Monday 23 November 2015

TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar - Dance awards and rewards

Trend: National awards are becoming notional and notional awards are becoming national.
When relevance is lost, when anyone with push and pull can get their own children or students or favourites, national awards like the SNA or other state awards, then these awards become meaningless. 30-40 years ago, we used to think that ultimate honour and sign of professional arrival, for a performing artiste, were the SNA awards. It was given in the name of the President of India. The ceremony was simply done in Delhi’s only halls of note: the Sapru House or Mavalankar Hall or the Constitution Club. When not available, a shamiana (wedding-type tent) used to be constructed in the lawns on Rabindra Bhavan itself, where the 3 Akademis are housed (the elegant and airy building itself designed by famous dancer Indrani Rahman’s architect husband Habib Rahman) in 1960s and 70s and the likes of great historian and culture/education ministers like Maulana Azad or Prof. Nurul Hassan or cultured talents like K.P.S. Menon or Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (who were also its Chairman) used to bestow the awards, when and if the President could not do so. 

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Thursday 19 November 2015

Interview - In conversation with Lakshmi Mani - Deepika Acharya

Lakshmi Mani is considered one of the finest of Kuchipudi dancers, having received acclaim for her grace and abhinaya. A tete-a-tete with Lakshmi Mani, who was in Bengaluru recently as the chief guest for the Kuchipudi Parampara Natya Utsav.
How do you find the Kuchipudi scene here in Bengaluru?
Bengaluru has been very encouraging and welcoming to all forms of dance. Kuchipudi is particularly popular here and this is something I’ve been observing ever since my first performance in this ‘Garden City’ almost two decades ago in the famed Chowdiah Hall. Even today, I see a lot of enthusiastic, committed learners here. However, to rise above mediocrity, it is the responsibility of the local gurus (many of who are my good friends) to channelize the energies of these young aspirants in the right way.

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Saturday 14 November 2015

Article - Trials, travails and tribulations - Ranee Kumar

Whenever you come across a young brilliant, starry-eyed dancer with passion and commitment, your flagging hope on the future of our classical art form gets resuscitated.  But as you delve into the present environs under which dance has to be nourished and advanced, well, your spirits sink!  The big question mark rises to a point blank range and one is bound to wonder if this is a level playing field at all? 

In my two decades-old career, I have acquired the sensibilities to assess an artiste’s potential within the first 15 minutes, an up-and-coming dancer or musician being no exception.  And I’ve also seen them make a mark in the field another five years later. Meteoric rise is not possible under normal circumstances in any creative arts field.  

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Wednesday 11 November 2015

Roses & Thorns - Intolerance in our work culture - Madhavi Puranam

(This editorial by chief editor Madhavi Puranam in the Nartanam - Quarterly Journal of Indian Dance - issue Volume XV, # 3 – July-Sept 2015 - has been reproduced here with permission)
The aggressive spokesperson of a political party whose aim is to argue even if he strays from reason and ethics while making his case, the brash neta whose tirade is far removed from any finesse, wisdom or culture, the compulsive jargonmuttering corporate executive obsessed with graphs, pie charts and figures working at a lightning pace, the busy corporate doctor who forgets that a humane touch could work wonders in the treatment of the patient, the ever so humble artiste who can transform into a belligerent expletive-mouthing socialite, all seem to be the often-seen prototypes of the respective professions. The recent utterances of our Culture Minister have done nothing to dent this prototype. Today the common thread in the work culture is the aggression and the “competitiveness” in the pursuit of fame/propaganda which is often confused with “success”. In this issue (Nartanam Vol  XV no3.) we bring a moment from the past—the 1954 Inter-University Youth Festival—which underlies all the values that one knows to be sterling but which one seldom encounters within ourselves and all around us—the spirit of discovery, wonderment, and competing within the ambit of inquiry, sharing and unity. Arshiya Sethi, in her effort to chronicle the events of the first ever youth seminar in post independent India and its landmark artistic fallout, beautifully brings out the finer sensibilities of the times and the thrust behind the event. 

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Tuesday 10 November 2015

Article - My dance and culture trip to Tamil Nadu - Tara Panicker

This year I had a very special start to my summer holidays. From the 20th to the 25th of July, I travelled with my dance teacher, Usha Raghavan, and six of her students (along with their guardians) on a temple tour around Tamil Nadu. We visited four temples: first, the beautiful Thillai Nataraja temple at Chidambaram, then the quietly resplendent Gangaikondacholapuram temple, the impressively grand Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjavur, and most significantly, the seat of dance, Thyagaraja Temple at Thiruvarur.

Teacher has organised trips like this before: taking her students from UK and Italy on a tour of temples which are associated with Bharatanatyam and sometimes even other dance forms. This trip, however, was different, in that the first week would be spent in Tamil Nadu, and the second would be touring dance performances in Sri Lanka.  The India tour hence was incredibly busy, but also incredibly enriching. Though this was a tour of some of the most significant temples in Tamil Nadu’s history, it was not restricted to just that. We also visited some fantastic sites which offered us a wider understanding of the history and culture of Tamil Nadu and South India: the Dakshinachitra model heritage village in Mahabalipuram, a village in Tanjavur where the famed Tanjore sculptures and paintings are made, and even a veena-making shop.

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Sunday 8 November 2015

Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan - Vintage Varnams re-visited

I was invited along with other senior dancers to present traditional Varnams as part of the Spanda anniversary in July 2105 in Chennai, curated by Leela Samson.... (What an idea ! Her FB page had numerous compliments). It was an event to highlight the core ideas of the traditional Varnam, particularly those of the Tanjore Quartet. I understood what she meant when she announced it was a seminar. So, one had to speak? Share one’s understanding of this magnificent piece in the Bharatanatyam repertoire? Yes indeed. When Leela came over to invite me to participate in the event, rather spontaneously I said I will take up Dhanike in Todi and Viriboni in Bhairavi. I never think before jumping into such things....quite like when I agreed to write a book on M.S. when the editor at Roli Books asked me. A few days on....the thinking (worrying!) starts. To dance on stage, even if it were just excerpts from a big Varnam, one has to concentrate on multiple aspects. Well, I worked on the Varnams like a jigsaw puzzle and it all came to a crescendo on stage! An appreciative and knowledgeable audience.... getting rare... was inspirational. 

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Sunday 1 November 2015

Roving Eye by Anita Ratnam - November 2015

Anita says - November 2015

Hello November from the crisp air of New York City.
An intense week spent watching so much dance and theatre in my former home town that I have a sensorial overload. Contemporary ballet (Ballet Memphis) exploring many themes including Gospel music; the magical Misty Copeland (America's first black Prima Ballerina); SANKAI JUKU in contemporary Butoh, modern dance (John Kinzel),  Egyptian tombs, Picasso, Philippine Gold treasures (Asia Society), dancers with robots (Wendy Whelan) and brilliant contemporary music ensembles (Macarthur genius grantee Claire Chase). This is what the fabulous NYC offers on a daily basis to its residents and visitors. And, and, and....THIS is the annually perfect personal RESET AND REBOOT button for yours truly.

However, the more interesting encounters have been with dance writers and dance passionistas. Robert Johnson and Elizabeth Zimmer shared their despair about the vanishing space for honest criticism (we have heard this before right?) and the impatience of today's American youth who don't care about dance. Newspaper surveys conducted in the NYC metropolitan area revealed that less than 2% of the readers care about dance. Meanwhile, there are more and more dance studios and rehearsal spaces opening up in the city. Dancers seem to be everywhere, stretching, flexing, moving… and yet… there is less and less money in the NYC area for independent artistes. New York dance audiences, however, are among the most sophisticated in the USA, guarded with their praise and watching with enthusiasm and not awe. Young dancers are eager to watch as much as they can (and can afford) and that is a welcome change from what I see in India. Major theatres have a policy $29 seats for those under 29 years of age. But what about those in their 30s? When tastes mature and bank accounts wither? Many Big Apple dance lovers are asking questions about how they can continue to support dance if the ticket prices soar each year. 

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