Tuesday 28 April 2015

Base Notes by Shanta Serbjeet Singh - Sangeet Natak Akademi’s New General Council

By the time this edition of Base Notes is up, the new Governing Council of the national Sangeet Natak Akademi would have been constituted and functioning.  Delhi know-alls are many.  Many more are the conjecture specialists and the culture forecasters.  First, for months, one has heard of all manner of names being floated around as the new Chairman of the Akademi.  The punter’s favourite horse, or in this case, mostly mares, were supposed to come straight from the ‘horse’s mouth.’   But I have always wondered who that great oracular horse must have been who started this adage!  And what did he forecast about!

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Thursday 23 April 2015

Roses & Thorns - Some questions need to be asked - Madhavi Puranam

Can you ask questions, raise issues, and seek answers?
No, you dare not. The powers that be will come down hard and reduce you to the status of a pariah, a social outcast, an English word of pure Tamil origin. But some questions need to be asked. Nartanam has never shied away from taking up issues. However, our initiatives would be worth the courage, only if the other stake holders of dance deliberate and follow them up with concrete action without fear or favour. For any purposeful and meaningful action we need sensitive, competent and courageous leaders. Sadly, dance administration, festival organisers, academics, writers, performers, and gurus have rarely seen leaders of substance emerge from amongst them in recent times. 

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Tuesday 21 April 2015

Profile - Prof. A. Janardhanan Compiled by Lalitha Venkat

Aryambath Janardhanan is a well known exponent of Kathakali and Bharatanatyam. Born on April 25, 1942 in Kerala, Prof. A. Janardhanan’s association with Kalakshetra commenced in 1958 and continued for 47 uninterrupted years. He received rigorous training in Kathakali from his father Guru T. K. Chandu Panicker (a student of Icchara Menon in the Kallarikoda tradition of North Kerala) and honed his skills under the renowned Guru Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair with a two year Govt of India scholarship. He received his Post Diploma in Kathakali with distinction in 1966 and continued in Kalakshetra as a teacher of Kathakali and Bharatanatyam.
In the course of his 47 years at Kalakshetra, Janardhanan was a student, a principal dancer in Kalakshetra productions directed by Rukmini Devi, a faculty member, principal of the Rukmini College of Fine Arts (June 2001 - May 2003), retiring as Professor Emeritus when he was 62 years of age.  

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Friday 17 April 2015

Article - An African spell - Priti Mastakar

I have this ‘var,’ this blessing that whenever I want something very badly, I get it and so months later with much following up, Slim Ikonta arrived to learn Odissi and I was blessed further. Anita Obidi arrived with him…Anita, an exquisite, exotic African beauty, a nymph, an Apsara, tall and slim, a perfect match for Shiva. The first day we went through the chowka and tribhangi. It was just unbelievable. Without much effort there was the chowka and tribhangi, perfectly executed! We dancers have painstakingly trained for six months to get it right and here were dancers slipping into our form like slipping into a different pair of shoes.

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Sunday 12 April 2015

Article - Audience: The tug of the credulous and the credible - Ramaa Venugopalan

Audience - the most important factor for any Bharatanatyam performer. We grouse about the audience a lot. We want them to come in large numbers and yet, have absolutely no idea how to lure them performance after performance! It seems that the success of a performance and the performer is so dependent on the audience turnout that one of the first post-performance thoughts for any dancer would be the proverbial “Oh! I wish there were more audience to watch me...
Who are these audiences anyway? Observation and logic will lead to the following categorization of the audience

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Thursday 9 April 2015

Book review - "In praise of Kathak" - Shyamhari Chakra

“Today, this book is in front of you. It is a bundle of my passion, my struggle, my experiences and my sentiments.” These last lines of the book authored by Mumbai-based Kathak exponent Uma Dogra aptly sums up her “labour of love” carefully and honestly crafted over the past five years.

The well-known dancer-choreographer-scholar, a much respected name in Mumbai’s artistes’ fraternity, released the book during a very special occasion that she hosted in Mumbai recently. It was the 25th edition of the annual Pt.Durgalal Festival that she has been staging in memory of her guru. It was also the Silver Jubilee celebration of Samved Society of Performing Arts that she had founded. And, most importantly, it coincided with 50 years of her journey as a dancer. 

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Tuesday 7 April 2015

Ratikant Mohapatra Calling.... - Life after Guruji

Bereavement has more than one side to it. The death of a loved one, the passing of a beloved and inspiring teacher, the huge loss that death brings to us when such death comes unexpectedly. These and similar thoughts assailed me during the funeral of my father and guru Sri Kelucharan Mohapatra. My loss was two-fold. I had lost a father and I had also lost my most revered teacher. The father who sustained me in childhood through years of toil and poverty and the teacher who taught me all I know and whose teaching continues to motivate me through the many years that have passed since his demise.  
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Seen & Heard by Lakshmi Viswanathan - Facial distractions

Our dances, particularly Bharatanatyam relies on Mukhaja Abhinaya.....facial expressions. Kathakali and Koodiyattam are disciplines which give proper and elaborate Shastra- based training to students on the use of eyebrows, eyes, facial muscles and so on. After all that training they cover their faces with thick elaborate make-up, so much so that if we are not close enough we cannot observe the range of this type of expression. Strangely, Bharatanatyam gurus of the old tradition did not impart training in facial expressions. They only used to say - maintain a pleasant expression during nrtta. And as for abhinaya , the gurus showed the correct hastha mudras , the linking moves with the arms, the glance (yatho hastha thatho drishti), the spatial body movement, the rhythm of the feet in synchrony with song and tala. All, practically seated, and rarely getting up! We understood the flow of the sequence, learnt the lyrics and assumed appropriate expressions with very few tips from the gurus. When I think of my gurus, I don't seem to recollect any special lessons for facial expressions. The intuitive grasping of the idea, mood, etc. was our test. We asked no questions like......Sir, why can't I do this gesture with my left hand? ....or ...must I move only diagonally to do this particular phrase? ... Or … Sir, how do I show sadness with my face? We just did it. Letting you do your own was the secret of those gurus’ success. 

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Monday 6 April 2015

Article - Education in spiritual values through Bharatanatyam: Part VII Art of teaching: Some methods and approaches - Chandra Anand

Dance is an art wherein through ‘language of gestures’ it communicates the thought processes and emotional bearings of the ‘spirit.’ Dance is the medium of spiritual expression, to communicate the joys and sorrows of life, where the instrument is the human body and mind. The teacher trains the student and helps the student to integrate body and mind through cadences of body movements set to rhythm and express ideas, emotions or emotional experiences of the inner self.
A teacher trains the students in an art form by giving instructions on the practical aspects of the art i.e., performance of the art, duly supported by theoretical knowledge of the subject matter. Various means and measures are devised to provide the technology of the art which can be called the methods of teaching.  These methods vary from teacher to teacher.

Teaching of foreign language and language of gestures
The researcher is trying to access the methods and approaches of teaching a foreign language for teaching gesture language of dance since both are skills of communicating acquired through study, practice and habit formation.

The essentials for a method of teaching of a language, according to W.F. Mackey is, “A method determines ‘what and how’ much is taught, the ‘order’ in which it is taught, ‘how the meaning and form’ are conveyed, and what is done to make the ‘use of the language unconscious.’ Thus a method deals with four things: viz. selection, gradation, presentation and repetition.” [1] The lessons are selected to suit the level of education of the learner; it is graded according to the maxims of teaching and with the understanding of the psychological makeup of the student. It is presented in a manner so that the concepts and techniques are conveyed with sensitivity and are made habituated through repeated practice or repetition and drill.

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Wednesday 1 April 2015

Anita's April 2015 message

"Success is the best deodorant!"
- Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor

It was a strange month. There was so much excitement and OTT expectations from so many quarters. And mostly outside the world of dance.

A family wedding of my favourite niece had me prepped with all guns firing as a producer of several events. Planning and executing weddings today calls for nuanced management and people skills.  Indian women have it as a natural ability and it is mostly undervalued and unappreciated. I have to admit that my many years of producing weekly television shows and later creating and staging my own dance works and festivals over the past 35 years has more than equipped me for the vagaries of human ego, erratic behaviour and substandard vendors.

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Roving Eye by Anita Ratnam - April 2015