Wednesday 30 April 2014

NCPA’s Mudra dance festival - Dr. Sunil Kothari

From 24th till 30th April, NCPA organized Mudra dance festival at Experimental Theatre, conceived by Swapnokalpa, the Director for Dance at NCPA, on the theme of motherhood. On the opening night, Mumbai based Odissi exponent Jhelum Paranjape presented a programme titled ‘What is Motherhood?’ With her son Bunkim, who is a fresh voice in Indian music with a style which centres round pop, drawing equally from Rock, Folk, Funk and Bollywood, Jhelum succeeded in revealing several layers of relationship between mother and son through classical Odissi style, at times using free dance form, appropriate to the content of the song and sentiments. 

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Article - Steps’ Mother - Dr. Anita Ratnam

There is no getting away from it. It is not something you can push under the carpet or hide behind your ghungroos. If you are a woman and a dancer, then dance is your eldest child, you are married to your body and you are a mother to movement. That alchemical bond between the spirit, body and the navel of memory is sacrosanct. Married or unmarried, divorced, separated or in a social relationship you can term ‘complicated’, there is nothing complex about a woman and her body that absorbs, morphs and shape-shifts as it grows and the dance grows alongside it. You are a parent who nurtures and forms the growing bubble of kinetic clay that takes shape through your limbs and torso. What is it like being a mother? What is it like to be a mother and a dancer whose body is singularly stubborn and independent? I always believed that life would deliver me as a dancer first and all else next. I knew I was good and that I would always be in the spotlight. But a mother? I had never planned on being a mother to anything but dance. I did dream of a handsome man sweeping me off my feet. But children? I knew that being a mother was not going to be easy and that I did not have the stamina to stay the course of motherhood.

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Sunday 20 April 2014

Profile - Bharatanatyam guru Adyar K Lakshman Compiled by Lalitha Venkat

Adyar Lakshman's many years of study and interaction with Kalakshetra’s artists provided rich and meaningful experience to Lakshman. Rukmini Devi saw Lakshman’s talents develop even during the initial years of his education. Upon his graduation she gave him the opportunity to take part in Kalakshetra’s world famous dance productions such as Kutrala Kuruvanji and Kumarasambhavam. He played the role of Janaka in the Ramayana series Sita Swayamvaram, as Shiva in Usha Parinayam which was a Bhagavathamela natya natakam from Melattur. Lakshman also trained in Kathakali under maestros Ambu Panicker and Chandu Panicker. His most notable appearance in Kathakali was as Sudhama in Kuchela Vrittam. He danced with Rukmini Devi in kuravanji Kumarasambhavam with her as Parvathi and he as young brahmin Vatu. Lakshman is one of the privileged few to have shared the stage with Rukmini Devi when she danced in her productions.

 On leaving Kalakshetra, Lakshman felt there was a necessity to become a teacher more than a dancer. He taught for more than a decade in Vyjayantimala Bali's school Natyalaya, where he honed his skills as a choreographer of merit, assisting in productions like Tiruppavai, Azhagar Kuravanji, Chandalika and Sanga Tamizh Malai. He founded his own dance school Bharatha Choodamani Academy of Fine Arts on August 22, 1969. He has trained many dancers including Anita Ratnam, Jayanthi Subramaniam, Padmini Chari, Kamadev, Bragha Bessell, Roja Kannan, Mavin Khoo and Ramli Ibrahim to name a few. Trained in close adherence to the traditional Kalakshetra style, many of his star students have established their own dance schools in India and abroad. 

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Monday 7 April 2014

Gender equality in Kuchipudi - Ashish Mohan Khokar

So how, when and why did girls come to dance Kuchipudi? This is no ancient history, as with most things Indian in classical dance history! This situation happened just over 75 years ago.  Thanks to a politician, no less.
It is well known that from the very beginning Kuchipudi was intended to be a dance-drama, thus requiring a set of characters. It was not intended as a soloist’s delight. This does not mean there were no solo dancers but that they were used as embellishment, an adornment. Being a dance drama also meant that an actor was obliged to sing, dance and speak. The most popular play remained the Bhama Kalapam, even though many other plays came to be written. The role of   Satyabhama thus remained most coveted. In most plays, it is the female roles that dominated, like Rukmini in Rukmini Kalyanam, Usha in Usha Parinayam. Even Krishna remained pathetically marginalised in these plays. Except Prahlad Charithram, all plays were female centric. As per custom and tradition, males performed the female role.

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Sunday 6 April 2014

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan - Research and Re-creation in Dance

For me, the formal and informal performance history of Bharatanatyam elicits more fascination than ritual dances. Ritual has its limitations on the stage. Like the Kauttuvams. Interesting visuals they may be, but for me they have no soul when taken out of context.

The charm of old Palace repertoire is unbeatable. I recall with utmost pleasure my interview with Pandanallur Jayalakshmi decades ago. Imagine if one were to speak to a performer who had danced the Dhanike Todi ragam varnam in the presence of Sivaji maharaja of Tanjavur! The varnam was composed in praise of him.... Such was my excitement to hear Jayalakshmi reminiscing about a rare varnam when I visited her in the late seventies. She sang the varnam composed exclusively for her by Meenakshisundaram Pillai. In raga Vachaspathi, it is in praise of her husband, the Sethupathy or Raja of Ramnad. I have written more about this meeting in my book. I had also seen pictures of mural paintings of court dancers of the 18th century in the Ramanathapuram palace taken by my good friend V.K. Rajamani. They were testimony to an active royal and music programs attended by the king.  It was not difficult to understand that that kingdom was a seat of music and dance, second only to Tanjavur. I think such varnams are historically important and their worth is not diminished simply because modern India decried royalty and abolished princely states. 

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Saturday 5 April 2014

Article - Gender and Dance - Dr. Neena Prasad

When the work of any dancer is more inclined towards a gender based repertoire, the dancer is automatically slipping into a comfort zone. This form of expression although an individual privilege, nevertheless becomes a very subjective approach, whereas a dancer needs to be  equipped with several layers of consciousness to experiment the endless artistic possibilities thus helping the dance form to explore the higher realms of transitions through art.
Natya is considered as a supreme medium of expression and a nata exhibits this potential through the dramatic element. It is also an artist’s manodharma that calls for the spontaneous and imaginative prowess of an artist that creates the magic of rasa. A contemporary dancer, soloist may need to transform to a protagonist, a heroic character, a pining heroine or a passive story teller or any character called for. The dancer has to bring the gender, age or psychological states of the character into the grasp of his physical demeanour. For this, a dancer, the soloist needs to depersonalise from “self”. He needs to strip himself of his identity and become neutral; then take to submissive yet assertive transformation to present a real and wholesome artistic experience. Bharata, while explaining the physical attributes of the masculine and feminine body through the lasya and tandava modes of expression, mentions that actors can mask these aspects expressed and explored irrespective of their genders. Hence, the physical presence of the bearing or bareness of breasts should not interfere while considering artistic calibre. 

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