Wednesday 31 December 2014

Article - Dhananjayan uvaacha!

(Inaugural keynote address by Bharatanatyam Guru V.P. Dhananjayan at the Natya Kala Conference on Dec 26, 2014 in Chennai)
It gives me immense pleasure to inaugurate the 34th Natya Kala Conference. One of its kind, it is a landmark in the annals of  Chennai December season and running this much sought after conference successfully for 34 years is no mean task. We should all appreciate and congratulate Sri Krishna Gana Sabha for organizing this event of international stature.  A brainchild of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam and supported and nurtured by Sri Yagnaraman, the Natya Kala Conference helped to raise the standard of performing arts and its theoretical and theatrical aspects. Artistes, connoisseurs and critics from all over the globe have benefited immensely by attending these educative sessions conducted by various scholars and men of letters.  

The printed books of Natya Kala Conference deliberations are records for posterity, and if we can combine all of them, will serve as manuscript for a new Natya Sastra.  I am sure there may be a few people in this audience who have been attending NKC regularly for 34 years (I am one of them) and will cherish the benefits they imbibed from this educative and enlightening conference. 

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Sunday 28 December 2014

Base Notes by Shanta Serbjeet Singh - Reborn...a modern look at an ancient thought

Deities who are in some way androgynous or intersex are common in mythologies worldwide due to the associated symbolism of creation and fertility. Depictions vary broadly, but there are several described in search stations on LGBT themes in mythology which fit our modern concerns about transgender or intersex. I plan to talk here at some length about a transgender concept in Indian thought which deals with a god composed of two different people, one male and the other female, who can join together and split apart at will. Avowedly, this has very little in common with a contemporary transgender or intersex individual, who is not always interested in being bipolar in his or her sexual preferences. Nor is he/she interested in being more than only on

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Monday 15 December 2014

The Sunil Kothari Column - Konark Dance Festival 2014

From 1st till 5th December, Konark wears a festive look. The road leading to Konark temple is ablaze with colourful lights, colourful umbrellas, lamp shades, trees glittering with creepers of lights and the sky shines with near full moon. Various large hoardings and display boards with digitalized enlarged images of dancers featured in this festival and previous years are mounted at various points on the walls of Yatri Niwas. The stage is a pucca built one with green rooms in the basement. The multi-tier seating open air theatre faces the impressive tower of Konark temple (now wrapped in wooden scaffoldings).
The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held against the backdrop of Chitragupta temple on a permanent stage, but the Konark Dance Festival does not have that proximity to the temple. It is essentially organized for group dances and the large sprawling stage is ideally suited for that.  This year, if I understood correctly from senior Odissi exponent Kum Kum Mohanty, it is the 25th year of Konark Dance Festival. If so, the organizers missed the celebration of its silver jubilee.

The sleepy Konark village comes to life from 1st to 5th December every year since the Department of Tourism and Culture has taken over organizing the festival. The dates are fixed and well advertised, the festival has its own website, announcements are made in the print media in advance and also on television. A festive mood prevails. The traditional tunes of Odiya songs are played on mahuri, reed instruments, accompanied by the drums, and the microphones blare filmy songs. Yatri Niwas lawns are painted green and yellow. It is the focal point as participating artists are accommodated there, and the Government officials come there for tea before going to the open air theatre. The festival starts punctually at 6pm and is telecast live on DD Bharati.  

Read the review in the site

Thursday 11 December 2014

Notions of “classical” in Bharatanatyam: a cultural operation of the classes - arguments of the cosmopolitan Margi and indigenous Desi, repertoires of the Nayak period - Dr. Swarnamalya Ganesh

India’s greatest wealth, development and civilisation have been stirred by its political and cultural processes (Talbot, 2006). In turn, the political agendas have used culture as a medium. In this paper, I will talk specifically about Bharatanatyam and the political history that surrounds this dance form during a certain period. Just as religious norms and practices were varied in India, in spite of emerging a single codification, so also dance, its practice and purpose remained varied notwithstanding the many treatises that documented it. Hence, one could believe that the codification evolved more as a documentation of the existing practices rather than a rulebook. However, these treatises have over the centuries brought about a semblance of a common code for Bharatanatyam. The important question is; what defines Bharatanatyam as classical? Rather, what is classical and by that definition which aspects of Bharatanatyam lend it its classicism? Many a times the term classical is interchangeably used with the word Margam. Margam means the “path” or a newly created space, a certain vision. The other term used alongside Marga is Desi, which means regional. But “regional” is not an antonym to the word path. Desi signified all aspects of art that were not intentionally created but rather were products of human evolution. During the later parts of 20th and the 21st centuries these terms and their connotations took another turn as “folk” and “classical.” Common comprehension of the term folk is any form of dance that is performed by the rural people, to music that is regional, reflecting the inherent cultural practices of the people there. It mostly is a naturally evolved practice, both ritualistic and entertaining in nature. Keeping this definition, can we then say that classical is performed by people who have consciously learnt an art form, performing to music that is more cosmopolitan in nature, reflecting values that are popular among many different cultural groups? Let us therefore pitch this idea of what is classical and what is folk.  

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Sunday 7 December 2014

Article - Education in spiritual values through Bharatanatyam: Part III Recount of ‘Margam’ - Chandra Anand

Margam is the codified formula of presentation that a Bharatanatyam artiste follows to display her/his art. It is given to understand that it is the ideal methodology which the practitioner of the dance form ought to follow.
Margam has been codified by the Tanjore Quartet in the 19th century”. It had been immediately accepted by every dance guru of those times and they have followed it ardently with full faith since then. People still talk about it saying, margam is the right way a full Bharatanatyam performance is to be presented. Kalyanasundaram, dance guru and principal of Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharatanatya Kalamandir, strongly feels, “Margam is here to stay. It is the most scientific format for imparting ‘systematic training’ with variety and gradual progression from the simple to the complicated, both for the ‘performer’ and the ‘viewer’.

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Saturday 29 November 2014

Sitara, Tara and Travels of Dance (Books) - Ashish Mohan Khokar

Nov 25, 2014, the TV news channels first gave the news - Sitara Devi no more. It made national news because she was a firebrand, diehard dancer with spunk and substance. She was larger than life and lived life king-sized.  Born Dhanno to a reputed tabla wizard and Sanskrit scholar Pt. Sukhdev Maharaj and Matsya Devi, the three sisters Tara, Sitara and Alaknanda (and two brothers Chaube and Pande) were a popular trio, before individual fates took them to places as far as Benaras, Bombay and Bengal. Although Sitara was born in Bengal (8th Nov 1920), she lived most of her adult life in Bombay, with brief stay in Benaras. Her sister Tara was the mother of Gopi Krishna, another famous film dance personage.  

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Tuesday 18 November 2014

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Viswanathan - Talk the dance

The following is an excerpt of my keynote address:
At the outset, I decided to have an umbrella topic, which was TRADITION AND INNOVATION IN CLASSICAL DANCE TODAY. I felt that this was a topic worth discussing as Indian dance has today many teachers and many performers all over the world and they have a voice which must be heard.

Innovation is inevitable and it is part of the creative process for mature artists. What works and what does not has to go through the process of development and approval. Authority to innovate is something individuals have to know how to validate. A well informed and conscious artist knows how to innovate without violating certain highly held principles in classical dance. 

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Friday 14 November 2014

Article - Revitalising Kuchipudi art and heritage - Sudha Sridhar


This Andhra Pradesh village was originally known variously as ‘Kuchelapuram,' ‘Kuchelapuri' (one legend holds that Krishna's devotee Kuchela lived here), ‘Kuchennapoodi' (after Kuchenna, a famous disciple of Siddhendra Yogi) and ‘Kuchipundi.' It was populated by Bhagavathulu and their families and the village has produced some of the greatest classical dancers and teachers of the country.

The Kuchipudi Bhagavathamelam, the original repository, the progenitor of the Kuchipudi dance of today, have been the acknowledged and documented torch bearers of the art form for centuries while being mainly confined to Kuchipudi Agraharam in Muvva Taluka, Krishna district, a hallowed spot with renowned practitioners of the art calling it a “pilgrimage centre” - the village akin to be a “wonderful temple” and “cultural treasure.”

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Saturday 8 November 2014

Article - Education in spiritual values through Bharatanatyam: Part II - Chandra Anand

The religio-philosophic background of Bharatanatyam
Most Indian classical dances, particularly Bharatanatyam, have religious and spiritual beginnings. They have been part of Hindu temple rituals. They follow the Hindu philosophy in attitude. The Hindu philosophy and their teachings are part and parcel of their themes of presentation. Explanation for the phenomena of rasa-experience in Indian classical performing arts has been investigated in the systems of Hindu philosophy.
Spirituality in Bharatanatyam
The Vedas are the very first scriptures of Hindu philosophy and religion. All human beings are the limited manifestation of the Ultimate Being and reunion of the soul with the Absolute Soul should be the goal. This is the truth offered in the Vedas. Inevitably, the Vedas teach the ideal way to lead life to ensure our way back to the source. “The goals of life which are accepted by all Hindus are righteousness or obedience to the moral law (dharma), wealth or material welfare (artha), pleasure (kama), and emancipation (moksha). Dharma prevails throughout life, that is, neither pleasure nor wealth is to be obtained through violation of the rules of morality. Moksha is the ultimate goal to which all men should aspire. This social philosophy is accepted without question by all Hindus.”1These ideals have, since ages, ruled not only our life, lifestyle and outlook but also permeated through the arts; because this ideal way of life “recognizes in every sphere of activity, the kinship of God and man”2.Thus, the underlying idea of practice of Indian classical performing arts is to transcend the 'self' towards a higher plane and achieve bliss through spiritual expression.

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Thursday 30 October 2014

Article - British South Asian dance and the Bessies - Sanjeevini Dutta

The New York Dance Performance Awards, affectionately known as the Bessies, represent a recognition of dancers by their peers, judged as they are by forty representatives of the dance world. In the award’s thirty-year history, only one Indian dancer (2013 Shantala Shivalingappa) has previously received the accolade. This makes a win at the 2014 Bessies ceremony even more exceptional for UK-based dancers Akram Khan and Aakash Odedra.
The name of Akram Khan will be familiar to anyone, even with a passing interest in dance, so well is his reputation sealed as the outstanding British Kathak and contemporary performer / choreographer. Currently three of his shows tour simultaneously on the international circuit. The creator of such seminal works as Zero Degrees and Desh, collaborator with the likes of sculptor Anish Kapoor, ballet dancer Sylvie Guillem and screen actor Juliette Binoche, Khan has enjoyed unprecedented success.

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Wednesday 29 October 2014

Oceans and mountains of dance - Ashish Mohan Khokar

Indian dance is not just indoors any more but by the ocean and up in the mountains and dales. Dance history is being made in small, odd spaces. Metro India is saturated with festivals and fairs, tamashas and tantrums. Quaint places and countries, colleges in nooks and crannies of a bygone colonial setting, are now the new places for Indian dance. It’s not Bombay or Boston, Chennai or China but Mauritius and Fiji where Indian diaspora has come of age. Such countries have centuries of history, not recent settlers. No wonder the PM is taking time off (one day) to visit Fiji from Australia trip and the FM as in Foreign and not Finance, is headed for Mauritius!
MGI sounds like some French fusion group and it is. Mauritius is half French, half Indian. Mahatma Gandhi Institute is one of the top learning centres created by India in Mauritius. Indira Gandhi inaugurated it in 1976! Successive Indian governments have added to its lustre and enhanced its facilities. MGI is located in Moka, bang in the centre of the country that is few hundred km long. Imagine, a whole country that can be covered north to south, east to west in 2 hours of a beautiful drive! Imagine, crystal clear aqua turquoise waters, green fields of sugarcane and happy, sweet people who drive sensibly and live life peacefully. This is closest to paradise. Dr. Putanjani Mungur Purgus, Vandana to Indians, doctor of dance (Khairagarh University and Baroda) and the current head of school of performing arts has read all past issues of attendance, so she invites me as a Visiting Professor, to one of Mauritius navratnas of academia, the MGI, for a two week workshop/teaching of Indian Dance History, Aesthetics and Documentation. 

Read the review in the site

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Dance like a Man - Dr. Sunil Kothari

It was indeed with bated breath that I was looking forward to watching ‘Dance like a Man’ play at Meadowvale Theatre in Mississauga on 16th October. For the simple reason that Bharatanatyam exponent Lata Pada was to make her debut as an actor in this play directed by none else than Mahesh Dattani, who was in Mississauga for more than three weeks conducting  rehearsals.
I was familiar with the story, having seen the play many years ago in which Lillette Dubey plays the role of Ratna, the mother of young Lata who she wants to push further as a classical dancer and even uses all her tricks speaking sweetly with the Minister asking him to include her daughter to be sent to Festival of India. Therefore it was interesting to see how Lata Pada was enacting her role as a senior Bharatanatyam dancer, who with her husband also a Bharatanatyam dancer, does not make a successful career with a tragedy which strikes them, under the excellent direction by Mahesh Dattani.

Jasmine Sawant and Shruti Shah, the artistic directors of the Sawitri Theatre group which invited Mahesh Dattani to direct the play have this to say in their statement: ‘The story of two Bharatanatyam dancers, Ratna and Jairaj, their dreams, hopes and ambition, their sacrifices, their love for the art form, and for each other; the eternal inter-generational conflict, gender discrimination and patriarchal manipulation; the jealousy and bitterness and imperfections of human nature, the usefulness of diversity in the society, going beyond tolerance to acceptance, compassion and respect. And in typical Dattani style, the difficult questions- what constitutes a man? What constitutes an artist? Can a prostitute be a dancer? Can one be a man and still dance?’

Read the review in the site

Friday 24 October 2014

Sonya Fateh’s documentary 'I, Dance' - Dr. Sunil Kothari

On 17th October 2014, I saw ‘Dance like a Man’ play by Mahesh Dattani at Meadowvale Theatre at Mississauga. I visited Mississauga specially to catch up with Lata Pada and her latest activities at her institute Sampradaya Dance Creations. It was also planned to screen Sonya Fateh’s documentary ‘I, Dance’ dwelling upon the present state of dance in Pakistan.
I had assisted Sonya some four years ago when she was working on the film. She had introduced herself on the phone as a film maker from Pakistan and as a daughter-in-law of Geetha Rao, younger sister of Lata Pada. The film deals with dance in Pakistan centring round Bharatanatyam and Odissi dancer Sheema Kermani who is an activist and runs a theatre group in Karachi. She has studied Bharatanatyam under Leela Samson and Odissi under Guru Mayadhar Raut and Aloka Panicker.

The film made with a grant from India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore, Goethe Institute and other funding agencies, was after completion, screened at Habitat in New Delhi two years ago. I had missed it and had also lost touch with Sonya and her husband Rajiv who is a co-producer of the film. During the 3rd International convention of Spic Macay in June at Chennai, I met Sheema Kermani and came to know about the film and its screening in Karachi. When I visited Bangalore, Geetha Rao informed me that her son Rajiv and Sonya had moved to Toronto. Since I was to visit Toronto, I planned to meet them and see the film which was already screened for India Foundation for the Arts in Bangalore.

Read the article in the site

Saturday 18 October 2014

Interview - Jhelum 60, Smitalay 25 - Lalitha Venkat

Jhelum Paranjape is a leading dancer, teacher and choreographer of Odissi. Her school Smitalay is the dance wing of Sane Guruji Arogya Mandir, where Odissi is actively taught and performed. Jhelum’s long-standing association with her guru and mentor Kelucharan Mohapatra has blossomed into a beautiful and creative relationship with Odissi.
Noted for her originality in choreography, technique and stage design, her versatility ranges from classical Odissi dance to experimental dance movements. She reaches out to the audiences by creating new mediums for expressing unique contemporary issues through her dance. Some of her popular productions include ‘Leelavati’ showcasing mathematics through dance, ‘Bollywood Hungama Odissi Ishtyle’ of Odissi dance choreographed to old and new Hindi film songs from the 40’s to the present day, ‘Jalasri’ depicting conservation of water and nature, ‘Meghadoot’ based on a Marathi translation of Kalidasa’s epic Meghadootam, ‘Savitri Vadatey’ conveying the importance of women education. Her solo productions include ‘Jani mhaney’ based on the abhangs of saint poet Janabai and ‘Maeri’ portraying the bond of motherhood.

Smitalay completes 25 years on 17th October 2014. The start of a yearlong celebration is a 5 day festival spread over 4 venues in Mumbai featuring 6 of Smitalay’s productions. Jhelum talks about her dance journey. 

Read the interview in the site

Thursday 16 October 2014

Tribute - Maya, the magnificent - Dr. A.V. Satyanarayana

The wood can dance and stone can express with the magic (maya) of Maya Didi, as she was fondly called. If the one face of Dr. Maya Rao is art, the other face is her benevolence. Maya Rao who passed away in the early hours of 1st September 2014, left the dance circle in a vacuum, and an unbearable loss for her students.
We rarely find such a guru who looks after her students with love, affection and concern as a real didi, irrespective of if he/she is a highly talented or an average student as well as people from all walks of life.  Even as a student at Maharani College, Maya Rao formed a club and raised funds through cultural programs to help the needy students. She never forgot to express her gratitude to those who helped her. To make her productions more effective and meaningful she used to consult experts in the field of dance and allied fields. She would share the credits of success of a show with all. She used to be a like a friend after the class and rehearsals. She was always positive in her thoughts, wanting the performances to end with positive thoughts and give positive message to the community. Her mantra was dance, music, love and life. 

Read the tribute in the site

Thursday 9 October 2014

Article - Education in spiritual values though Bharatanatyam: part 1 - Chandra Anand

An education in Indian classical dance
The origin of Indian classical performing arts is attributed to Natyaveda that has been written for educating and uplifting the society through entertainment. Indian classical performing arts have their underlying roots in Hindu philosophy and religion. The performing arts encompasses human emotions and experiences in its works and through them informs the society about truths of life, God and moral conduct to be followed by man, while at the same time entertaining them.

An education in the Indian classical performing arts involves the study of form and its technique, followed by practice. When students pursue classical art forms, they imbibe philosophical, religious and spiritual values i.e. awareness of one’s inner self and higher realities of life. 

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Wednesday 24 September 2014

The dance history Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar - Of critics and editors

Pune University’s Lalit Kala Kendra made a commendable effort to bring together various voices in the dance field on the occasion of a two day (Aug 27/28) seminar on Micro & Macro in Dance Writing. With senior Bharatanatyam talent like Sucheta Chapekar’s guidance, Associate Professor Parimal Phadke undertook a meaningful seminar. Gurus, critics, editors and publishers, teachers, dancers and media honchos shared their thoughts. As one who has traversed all three roles in last thirty years (as critic of India's largest circulated English daily the Times of India and later, columnist India Today) and then editing Rasamanjari for 5 years and editing-publishing attendance, the dance annual for 15 years, my views come from practical experience. It may help budding dancers and journalists/critics, who wish to write on dance with integrity and meaning.

Parimal Phadke, Ashish Khokar, Sucheta Chapekar
Dancers first, since without them critics and dance editors and publishers wouldn’t exist! In all humility, writers of all shades, ought to accept this basic premise. Dancers learn an art form for many years, then strive harder to reach where they wish to be, professionally. But just because one learns dance it does not mean one becomes a dancer. Or a professional. It takes a minimum of 20 years of consistent work/output to become a known dancer of repute. Dance is a serious calling, beyond being a profession or vocation. It needs stamina, will power and total surrender, and above all, a real guru. There is a big difference between a guru and a teacher, but more on that in my next column.

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Thursday 18 September 2014

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Viswanathan - Return of the Nataraja from Down Under

It is a coup of great significance.... the return of the Sripuranthan temple Nataraja and other sacred artifacts by Australia. The Modi government has achieved this without waiting for a prolonged legal battle. Even the fiery Melina Mercouri could not get the marble sculptures of the Greek Parthenon from the British Museum where they are displayed grandly as the ‘Elgin Marbles.’ Kudos to the Australian government.... They have understood national heritage diplomacy!

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Saturday 13 September 2014

Constructive dance criticism - Dr. Sunil Kothari

(This paper was presented on Aug 27, 2014 at the ‘Dance Criticism - The macro and micro perspectives’ seminar hosted by Lalit Kala Kendra, Pune)

Before I speak on the topic I have selected, ‘Constructive dance criticism’, I would like to say in brief what it was like to write dance reviews some 20 years ago when many dance critics’ opinions were taken note of. Then all of a sudden the English newspapers stopped reviews on all the performing and plastic arts, except on films.  Only ‘The Hindu’ newspaper carried on Friday Review in most of the metropolitan centres where their edition is published.

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Friday 12 September 2014

Interview - Post Padme Perspective Compiled by Lalitha Venkat

Belgian/Dutch choreographer Kalpana Raghuraman who is trained in Bharatanatyam and contemporary dance ideated Padme in Europe two years ago with Dutch dancers. Produced by Arangham Trust, Anita Ratnam invited Kalpana to choreograph the Padme project on Indian dancers, for which the music and choreography have been licensed from Korzo Productions in The Hague. An audition was held in which 7 dancers from Bangalore were chosen to perform in Padme. Over two sessions of training, Kalpana re-set and re-framed her original concept onto the bodies of these classically trained Bharatanatyam and Odissi dancers from Bangalore. The premiere of Padme was held on August 9, 2014 at NGMA in Bangalore and attended by a full hall.

Post Padme, the dancers share the experience of how it was to leave their classical styles and learn modern movement patterns. 

Read the interview in the site

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Tribute - Maya Rao: Memories of a great teacher - Prasanna Kasthuri

It was 1986. Roads of a quiet suburb Malleswaram in Bangalore now called Silicon city of India were far calmer than what they are today. I used to ride on my bicycle thrice a week to learn something new, but never had an opportunity until Guru Maya Rao’s second act of her life happened. It was Kathak. Kathak was very fascinating to me. I had seen probably one or two shows and many pictures of the Kathak dance style in Marg publications. It was a great boon for me and others such as Rathna Supriya, Nirmala Madhava, Nandini Mehta, Shubha Dhananjaya, Rajendra, Nirupama, Ashok, Charu, Suparna, Suma MP and Syed Salluddin Pasha – who were all in our twenties attending Kathak classes. We were all geared up to learn. There were some voices of discontent among leading Bharatanatyam gurus of Bangalore that someone is getting all attention from government, starting from chief minister of those days, Mr. Ramakrishna Hegde. But, all those who were interested in Guru Maya Rao, were very much curious to learn an untapped knowledge. 
Lots of us got in and got out of her dance school, but most of us felt it was a unique experience. The guru of our imagination was really manifest in Maya didi. She was very caring and passionate about dance. Her amazing love for those who seek knowledge was a greatest attraction for us. This love is what she leaves behind for all of us.

Read the tribute in the site

Monday 8 September 2014

Article - Kuchipudi Bhagavathamelam: A rich cultural heritage - Tadepalli Satyanarayana

At the mention of the word Kuchipudi one’s thoughts go to either the classical dance form Kuchipudi, or to that of the Kuchipudi village in Movva Taluk, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh which is perhaps the only place in India, which has given its name to a classical dance form. 

There continue to be more information through various media avenues showcasing Kuchipudi, the modern day or contemporary version, so to say, around the world by various artists, exponents, gurus, institutes, universities, etc. But when it comes to making available the various aspects with regard to the evolution, transformation, propagation, protection, preservation of the art form which has a documented history running over to centuries before us, there is a huge dearth and void which needs to be filled up to appreciate, imbibe, practice and propagate the nuances of the art form in totality. There is a huge information gap when it comes to facts about the people / community, their struggles, sacrifices, dedication, joy, journey from mere mortals to that of legends with the divine intervention /  guidance, destiny and above all their commitment and steadfastness in undergoing all that was required to make this art form made available for us today.

It is in this regard, there is indeed a dire necessity to know and put in proper perspective the role and contribution of the torch bearers of the art form for centuries now, the Bhagavathamelam of Kuchipudi and their rich heritage. It is indeed a fortune, that their continuous efforts, role in painstakingly ensuring the perpetuity of the art form not only makes interesting reading but also a subject for research providing lessons all through the journey to make one a better human being foremost and an artist of high caliber. Even an iota of the qualities displayed by the pillars and the stalwarts of the Kuchipudi Bhagavathamelam could be internalized by the discerning student of the art form.

Having said that, one can easily decipher that an article would not suffice to cover all their stories or share all that they stood and continue to stand for, but the purport of this article is to provide a glimpse of the Bhagavathamelam tradition and provide impetus for one to undertake a more serious personal journey for further fulfillment in their pursuit in the realm of their art form – Kuchipudi.   

Read the article in the site

Sunday 7 September 2014

Tribute - Maya Rao – The Cultural Czarina of Garden City - Veejay Sai

Once in a lifetime great people walk this earth and when you witness their presence, you thank your lucky stars for having lived the times they lived in, for having breathed the same air and for being associated with them. Maya Rao was one such epic woman! 

Maya Rao came into my life, way back in 1996 when I was scripting and researching a Tele-serial for STAR TV, based on Indian classical music and dance. The serial was anchored by none other than Ustad Zakir Hussain and was a grand success. The idea was to shoot 54 episodes on music and the next 54 on dance and theatre. In an era where there was no internet and mobile phone and technology wasn’t as friendly, I was commissioned by the channel to go across the country, meet legends in the fields of performing arts and put the script together. We had planned a few episodes on Kathak and I began reading as a part of my homework. I came across a stunning image of Maya Rao in ‘Kathak dance through the ages’ authored by Projesh Banerji and the ‘Marg’ issue on Kathak at the NCPA library in Bombay.  

Read the tribute in the site

Thursday 4 September 2014

Naman Dance Festival 2014 - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Nrityantar institute in Bangalore established five years ago by Odissi exponent Madhulita Mohapatra, a disciple of Aruna Mohanty, organized the 5th edition of a two day Odissi  dance festival (16 and 17 August) at ADA Rangamandira auditorium.
Besides being a dancer, Madhulita has to her credit a diploma in Cost Accounting. She works at various schools in the city offering special dance classes for children as well as elders. Nrityantar has been working with many schools in the city with the idea of including classical dance as an integral part of the curriculum and routine schooling. Madhulita’s aim is that the children should enjoy something amidst the monotonous school activities, and along with it, they get to learn dance forms and a bit of our rich culture also. She also feels that different styles of Odissi should be showcased.

Read the review in the site

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Obit / Tribute - Chiru navvu momuna (The one with a cheerful face) A tribute to Guru Adyar K Lakshman - Revati Ilanko

The Guru is one who removes the darkness of the mind through the illuminating power of knowledge. A physical form through which jnana or knowledge flows through to the disciple. Just as a statue is shaped and given its form, the Guru removes the observed and unobserved flaws through his wisdom, and allows the disciple to take his/her form. Adyar K Lakshman was my Guru.                                                                                                    

I once read that “the flux of the human heart is gone forever at the transfixing effect of pure love.” In Indian culture, the guru-disciple relationship is the highest expression of friendship, for it is based on unconditional affection and wisdom. It is a noble, nurturing and sacred relationship that enables one to evolve.  The height of this relationship is experienced under a great guru. In the presence of a great guru, knowledge flourishes (Gyana raksha), sorrow diminishes (Dukha kshaya), joy wells up without any reason (Sukha aavirbhava), abundance dawns (Samriddhi); all talents manifest (Sarva samvardhan). This magical environment was created at Bharata Choodamani (Lakshman Sir’s dance academy). Let’s hope this tradition is able to continue to its fullest in the future.

Read the tribute in the site

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Obit / Tribute - Josyula Krishnamurthy is no more - Tadepalli Satyanarayana

Kuchipudi artist / musician Josyula Krishnamurthy passed away in the early hours of September 1, 2014 around 2.30am at his residence. He was 86 years old. Krishnamurthy who started his art journey initially as a dancer, essaying mostly the Sakhi roles was more interested in the music aspect of Kuchipudi Yakshaganam and is a very well known mridangam artist. He specialised in Sampradaya Kuchipudi Yakshaganam talas / music and has the honour of accompanying over 8000 programs during his life time. 

Read the tribute in the site

Obit / Tribute - Maya Rao: A legend is no more - Ashish Mohan Khokar

Great guru of dance, most gracious lady dancer/teacher/guru/mentor most respected and loved “didi” Maya Rao is no more. Her end came as she lived, smiling, despite hardships. She complained of chest pain, her dancer daughter Madhu took her to nearby Ramaiah hospital. She was in fine fettle and then gone. Medical heroics were tried, to no avail. Born on May 2, 1928 in same city, Bangalore, she breathed her last in the early hours of September 1, 2014 near the auspicious brahma muhurtam.

Read the tribute in the site

Sunday 31 August 2014

Obit / Tribute - Adyar K. Lakshman: A beacon of Bharatanatyam - Ramli Ibrahim

When my Bharatanatyam guru Adyar K Lakshman died on the 19 August 2014, he left a rich legacy of dance repertoire for posterity. However, an era of Bharatanatyam left with him. Not many in Malaysia know that Lakshman Sir had a profound influence on a generation of male dancers in Malaysia. 

When Malaysians discovered that both Chandrabhanu and I studied under him, many aspiring Malaysian dancers especially male students, made a bee-line to his dance studio, in Gandhi Nagar, Adyar (Chennai). They came in droves hoping also to get the same training that Chandra and I had been privileged to undergo.

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Modern Indian dance - Ashish Mohan Khokar

The Oxford Dictionary describes modern as: Contradistinction to classical/tradition; of the present times, just now, existing, pertaining to the present and recent times, contrasting to an earlier form.
In any field – design, architecture, films, music – modern means a new language, which is distinguishable from old, something new and something that holds as modern.  In Indian dance this is very complex and often the most misunderstood word. What part is modern and what part is Indian? Is fusion leading to confusion? Are traditions being sacrificed for something western?  Are non-government funding agencies and journalism teaching schools, subverting Indian classical traditions just to pander to western powers or next trip to Germany or Guyana?

Presently, Indian modern dance or modern dance in India is neither Indian nor modern. Using traditional forms like Kalari and Chhau, adding western costumes and music does not make it modern. Modern means a whole new language, which appeals and is understandable. Not just decorative dance as many dance groups are trying to do.  New does not mean modern though modern can be new. Newness is in structure and substance of art, in its content. Modern is often mistaken for contemporary. Contemporary dance is a reflection of a society at a given point in time. Every generation has a contemporary response to everything: fashion, film, design, dance, music, painting but it does not necessarily mean it is modern.

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Tuesday 26 August 2014

Obit/Tribute - Homage to Guru Adyar K Lakshman (1933 - 2014) - Chandrabhanu

One of the most illustrious of Bharatanatyam dance mentors passed away on the 19th of August 2014.
Adyar Lakshman or Lakshman Sir, as he was known to his students, who are to be found all over the world, developed an extraordinary method of teaching Bharatanatyam. I consider myself most fortunate and blessed to have studied with him and to have inherited this ingenious method which stressed thorough knowledge of dance practice and theory, music and rhythm, the thematic narratives of the dances, nattuvangam, and the ritual contents of the dances. Despite his great achievements, my guru remained a man of great humility, always crediting his own gurus, Rukmini Devi Arundale, and several others, for the development of his artistry. Unlike so many of the new generation dance teachers, he did not profess to know everything. Rather, if he did not know the answers to some questions asked by his students, he would say he didn't know, and would we go and research on these subjects and come back to inform him.

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Sunday 24 August 2014

Book Review - Guru Debaprasad Das: Icon of Odissi - Nita Vidyarthi

Guru Debaprasad Das, one of the foremost gurus of Odissi dance, had developed a unique style of his own with stylised abhinaya and naturalistic approach to the dance form. ‘Sabda Swara Pata’ is an important feature of his style and retaining Odissi dance in its purest form was his most important contribution. He kept a low profile, died at the age of 54 and his star disciples strive hard to propagate and popularize his not often seen tradition. Gayatri Chand, one of the accomplished senior most and technically sound, devoted Odissi dancers in Debaprasad Das’s style has painstakingly collected a large amount of detailed information of her guru and his work from resources far and wide and with a paramount effort and research, has compiled and classified them in the first ever written illustrated book on her guru entitled ‘Guru Debaprasad Das: Icon of Odissi.’ The remarkable feature of the book is the analysis and classification of the text and music and statements on the style of her guru as compared to the other two stalwarts (Late Gurus) of Odissi (pg 44). With an extremely convergent and focussed mind she has gracefully pointed out the details without causing any damage to the honour or respect of others’ thoughts, ideas or principles.

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Friday 22 August 2014

Profile - Guru B. Herambanathan

B. Herambanathan is the senior most choreographer and dance teacher of the Thanjavur nattuvanga tradition. He is the son of T.G. Bhavu Pillai (a Bharatanatyam teacher, mridangist and Bhaghavatha Mela drama teacher who was a much sought after accompanist to dancers of the past) and Jeeva Amma (a dancer). He is the son-in-law of devadasi Doraikannu and is proud to hail from a lineage of devadasis belonging to the Thanjavur region.
He trained under his father, T.M. Arunachalam Pillai and K.P. Kittappa Pillai in Bharatanatyam, under N. Rajam Iyer in mridangam, under Balu Bhagavathar and P.K. Subbaiyer in Bhagavatha Mela. He began his career as a Bharatanatyam choreographer from 1967. He accompanied as mridangist for the arangetrams of his father’s students. The arangetram of his first student S. Rohini was held under the presidentship of K.P. Kittappa Pillai on Feb 8, 1970 in Thanjavur. He serves as a teacher for the Melattur and Saliyamangalam Bhagavatha Mela dance programs. 

Read the profile in the site

Thursday 21 August 2014

Article - The role of the arts in developing sustainable inter-ethnic engagement in Malaysia - Ramli Ibrahim

The Arts play a vital role in building the character of a nation. When we mention the Arts, we associate it synonymously with culture. To a layman, art generally equates with beauty and excellence. Culture, on the other hand, has to do with the traditional, the way of life of the people and the endeavours which are representative of the collective psyche of society.  
The Arts inevitably mirror society and plays the role in engaging society to look at itself as it evolves towards being more civilized. The universal message of Arts is inclusive but at the same time is opened to personal interpretation and represents an enigmatic challenge in its engagement with society. Together with the Humanities, the Arts promote the quest of self-reflection, celebrate the miracle of life and cultivate the positive transformation of the human race.  Due to this, the Arts have a moderating influence on society. This ‘civilizing’ process, which is a prime consequence of the presence of the Arts, also informs us of the directional path of the society towards a progressive and better quality of life. 

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Friday 15 August 2014

Leela Samson’s recital: An aesthetic experience - Dr. Sunil Kothari

It is always a pleasure to watch a Bharatanatyam recital by a seasoned dancer like Leela Samson. After seeing her delectable recital one wants to see more. As a mature dancer with an excellent track record, training in Kalakshetra and imbibing the aesthetics and values of life from Rukmini Devi and other teachers, Leela epitomises certain qualities, which reflect in her dance. That sets her apart from other dancers.
Performing in an ideal setting of Sannidhi auditorium of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, the ambience created a magic of its own. Intimate and cosy, the auditorium makes it easy to watch the subtle nuances registered on the face of the dancer. It adds to the relish of the aesthetic experience.

That Leela was in excellent form is stating something obvious. Recalling her earlier performance at Sannidhi when it was inaugurated, she said that she was very happy to perform again after 2009, as she had left for Chennai by then. Her long and intimate association with Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Bhai-ji and entire family has been very precious for her. Before performing shlokas describing Lord Shiva’s preparation for marriage from Kumarasambhavam’s 7th sarga, Leela said she had approached Madhup Mudgal - Bhaiyya as she addresses him - to compose music for those shlokas. Madhup set it to Vibhas raga and Leela said that this is one of her most favourite numbers. 

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Book Review - Telugu Traditions - Tadepalli Satyanarayana

Ashish Mohan Khokar’s Attendance, The Dance Annual of India 2013-14 titled ‘Telugu Traditions’ with Ananda Shankar Jayant being the Guest Editor (with no detailed mention about the five members of the Editorial Board), is a very compelling reading throwing light on all the essential aspects of the various dance forms of the Telugu populace.  That a well respected and revered person of his stature has come out with such a publication with rich content and aesthetic layout definitely speaks volumes of his insight into the art world in general and his spirited endeavour to demystify the same for the benefit of art lovers of the world at large.
Not surprisingly, a large portion of the annual centres around the contemporary art form Kuchipudi but a review of the articles grouped under various aspects so elaborately covered does show that lot of hard work has gone into the annual by the writers and the flow of information regarding other art forms stirring the reader, inducing a journey to acquire more indepth knowledge of the various traditions. In that direction one can say that the annual has lived up to the expecations as spelled out in the brief editorial by Ashish Mohan Khokar against the backdrop of his bowing in obeisance to a young artist proving that when it comes to art, age is no barrier both for the artist and the connoiseur. 

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Sunday 10 August 2014

Interview - Uma Dogra: Dancing is my first love - Vijay Shankar

Kathak exponent Uma Dogra has established the Sam Ved Society for Performing Arts with the intention of promoting classical arts by organizing two major festivals every year, for the last twenty four years. Uma Dogra talks about her career that spans more than four decades and her role as a teacher, performer and impresario.
Could you tell us about your family background?
Hailing from a classically inclined artistic family, the ardour for Indian classical music came very naturally to me. My father being a well renowned sitarist, he had a lot of friends from the art field.  Our home would resound with the notes of the melodious sitar or the mellifluous vocals of Pt. Amarnathji – a renowned vocalist of our times – or for that matter the lofty beats of the tabla by Pt. Chaturlalji. Growing up with such enchanting vibes and atmosphere, the initial seeds for an artiste was laid within me. My first love was the sitar. I’d be mesmerized watching my father practicing or teaching his students. The only desire that I had then was to hold my father’s sitar some day and play music which would make him proud.  

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Saturday 9 August 2014

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Viswanathan - Madras 375

Madras is three hundred and seventy five years old. That is, since it was founded by the colonial regime. It existed much, much before, as a series of important historical spots. To name a few -  Mylapore, Triplicane, Tiruvanmiyur, Tiruvottiyur, and many more. All these were visited by saints and had temples even before the saints came to visit in the 8th century! So, following that ancient tradition, modern Madras has always attracted the best of the best. And when it comes to dance... what a history!

I do not want to go into the Devadasi heritage of George Town. That was before my time. My research about those dancers is in my book. But I have seen and been impressed by dancers and Gurus from childhood. I was born and brought up in Santhome, which is a niche on the edge of Mylapore. In fact it is believed that the Kapaliswara temple stood in Santhome by the seashore before it was razed and rebuilt a few furlongs towards the interior. 

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Friday 8 August 2014

Article - Vadya Pallavi: the concept and process - Parwati Dutta

In the late 1980s, when I was curiously studying the history and journey of Odissi dance, I came across a brief description of pallavi with an elaboration mentioning 2 kinds of pallavi – Swar Pallavi and Vadya Pallavi. While the first seeks to be a visual trans-creation of the raga – the melodic mood - the latter is inspired by the rhythmic element and the percussion of Odissi. During my training, I discovered that all pallavis taught to us were named after the raga in which it was composed, hence can be considered as Swar Pallavi. As per the name and its underlying concept, a pallavi gently unfolds in space and time through melodic, rhythmic and gestural patterns. My quest to know more about this extremely imaginative dance concept led me to the realization that Vadya Pallavi has not been attempted post revival of Odissi.

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Thursday 31 July 2014

Article - Mohiniyattam Missteps - A few observations - Methil Devika

Of all papers that I have come across, a must-read is the thesis by recent researcher Justine Alexia Lemos who has carefully detailed out the positioning of the form of Mohiniyattam vis-à-vis the socio-cultural context of the sambandham or ‘alliances’ rampant in Kerala in the 19th century. Betty True Jones has much earlier given a commendable historical detailing of Mohiniyattam in comparison to others but Lemos’ is a new take. For students pursuing historical research in Mohiniyattam, common references have for the past so many decades been P. Soman, Guru Kalyanikuttyamma, Dr. Kanak Rele, and Leela Nambudiripad. Every student can talk yarns about Gurus Kalyaniamma, Kunjukutty amma, and Chinnammuamma, and their contribution to the Kerala Kalamandalam. Vyavaharamala of the early 18th century is the oldest reference to Mohiniyattam. And that is because no research seems to have gone beyond it. One also finds the novel Meenaksi quoted regularly as a valid evidence of how the dance became debased by the turn of the 20th century. Lemos in her thesis ‘Bracketing Lasya; An Ethnographic Study of Mohiniyattam Dance’ has done wonders in her first three chapters of revealing a more convincing historical process through which the form was resurrected. She has brought in a whole new list of the then practitioners of Mohiniyattam and their dance. 

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Wednesday 30 July 2014

Interview - Kalamandalam C Gopalakrishnan - Vijay Shanker

Kalamandalam C Gopalakrishnan and Kalakshethram, the most popular organization standing for presenting, preserving and propagating classical art, are inseparable. Gopalakrishnan is the most popular Kathakali actor in Mumbai, his teaching career spanning more than three decades at Nalanda Nritya Kala Maha Vidyalaya as tutor / accompanist and 28 years teaching experience in Kathakali and eight years in Mohiniattam at Kalakshethram, Dombivli, as honorary guru. As a nattuvanar, he has accompanied performances of Kanak Rele in India and abroad. He has accompanied on the nattuvangam all the senior artistes and students of Nalanda for the past two decades as well as provided vocal support for several Mohiniattam and Kathakali recitals of leading artists. Gopalakrishnan speaks about why Kathakali has few takers in Mumbai and his passion for the most dramatic classical dance style of India.

Why is it that Kathakali has few takers?  
Kathakali is the most difficult and strenuous classical dance among all the styles, hence that is one of the reasons there are few takers. Moreover, unlike other styles Kathakali is a group presentation with very little scope for solo presentations. Normally, Kathakali is taught and practiced only by male dancers.

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Friday 25 July 2014

Contemporary Indian Dance - Ashish Mohan Khokar

As the French would say, eet izz veery interasteeng! Yes, what is contemporary Indian dance and where is it headed? What is choreography? This search sets me thinking in light of Zohra Segal’s passing away on 10th of July in her Mandakini Enclave Delhi home, care of daughter Kiran Segal, who lovingly looked after her for decades. Zohra Segal represents the starting point of contemporary dance styles as enunciated by Uday Shankar. She remained his only dancing partner who was NOT his student (but Mary Wigman’s). Others were attracted to his persona and came under his influence but Zohra remained his dance partner, like Simkie, the French artiste.

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Thursday 24 July 2014

O Friend, This Waiting! - Dr. Sunil Kothari

O Friend, This Waiting! is a film on Kshetrayya’s padams by Bharatanatyam exponent Justin McCarthy and Sandhya Kumar. Made in 2012, it won an award in art film category at the 63rd Film Festival. It is an unusual film weaving in poetic sensibilities of both the film makers and exquisite visuals by cameraman Amit Mahanti.
The film of 32 minutes duration is unusual in the sense that with the padams of the Telugu poet Kshetrayya, one expects that there will be more of abhinaya performed by a dancer. However, the script writers Justin and Sandhya have focused on evoking a mood through brief words about devadasis: sacred and profane, a maid of gods and prostitute, her disappearance. The poems she danced portrayed intense love for gods, then for Kings, patrons, her social status commented upon with exquisite visuals of the river, the palace, the flowers, the lotus leaf, a garland, two feet with ankle bells, green leaves, interiors of the palace, old mansion with stained glasses, school children running in a building with old architecture- a cascade of images, often breathtaking which linger long in memory after the film is over.

Read the review in the site

Sunday 20 July 2014

Remembering Zohra Segal (1912-2014) - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Zohra Segal was a dancer, who had worked with the legendary Uday Shankar. Born in Sharanpurin 1912, in a large orthodox Muslim family from Rampur, she was from a very young age of independent temperament. After passing her matriculation examination in 1924, she travelled with her uncle to Germany and studied modern dance from Mary Wigman. During those years, Uday Shankar was making his name in Europe and on knowing about Zohra studying dance, he invited her to join his company. When she met Uday Shankar, she had said, “I was surprised to see a man as a dancer and thought what this young man was doing as a dancer?But what I saw I liked very much as it had a lot of folk element and some of the music was based on peasant music which I loved. I thought his partner Simkie was a Kashmiri girl because though she had a fair complexion she had dark hair. But she had adapted wonderfully; in her movements and feelings she was very Indian. I liked what they did, and it made me homesick. I thought it was beautifully presented and very colourful.” At that time Zohra was in Dresden and wanted to return to India.

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Saturday 19 July 2014

Obit/Tribute - Zohra Segal (1912-2014) - Ashish Mohan Khokar

In the death of Zohra Segal, who witnessed a century of Indian dance and theatre, films and folk dances, an era is gone.

Sahibzaddi Zohra Begum Mumtazullah Khan shortened to Zohra Segal later, was born in Saharanpur, to the Rampur nobility (Rohilla Pathan stock) on 27th April 1912. This lady has seen a century of Indian art and has lived every moment of it. There was no dance in her immediate surroundings. Her mother died early and Zohra, one of seven siblings, was sent to Queen Mary's Girls School in Lahore as she was a bit of a tomboy and needed discipline. The school PT drill became a source of amusement for her and one thing led to other and she went off to Germany with her maternal uncle Saeeduzaffer Khan, who studied medicine at Edinburgh, in a car! Imagine in 1930s going through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and then take a boat from Alexandria to reach eastern "walled" Europe and arrive in Dresden to join ballerina Mary Wigman's school? This is stuff Zohra the great, is made of. Her training under Wigman style made her a true talent, sought no less by Uday Shankar when she met him backstage when he was touring Europe with 'Shiva Parvati' and assured her a job in his troupe once she finished her training and sure enough when she did and returned home, she received a telegram asking her if she would join him for his forthcoming Japan tour.  Her father was bit worried. How to send a young girl off on a tour like this? He asked her to think it through. While she was thinking, he went into the bedroom and came out with a train timetable saying, "Beta, the next train to Kathgodam is at 11.22!" Zohra was off. 

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Monday 14 July 2014

Book Review - ‘Mohiniattam-History, Techniques and Performance’ by Kalamandalam Sathyabhama - Padma Jayaraj

The book ‘Mohiniattam-History, Techniques and Performance’ (Mohiniattam Charithram Sindhadham Prayogam) by Kalamandalam Sathyabhama, co-authored by her daughter Kalamandalam Lathika Mohandas, is a delightful tapestry featuring the story of Mohiniattam, Kerala’s classical dance form traversing through five decades. Into it is woven the story of Kalamandalam founded by Poet Vallathol Narayana Menon in a historical context in the cultural history of modern India. The memoirs of a dancer interlacing through its web in soft vivid colors make it greatly readable. Written in Malayalam, this is invaluable for its texts for practitioners and lovers of Mohiniattam. Kilimangalam Vasudeva Namboodiripad, a long time associate of Sathyabhama in Kalamandalam introduces the book. He praises the book for recording the visually enchanting aspects of the dance as its uniqueness.
Spread in eleven chapters the book begins with a brief history of Mohiniattam. 

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Tuesday 8 July 2014

Natyanubhava - A film by Sharada Ramanathan by Dr. Sunil Kothari

Produced with the assistance of Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT), which is a Public Diplomacy initiative of the Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India, Natyanubhava, a documentary on classical dance forms of India by the renowned film maker Sharada Ramanathan was screened at Gulmohor, India Habitat Centre, on 3rd July. A large number of dance aficionados were present as were some of the dancers who are featured in the film like Kathak exponents Abhimanyu Lal and his wife Vidha Lal, young Kuchipudi dancer Sandhya Raju, who specially came from Hyderabad for the screening. Saswati Sen and Geetanjali Lal, both senior Kathak dancers and gurus, were also present and at the end they all were felicitated by PSBT organizers. Former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to USA Lalit Mansingh, photographer Avinash Pasricha, Professor Amrit Srinivasan, music and dance critic Manjari Sinha, senior Bharatanatyam dancer Jamuna Krishnan and her daughter Ragini, and many young Kathak dancers were present. It was heartening to see the full house and many standing near the wall of the hall at the back, watching the film. The entry was free, unlike the three screenings in Satyam cinema in Chennai, which were ticketed shows.

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Monday 7 July 2014

Interview - Aruna Mohanty: The thinking dancer - Sutapa Patnaik

Odissi dancer-choreographer-guru Aruna Mohanty is known globally for her innovative productions that harmoniously blend indigenous explorations with contemporary cultural sensibilities. While 15 out of her 59 compositions are based on the 12th century saint poet Jayadeva’s Geeta Govinda, she has also explored with equal ease unusual themes like the Odisha super cyclone, Krishna for the contemporary world, apart from some modern Odia poetry. Her latest venture is based on German Nobel laureate Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. Her research on representation of the male dancer in classical sculpture and evolution of Odissi in the post-Independence era are widely appreciated.

Here are some excerpts from an interview conducted at her Bhubaneswar home recently dealing with her thoughts on the art of choreography.

Are you aware that you are widely recognized as a thinking dancer?
It is nice to know that people consider me to be a thinking dancer. But I don’t think I am God’s Sunday creation. Everyone learns by observing people and from the environment one is in. I am very fortunate that in my journey of dance, which began in the 1960s, I met people who were very generous. My parents, my gurus and well-wishers have all helped me see the road ahead of me. Like a child, I continue to learn from authority figures, peers and people I’m surrounded with. I’m always hungry to know more and to appreciate people for their good work. This helps me to learn a few things which I try and incorporate into my work. I haven’t stopped learning because I think I have so much more to learn, and I’m doing so little. In that, I’m like a student; and I do think. But then, every dancer does. The sad part is, very few dancers communicate their ideas through their work, while most refrain from expressing in action what they think because either they are too happy following a set of guidelines to project their art, or they believe people will not understand their viewpoint and hence withhold their creative potency. 

Read the interview in the site