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. 

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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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