Friday 25 October 2013

Interview - Priya Murle: Perspective in performance - Nanditha Ashok

In both performance as well as conversation, Bharatanatyam dancer Priya Murle depicts dance as an art beyond the body and uses her talents to establish a connection with her audience; exactly what the Natya Shastra calls for in the act of creating pure rasa.  As she gears up for the upcoming season, Priya Murle talks about her perspective on abhinaya and approach to choreography.
What are some projects you are currently involved in?
Currently, in addition to my solo choreography, I am working on a few projects for the season.  First is Prof. Sudharani Raghupathy’s new production called ‘Tripaada’ where I am playing Mahabali in the retelling of Vamana Avataram story.  Also, I am working with my group Parasaha which includes Roja Kannan, N. Srikanth and Aswathy Srikanth.  We are doing a large-scale production on motherhood, in addition to other small programs.  

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Sunday 20 October 2013

A slice of Music Academy of Madras at Kennedy Centre, DC - Dr. Sunil Kothari

For three days from September 20 till 22, the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC turned into the   Music Academy of Madras for the lovers of classical Indian dance and music. Never-say-die aficionado Dr. Sreedhar Potarazu’s Vital Spring Health Care has been collaborating with The Music Academy for the past seven years for the annual Dance Festival. He had a dream of mounting Utsav, a celebration of India’s maestros of music and dance with artistes selected by the Music Academy. His dream came true when the Academy finalized the various details.
Speaking during the inaugural function, the President of the Academy, N. Murali said, “The 80 year old institution has been a landmark in the history of classical Carnatic music and dance. In December ‘Season,’ the city holds more than 2000 concerts in 25 days. Nowhere in the world are such concerts held like this in a time frame. The Academy has played an important role. For the past seven years in collaboration with Dr. Sreedhar Potarazu, the Academy has started an annual festival of classical dance. Today in America, both classical Carnatic music and dance have taken firm roots.  Not only the Indian immigrants settled here but also the second generation and the Americans have shown great appreciation for these arts. Therefore, it was decided to organize Utsav in collaboration with Sivam Inc., a local organization headed by Dr. Sreedhar Potarazu, in Washington DC at a venue like the Kennedy Centre featuring brilliant musicians and dancers from India. The resident Indians and Americans shall have a taste of the atmosphere of ‘the season’ with this initiative.” 

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Saturday 19 October 2013

Article - Nritya Uphaar: The gift of dance - Nandini Krishna

Was it possible to experience classical dance in one’s lifetime? This lament echoed around me repeatedly in the mid 90’s, often by my dance students’ parents and then others in their thirties or more. They felt doomed that perhaps this unfulfilled dream would have to be taken into another lifetime as they had crossed the requisite age bracket. It rankled me no end - this thought of carrying something over for another lifetime. It seemed like the beautiful art of classical dancing and Bharatanatyam was like a far away world or planet that was inaccessible to them. One began to feel then, was it not possible to build a bridge somehow, or create a chink space in the door for this ‘marginalized section’? They did not ask be to be donned in glorious costumes, they did not ask for a performance platform, they did not seek applause, they only wanted to ‘experience’ moving in the classical dance way!
‘Nritya Uphaar - The Gift of Dance’ was thus born as a via media, a workshop first tried out in 1999. 

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Tuesday 15 October 2013

2nd edition of Samarpana: The Asian Festival of Classical Dance - Dr. Sunil Kothari

During the 2nd edition of Samarpana, the Asian Festival of Classical Dance, produced by Sruti Laya school of Bharatanatyam in Singapore under the guidance of its director Gayatri Sriram, one at once notices that it is an international arts platform where, as claimed by the organizers ‘sensibilities, sense and the sublime come alive.’  The presentation was not limited to classical Bharatanatyam dance form only. Sruti Laya and event organizer  Jyoti Ramesh of Jade Group  along with the sponsors BSI, Orbis, Passion Card, Mudrika Foundation for Indian Performing Arts, Bengaluru, media partner Tabla, the Tagore Society of Singapore, and several well wishers, have a large canvas of performing arts.
The  scope of the three-day festival included celebrated Indian classical Dhrupad singers Gundecha Brothers in collaboration with Kumudini Lakhia, internationally renowned  Kathak exponent, guru and choreographer with her dance company Kadamb from Ahmedabad, collaboration of Flamenco Sin Fronteras with guest artist Miguel Angel Espino and JSLN Company, three segments of Bharatanatyam, Contemporary (Zaini Tahir and NUS Dance,  French ballet academy L’Academie du Danse, Singapore and a special lecture by V Sriram, the noted musicologist and cultural historian from India on ‘The Devadasis of George Town’ and a panel discussion on ‘Dilution of classical arts’ by experts from various fields. The sumptuous fare was offered on a silver platter from 27th till 29th September 2013 at the Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building, Singapore.

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Saturday 12 October 2013

Article - When man tried to be god - Madhuri Upadhya

They say you have to choreograph something close to life, more importantly close to your own life! As choreographers, we can weave fantasy around the story, romanticize, be brutally literal, abstract or whimsical. I chose to look at characters from our mythology to tell my story… My story of losing, my story of crying, my story of helplessness, my story of getting up and trying again and my story of not belonging anywhere. Well, how am I in this situation…. answer… life. The more you live it, more seasons it gives you!

So I decided to express it through a dance piece. My dance mate Vishwa, who danced this piece, and I started our quest of finding the Trishanku in us. 

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Wednesday 9 October 2013

The Dance History Column - Tara Chaudhri - Pavlova of the Punjab! - Ashish Mohan Khokar

That Tara Chaudhri, popularly dubbed the Pavlova of the Punjab, died on Sept 22, 2013, unsung in India, is not surprising. No obit, no news, no mention. So it is left to me, yours truly, to reconstruct her life and times. I’m additionally in a very privileged position because our families also knew each other personally. A direct source of that period is my mother, Bharatanatyam guru M.K. Saroja, who knew Tara personally, stayed with her in Lahore in undivided India and had common links due to Guru Muthukumaran Pillai, whom Ram took to Lahore to teach Bharatanatyam. Many moons later, Tara came home to us in Delhi in mid 70s when Ram was visiting us and even having left active dance for years, she looked like a royal star. Once a dancer, always a dancer.  

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Tuesday 8 October 2013

Seen & Heard - Hastha Mudra - Lakshmi Vishwanathan

Our training in Bharatanatyam almost takes the hand gestures for granted. Nattuvanars never conducted sessions in theory related to practice. If I am not mistaken it was Kalakshetra which taught the Abhinaya Darpana based lessons...." Patakam, Tripatakam, Ardhapatakam...." chanted in unison as one did the appropriate gestures. Now all dance schools have these lessons, I think.

But what is the use of these lessons if the dancer can hardly show one clear HASTHA MUDRA properly on the stage? While the Nrtta Hasthas are as strong as the Nrtta taught by a teacher, they at least are correct most of the time.  It is the Abhinaya hasthas that are sadly lacking in life. The prayoga or usage is known to dancers. But what they lack is clarity in the way the hasthas are held by hand and fingers. For example, many do not train the fingers properly to bend them, or to stretch them. 

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Saturday 5 October 2013

Article - Regained confidence - Pia Bunglowala

(Braving a post injury phase, Pia reminisces on working on Mayuri Upadhya’s solo choreography.)

I performed a solo piece as part of Nritarutya choreographed by Mayuri Upadhya at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, Mumbai, on the 16th of September for an intimate audience. The dance was based on the theme of the ingredients that go into making a perfume and I was the one who was playing with nature and controlling it and pulling out all the flavour from around me to blend it into the perfect fragrance.

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