Wednesday 30 November 2016

New Benchmarks in Bharatanatyam and Orissi - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

What makes a benchmark performance? Is it the content or the costumes, music or make up, script or students, aesthetics or artistry? Or all of above and more? 
In the month that was, 5 interesting BN performances, by 4 rising stars of the form, in 4 different cities can be assessed as trends in the form. Geeta Chandran in Delhi; Zakir Hussain, A. Lakshman (from Malaysia settled in Madras, so as not to be mistaken for the great Adyar Lakshman) and Roja Kannan of Chennai; Jyotsna Jagannathan in Bangalore and much junior in age and experience, Vaidehi Rele of Mumbai.

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Sunday 27 November 2016

Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company perform in India - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

It was indeed a pleasant surprise during a crowded week to attend a dance performance of Dakshina Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya’s Sannidhi Auditorium in Delhi. I have met Daniel in Washington DC and attended a few performances during my visits. He has been doing excellent work. Dakshina is a dynamic and diverse dance company led by him. Daniel has chosen the name Dakshina, meaning “offering” in Sanskrit and in keeping with this spirit, Dakshina is offering artists and communities the unique opportunity to experience dance as a movement that links the arts, cultures and social causes.

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Saturday 26 November 2016

Mothers by Daughters & Others - The journey continues - Malavika Sarukkai

When I think of my mother Saroja Kamakshi, I recall with deep fondness her passionate desire to live life creatively. This was her mantra. She was a person unsatisfied with the ordinary, the predictable, the clichéd.  For her, life meant being courageous and taking risks to follow one’s calling. And it is in this  spirit of faith and passion that I took up dance full time and later went on to create over the last 30 years, a large body of work shaped by my thinking.

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Thursday 24 November 2016

Holding a legacy aloft - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

 The story goes that the virtuoso dancer Uday Shankar -- a debutante in London in the 1920s -- was presented, one evening, a Nataraja sculpture. Awestruck by the statuette and gazing intently upon the figure, he could not sleep the whole night. By the time the first sunrays struck the London mist, the insomniac artiste began getting the vibes into his dancer’s limbs: the body-dynamics that could possibly lead on to the divine stance and the aesthetic gestures that could flow out from it. The early Shankar was like that: a complete natural, honed more by Indian iconography and Rajput miniatures, and drawing sustenance from intuition and exposure, than ever groomed by a hard-core training regimen.

Sabari, a dance-drama premiered recently by Udayan Kala Kendra, the dance institution of Mamata Shankar Dance Company from Kolkata, was a handiwork that used the best of the Shankar ethos under the competent scripting, choreography, costumes and direction of his gifted daughter, Mamata Shankar. 

Amritasya Putra, presented by the same troupe on the following evening, was based on an abstract theme this time, while still using instrumental music. Again conceived and directed by Mamata Shankar in her father’s footsteps, the dance-drama was unfolded in a few stages.

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Sunday 20 November 2016

Vanashree Rama Rao’s emergence as choreographer - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

The title of the performance at IIC Fountain Lawns, presented by India International Centre, supported by Takshila Education Society was ‘Timeless tales of Gods and Goddesses, Men and Demons, Love and Devotion’, conceived and choreographed by Kuchipudi dancer Vanashree Rama Rao. It was a compact and thoroughly well rehearsed presentation performed by professional dancers from three different streams of Indian classical dance - Mayurbhanj Chhau, Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. The teamwork was exemplary with vocals by K. Venkatesh, Dr. S. Vasudevan, flute by Rajat Prasanna, violin by Master Raghavendra and percussion instruments by R. Keshavan who handled mridangam, tabla, pakhavaj, khol, and kanjira for dramatic effect. Nattuvangam was by Dr. S. Vasudevan. The music was recorded.

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Saturday 19 November 2016

Re-imagining Tagore in style - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Bhowanipur Baikali Association presented recently in the packed, spacious Nazrul Manch a fascinating collage of those formative years, illumined by prose and poetry narratives by film and theatre luminaries; live music by an amazingly large band of 230-strong male and female singers; and scintillating choreography by some of Kolkata’s best-known dancers. Conceived and directed by the noted musician Pramita Mallick, and ably supported by a well-researched folio of still and video projections, the program gently led the spectators - one by one - into the times of the kid who would strut endlessly in the corridors of a closed mansion; the child who would furtively glance out of his school windows on the kites flying outside; the boy who would be given his first outing with the father to Bolpur meadows, Allahabad fort, Amritsar’s Golden Temple and  Dalhousie on the snow capped Himalayas, in that order; and finally, the youth who would be first taken to Ahmedabad and Bombay, and later – across the seven seas – to Brighton in England for studying law, but primarily for savouring the music and dance of an alien West.
In between, Tagore’s mind slowly opened up to the colours and cadenza of the outside world. 

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Tuesday 15 November 2016

Tremors from borderlands - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Rhythmosaic made recently in Kolkata a praiseworthy effort to touch upon a few such shibboleths with their trans-border implications and launched what could be termed a full-blooded attack and not just a surgical strike. The assault was spearheaded by Anita Ratnam – a perennial favourite on both sides of the Vindhyas -- with her new creation, Prism.  

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Sunday 13 November 2016

Berlin Diary - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

 During one of my visits to Frankfurt for World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific Organization, I had met Rajyashree Ramesh, a Bharatanatyam dancer from Bangalore, settled in Berlin. At that time diplomat Mr. Malay Mishra was in Berlin. He had come across my articles on dance, in particular, on Odissi and had found them interesting. Being an Odiya, his interest was naturally in revival of Odissi, but he also appreciated other forms like Kathak and Bharatanatyam.

During my visit to Berlin, he invited me to an evening of classical dance performances. From Essen, Birju Maharaj’s disciple Durga Arya had come to perform Kathak and Rajyashree was to perform Bharatanatyam. Both of them are versatile dancers in their chosen idioms. On that evening, however Durga Arya was in great form and overshadowed Bharatanatyam with breathtaking chakkars, pirouettes, and footwork. I had known Durga Arya in Delhi performing Kathak under supervision of Birju Maharaj and she is an excellent Kathak dancer. Even when she migrated to Essen, Kathak biradari, community, remembers her well for her outstanding quality of Kathak.  Rajyashree was a little upset for scheduling Kathak earlier than Bharatanatyam.

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Thursday 10 November 2016

Anekanta provides exhilarating Bharatanatyam experience - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Woven round Jain philosophy of truth manifesting through  multiple realities, Natya Vriksha’s twenty-fifth anniversary, given founder Geeta Chandran’s explorative creativity,  became an exhilarating experience, for artists and audience - the performance at the packed Kamani auditorium in Delhi showcasing in a way, the elasticity of the Bharatanatyam technique in expressing off beat themes. What impressed was the overall package with the organisational details worked out meticulously. Inspired by the research of author Sudhamahi Regunathan, the two evenings could not have asked for a more fitting curtain-raiser than the scholar’s own superb enunciation on the theme of Anekanta - of truth being relative, its entirety realised only by one who has attained that final state of consciousness (‘Kaivalya’). Now more than ever perhaps the world needs to understand the wisdom enshrined in the philosophy that apparent contradictions are but manifestations of one ultimate harmony and that polarities can co-exist in perfect amity.

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Wednesday 9 November 2016

Poem - Dancing to reach the statue of liberty - Bhavanvitha Venkat

They all danced beautifully,
and the corporates rewarded him
with applause in heart they felt rich
returned journeys in the sleeper unreserved
he flew in the sky disturbed...

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Tuesday 8 November 2016

Roses and Thorns - In defense of the white male critic - Bruno Kavanagh

Every dancer wishes for ONE GREAT REVIEW in the New York Times which for the United States has been the arbiter of dance taste and values. British critic and American transplant Alastair Macaulay has been in love with classical Indian dance for decades and his continued Orientalism is constantly overlooked for the prestige of the masthead he writes for. Here is a recent example of his retro "take" on his favourite group NRITYAGRAM of Bangalore. The article
And here is a response to Macaulay's review from Bruno Kavanagh, no stranger to the expressive arts, and spouse of dancer Preeti Vasudevan.
- Anita Ratnam

On November 3rd, the New York Times carried what can only be described as a rave review of an Odissi presentation by Nrityagram, who’d performed at the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre in Manhattan the previous night.

“[Nrityagram’s performers are] among the world’s greatest dancers” oozed the NYT’s most senior dance critic Alastair Macaulay, “I have sometimes found Odissi the single most beautiful dance-form I’ve experienced.” This is high praise indeed from Macaulay - a man not shy of wielding the hatchet when he feels it’s  merited.

I sent the review to an Indian friend, based in the US (a member of the “Indian classical dance community” if such a thing can be said to exist—which I think it can.). I thought she’d be pleased that an Indian classical form was getting such positive attention from the senior critic of the most influential paper in the United States.

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Saturday 5 November 2016

Book Review - My Beautiful Journey - Kashmir to Kanyakumari - Prabal Gupta

Dr. C.K. Gariyali’s My Beautiful Journey - Kashmir to Kanyakumari published by Authors Upfront with foreword by N. Ram – the chairman and the publisher of The Hindu Group of Newspapers, is a lovely story of a young woman turned to a bureaucrat. The book delineates the author’s journey as Chander Kanta – a young girl from downtown Srinagar where she was born to Old Delhi. The story then takes us to her career front at the National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie where she was trained, met her fiancée Dr. Raj Kumar  and then to Tamil Nadu where she spent her entire working life and then later settled down in Chennai.

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Friday 4 November 2016

Young dancers put their best foot forward - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

It was heartening to see the young generation of dancers putting their best foot forward in a three-day (Oct 18-20, 2016) dance and music festival organized by Raza Foundation. Uttaradhikar, conceived by Kathak dancer Prerana Shrimali, under the series of Guru Shishya Parampara, the disciples of senior dancers of Raza Foundation Awardees for dance and music were presented at Habitat Centre, Delhi. Also leading art historians and academic scholars were invited to give a brief history of tradition of Guru Shishya Parampara.

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Tuesday 1 November 2016

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - November 2016

Anita says...November 2016

You are reading this while I am in sunny southern California - SoCal for short. Presenting an important paper for CORD/SDHS at Pomona College, I am joined with the empathetic and astute academic Dr. Ketu Katrak of the University of California, Irvine. Together we have created a template that documents and shares my journey over the past 22 years in reviving and restaging the 15th century ritual KAISIKA NATAKAM that is performed annually at my ancestral village temple in Tirukurungudi, Tamilnadu. Wherever we have made this presentation - Stockholm, Santiago, Barcelona and now in Pomona, erudite audiences have watched and listened in rapt attention. Granted, some find the layered braiding of religion, performance, festival, celebration and social gathering a tad too "enthusiastic" for their austere faith beliefs, but it is this very "quilting" that makes performance traditions so rich and intense in a society like India. 

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