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. 

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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?’

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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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