Wednesday 18 June 2014

Article - From Question to Quest: Is the answer within the journey itself? - Shila Mehta

Too many questions can confuse us. On the other hand, one good question may bring about profound change through its call for significant efforts to explore meaning and to find answers. I definitely realize the power of ‘what’ and ‘why’ when a Question becomes a Quest.

Dance has taken me to many places over the years, and most recently, the University of Toronto, Canada. Here I was fortunate to meet and work with a number of dance artists and academicians, each of whom left their mark on challenging my thinking and work as an artist.  Darcey Callison, a choreographer, dance scholar and cultural theorist planted the following seed in my mind that “everything does not have to make sense.” Simple, yet transformational words, pushing me to ask myself… crossing internal boundaries as a choreographer, and to my surprise, utilizing a ‘smart phone’ for the first time to aid artistic endeavor.  Similarly, Carol Anderson, a choreographer and dance writer, observed me during a choreography session. Whilst reflecting on my movements she forced me to think about it from a new direction, which ultimately led to my exploring how to dance from my ‘bones.’ As an Indian classical dancer, I have become so accustomed to the story telling element of Kathak which requires me to emote to express my inner feelings and to communicate rasa to the audience. Carol was essentially challenging me to talk to different parts of the body before creating any movement. The highlight of this process of dancing from the ‘bones’ was actually connecting with bodily elements in a new way that enabled the creation of movements that were strangers to my body-unexplored. I observed how my movements became enriched - extending my movement vocabulary - yet outside of the comfort zone of storytelling. To my surprise, without any narrative in mind, it was as if my body elements were creating their own stories and in doing so providing a burst of fresh energy in dance. 

Read the article in the site

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Profile - Guru Shambhu Maharaj - Dr. Maya Rao

Shambhu Maharaj is today the distinguished holder of the country’s most coveted honors – The Sangeet Natak Akademi award and the President’s award. Still he is unaffected by success and is never tired of repeating that he owes his position to his brother Guru Achan Maharaj.

Speaking of abhinaya in which Shambhu Maharaj is yet unrivalled, he says that he had watched Bindadin and his disciples performing abhinaya standing. While Shambhu was intrigued with the subtle variations in bhav (expression), he felt that the variations in music were not developed fully. So, when he learnt music he paid special attention to the melodious patterns one can create in singing a certain line of a thumri and then render them in bhav. Hence he chose to sit and perform abhinaya as he could get more clarity in expressive movements and develop them with unhurried ease. Thus, in course of time, Shambhu Maharaj developed a style of his own in abhinaya.

Shambhu Maharaj is not only a renowned dancer but a reputed guru also. He can be easily identified with the ideal dancer and dance teacher immortalized by Kalidasa in his Malavikagnimitra. Most of the leading Kathak dancers of the younger generation are the disciples of Maharaj. He works very hard with his students endeavoring to leave the stamp of his style on them. He aims at perfection in every step and movement. He is forever creating new dance sequences emphasizing the lyrical aspect. He never lets his student leave the class until he is assured that he or she is able to perform a new lesson with confidence.

Read the profile in the site

Monday 9 June 2014

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Viswanathan - Master Class or Workshop?

I was once riveted by a play on Broadway (New York City of course) and ever since, have been wanting to sit down and write a similar script. Any assistant script writers out are welcome to come help me! It was called MASTER CLASS, and it was based on facts and worked for theatre in a clever way. The chief character in that play is one of my favourite personalities in world music - Maria Callas the opera singer. When I wrote my book on M.S. Subbulakshmi, I think somewhere I have mentioned Callas. The play as you may have guessed from the title was set in a master class conducted by Callas. What a treat the whole play was! It was a close encounter with the artist as mentor, and revealed a lot about her self-worth, her personal vulnerability, her imperious confidence in her art...... And more!
Recently, I dropped in to see the fabulous one and only Vyjayanthimala Bali conduct a workshop for ABHAI. She was amazingly sprightly and so correct about what she taught. The small details such an expert artist can show students are difficult to catch in a big class. However, she was on her feet to show the finer points in a simple Thillana and I sat by her side, feeling privileged to see the real thing. The smallest details in postures and movements had a touch of correctness. ANGA Shuddham is more often than not simply bandied about as a catch phrase. We see today, more and more ANGA distortions than ever before. What to do?

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Sunday 8 June 2014

Sankaradeva Movement celebrations in Mumbai - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Sankaradeva Movement is an attempt to promote Mahapurusha Sankaradeva’s philosophy and the culture of Assam.
It is an initiative of Trend MMS, the most reputed Socio-Cultural Trust of North Eastern region. They have taken up many initiatives to promote the region. North East Festival is also the initiative of Trend MMS. In November 2013, North East Festival was organized at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi, where 8 State Governments of the region joined hands to promote the region’s culture and highlight the various issues. It was the biggest occasion to project regional culture of North East. Earlier, Trend MMS organized 'Samannaya' - a musical journey of integration, wherein leading singers of the state travelled across Assam, especially in the trouble torn BTAD areas to promote harmony. The two earlier events were organized in 2012 at Kamani Auditorium in Delhi and in 2013 at Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Bengaluru. 

With Taj Mahal Palace, on17th May, Trend MMS organized ‘Colours of North East’ at Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai to showcase tourism, culture and fabrics of the region. On a grand scale, the Sankaradeva Movement celebrations were held on 18th May evening at the prestigious Jamshed Bhabha Auditorium of National Centre for the Performing Arts, when a record crowd of majority of Assamese community and of North East region gathered to support the Sankaradeva Movement.

Read the review in the site

Thursday 5 June 2014

Interview - Dancing the evolution: An interactive with Amrita Lahiri - Bhavanvitha Venkat

At this point of time in the evolution of Kuchipudi, one doesn't suppose Lahiri has had to make such a careful choice of gestures, postures and expressions. Yet one notices a certain aesthetic control being exercised over them, thanks perhaps to the training she has received in Bharatanatyam from Leela Samson.
- Shanta Gokhale, The Times of India, January 12, 2012 

Thanks to Shanta Gokhale for the above statement as I feel her comment makes it easy to communicate to the readers about Amrita Lahiri and her Kuchipudi - evolution. Evolution is a continuous and accumulating process and it gives an apt context to this interaction with Amrita. Classical dancers like Amrita Lahiri bring in their performance a fresh perspective about creativity and reinforce faith and belief about the conventional knowledge and wisdom in the potential of the dance forms, Kuchipudi to be more specific. Here’s the follow up of Shanta Gokhale’s review about Amrita’s performance.

Fortunately, the control does no harm to Lahiri's spontaneity, expressed in her darting eyes and lively smile. All the items that she danced, choreographed by her present guru Jaikishore Mosalikanti, combined complex  footwork, clean lines, an unflagging pace and infinite grace. Her leaps and jumps were executed with the lightness of a gazelle; and one of the more awesome moments in the choreography was when the movement of her body exactly matched the meend of the bol "dheem."
Kuchipudi is a living and enriching dance that grows and adapts to the times without losing its fundamental and essential character. The very essence of how Kuchipudi is evolving and reaching and like a banyan tree spreading to find dancers like Amrita Lahiri is very inspiring. This conversation with her will help understand more about her and her beautiful dance. 

Read the interview in the site