Wednesday 27 November 2013

Gunjan Dance Academy celebrates 17th Annual festival - Dr Sunil Kothari

Meera Das, senior disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra based in Cuttack assiduously continues Odissi training at Cuttack, though the dance scene has shifted to the capital  Bhubaneswar in a big way. Kala Vikash Kendra, the premier institution started training of Odissi dance at Cuttack, where Kelucharan Mohapatra taught Odissi to several young dancers, including Kum Kum Mohanty (nee Das), conducted workshops when dancers from different parts of India and some from abroad came to study Odissi. Later, Odissi Research Centre was established at Bhubaneswar and many Odiya dancers studied there under Kelubabu, including Meera Das, who did not settle down in Bhubaneswar. She chose to open her institution Gunjan Dance Academy at Cuttack in 1995 and has trained more than 200 young dancers at her academy. Last year I had attended its 16th annual festival and was impressed by her dedication and determination to carry on the legacy of her guru in Cuttack. Once upon a time it was Kala Vikash Kendra which drew many to its portals to study Odissi. Today, Meera Das with her dynamism and catholic outlook has succeeded in keeping the interest among people in Cuttack alive in Odissi through her academy and several events she organizes.
The three day dance and music festival she conducts features well known dancers practicing different classical dance forms and provides platform to young up and coming talented dancers as well. With a band of her dedicated supporters, including her President Gayatri Das, local committee members, her senior students, some of whom with thorough training under her, also take classes, teach and perform, and poet and critic Kedar Mishra, Meera Das continues to run her academy successfully. 

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Tuesday 26 November 2013

Discovery of India: a heartwarming tribute - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Discovery of India, dance drama choreographed by Dr. Sandhya Purecha was staged at the Nehru Centre, Mumbai on 21st November. Based on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision it was choreographed first by Shanti Bardhan in 1947 and was later choreographed by Guru Acharya Parvatikumar in the 1950s both of which were produced by the Indian National Theatre. More than fifty years later, the Nehru Centre produced this dance drama. Sandhya Purecha, a senior disciple of Acharya Parvatikumar conceived this timeless saga of Indian history and evolution on the occasion of Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary and the first death anniversary of Acharya Parvatikumar.

The audience response was overwhelming. The leading lights of the city including artistes, scholars, government officials including Ashutosh Ghorpade, Director, Directorate of Cultural Affairs, Govt. of Maharashtra, Dr. Uma Vaidya, Vice- Chancellor Kavikulaguru Kalidas Sanskrit University, Ramtek, late Guru Parvatikumar’s wife Sumati Parvatikumar were present. The music score composed by Manoj Desai and arranged by Mandar Parkhi resonated in the hall. The music with catchy tunes, beats and blending of eclectic musical instruments unfolded every era of human history right from the Stone Age to the post-independence period of India.

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Saturday 23 November 2013

The celestial Apsaras descend upon Singapore’s Esplanade - Dr Sunil Kothari

Esplanade on Bay at Singapore wore a festive look for ten days from 15th November with Kalaa Utsav, Indian Festival of Arts as a part of various festivals Esplanade organizes for celebrating New Year of various communities, to strengthen the community harmony among the multicultural population. Now in its 10th year, Kalaa Utsav has grown in its dimension ranging from classical dance performances, vocal and instrumental music, theatre and three day fest to ten days bonanza of multiple arts and several venues embracing literary, visual, performing arts and popular arts including free outdoor performances at concourse and outdoor auditorium, some events with free admission, drawing a continuous stream of visitors, aficionados, artists, musicians, literary figures, authors, writers, workshops, exhibitions of photographs, textile installations, discussion on Ayurveda, the science of life and what have you. Like its counterparts in USA, London, Avignon, Perth and Adelaide, Esplanade on the Bay in Singapore consists of venues right from the Grand Theatre to Library esplanade, including Concert Hall, Recital Studio, Theatre Studio, Rehearsal Studio, Outdoor Theatre and Concourse.  Mind boggling events are scheduled bringing international artistes from near and far with a clever mix of local talent.
The most fascinating event that I witnessed was a collaborative work sponsored by Esplanade as a co-production ‘Angkor: An Untold Story,’ a dance-drama, with Apsaras Arts, a Singapore based reputed institute offering training in classical Bharatanatyam and allied arts, under the supervision and direction of Neila Sathyalingam, Founder, Artistic Director and mentor. She and her late husband S Sathyalingam have lived and taught dance and arts at Apsaras Arts since 1975.  Neila reiterates the fact that Singapore’s relentless pursuit of excellence in all aspects keeps focus on National Arts Council’s (NAC) aim of nurturing artists, musicians, dancers, painters and sculptors.   

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Friday 8 November 2013

Of banis and gharanas - Ashish Mohan Khokar

Two key events - poles and miles apart – one in Madras and the other in Bhubaneswar, in October, made me delve into the concept and context of banis and gharanas. Both, rather commonly used but easily misunderstood words. The one event in Madras was ‘50 years of Alarmel Valli’s dancing career’ which she had the class to celebrate by not dancing herself (as dancers often generally do!) but she platformed others (with help of upcoming journal and impresario Aalaap). The other event was in Odisha, where the guru bhakti of Guru Gajendra Panda made him mount the 7th Debaprasad Das Award with a 3-day music and dance festival.

Both events were miles apart in content and context but both celebrated the concept of gurus and banis – one in Bharatanatyam and the other in Odissi. Both platformed the art of their gurus, as handed down to them: Alarmel Valli, a star legatee of the Pandanallur bani and Gajendra Panda, the solid legatee of Guru Debaprasad Das. Both didn’t dance themselves but platformed other artistes instead, whom they thought fit for the occasion. Alarmel Valli presented the current music flavor of Madras sabhas, TM Krishna, and the Delhi Odissi diva, Madhavi Mudgal with her niece Arushi.  Gajendra Panda presented and awarded Delhi’s best known Bharatanatyam dancer Geeta Chandran; Chennai’s activist-artiste Anita Ratnam;  Seraikella Chhau’s  Shashadhar Acharya and senior Odissi Guru Sudhakar Sahoo. The Governor of Odisha did the honours, no less. And in Madras, film-maker Rajiv Menon gave the keynote address.

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Thursday 7 November 2013

Ah… Aah.... Aharya! - Lakshmi Vishwanathan

In Bharatanatyam as in Odissi or Kathak, the costume is a distinct statement of identity. Looking at the costume one need not have any doubts about the style of dance. When I danced Kuchipudi, I made that costume which had a particular design with a ‘Kachan’ visible at the back, indicating a distinct Telugu echo of the nine yards saree worn by the rural women. Suddenly, Bharatanatyam dancers also started wearing this ‘Kachan’ type of costume, except that the front fan was the one commonly seen in Bharatanatyam. I don’t think this innovation was necessary for the success of the dance.
The hugely popular Yamini Krishnamurthy raised the hemline of the regular costume in her heydays to show more legs, and wore blouses with what was known as an attached ‘Kachai’ dispensing with the ‘davani.’ It suited her dance and her personality. Rukmini Devi also wore a draped ‘Kachai’ in her early costumes which suited her personality.

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Article - An evolution - Vishwa Kiran

Nritarutya’s principal dancer Vishwa Kiran talks about his experience working with choreographer Madhuri Upadhya on the piece ‘Trishanku’ for the company’s production ‘Prayog 4.’

‘Want and Need,’ ‘Angry and Reckless,’ ‘Failure and perseverance.’ Trishanku has been a very personal and emotional process for Madhuri Upadhya and me. It has moved beyond a space of a mere dance performance to a space where I am living the dance. Initially, when we began discussing the piece and its structure, Madhuri decided to construct the piece in a manner that it leaves the audience in a different state of mind from the one they were in when it began. To achieve that, I had to be in a different mental space to generate a desired emotion in a confined space to a very specific speed. So the sessions used to be very quiet and extremely productive, where one instructed and the other executed with utmost honesty, while the other observed and interrupted only if required.

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Nakshatra Dance Festival at NCPA - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Visiting Mumbai and participating in the Nakshatra Dance Festival at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) was like coming back home. Since its inception, NCPA was our familiar ground, our comfort zone. We would attend all the events, felt very ’high’ and were full of dreams. Seniors and elders, encouraged us. Dr. Jamshed Bhabha, Dr. Narayan Menon, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Soli Batlivala at Akashganga Building at Bhulabhai Desai Road (former Warden Road, where NCPA started), were icons we looked up to. The dream of Dr. Jamshed Bhabha to have a Centre comparable to Lincoln Centre in New York, at Nariman Point indeed came true. The Tata Theatre, the Little Theatre, the Experimental Theatre, the Godrej Dance Theatre, the Sunken Garden, the Dr. Jamshed Bhabha Auditorium, the Library, the Guest House, the Piramal Gallery, the (former Rangoli ) resturant / cafe invariably drew us like magnet. At NCPA, legendary dancers, musicians and actors gave memorable performances. The archive, systematically built up over the years, is a treasure trove. And the present management under the leadership and guidance of the Chairman, Khushroo N Santook is proud to carry on the legacy enriching the life of the nation. 

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Wednesday 6 November 2013

Book Review - Master of Arts: A Life in Dance - Bhavanvitha Venkat

The world of Bharatanatyam has been a preserve of women. There is a welcome change in the scenario as we start seeing the emergence of the male dancer. It is a known fact that the stage for classical dancers is itself limited and not much material is available in the public domain to understand classical dancers.

Just when classical dance enthusiasts are looking forward to learn more about male dancers, Tulsi Badrinath writes about them in her aptly titled ‘Master of Arts: A Life in Dance’ (Hachette India publication). The attractive cover has Guru VP Dhananjayan looking into the mirror at his own younger picture (in the form of his son CP Satyajit). It comes as no surprise that the work should be coming from a classical dancer as others may find the context, content and the very background unfamiliar. Who else would understand the “perilous journey” of a male dancer, and his “worries over decisions” and, notions like “the male dancer in the traditional margam is like an illegal immigrant.”

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