Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Lights On - Magical experience to be on stage - Aalaap

Kathak dancer Prashant Shah speaks about his state of mind and routine on the day of performance. 

What is the state of your mind on the day of a performance?
Performance is an experience that is different each time depending on various factors like the duration of performance, content of performance, purpose of performance and many others. The body plays an important role along with mind on the day of the performance. Personally, I always tell myself to stay relaxed and calm. It does not matter to me on that day whether the performance will be appreciated or not. It is what it is, and there is no need to worry about a performance as it is always a magical experience to be on stage!

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Sunday, 19 November 2017

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

I had visited Patna some 20 years ago; the last visit was to Rajgir Dance Festival. Therefore visiting Patna once again evoked nostalgia. The first visit was in 1965 with Manipuri dancers, the Jhaveri Sisters. On our way to Kathmandu, Nepal, they were performing at the Indian Embassy. Young Priyamvada, daughter of Dr V. Raghavan and disciple of late T.Balasaraswati, gave a Bharatanatyam performance. 

We had stayed overnight at Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir established by late Hari Uppal, a disciple of Guru Atomba Sharma at Shantiniketan. He had studied Kathakali also there under Kelu Nair. He was one of the four organizers for the All India Dance Seminar convened by Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1958. We had remained in touch. He was extremely hospitable and looked after us showing us his disciples in Manipuri and Kathakali. There were also Bharatanatyam classes run by a young dancer. Her name escapes me. Hari Uppal's daughter Stella Uppal studied Bharatanatyam at Kalakshetra and participated in Buddhavatara dance-drama choreographed by Rukmini Devi. She has moved to London where she performs and teaches Bharatanatyam. 

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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Branding - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Dance as brand ambassador... For long, we have read bio data (some are best pieces of creative writing. Most go to one city on East coast and one on West coast in USA and describe it as "a coast to coast tour"!) that have all kinds of claims. ‘Ambassadors of dance’ is an often used phrase. What's that today when FB and other social media can reach out it nano seconds? In days of yore, when Ram Gopal, Uday Shankar and Madame Menaka travelled with big dance groups, mostly by ships that took months to reach, few labelled themselves as ambassadors of culture. It was first coined by the western press and mostly in its laudatory manifestation. 

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Thursday, 16 November 2017

Poetry in out-of-the-book art translations - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The vigour, gut involvement and passion of Beemumbai offering creative verbal and non-verbal translations in an interactive  multitude of art languages, of poetry exploring the inner voice which dares expression titled by Arundhati Subramaniam ‘When God is a traveller,’  has to be experienced to be believed. Kathak dancer Sanjukta Wagh with her dance training under Rajashree Shirke and Hindustani music under Pandit Manohar Lal Shukla is with three other fellow travellers on this art journey - singer Sruthi Vishwanath trained in Carnatic music under Kala Acharya B. Krishnamoorthy and Komaanduri Seshadri among others, guitarist and composer Hitesh Dhutia and tablist Vinayak Netke - all creating magic in music, dance, theatre and rhythm, exploring select pieces of Bhakti poetry in a new persuasive blended art union full of conviction. The excellent lighting effects are provided by Deepa Dharmadhikari who studied lighting design at the University of Minnesota-Twin cities, while pursuing a BFA in Dance. As soon as Sruthi in her rich soprano voice started Kabir’s “Jeeni Jeeni” (A weave that dares to embrace air as contemporary poet Arundhathi Subramaniam said), the longing in that voice seeming to seep into the mysterious spaces of one’s heart and soul, you knew that this evening was going to be different from one of those innumerable art offerings. 

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Saturday, 11 November 2017

From roots to efflorescence - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

It was the beginning of the beginning. If one places oneself at the earliest of Vedic traditions, one discovers the many gems in Rigveda abounding in Bari Suktam, Prakriti Suktam, Nasadiya Suktam, et al., outlining hymns of creation in the realm of cosmology. 

Granthan (Chronicling), presented recently by Parampara in Kolkata, saw Rittvik Bhattacharya – carrying on his very young shoulders the sacramental legacy of his devout grandfather – proceed from the farthest corner of the auditorium to sanctify the viewing space as well as the performance space. He did so by sprinkling water from his sacred pot and recited sonorously Purusha Suktam from Rigveda: The Purusha (Universal Being) has thousand heads, thousand eyes and thousand feet (thousand signifying innumerable and pointing to the omnipresence of the Universal Being); He envelops the world from all sides(that is, pervading each part of the creation), and extends beyond ten directions (represented by ten fingers)…

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Friday, 10 November 2017

Madhavi Mudgal's choreographic works in Odissi - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Under the aegis of Rasaja Foundation, at IIC Fountain Lawns in Delhi, on a specially constructed stage, Madhavi Mudgal presented her disciples in group choreographic works in Odissi to the music composed by Madhup Mudgal. Few months ago, Madhavi had released DVDs of her group choreographies. Produced with excellent technical support these works are a commendable record of Madhavi's creative works along with Madhup's creative collaboration and melodious music.

Some of these works were selected by Madhavi for presentation for Rasaja Foundation. Whereas the excerpts of the DVDs when screened had created a visual record with exquisite lighting and technical support for filming, the experience while watching the live performances was enjoyable on a different level. Gautam Bhattacharya, a long time associate of Madhavi, provided suffused lighting, painting as it were, the dancers in various hues and textures. The chiaroscuro effect, the light and shades playing upon the dancing bodies was interesting to look at. The recorded music of a very high standard almost gave a feeling of live music.

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Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Article - The dynamic new gen Bharatanatyam teachers of Chennai - Part II- Lalitha Venkat

(This article was commissioned for the 2016-2017 issue of Attendance - edited by Ashish Mohan Khokar - that had focus on Guru-Shishya Parampara. Reproduced here with permission.) 

Many established dancers in Chennai are quietly doing their bit to impart the aesthetics of dance to the current generation as well as the employed who attend late evening dance classes to unwind from their work stress. Some of these dynamic teachers share their experiences about their own training, what they imbibed from their gurus and how they are passing on their knowledge to the present generation while also adapting to the current scenario. 

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Article - The dynamic new gen Bharatanatyam teachers of Chennai - Part I- Lalitha Venkat

(This article was commissioned for the 2016-2017 issue of Attendance - edited by Ashish Mohan Khokar - that had focus on Guru-Shishya Parampara. Reproduced here with permission.) 

Chennai has been the hub of Bharatanatyam training, since the times of the great masters who migrated to the city for brief or extended periods of time, to pass on their knowledge to the new class of aspiring dancers, who in turn turned teachers to meet the ever growing demand for learning the art. It would be no exaggeration to say that almost every other street in Chennai has Bharatanatyam dancers and teachers. Kalakshetra veterans like the Dhananjayans, Chandrasekhars, C.K. Balagopalan, Savitri Jagannath Rao, A. Janardhanan, Vasanthalakshmi, Ambika Buch, Leela Samson are evergreen gurus as are Rhadha, Chitra Visweswaran, Sudharani Raghupathy and Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam. Alarmel Valli and Priyadarsini Govind have few disciples in the public eye while Malavika Sarukkai has turned mentor to a couple of bright talents. 

Kalakshetra Foundation, Madras University, MGR-Janaki College, Kumararani Meena Muthiah College of Arts all based in Chennai, Annamalai University (Chidambaram), Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts (Trichy), Sastra University (Thanjavur) are reputed institutions for courses in Bharatanatyam. ABHAI conducts yearly camps. Bragha Bessell and Indira Kadambi are sought after for their abhinaya skills. A. Lakshmanaswamy's Nrityalakshana is like a "finishing school" for dancers from far and wide. Meenakshi Chittaranjan, Urmila Sathyanarayanan, Binesh Mahadevan, Jayanthi Subramaniam, Vijay Madhavan, Sheejith Krishna and many Kalakshetra alumni are busy teachers. The current rage is of course to learn 'items' from various dancers. The budding students of Sheela Unnikrishnan dazzle with their superb coordination and almost perfect synchronization on stage. Anitha Guha's dance dramas are famous for the skilled dancers many of whom are also good soloists. So many established dancers in Chennai are quietly doing their bit to impart the aesthetics of dance to the current generation as well as the employed who attend late evening dance classes to unwind from their work stress. Some of these dynamic teachers share their experiences about their own training, what they imbibed from their gurus and how they are passing on their knowledge to the present generation while also adapting to the current scenario. 

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Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Young dancers to the fore - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Ashok Vajpeyi under Raza Foundation has initiated a programme of providing young hitherto unknown dancers a chance to perform - a much needed thrust in an area where sponsors are not very willing to venture beyond established names. The program under the title of Uttaradhikar presented its first dancer Rupanshri Kashyap - a disciple of Guru Kumudini Lakhia - at the Stein auditorium, Delhi, and it was a welcome trend for the teacher to introduce her student saying that as one who had been grooming Kathak students for years, what she aspired for in her training was to inculcate the ability in a disciple to be her own dancer - rather than becoming a copy of the guru or for that matter any other artist. This could only happen when the student developed an inner understanding of the identity of the art form he or she was trying to learn. 

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Monday, 30 October 2017

Solo, the soul of Bharatanatyam - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan

At first it seemed rather unusual to be invited to give insight lectures on solo Bharatanatyam on three consecutive evenings as part of a festival titled Eka Bhavana in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, once I formulated my thoughts on the subject it became clear why it was important to articulate the core idea of solo dance, and also why I was chosen to do it. I have always been a votary of the virtue of "thinking clearly" about the arts. And I had carefully studied the principles of the dance both as practitioner, and observer.

The nuances of classical dance as I know it, are so refined and aesthetically appealing that there is no way its contours can be compromised or watered down. From the time I was a novice, I consciously developed the subtleties and suggestive quality of dance. I think the mastery of technique has an inbuilt regulatory concept. Based on the adavu system, which the nattuvanars taught us, I could sense the well thought out geometrical strength of my dance. I understood the beauty of the perfect outstretched arm in Alarippu, the triangle formed by the Araimandi, the straight lines and curves of the arms and the shift of the body across the stage in a delightful variety of angles, as parts of a composite whole which produced the visual impact of the solo dance. Less is more, I learnt, from my gurus.

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Saturday, 28 October 2017

Post Uday Shankar, any which way? - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The iconic contemporary dancer Uday Shankar came into his destined vocation almost fortuitously. As a fresh youth of 21, he had gone to London to join William Rothenstein (1872-1945) to learn painting, when the great British master advised him to look at traditional Indian paintings first, at the British museum. This was to let him gain an Indian insight, since his exposure to his country’s culture was limited, till then, to the lakes and palaces of his birth-town Udaipur, and temples and river banks of Banaras, his maternal uncle’s place. Soon, he was spotted – for his handsome physique and visage -- by the legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova who offered him a partnership in a couple of dances with her at Covent Garden. When, later, Shankar expressed keenness to join her troupe for a permanent career in ballet, Pavlova firmly turned his mind back to his own country and urged him to study the heritage of Ajanta and Ellora in the first place. Shankar did so, opened his own dance group to conquer the world and, in a nutshell, a star was born. To him, till the very end, dance remained a philosophy and a way of life.

After witnessing his public performances a few times in Patna, Kolkata and Jamshedpur in that order, it was fascinating for this critic to hear him speak out his love of nature in a rare private reception in the Steel City. After a young maiden’s dance to felicitate him -- to the tune of Tagore’s famous song: Remove all shackles, O Nataraj, with the rhythms of your dance…, done on a specially flower bedecked floor -- he quietly observed, “Rather than see her perform, I was moved to see how the breeze was stirring the flower petals to and fro; that was the real dance to me…” 

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Salute to heroes: A tribute - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Bangalore based Subhashini Vasanth, disciple of Vyjayantimala, formerly trained under late Guru Narmada, gave a Bharatanatyam performance at Chowdiah Hall on 21st October under the aegis of Vasantharatnam Foundation for Arts. Vyjayantimala conducted nattuvangam for Subhashini. It was for a noble cause. The Foundation was established ten years ago by Subhashini in memory of her late husband, Vasanth Venugopal, Col. of the 9th Maratha Light Infantry regiment. He was martyred fighting with terrorists at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir area. With his troupe he had succeeded in eliminating all the terrorists before he was killed. He was awarded the Ashok Chakra. 

Subhashini was devastated. Overcoming her personal tragedy, she decided to establish the Foundation to empower the martyrs’ families, by providing them financial assistance, extending its scope by offering educational grants to children, memorial awards to schools, where martyrs’ children study,
birthday gifts, empowerment programmes for the women, skill building workshops like computer and English classes etc., in collaboration with Pegasus Institute, Samvada, and Anekataa.

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Evening concerts after morning deliberations in Nartanam Conclave 2017 - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Morning deliberations on dance treatises, involving scholars, artists and university research students, during the three- day Nartanam Conclave 2017, mounted at Hyderabad's Hotel Plaza, were substantiated by recitals of different classical forms in the evening. 

One could hardly have wished for a better start to the evening concerts than what was provided in 'Within Boundaries' by Bangalore's Bharatanatyam practitioner Parshwanath Upadhye and his Punyah group in 'Sat Gati.' Apart from finished dancers led by a young artist who has been exhibiting a flair for presenting his own work, cutting edge proficiency of the entire presentation was also due to an equally enterprising and involved group of musicians who in their inspiring musical accompaniment, were right through, fellow travellers on the same artistic journey as the dancers. The group comprised two fine vocalists Rohit and Abhishek , Kartik Datar providing bristling nattuvangam and kanjira support, Harsha Samaga on the mridangam, flautist Mahesh Swamy and Sumarani on the sitar. 

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Friday, 27 October 2017

Lights On - Centering Matters - Aalaap

Dancer Navia Natarajan speaks about what’s going through her mind and body on the day of a performance….

How do you feel on the morning of a performance?
I am usually quiet and I keep to myself. I try not to think of the performance or the things associated with it. Rather, I focus on centering myself. 

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Monday, 23 October 2017

Dissolving borders - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

When Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, the foremost cultural organization of that country, showcased recently their folk dance and music festival in New Delhi and Kolkata (Oct 12, 2017), there were high expectations of the treasure trove they would open and the cultural nuggets it would reveal. Their eminent folk-poet Abbasuddin Ahmed had written once, “Because all village people are simple, because they think simply, because their songs are simple, because their subject matter is simple, they talk of their simple joys and sorrows, and because people, the tune, the subject matter is simple -- all folk songs of the world are alike.” This applies to folk dance as well.

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Saturday, 21 October 2017

Dance theatre with confluence of dance traditions - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Female dance traditions of Kerala in Sita Sambhashanam 
At the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay hall of the IIC, Bharati Shivaji's Mohiniattam Collective presented Sita Sambhashanam on Sept 27 in a confluence of female dance traditions of Kerala, namely Mohiniattam, Nangiarkoothu and Kathakali stree vesham. The presentation of each form was based on sahitya in a different language - Avadhi for the Mohiniattam segment, Sanskrit for the Nangiarkoothu part and Manipravalam for the Kathakali section. The Avadhi script by Mohan Maharishi had music set by Yatindra Sharma. 

Powerful theatre by Rasa United
Yet another very powerful presentation based on a confluence of dance forms was on the concluding event of the Purana Qila festival of Choreographies on Indian dance mounted by the Sahitya Kala Parishad in conjunction with the Department of Art, Culture and languages, Government of Delhi with Dramatic Tales spearheaded by Kuchipudi dancer Vanashree Rao and presented by Rasa United, her recently set up group.

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Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Choreography Connect - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Classical ballet in the West, especially in Russia, has been a long established genre and well known for its aesthetics and rigorous technique, such as pointe work, turnout of the legs, and high extensions, its flowing, precise movements, and its superb qualities. There are several standardized, widespread, classical ballet training systems: each designed to produce a unique aesthetic quality from its students. Some systems are named after their creators. In contrast, American style ballet is not taught by means of any standardized training system. French ballet, too, has no standard training system, with each major French style ballet school employing a unique training system of its own. In contrast, contemporary ballet in the West is a genre that employs often classical pointe technique, but allows far greater range of movement of the upper body and is not constrained to the rigorously defined body lines and forms found in traditional, classical ballet. Many of its attributes come from the ideas and innovations of the 20th century modern dance, including floor work and turn-in of the legs.

Contemporary dance in India encompasses a wide range of dance activities and includes varied choreography for the celluloid, for modern Indian ballet and for experiments with existing classical and folk forms of dance. All major classical Indian dance forms have drawn sustenance from the Natya Shastra -- especially with elements of nritta, nritya and natya – and have contextualized sattvik, vachik, angik and aharya abhinaya, also having developed their own grammar and cannons of choreography. Not many institutions practising contemporary dance in India can boast of clear-cut grammar and systematic training methodology that can be shared across the board.

Sapphire Creations, an “experimental dance company” from eastern India, felt a need to create abstract movements free from external influences and over last 20 years, is striving to develop an organic, radical, dynamic and alternative idiom of movement, keeping its focus fixed on innovation. Its movement technique imbibes the whole range: from ancient Indian body history, to Western breathing techniques, to modern contact, improvisatory and tuning solo and group work methods. Its choreographic oeuvre comprises issues of gender, art, relationships, society, polity, consumerism and HIV, from a global perspective. Currently, Sapphire has both a training academy and a professional repertory.

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Article - Andhranatyam: History and Revival- Kalakrishna

(This is a condensed version of Guru Kalakrishna's presentation on June 1, 2017 at the seminar on '100 years of Nritya Bharateeyam' at Chennai)

As we know the dance traditions in India are categorised under Natya mela and Nattuva mela traditions. Andhranatyam belongs to the Nattuvamela tradition. Andhranatyam, the ancient classical dance form of Telugu region (Telangana, Rayalaseema and Andhra), has been in vogue for the past 2000 years. It may sound new to people but it is as old as the temples constructed. To start with, it was performed in the Buddhist Aramas, temples and royal courts by the cultured and dedicated female artistes of Telugu region.

Unlike other female dances like Bharatanatyam, temple and court dances, Andhranatyam had become inert at one point of time. It was later revived in 1970 and is being propagated for the last 47 years at national and international platforms, more particularly in the Telugu speaking regions.

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Visual poetry - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Come September and Delhi is all agog with dance festivals. There are so many festivals organized simultaneously, that they overlap and one finds it difficult to make a choice as to what to see and what to forego. The Purana Qila Dance Festival, which is a continuation of Ananya Dance Festival, was formerly organized by Sanjeev Bhargav with the help of Ministry of Culture, Delhi Government. Now it has been taken over by the Delhi Government's Department of Art, Culture and Languages, and is mounted with assistance of Sahitya Kala Parishad, keeping the format more or less the same.

Purana Qila is a magnificent monument renovated during Emperor Humayun's rule in the year 1533 AD. Sher Shah Suri of Suri Dynasty had defeated Humayun in 1540 AD as per the historical records. Popularly known as Purana Qila, Old Fort with its vast complex offers a spectacular view. In recent years in the early 70s it was director E. Alkazi who had used it for the play Andha Yug for National School of Drama. In later decades it has been the venue of various important theatre events and concerts. The dance festival has been one of the most popular events.....

A factual description of Kanjeevaram sari by sociologist Arati Kalra inspired Malavika Sarukkai to explore the design of play of thread. For two and half years she worked upon the seed of concept and she created in Bharatanatyam the journey of sari as a metaphor for life. Thari - The Loom, offered her a certain freedom to work with the classical form and expand its range. She says that inspiration was like an ambush. It led her to meet weavers to understand how the loom functions, its rhythm and how she could work with it in terms of dance. Stepping out, taking risks she has tried to do things, going outside of the narrative of classical repertoire, the figurative and descriptive, and exploring the abstract....

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Thari exquisitely weaves the warp and weft of life's saree - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

There is no flamboyance or over abundantly grand narrative. But in the 75 minutes of non-stop group presentation in Thari -The Loom conceived and choreographed by Malavika Sarukkai, the audience after having experienced artistic excellence of exquisite subtlety, leaves the auditorium with a mind filled with the lurking poetry hidden in that unstitched traditional garment - the saree. Reflecting on the primeval rhythm tat taka taam of the loom, grew the perception in Malavika of how closely the very different activities of dance and weaving are guided by the same concerns, to quote the words of Thari's creative collaborator Sumantra Ghosal of "space, structure, motif, symmetry, proportion, relationship (and ) alignment." Much like the coming together of the warp and the weft in weaving, dance and music are required to work in "total coordination, rhythm and measurement and design." The production, lacing the proven movement technique in Bharatanatyam with the alchemy of the choreographer's creative contemporary mind, converts past inheritance into not something back there and lost, but a vital presence constantly alive, expanding its horizons.

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Interview - The Reddys: A family dedicated to dance - Shveta Arora

Once upon a time, it was natural for children to follow their parents into their profession. But today, when children are given the choice to choose their own professions and often choose to do something ‘modern’ in their careers, it’s interesting to hear from youngsters who have followed their parents’ footsteps in an ancient classical tradition. In a conversation with Kuchipudi Guru Raja Reddy and his daughters Yamini and Bhavana Reddy, I was impressed by how both the girls have adapted their modern upbringing to further the Kuchipudi tradition. Below are excerpts from a chat conducted during the Reddys’ Parampara Dance Festival in Delhi recently.

Raja-ji, how did you think you could initiate both your daughters into this tradition? What was the pressure as a parent?
Raja Reddy: Being in the Reddy family, we were not supposed to learn dance. But since childhood, I was very interested. Same goes for Radha – we married, and her parents and my parents were not happy about it but we were mad about dance. Then we came to Hyderabad and both Radha’s parents and grandparents told her, “Get a divorce from him, he is sure to end up penniless!” See, in our region, dance was dismissed as a profession for the lower classes. They (those who looked down upon dance) didn’t even know that Shiva is the creator of dance. Without Radha, my dance would have been incomplete. Nobody would have seen my performance; it was possible only because Radha was there to handle things. 

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Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Mythologist and the Muses - Stephen Gerringer - ANCIENT FUTURES:Thoughts on myth, legend and beyond

(Reproduced here with permission from Pacifica Graduate Institute, USA)

In this Practical Campbell essay, Stephen Gerringer examines the role of the arts in Joseph Campbell's life and work, along the way touching on the roots of creativity.
In my writing and my thinking and my work I've thought of myself as addressing artists and poets and writers. The rest of the world can take it or leave it as far as I'm concerned. 

Joseph Campbell, quoted in Fire in the Mind, by Robin & Stephen Larsen (from Campbell's final lecture, to art students), p. 556 
When reading Joseph Campbell, many people naturally focus on the universal motifs found in mythologies of different cultures, or find themselves taken by the parallel between mythological themes and one's own life journey - but just as significant is the central role the creative imagination plays in Campbell's world. 

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Saturday, 14 October 2017

Dance reflecting an approach not tethered to form - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Black Box, G 54 Foundation for Contemporary Culture, a delightfully intimate space, with its convoluted address of ‘Lakshmi Mills Estate, Shakti Mills Lane, Off Dr. E Moses Road, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai’ is typical of the spaces within spaces this city specialises in. It was in the compact auditorium of ‘Black Box’ that the well-known magazine of the Arts, Marg had organised the release of its latest issue on Contemporary Dance in India on October 9, 2017. The word ‘contemporary’ is a loaded term and its connotation with respect to dance will always be contested, with classical dancers not willing to believe they are anything less than ‘contemporary’. Contemporary Dance practitioners, however, for long have nursed a feeling of deprivation about their efforts not receiving the kind of government support their colleagues in the classical art forms get. 

After the formal release function followed a short but varied and arresting programme, which dancer Astad Deboo with his aesthetic refinement, had curated.

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Friday, 13 October 2017

Mega Shows - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

And one thought there were no audiences left for dance, when one saw pathetically filled halls in metro cities. 100 people on a good day. Often, there were none because it - the dance - had no real connect with the people. I must qualify the above with one additional word. Classical  dance.  

I’m coming from 7 cities in 7 days (with bad stomach flu to boot!), where I’ve seen thousands in each dance gathering - Bengal pandals and Gujarat Navratri celebrations. These are to be seen to be believed. A true, people’s festival. Thousands in each neighborhood. All dancing and happy.  Classical, folk, Bollywood, jazz, rag, tag call what you will. It is Indianised dance. Trust us to assimilate all cultures and make it our own. MAKE IN INDIA has a totally new meaning in dance.

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Friday, 6 October 2017

Parampara finds the right dance/music blend - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Natya Tarangini's 'Parampara' festival (Sept 22 - 24) observing its 21st consecutive year of celebration, attracted large audiences to the Kamani Auditorium, Delhi, for what, this year turned out to be fare offering a magical dance/music blend. Shivaleela, the inaugural Kuchipudi event by the host organisation featuring the entire Reddy family of Raja/Radha and Kaushalya (nattuvangam) with their two dancing daughters Yamini and Bhavana, in the well rehearsed tautness of presentation - was a more evolved production than what one was treated to during its less formal premiere at the Reddy home on Shiva Ratri. 

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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Bharati Shivaji's institution Centre for Mohiniattam presented on second day of Mohiniattam Festival, 'Sita Ram Parinay' based on chaupais of Tulasidas's Ramcharitmanas at IIC Kamala Devi Complex auditorium on September 28, Delhi.....

For Lalitarpan Festival 2017 of dance and music, which Shovana Narayan arranges every year under the aegis of her dance institute Asavari, in memory of her mother, she had invited from Vienna the celebrated dancer and choreographer Radha Anjali (Angela) with her Natya Mandir Dance Company.....

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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Obit/Tribute - Shirin Vajifdar - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Shirin Vajifdar, 92, passed away in Mumbai peacefully on September 29, 2017. 

She was a pioneer among Parsi community to take up classical dancing in early 1930s. She and her two sisters Khurshid and Roshan performed together as Vajifdar Sisters. Shirin studied Kathak under Jaipur gharana maestro Sundar Prasadji and later on studied further Kathak and other styles like Manipuri and Kathakali at Madam Menaka's Nrityalayam at Khandala, near Mumbai

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Sunday, 1 October 2017

Anita says...October 2017

"Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide."
- DW Winnicott

The party is never ending. There was a 19 day respite between Dussera (September 30) and Diwali (October 18) but no more. Indian communities across India and elsewhere have geared up for nonstop celebrations. From the jam packed streets of Newark Avenue Garba frenzy in New Jersey to boulevards in many parts of the UK and of course India, sticks click away, skirts swirl, laughter overflows and food and drink help the mood build to a lively frenzy. DURGA may have performed HER time honoured ritual of slaying darkness and restoring balance to the universe. SHE has been immersed yet again amidst cheers and tears but calm has not descended over her devotees. As you read this, many will be preparing to dress up to attend fabulous Ram Lila pandals and card parties in North India which have already started as a curtain raiser to Diwali.

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Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - October 2017

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

A magical evening - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

After a few years if the dance aficionados were to discuss and recollect the arrival of Sunanda Nair from USA where Houston was submerged in water, to perform for Sai Nrityotsava 100 on September 1, 2017 in Bangalore, they would not believe that she had made it on time to perform at JSS Rangamandira, without showing slightest sign of jetlag! To put it in terms of mythological context, it would not be an exaggeration to say that some very special guiding angel, must have flown her across the ocean and placed her invisible to the eyes of the mortals, in the green room. For, when she arrived in her full Mohiniattam regalia she was a Mohini, enchantress, who mesmerized the audience. She was ushered into the auditorium with a resplendent royal red umbrella over her head with the hosts Sai Venkatesh and his wife Suparna and other retinue members following her with fanfare! That was dramatic enough to set the celebrations for the 100th evening of dance performances.

Never-say- die Sai Venkatesh had started presenting on the first of each month, young up and coming dancers. That was for eight years and four months. And during this time he never missed any date. For the record, months ago he had planned the 100th dance as a gala event inviting four senior dancers like Sunanda Nair from Houston for Mohiniattam, Sujata Mohapatra for Odissi from Bhubaneswar, Manju Bhargavi for Kuchipudi from Bangalore and Dhananjayan and Shantha for Bharatanatyam from Chennai. 

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Events with an identity - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

More than just a festival
Dance festivals are a dime a dozen. To make each event stand out with a flavour of its own requires imagination to curate. Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, in its very enterprising fashion has designed festivals wherein a theme or a selected line or verse from Sanskrit literature is made a compulsory part of each dancer’s recital, the interpretation being left to the individual dancer’s creativity. Bringing back to central focus the solo dancer who ultimately represents the core strength of a dance tradition, and featuring young dancers who are the future torch bearers, Prastaar, the Vidyalaya’s latest event mounted at the Kamani auditorium, prescribed as central motif and as bonding thread a verse for interpretation by all artists, from Subhashitavali 1049 (Shringarapadhdhati), compiled by Vallabhadeva in the 15th century, providing immense possibilities for abhinaya elaboration.

A fitting festival for Kelucharan Mohapatra
Yet another festival, which has begun acquiring a stature of its own is Srjan’s Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival, carefully nurtured over the years by the Guru’s son Ratikant Mohapatra. The mood is set, right from the entrance to Bhubaneswar’s Rabindra Mandap, where one sees the carefully grouped enlarged photographs of the participating artists outside -- with the modest lobby of the auditorium transformed into a photographic history down memory lane, with old priceless pictures of Guru Kelucharan on various occasions. One climbs the steps to be greeted by a large photograph of the Guru at whose feet exquisite rangoli floor design has a burning lamp in the centre. One could spend a long time just going through these pictures. 

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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Spectacular musical Mughal-e-Azam - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

My generation of people who have seen K. Asif's film Mughal-e-Azam both in black and white and in colour will remember with great nostalgia, Madhubala as Anarkali singing "Pyar kiya to darna kya" in Emperor Akbar's court to the choreography by legendary Lacchu Maharaj. The film took seven years to be ready for screening. The melodious music by Naushad Ali has produced evergreen songs which have captured the audiences all over India and wherever Indian Diaspora is. 

It was a big challenge for Feroz Abbas Khan to adapt Mughal-e-Azam for theater from the film. It could have been a monumental failure also. But with his passion to make it stage worthy, with a reputation for making productions like Broadway Musicals and vast experience of making films, working for television and directing plays, Feroz Abbas Khan created history on 21st October 2016 when he staged Mughal-e-Azam, his dream, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai.

I had seen Feroz Abbas Khan's musical West Side Story, his plays like Mahatma Vs Gandhi, Tumhari Amrita and was quite familiar with his work. But like many others, I too was apprehensive before watching this mega production in Delhi at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium. How would it compare with the film which I had often seen and also during my lectures on classical dance in Bollywood films, shown that very famous song "Pyar kiya to darna kya" by that enchantress Madhubala. 

The challenge of choreography was given to Bangalore based contemporary dancer Mayuri Upadhya of Nritarutya. Having choreographed 'Madhushala,' an original piece of musical work for Amitabh Bachchan and 'Make in India' for Hannover Messe for representing Republic of India, Mayuri had earned fame for choreographing large productions. Such works had inspired confidence not only in her but also in director Feroz Abbas Khan that Mayuri Upadhya would deliver the goods.

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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Article - Tihai and its types: Elaborate analysis - Rajashree Oak

Tihai is a distinguished feature of all the Indian music forms. Vocal, instrumental and dance, all the forms have their own unique fashion to use tihai and thus tihai is given different treatment in every form of music.

Cultural and historic context
The number three and trio have special importance in the ancient Indian concepts. Many such trios or trinities are seen such as Triguna, Trimurti, Trilok etc. This importance of trinity is reflected in the concept of tihai. In addition to this, the concept of tihai is thought to be originated from the oral recitation tradition of Vedas called as Ved-pathan. In the oral tradition, without any written scripts, the last pada or the phrase of the line was repeated thrice to show the end of the line. This thrice repetition denotes the end of the current line as well as the beginning of the next line. Scholars consider this tradition as the source of the concept of tihai in music.

Tihai is repeating a rhythmic piece identically three times with equal interval in between the repetitions. In the context of dance, when a rhythmic pattern beginning from any matra of the taal cycle, is repeated three times with equal intervals to reach the sam, it is called as Tihai.

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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Crisis of critical analysis in music and dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Even as our traditions of music and dance have survived thanks to an inbuilt dynamics of preservation of eternal verities of tradition while accommodating individual creative innovations, a large repertoire of critical writing articulating new concepts and analysing the changes, subversions, innovations over the last half a century is missing. From the marginalised Devadasi to the elitist Diva of today, the nationalist framework in which so many changes took place in what has been singled out as classical (wherein resistance to the colonial was not a factor) to the folk, continuity has been stressed above deviations and innovations, and what with altered notions and dynamics of orality of the changing nature of audiences, the proscenium space and the fact of the utter perishability of music and dance at the point of creation itself, it is surprising that a more dynamic body of critical work has not emerged. Supporting a greatly felt need for interaction on this aspect, The Indian Institute of Advanced Study at Shimla, under Ashok Vajpeyi as convenor, organised a National Seminar from September 4 - 6, 2017 to deliberate on Music and Dance: The Absence of Critical Attention and Analysis - with the historic Viceregal Lodge at Shimla as venue for a gathering of musicians, young dancer scholars, music and dance critics and thinkers. 

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Friday, 15 September 2017

Obit/Tribute - Ritha diva! - Ashish Mohan Khokar

There was always something frail yet strong about her. Pint sized, there was nothing short about her talent though. 

Born on 6 Dec 1924 to a family of litterateurs of Assam, she was the granddaughter of Sahitya Ratna Lakshmirath Bezbaruah. She took great pride in her lineage, also linked to Rabindranath Tagore as a great grand niece! It was however in Indian dance her life lay. She was unstoppable where dance was concerned. She was possessed and sacrificed her everything including her marriage to Indra Chatterjee for cause of dance.

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Voice and vision of Bhakta Salbeg - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Years later, there is another historical figure of Salbeg (or Salabega), born of a mixed marriage of a Mughal nobleman and a Brahmin window in the 17th century. The chronicler Nilamani Misra narrates the biographical events of his life, while the folkloric musical Bhakta Salbeg (1982) captures on the celluloid his times somewhat on a mythological level.

One respectfully approached some gurus and senior practitioners of Odissi dance in our land with the following three queries:

1: Since Salbeg is undoubtedly Odisha's heritage figure cutting across narrow religious barriers and since his compositions are copiously sung in the holy Ratha Yatra Festival of Lord Jagannath, would you regard Salbeg as a worthy symbol of inter-denominational amity and universal peace?

2: If you do, would you like to add Odissi choreography on Salbeg compositions in your own rich choreographic repertoire?

3: Do you think there should also be a regular Salbeg Festival, where you could join other Odissi dancers, with your choreographic oeuvre, to highlight the message of tolerance and harmony of Salbeg?

Reproduced are the responses received (presented in alphabetic order) to the three queries.

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Manipuri Guru Bipin Singh's centenary celebrations in Kolkata - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Guru Bipin Singh’s centenary celebrations were flagged off in Kolkata by Manipuri Nartanalaya on 23rd August on his 100th birthday by Dr. Anuradha Lohia, Vice Chancellor of Presidency University at West Bengal Rajya Sangeet Natak Akademi. A large number of disciples of Guru Bipin Singh from Kolkata and also from his birthplace Silchar, from Bangladesh, Mumbai and New Delhi were present.

From among Bipin Singh’s principal disciples, Darshana Jhaveri, the youngest of the four Jhaveri sisters reminisced about their early years of training in Mumbai when Guruji had come to Mumbai after working with Madame Menaka’s Nrityalayam. He was in great demand, said Darshana. No sooner was their tuition over, the car would be waiting downstairs to take him to another student. Later on, the Jhaveri sisters made arrangements for him to stay and give them training instead of running around and devote time to research and choreographing new numbers.

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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Article - The joy of sad tales! - Padmaja Suresh

The philosophical rationalization of the esoteric science of energy, Tantra Shastra interprets into its assimilation to aesthetics.

In the Yoga of classical dances, with Nada - music and Laya - perfect tempo in movement, along with the inherent principles of a Shastra or science embodied in it, there is a mystical journey in aesthetic experience. What is it that travels, in a performance? If one is keeping the foreground as dancer-actor being extremely skilled and involved and background as a spectator with a heart to receive without bias or conditioned thoughts, one can witness this flow of empathy. This is a kind of positive energy which travels from poet to the spectator. Rasa, the bliss supreme, is in the seed and pertains until the flower or fruit. Word becomes song, written and then composed and dramatized or danced. 

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