Wednesday 25 February 2015

Base Notes by Shanta Serbjeet Singh - Parkaya’s 3rd edition marks coming of age of the ‘thinking’ dancer

This title, suggesting the coming of age of the thinking dancer, is not meant to infer that the  majority of them don’t think.  In fact, even for a visceral, body-centric art like dance, the cerebral content has always been amply evident in the careers of most good dancers, not  to mention great dancers like Balasaraswati, Birju Maharaj, Kalanidhi Narayanan, Padma Subrahmanyam, Rohini Bhate, to mention only a few.  What I am saying is that perhaps this itself, a new emphasis on thinking about dance rather than just dance, is a marker of our times.  Also, that this process has shown a discernible, steady and upward growth, specially in the first decade of  the twenty-first century.
Dancers have realised that to compete with or rather stay on the same course in attention grabbing as some of the other Arts, such as the visual arts, they too must create an image that reflects their personality and their artistic vision. They have long known that classical dance has the substance and possibility to go beyond the mechanical, ‘by rote’ kind of movement.  They have now understood that, however perfectly done, 21st century dance without evidence of the thinking cells and the ‘conscious’ sinews, will steadily be at a discount and unable to attain the gravitas that distinguishes the great from the good.  Even when the well-trained dancer wins ecstatic exclamations of approval, the knowledgeable sit up only when they find evidence of a larger, personal vision, of an artiste who knows that behind those perfectly aligned karanas and taut adavus there has to be another awareness, an intuitive knowledge that the physicality of the body must be in perfect sync with a planned, structured, deeply thought-out, personal style and ‘look.’  

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Sunday 15 February 2015

Article - Education in Spiritual values through Bharatanatyam: Part V Tanjore Quartet margam: A journey in space and time with the Divine Spirit - Chandra Anand

As explained by Balasaraswati, Bharatanatyam is an artistic yoga, a means to reveal the spiritual through the corporeal and the Tanjore Quartet margam is the space created to divulge the knowledge about the spiritual self. To elucidate this sequentially:
Alarippu corresponds to Vedanta philosophy.  “The Vedanta philosophy, in one or another of its forms is closely bound up with the religion (bhakti tradition) of India…The Vedanta Sutra deals with Vedanta or the final aim of the Veda. It is also called the Brahma Sutra, since it deals with the doctrine of Brahman. The Self (Atman) is existence, knowledge and bliss…Atman is the same as Brahman; the essence of the subject, the deepest part of our being is one with the essence of the world. ”


Put in a Nutshell 
“Spirituality in Hindu philosophy …defines spiritual practice as one’s journey towards moksha, awareness of self, the discovery of higher truths, true nature of reality, and a consciousness that is liberated and content.”[16] The Tanjore Quartet margam imparts this knowledge through its structure or lineup of items. It makes an effort to understand life and reality, which is the function of natya, by analyzing human emotions in its innumerable tones through abhinaya. It has made a judicious use of rhythm, movement and feelings and thoughts for the expression of the inner self or the embodied being. It puts forward at the outset the truth of the human life (allaripu), then the zenith that a human being has the possibilities to reach (varnam) and then the realities of life (padams and javalis) and ends expressing the hope to attain or regain the epitome of life (shloka). It explains Hindu philosophy through bhakti marg by which the common man can contemplate on God - the Supreme Truth, goodness and beauty of which perfect happiness essentially consists easily.

Tanjore Quartet margam educates and elevates society by giving the spectator a foretaste of moksha, the ultimate spiritual experience through rasa - experience. This elevating experience perhaps can be credited for the increase in viewership for Bharatanatyam; for encouraging the spectators to view the art for the charm and magic that envelops them after a presentation; and stimulating them to take keen interest in the presentation.

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Saturday 14 February 2015

Base Notes by Shanta Serbjeet Singh - The Rolls Royce and Indian Royalty

 The obsession of the royal families for expensive things and their crazy spending habits are funny stories for the present generation. Their fancy for big, expensive cars, too, is well known.  Between 1907and 1947, around 900 Rolls-Royce cars made their way to India. Most of these cars have very interesting stories linked with them. Some of them are outrageous, others funny.

Perhaps little known is the saga of how even an adornment of the maharaja’s stable, like a Rolls Royce, always the world’s most expensive car and the ultimate symbol of luxury, could be  used by an Indian royal to humble the white man and teach him manners!

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Wednesday 11 February 2015

Book review - Sattriya: The living dance tradition of Assam - Nita Vidyarthi

This ready reckoner of Sattriya, the classical dance of Assam, is the first English version on Sattriya dance published by the Publication Board, Assam. The author, being a Sattriya dancer, critic and a scholar herself, is at her best in describing the striking features of the dance form together with its major aspects and historical background in easy, lucid language. Altogether, twelve chapters concisely cover the essentials of Sattriya, complete with a short glossary of terms, an essentially long bibliography and photographs at the end of the book. 

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Saturday 7 February 2015

TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar - Here and Now (or how)!

Having written for a decade for narthaki, I re-read some of my Dance History columns and reports and reviews and realised while, as a specialist, I was sharing snippets of our history and heritage, what also interested me were trends and young India. The word - TRENDING - caught my attention. Trending Now. Young India is trending says Twitter. The nation wants to know! The people of India want to know...!
Young India wants to do, not merely know. It wants to know what its future with dance is. Their future. Period. Most are not interested in heritage and history and even seeing other’s work. Young India just wishes to perform and get known. Young India has the brains for being smart and enough substance to get by but most are increasingly outsourcing their wares. Smart phones are no substitute for smart people. Young India is on another trip. A trip of self discovery and self projection. Add self absorption. When an sms can go viral, a visual can cause an epidemic, what of a million mutinies that the dance world exposes one to?

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Wednesday 4 February 2015

Roses & Thorns - What they said this Season Compiled by Lalitha Venkat

The Margam can never lose its appeal. But what worries me are the changes being made to the format by way of new interpolations. It’s not that I am against creative ideas but these ideas need to be backed by complete understanding of the structure of the composition. The final outcome should be an embodiment of aesthetics. The other aspect that has come into vogue is elaborate storytelling in place of subtle sancharis, quite often irrelevant and unnecessary to the lines of the poem, a disturbing trend indeed.
- Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar
(‘Which way, Margam?’ by VV Ramani, The Hindu, Dec 1, 2014)

A sense of insecurity is prevalent among artists. Self-confidence and determination clubbed with hard work can take an artist to a peak at an early stage. As a mridangam artist, you have to give your best to make a concert a success. To do that, you have to spend several hours with your instrument. When I was employed at the Accountant General’s office in Chennai, between 1952 and 1961, my routine was to get up at 4 am and practise for three hours. Musiri Subramania Iyer was also working at the AG’s office then. He predicted a bright future for me. That he never gave me an opportunity to play for him is another story….A raga can be showcased in just three to four minutes. Didn’t Chembai and Ariyakkudi do it? It is not necessary for you to go on for 20 minutes or more to establish a raga. Beyond a point, it becomes repetitive.
- TV Gopalakrishnan
(‘Crowning glory’ by V Balasubramanian, The Hindu, Dec 1, 2014)

Who knows, if webcasts become close to the real thing, people may be willing to pay to watch concerts from the warmth of their homes abroad. But can the canteen ever be replaced? Several admit that the South Indian fare is an equal attraction for them.
- V Sriram
(‘Mighty migration,’ The Hindu, Dec 1, 2014)

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