Monday 30 May 2016

Young India! - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Dealing with exaggerated egos and frail talents of our grown -ups, I’m forever joyous seeing and dealing with young dancers under 13 or 15! They dance for joy, not mere show and they dance from within, not merely on stage, for stardom. They smile, cry, emote innocently with characters they portray, their own personality hardly coming in way of the depiction.
Grown-ups can be self conscious, full of themselves and rather predictable. I like the naivety, naturalness and neatness of young talents who are just happy to dance, whatever the stage. In fact, 20th anniversary issue of ATTENDANCE, I’m planning just on child talents of Indian dance under 13. Or to be generous to more, under 18.

Of course, one pitfall is that often parents think their wards are maha gifted and superstars already after one show. They also chase organizers (pester is the word!) and bombard them with emails that "my daughter danced here, there, everywhere, so why not at your festival or forum?" Swaraj is my birthright has an altogether new meaning.

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Saturday 28 May 2016

Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari - Dance conference Navadisha 2016

Navadisha 2016 dance conference was a unique event, the like of which has not been organized in UK in recent times. The last Navadisha event was organized by Piali Ray, Director of Sampad, in 2000. After an interval of 15 years, once again thanks to the dynamic Anita Srivastava, Director of New Dimension Arts Management and the producer of this event with co-producer Piali Ray, and Chitra Sundaram, moderator, art consultant and  Bharatanatyam dancer, brain stormed for past two years and worked out this mind boggling conference enlisting support of many funding organizations and sponsors and various dance institutions across UK. They invited dancers, scholars, organizers, academicians, not only of Indian Diaspora but also as equal partners in the creative industry of dance, the British organizers, British South Asian dancers, choreographers, event managers and a host of UK based dancers.

From Canada, Lata Pada of Sampradaya, Hari Krishnan (dancer, academician, InDance), Nova Bhattacharya (Bharatanatyam and contemporary dancer, President of the Toronto Arts Council’s Board of Directors); from Johannesburg in South Africa, Jayesperi Moopen (Bharatanatyam dancer, artistic director of Tribangi Dance Theatre); from Singapore, Aravinth Kumarasamy (creative and managing director of Apsara Arts); from Dubai, Pali Chandra (Kathak dancer, director of Gurukul –Dubai); from Kolkata Tanusree Shankar (contemporary dancer), Vikram Iyengar (Kathak / contemporary dancer); from Chennai, Anita Ratnam (contemporary dancer, writer, managing editor of e-portal and director of Arangham  Trust); from Hyderabad, dancer/bureaucrat  Ananda Shankar Jayant; from Delhi, dance critic Sunil Kothari; from Mumbai, Gauri Sharma Tripathi (Kathak dancer, also resident artist South Bank Centre, London); and from Ahmedabad, Chirag Mehta (Producer, Ice Craft Creations Pvt Ltd.).

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Friday 27 May 2016

Mothers by Daughters - Parvati, my rock! - Geeta Chandran

As an only child, from early years on, my mother was my whole universe. While my adoring father was busy working for the Government of India, my mother dedicated her entire existence to bringing me up. And what a determined upbringing I had.
Despite her abundant love for me, that never deflected her from her ambition for me. I had to excel in everything! Dance, music, sports and academics. I was immersed in everything and pushed by her to excel. There was no scope for any laxity in any.  And never a choice if I could do just one activity and not the others. So she micro-managed my schedule and accompanied me everywhere.

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Tuesday 24 May 2016

Inclusivity as strong message in Spic Macay's international convention - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Spic Macay’s 4th International Convention (earlier termed the ‘National Convention’ annually held since 1986) was held at Guwahati, the capital of Assam, situated on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra, attracting thousands of pilgrims to haloed Kamakhya temple, one of the Indian ‘shaktipeethas.’ The choice of venue for the week-long event, IIT Guwahati with its picturesque campus built round water bodies surrounded by verdant shrubs and blossoming trees, with kindly weather gods sending down intermittent showers keeping temperatures from rising to uncomfortable levels, could hardly have been bettered. Battling doomsday predictions with the slashed Central government funds for Spic Macay activities, this event was by far one of the best organised and attended, thanks to good Samaritans coming to the rescue along with the phenomenal efforts of a clutch of committed volunteers.    

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Friday 20 May 2016

Article - Awards in the world of performing arts - Ananda Shankar Jayant

(This article was featured in The New Indian Express dated May 14, 2016)
The Sangeet Natak Akademi, (SNA), the apex body for performing arts, under the Ministry of Culture, also has as its mandate, the selection and awarding of senior and young  artistes across the fields of dance, music and theatre in the annual national awards. This year’s SNA awards, timed in with yearly March – April appraisals, across sectors.

As human beings, many of our goals for success and self actualization are intrinsically linked with recognition, growth and awards. For a sportsperson, a medal, a victory, or a ranking, defines achievement. For bureaucrats, career advancement is determined by annual confidential reports (ACR), which are enumerated and graded, a transparent evaluation process, with an individual also being able to access the ACR’s, and even appeal and seek correction or change in them. 

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Monday 16 May 2016

Interview - Panchalinkeswaram: A thematic dance production by Usha Raghavan - Ahilan Sandirasekaram

Usha Raghavan presented INIYA NINAIVUGAL (Sweet Memories) by her students of Kalasagara UK, a Bharatanatyam celebration of their dance performance tour of Sri Lanka, last summer. In London, they presented dance compositions as performed in Sri Lanka, followed by a slide show presentation of their experiences during the dance tour. The show concluded with a thematic dance performance on the five major Shiva temples in Sri Lanka known as ‘Panchalinkeswaram.’ Usha Raghavan shares information about her production. 

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The Sunil Kothari Column - A unique workshop by Dr. Anita Ratnam

Titled Muscle Memory, Dr. Anita Ratnam’s workshop during Natya Vriksha’s two day World Dance Day celebrations on Sunday the 1st May in the morning at India International Centre’s auditorium saw the young dancers crowding the stage and also the Delhi audience on a Sunday morning, which was quite heartening. Two days earlier in Pune she had conducted workshop with Pune based dancers and had won critical acclaim.
The dancers were not only from Natya Vriksha but also from other dance academies, all ready to take the workshop. Since it was on the stage, Anita suggested that some groups work in the aisles facing the stage. Dressed in pink top and comfortable black dhoti like costume, Anita warmed up all with her explanation of what is muscle memory - the day to day action, the observation of routine gestures, and the way we stand, and how dance practice retains memory through muscles. Where the standing posture is wrong, what happens to the back, to half seated position ardha mandali, to entire body and posture were explained with demonstration. The participants started warming up and followed what Anita suggested.

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Sunday 15 May 2016

Vividh Mat tickles the intellect and regales the senses - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

World Dance Day celebrations in the capital, have taken on unique dimensions. In the case of Kathak professional Shovana Narayan, the last three years have linked dance productions of her institution Asawari to themes pertinent to life as lived today. After a mind-tickling intellectual discussion with top names from different disciplines contributing their individual points of view, the Kathak artistic statement comes as a finale – contextualising as it were, the entire performance, giving the presentation an immediacy and relevance.
The two day event entitled ‘Vividh-Mat’ (varied opinions), in other words ‘Bhinna ruchi’ as the Sanskrit text would say about subjective individual preferences in life, the objective of the exercise was to look at inner man transcending differing perceptions - the first evening’s topic “Dharma-Adharma” ruminating on the ever relevant question of right and wrong act. Inevitably, this subject spurs quotes from the Mahabharata action and the Gita. Is the Indian, over the years becoming more religious, was a query. Said Dr. Pushpesh Pant, noted Indian academic, combining the unlikely disciplines of food critic (his book India: the cookbook was named by The New York Times as one of the best cookbooks of the year) and historian, the definition of Dharma as “Dharayati iti dharma” shows the word having little to do with Hinduism. Dharma is a ‘vyavasaya’. Describing the religious identity as something one cannot however shake away no matter what, he preferred to think of Dharma/Adharma in terms of Just and Unjust – as a code of conduct without straying into religious sanctions of right and wrong – which invariably create fissures among people. 

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Friday 13 May 2016

Book Review - An Indian Analysis of Aesthetics: The Dance, the Dancer and the Spectator by Madhavi Puranam - Nita Vidyarthi

The book ‘An Indian Analysis of Aesthetics: The Dance, the Dancer and The Spectator’ is a scholarly attempt and inspirational insight into the world of aesthetics primarily in the traditional Indian classical context. The author has placed philosophy, psychology, for that matter emotions and sensations lying therein and perception of beauty of other civilizations and countries alongside at the beginning (Chapter 2) of the seven chapters with a rich bibliography and an explicable glossary at the end. This makes for comfortable reading of the otherwise heavy subject.  The preface is the appropriate foreground to manifest the critical mind of the author and the treatment of the subject subsequently and so it goes to show that the author is necessarily and knowingly both the writer and the reader. This is articulated in Chapter 1 “Enquiry”- the proof of the question is in the answer.

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Thursday 12 May 2016

Article - The curiosity deficit - Shrinidhi Narasimhan

Being a young dancer in India can be very unsettling. And being a classical dancer, while we’re at it, is an even more profoundly disconcerting experience. Why, you ask? Because it feels like speaking a language that no one understands, and worse, no one seems to want to understand. This insularity is effected, I think, by a fundamental lack of curiosity about the arts, particularly the performing arts - and it accounts for a huge chunk of the issue.
To begin with, the arts are of little meaningful interest to those who are not directly connected to the field in some way - school/college students, working professionals, government officials, journalists, leaders, administrators, institutions and organizations - you name it.

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Wednesday 11 May 2016

Marking World Dance Day in style - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

From the start, it was as if the fairy god mother’s magic wand had been waved over each session of Natya Vriksha’s two day World Dance Day 2016 celebrations at the IIC, Delhi. Organised and curated by founder president Geeta Chandran and spouse Rajiv Chandran, this annual celebration supported by the IIC and the Ministry of Culture, has been, with each year, expanding its horizons with a holistic perception, adding to the performance nucleus of the Young Dancers Festival with other allied interests. This year, woven round the performance side, were sessions dealing with “Studio Class Demo”, “Tribute to Dance Doyennes” and Workshop on Muscle Memory as part of the calendar of events. 

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Monday 9 May 2016

The Sunil Kothari Column - A memorable encounter with Yamini Krishnamurti

During the two day World Dance Day Festival organized by Geeta and Rajiv Chandran under the aegis of heir institution Natya Vriksha, one of the major highlights was Geeta Chandran in a dialogue with the celebrated dancer Yamini Krishnamurti. It was one of the finest no- holds barred, frank, brutally honest and historic conversations. Yamini is a private person, so to draw her out and make her speak was indeed a tough job. But Yamini was in a very happy frame of mind and peppered her answers with humour also.

A real diva, she has been an icon and after Balasaraswati and her contemporaries, other dancers like legendary Mrinalini Sarabhai, Shanta Rao, Kamala, from the next generation Yamini stands tall. No other dancer has captivated audiences all over India and abroad for her recitals of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, as she did. She has also influenced several young dancers in post-independence era. In fact, majority of dancers have said publicly that they were inspired to study Bharatanatyam after having seen Yamini. I saw Yamini for the first time during the All India Dance Seminar convened by Sangeet Natak Akademi in April 1958 at Vigyan Bhavan.  She had performed jatiswaram for Elappa Pillai in the morning session. And she stood out for her brilliant nritta and vivacious performance. She had already made a name and was creating waves. Like many present there, I as a young, up and coming scholar and a green horn, was mesmerized. 

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Interview - Parwati Dutta on working with mentally challenged children - Shveta Arora

Kathak and Odissi exponent Parwati Dutta of Mahagami talks about working with mentally challenged children.

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Saturday 7 May 2016

Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman - Award selections cry for transparency

How the awards scene of today has changed! Gone are the days when merit was, if not the sole, certainly the main criterion. Memories go back to the sixties, when my father-in-law S.R. Balasubramaniam was conferred a Padma Shri for his path breaking research on the history of the Cholas of South India. When the names were first mentioned in the papers, I remember the sense of amazement in our home that a hard working scholar, away from the corridors of influence and power, should have been remembered for his contribution, with such a prestigious award. After the congratulatory messages followed by the ceremony, one does not recollect anybody mentioning the award, or tagging it on to the name as a title in season and out of season. This was unlawful. 

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Friday 6 May 2016

Interview - No cost counting for art's sake: Snehal Muzoomdar - Vijay Shankar

A professional santoor maestro for more than three decades and a chartered accountant, Pandit Snehal Muzoomdar has several performances to his credit both in India and abroad. In this interview, Snehal talks about his experiences as a performer, teacher, music composer for dance productions and programs, music and dance critic, his second music album to be released soon.

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Sunday 1 May 2016

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - May 2016

Anita says...May 2016

"The ghosts of our future are unpredictable and out of control."
- Poet Wendy Rose

Hello Dance World! What’s APP-ening!

The loudest shout I hear is - MAY DAY! MAY DAY! MAY DAY!

May 1st. A day which traditionally celebrates the final thawing of snow and the advent of flowers, warmer weather and softening hearts, the ritual MAYPOLE dance (resembling the Pinnal Kolattam of Tamils), the term is also used for rescue and relief efforts. Judging by the recent outrage and furor over the national awards given to two Kuchipudi artistes, it would seem that the classical style from pre-divided Andhra Pradesh is now in dire danger. Or as one critic put it pithily on his personal Facebook page, “Kuchipudi is in ICU!” 

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