Friday 28 March 2014

Rajika Puri’s Eleni of Sparta - Sunil Kothari

Eleni of Sparta is her first ‘non-Indian’ story. Evidently, Rajika has undertaken a great deal of research work, visiting Greece and studying the classics Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey and Bettany Hughes’ Helen of Troy. Eleni is commonly known as Helen of Troy. With her training in western music Rajika adapts songs, singing when performing and with powerful voice tells the story engaging attention of the audience. Taking cue from Sanskrit plays she impersonates the role of a Sutradhar (storyteller) and using ekaharya lasyanga principle of Natyashastra, in which a character enacts various roles in a solo performance in one costume, she successfully employs that style, combining acting, dancing and singing. She has named it as Sutradhari Natyam.
Eleni of Sparta unfolds in seven episodes. She has modelled each episode on a different genre of Odissi dance, with music set to ragas derived from the six Hindustani thaats (scales) that are equivalent to ancient Greek melodic modes, and as she states in her programme book, ‘and Greek folkloric rhythms similar to those of Odissi dance and music.’

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Wednesday 26 March 2014

Interview - Rahul Acharya: a devotee of dance - Lalitha Venkat

A student of Pt Durga Charan Ranbir, Odissi dancer Rahul Acharya is based in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa. A torch-bearer of the Guru Deb Prasad Das style, he was the first male Odissi dancer to be honored with the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar award from the Government of India in 2009. Other than his dance, Rahul is an avid devotee of Lord Jagannatha and well versed in Sanskrit. He is trained in Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga in the Bihar School of Yoga. He enjoys reading and researching on Shastras (scriptures) and bringing them to the forefront through his dance.
Here, Rahul Acharya shares his views on a variety of matters pertaining to Odissi dance.

With the rising popularity of Odissi, do you think the traditional movements are in any way being affected?
Tradition is a transitioning element. There is no static tradition. Customs, beliefs and practices have been altered frequently to suit the changing times. What we practice as Odissi today is certainly not what Bharata mentioned as Odra Magadhi in the Natya Shastra. The style of Odissi that we practice today was not what it was during the 50’s.  When the repertoire of Odissi was being developed the entire Margam hardly lasted 15-20 mins. Today, one single choreography can go on for hours. Thus there is no one tradition that dancers need to stick to. But there is a basic underlying grammar that characterizes Odissi’s antiquity and uniqueness. We have all learnt it as beginners and have practiced it ever since. This basic grammar is the building block of the dance form. Thus it becomes quite important to understand and digest what our masters have passed down to us. We need to preserve this rich legacy that has been handed over to us and take it a step further with our own innovations. 

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Wednesday 19 March 2014

Profile - Guru Udupi Laxminarayan - Compiled by: Lalitha Venkat

Apprenticeship under Ellappa was a marvelous learning experience for Laxminarayan. In the 7 years of Gurukulavasam, he had to observe everything that his guru taught his students. His guru took him to watch programs of luminaries like Balasaraswati. All this was his training and inspiration. Apart from dance, his guru taught him Tamil; the importance of enunciating and understanding the lyrics of a song properly; the need to apply his mind to the meaning of the songs; and the art of nattuvangam and the skills needed for it, especially how to utter the jatis with the proper intonation and the appropriate stress on 'vallinam' and 'mellinam.' Even during his learning period, Laxminarayan had opportunities to practice what he had learned, for Ellappa would send him as a substitute to conduct the recital of one or the other disciples whenever he himself could not do so. 

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Monday 17 March 2014

Baroda makes Bharatanatyam national - Ashish Mohan Khokar

Baroda in Gujarat - a small royal town - bit like Mysore in south India, is the reason Bharatanatyam reached the rest of India. While no single person or event can make historical changes, they become a catalyst and link in that chain.  Yes, had it not been for two devadasis who came as “dowry” when a Tanjore princess married the royalty of Baroda, Bharatanatyam would have never reached north and west and rest of India a century ago. Here’s how.

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Roving Eye - A section of impressions, images & inspiration curated by Anita Ratnam

March 2014

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Sunday 16 March 2014

Article - Enabling women through education (an artiste’s perspective) - Dr. Padmaja Suresh

Educate a woman and thereby educate a nation is a popular saying. Bhaarata, our nation is known to have been led by several women who had deep-rooted knowledge of many subjects and could openly debate with men. The education which a woman possessed was most useful in grooming herself and molding the children from within the family system which was itself a replica of a world class university. Art, culture, skills, values were all part and parcel of the process and means of acquiring knowledge with the larger end of spiritual goals.
Education enabled one to pursue the four goals, the Purusharthas with due regard to the Ashramas or stages of life. Women were not expected to earn a living and their knowledge reflected on their position as the backbone of every society to balance a peaceful co-existence. Our legends often quote some occasion or the other where even the deified lord turned to his spouse for advice at crucial moments. Stree Shakti is the energy that enables every movement, action and knowledge and this principle is portrayed as ‘the one who rides a tiger.’ Devi, called by various names, is the combined power of G-O-D as the generative, operative and destructive force. Every religion has similar representations. In yogic philosophy, SHE stands for fire and in fact, it was far easier for a woman to achieve the highest spiritual goals than man and hence, she was discreetly kept away by the men from many practices in order to reserve her attention on the family.

Arts, be it fine arts or performing arts, encompasses a whole stream of visual and spatial geometry, beauty and harmony. While the term ‘modern’ may permit loud expression, the term ‘classical’ characterizes subtlety. Either static or movement-based, they always provide scope for imagination and creativity and suggest an enhanced connectivity with the viewers. 

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Saturday 15 March 2014

Book Review - Weaves that weave around the dance - Kiran Rajagopalan

Amethyst recently organized the Chennai launch of Briana Blasko’s book Dance of the Weave - A Dialogue Between Traditional Textiles & Dance in India (Penguin Books India).  Briana is a noted photographer and practitioner of yoga who currently resides in New Delhi.  Her book is the culmination of six years of meticulous research and documentation throughout India.

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Saturday 8 March 2014

Article - Madhur Milan - Mayuri Upadhya

Nritarutya’s latest production ‘Madhur Milan’ was staged on Feb 15, 2014 at the Ambani matriarch’s residence. The beauty of our myths is that it is timeless, the characters of gods and goddess are relatable and most importantly it can hold meaning even in a modern day with its newer realities. Last entire month we celebrated Ganapathi, Krishna and Shakthi and how. It was an enormous feat taking a crew of 102 to Mumbai for a very special occasion: to commemorate the 80th birthday celebrations of Kokilaben Dirubhai Ambani at her Mumbai residence, Sea Wind. While speaking with Kokilaben, in my earlier meets, I discovered that one of her beautiful traits is her love for god; she is a god loving and not god fearing person. She is a devotee of Sri Nathji and her relationship with god reminded me of Yashodha’s vatsalya, Radha’s preethi, and Meera’s bhakti. 

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Wednesday 5 March 2014

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan - Sitting posture

Sitting on the floor and doing abhinaya ....I don't mean veterans sitting and demonstrating.....I mean sprightly Bharatanatyam dancers sitting on the stage and showing some part of the narrative, has become common. Frankly I don't know where this has come from. Rather, I should say I know.....!

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