Sunday 24 December 2017

From Birth to Regeneration - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Manjusri Chaki-Sircar has been a dancer extraordinaire all her life. Born half a decade before the onset of the Second World War and reared in a quaint town in the erstwhile East Bengal, she tumbled into dance as a tiny tot in enacting a Tagore poem, Pujarini (the Worshipper), culled from the Buddhist annals. The event was almost prophetic, presaging three trends of her later life. One, she would exalt in dancing all her living years till the very end of the century. Two, she would have a dominant influence of Tagore on her, alongside many other traditions and strains of Indian heritage. Three, religious anthropology would profoundly affect all her choreographic oeuvre: beginning with the Meitei Maibi worship of Manipur and ending with the Yatmul puberty ritual of New Guinea.

Read more in the site

Thursday 21 December 2017

Tharang Utsav and Trivandrum diary - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

5th edition of Tharang Utsav
Aparna Vinod Menon has been conducting Tharang Utsav for the past four years in Bangalore. Besides showcasing the senior established dancers, Tharang offers platform to young dancers to encourage them and also show their young students the high standards of senior and young dancers. Besides being fond of classical Hindustani music, and studying under the renowned Bengali vocalist Rina Basu, a disciple of Chinmay Lahiri, guru of Parveen Sultana, Tharang also presents up and coming Carnatic vocal and instrumental musicians....

Trivandrum diary 
Sunanda Nair was having a shooting for a documentary made on her by the renowned film director Vinod Mankara. His films Kamboji and Priyamanasam have received critical appreciation. Latter film is in Sanskrit. He has won national award for his film on Mohiniattam and is quite an authority on the dance form. I was invited to watch the shooting and also speak on Mohiniattam and dancer Sunanda Nair, whom I have known for many years when I was in Mumbai. Under guidance of Kanak Rele, she had shown commendable progress and by fortuitous coincidence, she even resembles Kanak Rele! Often people used to ask Kanak Rele if Sunanda was her daughter..... 

Soorya Festival
The 111 day Soorya Festival has expanded its scope to include theatre and films besides classical dance and music. Conducted with clockwork regularity for past three decades by that indefatigable director, visionary and devotee of performing arts, Soorya Krishnamurty, the festival features seasoned and up and coming young artists. The festival is held at various venues in Trivandrum which is a welcome move as various sections of society can attend it.....

Read the review in the site

Sunday 17 December 2017

Article - The embodiment of rural identities, Movement is giving sense to divine language - Marc-Paul Lambert

I) The Predravidian Kerala legacy
"It's my dance-give it back to me."
- La Danseuse (French movie, October 2016)

Let alone the idea of getting hints from an inspiring ritual, rural source in most cases acts like a rejuvenating incubator of talents for 'Shastriya Natya' - the corpus of Indian classical dances [1]. Classic tradition, its model rooted in Hindu history, versus rural creativity, a disposition of the mind, expressed bodily in a "freer way", would be two terms: the two sides of a formal disengagement. Once looking into productions, rural epistemology brings more aesthetics to the light. We find any time the evidence of an argument, a mood or a gesture was picked up from rural performance, passed on to the classical repertoire; it soon has modified the scale of body language. It was the case for the canonization of Bharatanatyam (1932), led by Rukmini Devi Arundale, according to a procedure Indira Viswanathan Peterson describes entirely in the genesis of the art form, outside its rural origin [2]. It is also true for Ottam Thullal, inspired two centuries ago from Padayani vinodams. Something was borrowed, and it was deviated. Much of what creators have picked from the rural, the musical or the dance motif, the idea or the narrative once performed, has generated something different in another social context.

Read the article in the site

Friday 15 December 2017

Mask and masquerade - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

All noble writings are capable of multiple interpretations in different times and in varied contexts. Tagore's 1936 dance-drama Chitrangada - - culled from the Mahabharata - - is usually taken to depict the unambiguous stand favouring women's empowerment. After the initial hesitancy of the Manipuri princess when she initially decides to undertake the guise of almost an enchantress, she discards the pretence and comes out triumphant. But supposing she went a step further? Could she have possibly discarded her masquerading role as a gaudy temptress and come direct to challenging the male ego, in a full frontal confrontation with the object of her adoration - - without any compromise of her essential femininity?

Read more in the site

Thursday 14 December 2017

Interview - CP Satyajit: Information is information, not knowledge - Thushyanthy Velauthan

C.P. Satyajit, as an experienced Bharatanatyam dancer, a yoga practitioner and a professional photographer playing 3 roles in his career, shared some interesting insights on his recent visit to Sri Lanka to perform in 'Aum Shiva Muruga' dance drama to raise funds for the re-construction of Thiruketheeswaram temple, Mannar.

Satyajit learned dance from his parents, The Dhananjayans, and since his dance debut in 1988, he has been performing Bharatanatyam all over India and abroad. His creation 'Mounakkural', a dance drama on women commissioned by the British Council to commemorate the UN women's conference in Beijing has received accolades. He is also experimenting and sharing experiences of yoga in dance. He has been working in the field of photography, mainly engaged in advertising related photography, which include: automotive, architecture, interiors, fashion, food, jewelry etc. 

Read the interview in the site

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Living movements serenade frozen movements in Konark - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The crackling air of excitement all round the Konark township during the annual festival mounted jointly by the OTDC and Odisha SNA, would seem to show that far from evoking ennui, this event, over the years, is attracting larger audiences from all over. What with the Sand Art exhibition on Chandrabhaga beach involving voluntary participation from several foreign artists, a day time literary festival, the grand temple site with Puri also just an hour away by road and handloom exhibition, this week long fare projects a mini art world of Odisha. The Pipli lamps, road strewn with rangoli patterns, trees and plants lit up in myriad colours, and guest houses decorated with exotic lighting, add to the atmospherics. And every year sees something new - this time the nifty drone camera taking pictures for simultaneous DD Bharati broadcast replaces the intrusive long armed Doordarshan contraption which used to obstruct view in earlier years. 

The festival fare devoted one half of each evening to an Odissi group presentation, with a non-Odissi projection in the other half - all watched by a handsome turnout in the massive open air auditorium. 

Read more in the site

Monday 11 December 2017

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur Diary - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Singapore Diary

I arrive by 3pm at the stage door of Singapore's Esplanade main theatre to see rehearsal of Anjaneyam: Hanuman's Ramayana. I have to submit my passport to enter. Three years ago when I attended Angkor: An Untold Story rehearsal, I had gone through this exercise. Abroad, be it Lincoln Centre in New York, The Kennedy Centre in Washington DC, Barbican in London, Opera House in Sydney, the authorities insist on this strict procedure to safeguard against any untoward event. But in India, anyone can walk in backstage, and no one is bothered. I think we need to follow this procedure. I read the other day that at Ravindra Bharathi Auditorium in Hyderabad, several purses and mobile phones were stolen from green room when the performance was on. In past in Mumbai at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, thieves walked in and stole Grundig German tape recorder and valuables of dancers. Of late in Mumbai precaution is being taken at NCPA and other major theatres. Dancers beware in India. ....

Kuala Lumpur Dairy

The Blue Mountain Exhibition: Ramli Ibrahim is the most renowned dancer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He has been honoured by Malaysian Government with civil honour Datuk, similar to our Padma Shri award. His Sutra Dance Theatre has performed his several choreographic works in Odissi in major cities of India regularly. He has a huge following in India. The moment his shows are announced there is a buzz about him and the auditoriums are full. He had a close association with painter Dinanath Pathy. For his services to Odissi, Ramli has been honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award.....

Read more in the site

Saturday 9 December 2017

Article - Ascending the ladder of bliss - Payal Ramchandani

Rasa can at best be described as the fuel that ignites the soul. There will be no exaggeration in saying that a performance is successful when the audience is transported into a parallel world of emotional consciousness, and hence it is only fair and sensible to get an experiential understanding at a place that provides the expertise, experience and the space.

As I stepped into the tranquil premises of Natana Kairali, I felt a deliberate pull into surreally serene zone from one where it could sometimes be challenging to hear the voice of the conscience. However, destiny takes you to places you've never been to and shows you things you never knew of and this workshop was a perfect example of how nature re-establishes this principle time and again. I however must admit here that the silence that enveloped the Natana Kairali campus, which the Venus have put together brick by brick, with so much love and hardship, did bring with it some apprehensions. Having lived for most part of my life in metropolitans, 'quiet' can be slightly unsettling, but not for too long in this case. Apprehensions were tenuously transformed into a firm assurance as we met GopalakrishnaVenu or Venuji as he is lovingly called.

Read more in the site

Friday 8 December 2017

Remembering Ram Gopal - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

I went to Kuala Lumpur at the invitation of Ramli Ibrahim to inaugurate the exhibition Blue Mountain by late Dinanath Pathy and ten painters from Odisha at Sutra Foundation's Gallery on 25th November. He had also arranged my illustrated talk on 'Remembering Ram Gopal,' the legendary dancer with screening of a rare film on his dances at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Indian Cultural Centre, a branch of Indian Council for Cultural Relations, on 23rd November.

The Centre has moved to another building with more space. Classes in Kathak are being conducted by Praveen Gangani. Other classes in Carnatic and Hindustani music and Bharatanatyam are also being conducted by expert teachers in these fields. Yoga classes are very popular. The Centre observes two holidays on Monday and Tuesday in order to accommodate programs on weekends when people have holidays and can attend in large number. On weekdays at times there is a less crowd, but at least around 100 persons turn up.

Ram Gopal was a charismatic dancer. He passed away in 2003 and since he had settled in London, with the passage of time, few remember him. Therefore with excerpts of his dance on a film, it was important to introduce him to the young generation. As good luck would have it Bangalore based visual artist, designer and a film maker Ayesha Abraham, daughter of legendary cartoonist Abu Abraham, has made a film on Ram Gopal titled 'I saw God dance'.

Read more in the site

Thursday 7 December 2017

Interview - With changing mindsets, the dance also has to change: Kumudini Lakhia - Shveta Arora

Kathak legend and pioneer Kumudini Lakhia during a workshop in Delhi recently, was telling both young and experienced dancers, “Put a story in your movement, aise hoti hai choreography.” The workshop was part of the Naval Kathak Utsav in Delhi on 15th and 16th of November, during the morning sessions at Meghdoot Theatre. In the workshop, she was assisted by her senior disciple Sanjukta Sinha. The morning breeze had a nip in it, as the workshop started punctually despite the Delhi smog and traffic snarls. It was an honour to be a part of this workshop. In a brief chat, Kumudini-ji emphasized that dance space has to be ‘landscaped’ or ‘designed’, and that every movement should be graceful, like a brush stroke, not abrupt or jerky. After that, Sanjukta came straight to the nritta portion. The first day, she taught that, aamad, and the second day, gat, baant and a paran.

Kumudini Lakhia’s list of awards and honours, national and international, is endless. Equally well-known is her reputation for being something of a ‘rebel’ in Kathak. However, the outspoken doyen of Kathak insisted that she never broke away from tradition – “It’s all I know!” she said. She just tried to find more within the tradition than the limited form that was popular with audiences, she said. In this interview, the 87-year-old Kumudini Lakhia’s formidable, vital outlook shines through as she declares, “The dance has to change, because it’s a living art form.”

Read the interview in the site

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Miracle on wheels - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Syed Sallaudin Pasha trained in Kathak and Bharatanatyam at late Guru Maya Rao's institute in Bangalore, has for the past three decades carved a niche for himself by forming India's first inclusive dance company promoting the talents and abilities of people with special needs. It has been providing an equal platform for artists who are differently-abled along with abled artists. Their special needs are no different from the rest of the society. As Pasha says, they have extraordinary talents which are often ignored. The company brings them into limelight and showcases their skills across the nation and abroad.

Sponsored by My Skill Foundation in Kuala Lumpur for the first time, Miracle on Wheels company had an engrossing performance at Civic Centre. The Foundation arranged five more shows in different cities of Malaysia. For the past six years the Foundation has been rendering yeoman's service by providing young boys support, 'transforming lives of high risks youth', bringing them on right path to lead a normal life. 'Tears of Joy,' a brief documentary screened before the performance gave audience a glimpse into the lives of young people who after their wayward life - joining gangsters, attacking people, skipping classes in schools, moving in bad company - have their lives changed with help from the Foundation. The performances by Miracle on Wheels were one more apt choice to expose the youth to how the differently abled can overcome their inabilities and perform on wheelchairs with tremendous confidence bringing joy to one and all. My Skill Foundation has now acquired land and received financial assistance from the Government to build a permanent home for the youth for transforming their lives.

Read more in the site

Monday 4 December 2017

Mega Hanuman - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan

Aravinth Kumarasamy is a man who is passionate about Bharatanatyam and other classical forms. Decades ago, Neila and Sathyalingam, who had honed their dance and musical skills in Kalakshetra, settled in Singapore and did pioneering work in teaching dance. On one of my visits years ago they introduced Aravinth as the person to whom they were handing over the mantle to run their well established institution, Apsaras Arts. Little did I guess that one day Aravinth would be a leading figure in the Arts scene of Singapore. Well, hard work, imagination, a spirit of adventure, and a certain commitment beyond the merely commercial have taken him places.

His early experience with music (the veena), choreography (Temple of Fine Arts) and mentoring by Neila, have helped in establishing his credentials. With serious intent of unity in diversity, he has formed links not only with innumerable artists in Singapore and other South East Asian countries, but also with Chennai based dancers and musicians. Added to this is his bringing some buzz into the dance community every summer uniting many students and teachers at a lively camp called Dance India Asia Pacific in collaboration with Milapfest of Liverpool. His latest achievement was to fill up the big theatre of the Esplanade with an enthusiastic crowd to watch ‘Anjaneyam’, which had a huge cast of dancers and musicians. 

Read more in the site

Friday 1 December 2017

Anita says...December 2017

"Everything comes to us that belongs to us, if we create the capacity to receive it."
- Rabindranath Tagore

And just like that we come to the end of another year Eleven months of whirling around the globe, sharing, teaching, learning, watching, discussing, applauding and DANCING.
It is this month when thousands of artistes and art groupies descend upon my city to soak in the month long festival of performances. This is the time for dancers to glisten, glimmer and glide through crowds like a shimmering scythe - cutting through audiences who will gape, stare, admire and covet our very special aura that we will exude.

Sitting in the ancestral home in my native village - deep in southern Tamilnadu - I look back on the year that was... another year... but not like just another... it has been a time when the #METOO campaign has resulted in a literal purge of the US entertainment industry and in India we are also coming to grips with our deep rooted prejudice and fear of male privilege in the arts and society. We are witnessing a hyper-nationalism and any whisper of dissent or argument is being construed as unpatriotic.
The arts are under attack more than ever.
Remember the killing of theatre activist Sardar Hasmi on the streets of New Delhi... Recall the mutilation of guitarist Victor Jarra in Chile by dictator Pinochet...
What happened in November? Plenty... So let's begin to wrap my head and my galloping fingers across the keyboard.

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - December 2017

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Housing tradition and innovation - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

In the closing years of the last century, one almost despaired of finding the eastern region artistes in the empanelled lists of ICCR. This was not so much for lack of guidance from gurus or absence of talents as such, as for want of performance space where the youthful skills in music, dance and all other arts could be honed for their full flowering. Even theatre suffered from the same handicap, which appears to be considerably redressed in the new century. One of the glittering facilities that played a significant role in this opening up is that of ICCR itself, making available nearly 3,500 sq. m. of brand-new space in downtown area for Kolkata's cultural efflorescence exactly a decade ago. Initially designed by the redoubtable Charles Correa, the four-storey, glass-empanelled, architectural marvel - with a complex of multiple art galleries, court spaces, green rooms, seminar rooms, projection room, library, café and, above all, a 375-seat auditorium with superb acoustics and décor, has successfully emerged today as a location and a platform for exchange of cultural insights, of sharing of artistic and aesthetic views, and as a venue for the meeting of minds from across the country and overseas, even accommodating an active organ on indigenous arts and crafts of Bengal. 

ICCR's own Horizon Series for budding artistes has gathered vigorous force, as exemplified by the recent Kathak performance of Sucharita Dutta. Groomed in Bharatanatyam by Thankamani Kutty and Kalamandalam Venkitt, and then in Jaipur Gharana of Kathak by Amita Dutt and Susmita Mitra, Sucharita is a gold-medalist from Rabindra-Bharati University, having done doctoral research in the manifestation of Kathak in Rajput and Pahadi miniature paintings. Having accompanied Pt. Birju Maharaj and Saswati Sen in some of their all-India tours as Radha in Gita Govinda, she seemed to be a right choice to be encouraged by ICCR.

Read more in the site

Women to the fore - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

In November, National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai, organized a Festival of Contemporary Dance. Opening the annual event was this year's Sangeet Natak Akademi awarded Dr. Anita Ratnam.

During her succinct and articulate introduction, Anita carved her aesthetic style that embraced the contemporary on the lines of her own journey from being a classical dancer to a contemporary dreamer and a modern woman. While classical forms like Bharatanatyam are limited to certain areas in Mumbai like Chembur, Sion and Matunga, the Mumbai city has the most thriving contemporary dance and theatre scene in the country. As a relentless collaborator and a passionate supporter of new expressions in the live arts, Anita is a very important presence in the landscape of modern Indian arts. 

In an interview published in NCPA's ON STAGE magazine a week before her performance, Anita has been quoted as saying that her personal vocabulary of NEO BHARATAM was a long sought excavation of various movement vocabularies for her maturing body. She said, "I wonder why dancers, when they mature, want to look young. How does one remain relevant in a society that is obsessed with youth and air-brushed beauty? Neo Bharatam hopes to provide one of the answers. It is an exciting time for contemporary dance in India, which is looking at a sunrise moment."

Read more in the site

Sunday 26 November 2017

Tagore, the early women’s libber - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Chitrangada, a major verse-play penned by Tagore in 1892, had the eponymous character and all her cohorts taken from the epic Mahabharata. Its narrative had begun on the note of an abject offer of surrender of the protagonist’s womanhood at the altar of a macho man: to be his companion, charioteer, follower in hunting, his night guard, devotee, servant and subject.

Over four decades later, when Chitrangada was turned by the poet into a dance-drama, he catapulted the image of the Manipuri princess to almost a transcendental level. In the 1936 adaptation, when the world had already seen the rise of the ugly Nazi machismo in the West, Tagore made her utter -- with all the emphasis at her command – the prophetic feminist words: “I am Chitra. I’m no goddess to be worshipped, nor the object of conjugal pity to be brushed aside like a moth with indifference. If you deign to keep me by your side in the trail of danger and daring, if you allow me to share the real duties of your life, you will then know my true worth…” 

Read more in the site

The Ecstasy of Being: Mythology and Dance - Leigh Melander - ANCIENT FUTURES:Thoughts on myth, legend and beyond

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

Our theme at the Joseph Campbell Foundation this month is gratitude. We are celebrating both Campbell's ideas and works, and all of the people around the world who have brought their own particular genius to the ongoing relevance and understanding of mythology.

As you may know, Campbell spent almost fifty years married to one of the pre-eminent dancers of the 20th Century, Jean Erdman. Together, they created the Theater of the Open Eye, a home for dance and theater pieces that celebrated the intersections of myth and the performing arts.

Read more in the site

Roses and Thorns - Rani Padmavati

Devdutt Pattanaik enters Padmavati debate, calls its 'valorisation of woman burning herself for macho clan' 

A woman tears into Devdutt Pattanaik for his shameful commentary about Rani Padmini
- Sanghamitra Purohit, November 19, 2017

Devdutt Pattanaik ji, 
Let me begin by admitting I haven’t read the great many books that you have written. So I will refrain from commenting on them. I have, however read your tweets and the recent ones about Rani Padmini of Chittorgarh have compelled me to write this letter to you.

Read more in the site

Friday 24 November 2017

Delhi diary - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The dance component of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s 9th consecutive Sangeet Samaroh (Nov 6 – 8, 2017) predictably sponsored traditional fare. Bharatanatyam by Priyadarsini Govind had the blend of extreme lavanyam and sensitive abhinaya which, over the years, one has come to expect as the hallmark of this dancer. Starting with a Gambheera Nattai opening attached with a homage to Muruga in Shanmukhapriya, the dancer went on to the centrepiece of the varnam in Ragamalika set to rupaka talam, the composition a vintage piece from the time honoured repertoire. “Sami  nine  kori  naanu  raa,” the nayika declares her overwhelming love (prema  meera) for the Tanjaipuri vaasa. But after the statements set to Todi, Shankarabharanam, Athana, in the Kalyani part, there is a sudden change of tone and mood as the besotted devotee drowned in love, becomes the confident swadheenapatika and addresses the Lord that he will not find another like her. Persuasive in her subtle mood changes, the yearning of the nayika who looks longingly at the divinity on top of the hill, looking from where she is, so unapproachable changing to the feelings of a woman so sure of her love in the latter half was well brought out. The nritta links, even while Priya’s rhythmic exuberance has a quieter expression now, retains the correctness in movement profiling.

Read more in the site

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!

Read more in the site

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. 

Read more in the site

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. 

Read more in the site

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. 

Read more in the site

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)…

Read more in the site

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.

Read more in the site

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. 

Read the article in the site

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. 

Read the article in the site

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. 

Read more in the site

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.

Read more in the site

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…” 

Read more in the site

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.

Read more in the site

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. 

Read more in the site

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. 

Read more in the site

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.

Read more in the site