 2013) - Dr Sunil Kothari

Naad Yoga, the yoga of sound.
Early around 4am, we assemble for Naad Yoga, recite the swara along with the note on tanpura, hold breath, release breath, sit for an hour and with the first ray of the sun, the yoga concludes, giving you an experience of calm and peace. Dhrupad rudra veena player Ustad Bahauddin Dagar conducts it, Dr. Kiran Seth joins, we sit cross- legged and realize what a wonderful way it makes one aware of the power of sound and yoga.

The other unusual sessions were conducted by Professor P.L.Dhar, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at IIT Delhi, who has been striving to spread the knowledge of continual practice of self-awareness to sila, samadhi and pannya, as taught by Gautam Buddha. He conducted an intensive on ‘Mindfulness’ making students sensitive to the higher dimensions of human existence.

Fascinating were yoga sessions. Swami Tyagaraj and Swami Yogapratap from the Bihar School of yoga conducted intensive yoga sessions. A large number of participating students displayed praiseworthy enthusiasm. To watch students making a beeline for it was extremely heartening.

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Sunday 26 May 2013

Obit / Tribute - Mridangam vidwan G Ekambaram - Nandini Ramani

With the passing away of the veteran dance mridangam vidwan Kanchipuram G. Ekambaram on May 23, 2013 at Kanchipuram, an era of great stalwarts of the Kanchipuram laya lineage has come to an end. The 80 year old exponent Kanchipuram Govindasamy Ekambaram was the son and disciple of Kanchipuram Govindasamy who played mridangam accompaniment to the legendary T. Balasaraswati in her arangetram held at Kanchipuram Amanakshi Amman Temple. The close association and loyalty of the Kanchipuram mridangam artistes to Bala’s tradition is very long and unique. This binding link between the two was established from the times of the illustrious Kandappa, guru of Bala. Kanchipuram Kuppuswamy Mudaliar, who accompanied Bala all through her artistic career, was Ekambaram’s paternal uncle. Kandappa’s familial links with his student Kanchipuram Ellappa who was also a member of Bala’s orchestra for some time, completed the Kanchipuram association of Bala.

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Monday 20 May 2013

Festival of Varnams - Dr Sunil Kothari

After the successful presentation of Margam/Varnams at Andhra Sabha Auditorium in New Delhi a few months ago, Usha RK, a cultural activist, organizer and firm believer in traditional Bharatanatyam Margam repertoire, in association with India International Centre (IIC) and Kalasindhu, a Bangalore based institution run by Poornima Gururaja, presented a two day festival of Margam / Varnams on 9th and 10th May 2013 at India International Centre’s auditorium. On each evening two sets of artistes performed.
Opening the festival, Usha RK explained the purpose of this festival:”With a view to keep the traditional format of Bharatanatyam alive with its most important item, the Varnams. The format has seen various changes over the years, the duration reduced due to lack of time. The format has seen a huge amount of polishing and sophistication in its presentation. The Varnam has also been compromised on in some ways. To revive the traditional compositions of Varnams, this festival was conceptualized. From Bangalore, we have come with a hope to showcase not only the senior, accomplished dancers, but also to present upcoming dancers who need a platform to display their sadhana and expertise, seeking their place in the sun.”

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Thursday 9 May 2013

Mahagami Gurukul at Aurangabad - Dr. Sunil Kothari

It was a sheer pleasure to visit Mahagami Gurukul at Aurangabad for four days beginning with the celebrations of the World Dance Day from 27th April. For the past five to six years, I was invited to Bangalore and other places for the World Dance Day celebrations. It is always very educative to visit other places in India to see the horizontal growth of classical dance, and dream places like Protima Bedi’s Nrityagram at Bangalore, Ratan Thiyam’s Chorus Repertory Theatre at Imphal, Veenapani Chawla’s Adishakti institution at Puducherry, Chandralekha’s Spaces at Chennai to name a few, make one aware of the work done quietly in other parts of India.
It was during International Kathak festival at Chicago organized by Dr. Sinha few years ago that I happened to note Parwati Dutta and her Kathak performance. Her interest in pakhavaj and dhrupad drew my attention. That she was equally at home with Odissi and playing mardala, I did not know. She recalls that during our visit to Avignon Festival in South France, she had asked me few questions regarding ‘parna riti’ mentioned in my book on Kathak. That someone so young had carefully and diligently read my book had indeed impressed me a lot. She received training in Kathak under Birju Maharaj at Kathak Kendra and Odissi under Madhavi Mudgal and Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. She performed quite extensively as a solo dancer and when Odiya poet and scholar Jiwan Pani was director of Kathak Kendra, she used to ask several questions about shastra, as her interest in researches was deep. She hailed from Bhopal and hence had exposure to great Dhrupad masters, Kathak of Raigarh durbar and cultural activities that took place in Bhopal. Moving to Delhi, the training and also witnessing dance performances, attending seminars and developing a holistic approach to art, helped her grow into an inquiring dancer, not content with only performances.

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Wednesday 8 May 2013

Interview - Dulam Satyanarayana on his documentary ‘I am Satyabhama’ - Sudha Sridhar

Dulam Satyanarayana, an award winning documentary film maker has recently made a documentary on Kuchipudi classical dance form and one of the greatest exponent of our times, Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma, titled ‘I am Satyabhama.’ Dulam, who had per se not much exposure to art, had destiny weave its course. He shares with us as to how he came to do this documentary and the indelible impressions it has created.

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Sunday 5 May 2013

Health Column - Preventing knee injury - Veena Basavarajaiah

(This article was orignially posted on November 17, 2011)

Most Bharatanatyam dancers at some point in their professional careers have experienced knee injuries. While some injuries like sprains have lasted for a few days, ligament tears have resulted in the end of many dancing careers. Is it the form itself or the mode of practice that makes the knee most susceptible to damage and causes excruciating physical pain and emotional trauma?

The technique of Bharatanatyam requires the dancer to stay in demi plié / araimandi for long periods of time. While dancing in this posture, the lower back, gluteus, thighs and feet are at constant work. Extensive foot work, the full plié / muzhumandis and lunges exert additional pressure on the knees. The ‘araimandi,’ an essential aesthetic of the form is not natural to the body. It takes years of training and building strength to attain a good 'araimandi' and many people with short Achilles tendon will not be able to achieve a deep plié because of their body structure itself. Teachers must be aware of the limitations of each individual’s body and not push every student to dance in a deep demi plié.
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Comments posted upto May 5, 2013

The knee has one degree of freedom - but unless the musculature is perfectly strong, the knee twists, and leads to injuries. Having enough strength to move the knee in the right direction is not the same as having the strength to keep it from twisting wrongly.

The back and knee are two things that are compromised for 95% of people including athletes and dancers and even so called martial artists.

Tendon strength and flexibility training is often ignored, since it takes long and shows no visible results.

To be in any physical art and survive intact, one needs to study various disciplines including anatomy.
This is one of the areas where more studies are needed by persons who possess the knowledge of Bharathanatyam and a medicine degree. A full time dance college or an institution must include the human anatomy as basic subject to study these injuries. Have any conventions dealt with this subject ? Is there any person who can we reach regarding this issue ?·  
Monisha16 February 2012 13:35
Knee injuries also have psychological implications in recovery. The feeling of helplessness and despair is one I'm sure many dancers have experienced. It's important to be positive and patient. No two rehabilitation stories can be the same. An online community for injured bharatanatyam dancers would be helpful I'm sure.

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Friday 3 May 2013

Book Review - ‘Mohiniattam- The Lyrical Dance’ by Dr. Kanak Rele - Vijay Shankar

Renowned Mohiniattam dancer and dance educationist Dr. Kanak Rele has now released the second edition of her book ‘Mohiniattam -The Lyrical Dance’ after the first was released in 1992. This book covers the ‘marga’ tradition set by the Natya Shastra and the subsequent texts as applicable to the contemporary classical or ‘desi’ dance styles in general and Mohiniattam in particular. This book is the first ‘shastra’ based book on Mohiniattam which also brings to the fore its exquisitely lyrical qualities both physical as well as psychological.

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