Monday 26 January 2015

Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Viswanathan - Songs I danced to and dances that sang to me

I have always loved every piece of music I have danced to. This is also because from my early student years I chose the varnams and other items my gurus taught me. When I started with Guru Ellappa, I learnt what I wanted to learn and as luck would have it, he also enjoyed teaching them to me because he was rather pleased that I could sing, and also appreciate his inimitable singing. Those were the years of my maturing as a performing artiste. The sheer joy of dancing a great repertoire enthused me enough to just do it without any set motive of a profitable career.
The Useni Swarajathi with a complex footwork pattern in the charanam comprising of the seven talas was my first work with Ellappa. With my sister Charu's sweet singing, my performance of  this great composition became impressive enough for sabhas like Krishna Gana Sabha and Yagnaraman to invite me to perform almost immediately thereafter. I always took the varnam seriously but learnt not to dance the piece in too slow a tempo. That is Ellappa’s style. He conducted the recital always at a brisk pace. Mohamana in Bhairavi raga, Dhanike in Todi raga, Sami ni rammanave in Kamas, all became the sparkling core of my repertoire in a very short time. The singing by Charu of these pieces was the envy of every dancer who was interested in the classical repertoire. 

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Tuesday 13 January 2015

Obit/Tribute - Kathak performer and Guru Pt Chitresh Das passes away at 70

Pandit Chitresh Das, born on 9th November 1944, passed away of acute aortic dissection in San Francisco on 4th January 2015.  He was at his home when he suffered the condition. Pt. Das lives on through his wife Celine, daughters Shivaranjani and Saadhvi, his brother Ritesh Das, his disciples and students who will take his legacy forward.
In 2009, Pandit Das received the highest honour bestowed by the American government for a traditional artist - The National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment of the Arts. ‘Kathak Day’ and ‘Indian Music and Dance Day’ have been declared in the city of San Francisco in his honour. A prolific artist, his traditional performances, choreography and evolution of Kathak, influenced the art form world-wide.

Pt. Das’s contribution to the world of art remains unparalleled. He worked tirelessly to bring peace and harmony through art and devoted his whole life to developing Indian classical arts and creating a legacy of knowledge and learning for future generations, both in India and abroad. He was born and trained in a time and tradition that drew heavily from both Hindu and Islamic influence on Kathak and classical music and he worked towards bringing this concept of unity and harmony to the world thorough his work. He built bridges between countries and communities through dance and this remains the message of his life. He passed away on a date that is considered auspicious in Hindu, Jain and Muslim calendars.

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Obit/Tribute - Prabhavathi Gopal Shastry

Prabhavathi Shastry started her training in Bharatanatyam from Ramakrishna Alva and Jayalakshmi Alva from the Chitrambalam Dance Center in Mumbai. She also learnt Kathak from Pandit Hazarelal for some time. With the encouragement of her husband G M Gopal, she started her own dance school Gayathri Nrithyalaya in 1975 in Bangalore and brought many dancers to the field of Bharatanatyam. She performed in many dance festivals all around India. She was the founder member of Vidya Vardhaka School's Lalitha Kala Academy at Rajajinagar (Bangalore) where she was the dance director. She was fondly called by her friends and colleagues as Tripura Sundari. She choreographed many dance dramas like Samudra Mantana, Ramayana, Mohini Basmasura, Nava Shakthi and folk dances of India feature called Bharath Darshan.

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Sunday 11 January 2015

Article - Education in spiritual values through Bharatanatyam: Part IV Nyaya and vaiseshika in Margam

Margam means the ‘path’ or a newly created space, a certain vision.”

Margam comes from the Sanskrit word marga which means “to seek”. The word margam has been used to signify the repertoire of a full program of a Bharatanatyam presentation.

‘Tanjore Quartet margam’ has an idea, a vision that corresponds to a philosophy. It is well laid and a highly symbolic path. Each item creates rasa in the spectator and leads him towards bliss. 

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Monday 5 January 2015

Article - Natya Kala Acharya award: Acceptance speech by Leela Samson

(We are delighted to share the incisive and thoughtful speech made by Leela Samson after accepting the Natya Kala Acharya award conferred by the Music Academy, Chennai, on January 3, 2015.)

Sri N. Murali, President and members of the Executive Board of The Music Academy Madras, Mr. Masanori Nakano, Consul General of Japan in Chennai, senior gurus present here and those not here physically, under whose shade and inspiration we live, friends from foreign lands who have made our art forms their passion, rasikas of music and dance and friends…

I am deeply honored to be the recipient of the award and title of ‘Natya Kala Acharya’ that has been bestowed upon me today. This honour done to me is, without an iota of doubt, the honouring of those many wonderful individuals who lit my path and helped fire my imagination.

Nature - the greatest teacher has taught not merely the nature of the universe, but also the nature of men. My parents and family were inspirational in the high values and simplicity that they lived by. Good, honest friends are a perennial source of strength along the journey. They are the ones who help pick up the pieces of your life, when the dream shatters. Gurus are our mainstay; those who cared to point us in pertinent directions and not merely teach material, teachers who waited patiently for results without forcing an accepted norm of beauty, teachers whose reprimand, however harsh and hurtful made me reflect deeply on the matter at hand – to these many preceptors I bow every day of my life. Some of them are with us and continue to remind us of the rules of engagement with the art and of a time gone by; others have moved into the other world only to return, I believe as artists and gurus - to delight us once again with their art of exceptional quality. 

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