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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Monday, 11 September 2017

Obit/Tribute - Mala Gaur (Nov 4, 1952 - Sept 8, 2017)- Ashish Mohan Khokar

Mala Gaur and students
Photo courtesy: Ambika Paniker 

Goa's prime ballet and Orissi talent and teacher passed away on 8th Sept 2017 of cancer. Mala Gaur was born on Nov 4, 1952 in Kolkata into a family that was linked to Bengali theatre and films. Moving to Delhi as a child, she was exposed to various arts - Bengali theater, dance and music - one of her older sisters being Aloka Paniker, who is the well known Orissi dancer and teacher

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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

8th edition of Nrityantar's Naman Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Madhulita Mohapatra, a disciple of Aruna Mohanty, has done her guru proud. When Madhulita planned to settle down in Bangalore, Aruna lent her all assistance and support. Within a period of eight years with untiring zeal, hard work and passion Madhulita has been teaching Odissi to several young spirants and school children. Over the years she has evolved her technique of teaching children with such affection and care that they perform with confidence. Two six year old girls Shrinika and Angeleena Avnee have under her training displayed great promise as child prodigies. 

Every year in August, Madhulita's institution Nrityantar holds a two day festival Naman, showcasing the progress made by her over 200 students from six branches across Bangalore. They include senior dancers who are part of her choreographic works. She invites established Odissi dancers from Bhubaneswar to the festival with a view that not only her students but also the Bangaloreans get an opportunity to witness senior dancers. This year was an artistic coup on Madhulita's part to invite three celebrated dancers in solo performances on the second day - Sharmila Biswas from Kolkata, Aruna Mohanty from Bhubaneswar and Surupa Sen of Nrityagram from Bangalore. Therefore there was a buzz about their participation when their names were announced. And they gave their best to the Bangalore audience with their creative works.

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Monday, 4 September 2017

A pedigree ensemble's classical filigree - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

If Chennai city has the distinguished sabha tradition of holding dance and music soirees throughout the holy month of Margazhi each year, the metropolis of Kolkata has grown and sustained a six-decade-old tradition of annual whole-night music concerts, terminating with the glorious Republic Day sunrise. What began in 1952 with sundry music lovers getting together to enjoy January evening's touch of cold with crystal clear classical melodies, soon gathered momentum with Narendra Singh Singhi's offer of his palatial residence precincts at Singhi Park on Dover Lane as the earmarked venue. Before long, the enthusiastic listeners made it four consecutive whole night functions every January with overwhelming demand for tickets, laced the ragas with classical dance cadenza as per audience request and shifted the location to the more commodious Nazrul Mancha. The rest, as they say, is history.

A Festival of Indian Classical Dance presented by the Dover Lane Music Conference and the Dover Lane Music Academy - both still functioning from the haloed original precincts - is now a separate and more manageable 3-day offering of four dance styles daily, barring three forms on the last evening in order to close with a celebrity dancer, allotted unlimited time. While last year the final dancer was the youthful Kathak prodigy Vishal Krishna from Banaras, this year it was Sujata Mohapatra, whose dance style was honed over 18 long years by the legendary guru Kelucharan Mohapatra after Orissa's temple friezes of engraved danseuses.

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Sunday, 3 September 2017

Ratikant Mohapatra: Good art will always triumph - Lalitha Venkat

September 3 is the founding day of Srjan. As Srjan gears up to conduct the 23rd edition of the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival from September 5 to 9, 2016 at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar, its director Guru Ratikant Mohapatra shares his thoughts as an organizer and choreographer. 

In a place that has dance programs and festivals through the year, what do you think makes GKMA Festival special / stand out from the rest?
The popularity of our festival can be gauged by the near riot conditions outside the hall among those who do not have invitation cards. Over the years the audience has had a taste of the meticulous preparations made for every minute of this five day festival. The audience keeps coming back, in overflowing numbers, because they have experienced the “perfectionist” attitude of our organization.

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Friday, 1 September 2017

Anita says...September 2017

"We are our choices.
Build yourself a great story."
- Jeff Bezos, Founder of AMAZON 

"I am the me I choose to be."
- Actor Sidney Poitier 

The month of August brought 31 days of nonstop activity for my home town. Officially founded 379 years ago, the MADRAS WEEK celebrations have expanded to fill the entire month! Alongside India's 70th Independence Day celebrations, August turned out to be overflowing with social and cultural activity.

Read on...

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - September 2017...

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

In praise of Guru Bipin Singh - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Manipuri Nartanalaya celebrated the birth centenary of Guru Bipin Singh with Kathokchaba on August 23 and 25, 2017 in Kolkata. On the occasion of his 100th birthday celebrations, we pay tribute to the great visionary. 

Soon after the All India Dance seminar in April 1958 at Vigyan Bhavan, convened by Sangeet Natak Akademi, where I had seen Guru Bipin Singh's presentation of Manipuri dances with the Jhaveri sisters, establishing it as a classical dance form, I got an opportunity to visit Manipur with a research team of Devi Lal Samar's Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur.

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Sublime Kathak by Divya Goswami - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Treated to so many run of the mill variety of Kathak recitals, the sheer elegance and understated beauty of Divya Goswami Dikshit’s Kathak recital at the Stein auditorium, Delhi, came as a heart warming experience. Under the tutelage of Guru Munna Shukla of the Lucknow Gharana for the last few years, the evolved maturity of Divya’s dance became obvious right from the start with the  Meera Bai Pad wherein the protagonist expresses her total absorption with Banke Bihari deity of Brindavan. Not a redundant move or eye glance marred the dancer’s complete concentration in paying homage to the Lord. That the musical accompaniment with Shakeel Ahmed (tabla), Amrita Mazumdar (vocal), Ghanashyam Sisodia (sitar), Kiran Kumar (flute), with Padhant by Jyotsna Banerjee had the sur-filled melody with all the classical virtues, added to the performance.

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Monday, 28 August 2017

Dancers as organizers - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Dancers are being innovative in trying to create all kinds of performing platforms for their art. Patronage systems are such that today there are more dancers than platforms available. Look at Balasaraswati’s time or 20 years later still, in Yamini Krishnamurthy’s era. In each form, there were a handful of dancers only. Say 5 in Bala amma’s or Shambhu Maharaj’s times; 10 in Yamini’s or Uma Sharma’s; 20 in Valli’s and now 200!  Every bio-data boasts of awards, rewards, tours and titles. It seems it has never been so good for the dance and dancers. India is dancing! 

And celebrating special occasions are dancers: Jigyasa Giri of Chennai takes her Kathak to Delhi, to perform for a cause while Ranjana Gauhar of Delhi brings artistes from all over India to showcase in her Saare Jahan Se Acha festival. A Kalari initiative next to Adishakti in Pondicherry premieres its work called BHU and to BHU (Benaras Hindu University) comes ace Kathak talent from Mauritius, Dr. Putanjani "Vandana" Purgus, to admit her niece in this famed university. In Baroda, Harish Gangani is all set to retire after decades of serving Baroda MSU Dance Dept., which his father late Guru Pt. Sundarlal Gangani first came to when my father engaged gharana gurus to teach at university level - Tanjorkar for BN and Sundarlal ji for Kathak, Saxena sahib for table… And in Chennai, the season is agog with thematic events.

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Sunday, 27 August 2017

Teacher and taught in Sare Jahan Se Achha - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It was like a cosy club of dance teachers and their disciples at Utsav’s efficiently organised, annual, two- day event  Sare Jahan se Achha (Aug 17 & 18) at Habitat’s  Stein auditorium, Delhi. The time of the old dance Nattuvanar gurus whose sole profession was training aspirants, has, barring rare instances where a few from the old clan still remain, been largely taken over by the innumerable dancer divas who also teach, and are the gurus of today, the occasionally voiced protest from the old guard about teachers usurping the title of gurus notwithstanding. The theme chosen this year for the festival was Guru/Shishya.

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Remembering Protima Gauri (Bedi) - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Protima passed away on 18th August in 1998 in a land slide enroute Mansarovar yatra. She had left Nrityagram in charge of lights designer Lynne Fernandez and her disciples Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy. They arrange an annual event every year in memory of Protima. Some close friends of Protima invariably attend it. 

This year Surupa who choreographs new numbers, could not on account of performances and travels. Therefore it was decided to have brief performances by the students, children and elders some of whom had studied for more than 8 years and some who were learning recently, but had mastered few numbers. 

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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

"An epic spectacle nonpareil - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Each traditional hymn in India, indeed every incantation available, ends with the invocation: Om Shantih, Om Shantih, Om Shantih. Yet Mahabharata, the largest and the most revered epic in India alongside Ramayana, is built upon one unending quest for war and violence, fratricidal battles and relentless bloodbaths that leave virtually no family unscathed. Introspection would show that as many as fourteen principal dramatis personae of this epic had existential crises in their distinguished lives, or had personal crosses to bear all the while, or bore unintended curses on their heads that dogged them down to the end of their sojourn on earth. On a single count by the traditional Sillakeyata Mahabharata of Karnataka, these major characters were: Shakuni, Yudhisthira, Draupadi, Amba/Shikhandi, Abhimanyu, Arjuna, Jarasandha, Dronacharya, Duryodhana, Dussaasana, Karna, Ashwathama, Gandhari and Krishna (deemed God).

Mahabharata, presented (at GD Birla Sabhagar in Kolkata on August 20) by Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust from Delhi, took an especially grand look at the Karnataka musical version of the epic and blended multiple media to bring alive a synoptic panorama on stage that was neatly choreographed all through. Making Karnataka's Togaly Gambiyetta (colourful two-dimensional shadow puppets that use double eyes, a la Pablo Picasso canvases) as its staple, to start with - accompanied by most sonorous singing by the gifted Kannada puppet-artiste Gundu Raju - it soon launched a delightful animation that has seldom accompanied the manual craft and created lines of marching infantry and clutches of flying arrows on the wide screen. There were ubiquitous rod puppets and moppets (human puppets), Kerala's Kalaripayattu and Manipur's Thang Ta, highly ingenious use of Japan's Bunraku (hand-held full-length puppets, operated by two or three puppeteers: clad in black and supposedly invisible) and animated human actors - all moving around with a large dollop of Mayurbhanj Chhau to provide controlled rhythm and aesthetic harmony among characters.

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Sunday, 13 August 2017

Interview - Prateesha Suresh: Responsibility towards my art - Vijay Shanker

The Sattriya dance of Assam has been recognized as one of the eight classical dances of India but many are still unaware of it. Prateesha Suresh is the sole and leading exponent of Sattriya dance in Mumbai. She has also trained in Bharatanatyam at the famous Kalakshetra in Chennai. Prateesha has been consistently promoting Sattriya dance through performances, workshops and seminars in India and abroad.

Read the interview in the site

Friday, 11 August 2017

Farewell to an era - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

When death embraces a colleague with whom you have been on the same orbit of activity for well nigh forty years, there is a sense of emptiness not easy to shake away with the mind reliving incidents from the past. Shanta Serbjeet Singh and I had been dance writers (she had started years earlier than I had) for a few years before we came to know, accidentally, that we shared more than the same profession. It was in the 80s and we were both invited to what was then Calcutta, to cover a rare, dance event mounted by a company. The performance woven round the Gita Govinda was designed as a site specific performance, staged on the impressive steps and verandah of the historic Victoria Memorial, featuring high profile performers led by Pandit Birju Maharaj directing and designing the dance and playing Krishna (some scenes had Kathakali Guru Balakrishnan in the same role) to the Gopis - played by Saswati Sen, Leela Samson, Bharati Shivaji, Preeti Patel and Madhavi Mudgal . At the hotel where we were booked to stay, Shanta and I at the reception desk got busy filling the form with details asked for - one of them, being the date of birth. Looking over the shoulder and seeing Shanta write 11th January 1936, I said, somewhat intrigued, "Shanta they are asking for your date of birth, not mine." And Shanta replied, "That is mine!" That is how we leant that we were born on the same day - a few hours away from each other!

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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Rasa Rangini - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

The first edition of Rasa Rangini was successful in its premier attempt. One would like to suggest that to showcase his own talent, Debasish should present more dance numbers of Deba Prasad bani which is vibrant and enjoyable.

Read the review in the site

Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column - Health Recipes 14: Sweet Potato Soup - Uma Pushpanathan

Serves: 4
Per Serving: 900 kJ 
Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes

View the recipe in the site

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Interview - Aniruddha Knight: Any burden pushes us towards perfection - Shveta Arora

Aniruddha Knight is the grandson of the legendary T Balasaraswati, and besides carrying on the dance legacy of the long family line of artists, also carries on their musical legacy as a singer. Aniruddha, trained by his grandmother and mother, divides his time between the US and India. When he performed in Delhi as part of the World Dance Day celebrations organized by Geeta Chandran’s Natya Vriksha, I interviewed him about his lineage and style. 

Explaining his style and bani, he said, “Particularly in Balamma's style, the eye movements and head movements are limited in the nritta. It is felt that the egregious use of drista-bhedha is uncalled for in the nritta as it takes away from the natural flow of the dance and seriousness / complexity of the choreography. The pauses are also taken between ideas in the manodharma - one, to think about the next improvisation, and two, for starting "with a clean slate" of fresh ideas. That pause brings back (the dancer) to the reality of this world instead of the constant world of imagination and creation. The dancer falling out of character at that moment adds stark contrast within the piece, engaging the audience in the moment of creating dance from sahitya.” 

Aniruddha, articulate and expressive, had some strong views about how people perceived the style he performs. 

Read the interview in the site

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Off the beaten track - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

One offers heartfelt thanks to the rain Gods for their munificence to Delhi and its environs, notwithstanding the water logging on the streets posing bottlenecks with commuting problems - compelling most programmes to start later than scheduled. This is a small obstacle when viewed against the havoc of floods as in the north east and Gujarat, or the totally dry parched earth with drought in the southern cities causing endless water scarcity.

Monsoons would seem to have stirred a new love for dialogues and discussions on art matters, gripping the performance calendar this month with all art institutions busy organising interactions on various themes. The IIC auditorium as the venue for a series of lectures on different subjects attracted a modest, motley and moving gathering of people of different age groups as listeners. Prerana Shrimali, an established Kathak dancer spoke on her perceptions of the dance form she represented. As a Rajasthani living in Jaipur, she was pushed as a child into learning Kathak. Studiously performing her ta thai thai tat footwork as a part of the process of growing up, she had no knowledge that what she was doing was Kathak. 

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Saturday, 5 August 2017

Book Review - Dancing Ganjam - Nita Vidyarthi

Edited by Dr. Dinanath and Soubhagya Pathy
Published by Soubhagya Pathy
Editor, Angaraag, Bhubaneswar
Soft bound and Jacketed
188 Pages
Price: Rs.750

In a world full of data in the internet, there is still a greater temptation to possess the exquisitely illustrated collection 'Dancing Ganjam' edited by Dr. Dinanath Pathy and Soubhagya Pathy, that opens many a forgotten and hitherto unknown artistic wonders of South Odisha. Heavily packed essays on the arts, history, folklore, folk traditions of principally South Odisha, embellished with high grade coloured and black and white photographs and stunning imprints of paintings, the volume brings to life the brilliant past and the vibrant present, appropriately redefining and reinterpreting it, at the same time illuminating a dream - the inviolable future. It documents the emergence of Ganjam Odissi and journeys through the rich cultural heritage of Ganjam, citing reasons for incorporating new dimensions to Odissi. The contributors to the volume, all experts in their respective fields, including the renowned editors, bring to focus the treasure trove, richness and vital facts of this geographical region that have been neglected during accounting the rise of modern Odisha. The late revered Dr. Dinanath Pathy belonged to Ganjam, and his involvement with Ganjam Odissi triggered off the idea of the anthology 'Dancing Ganjam' on the epistemology and semiotics of choreography in collaboration with his son Soubhagya.

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Tribute - When the mentor leaves...- Lada Guruden Singh

She walked into my life 23 years ago as a powerful dance critic at The Hindustan Times. I was a kid and she was one of the most influential voices on the Indian arts scene - having a firm grip over artists, the government, the readers - as one of the brightest minds and aggressive proponents of Indian arts and culture globally. Over the years, she firmly threw her weight behind me ensuring I was noticed by the high and the mighty of the arts world. From being a powerful reviewer, she had become an affectionate caring mentor and listener who took special interest in how my school life and later college was going, what my future plans were and how she could make sure I was on the right track. 

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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Obit/Tribute - Shanta Serbjeet Singh (Jan 11, 1936 - Aug 2, 2017)- Ashish Mohan Khokar

Shanta Serbjeet Singh is no more. She passed away on 2 August 2017. Felled by a mild stroke two years ago, she recovered partially and managed bravely and even ventured out occasionally to attend important functions like the World Dance Day on April 29 organized by the Chandrans, at the IIC, Delhi. They honoured her with a lifetime contribution award and a purse too. As had Anita Ratnam through Abhai last year and attenDance a year earlier. Shanta ji was so cultured her last comments to me when I last had supper with her just 2 weeks ago (15 July) was: "I have not written a THANK YOU note to Abhai or attenDance. Whom do I write to?" 

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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Anita says...August 2017

"Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor."
- Anonymous

We are officially in the second half of the year. The longest day is behind us and looming ahead is the season of festivals and celebration. The sun begins its descent as the calendar is filled with numerous reasons to congregate and enjoy the many facets of this incredible country!

Read on

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - August 2017

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Varsha Ritu draws showers of appreciation - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Varsha Ritu, the annual Monsoon festival mounted by the IIC (July 19 & 20), designed by late cultural activist Manna Srinivasan in 2010, has over the years, judging by the handsome audience response,  evolved into an event on the cultural calendar of the International Centre, that members look forward to. Mainly built round budding young dancers of different dance forms, the one hour performance slots incorporating at least one specially composed thematic item woven round the Monsoon season, have exuded freshness, creating a growing sense of expectancy in the viewers – often captivated while watching less publicised talents.

Providing the curtain raiser, Kathak dancers Leena Malakar Vij and Purnima Roy Chaudhury, disciples of Jaipur gharana specialist Nandini Singh, performed with an infectious sense of joy. The recital held together by the finely controlled mellifluous vocal support of Shoab Hassan with Babar Lateef on the tabla, in the opening invocation Pratham sumeer Sri Ganesh in Desh set to Chautal, (bearing the still un-erased signature of late Pandit Durga Lal)  brought back stirring nostalgic memories for those in the audience who had seen the Kathak master in action. Also from Durga’s repertoire was the finale of Tarana in Bageshwari set to jhaptal. While the two dancers combined well, the more contained dancer was Poornima Roy with a sedately still torso. Leena Malakar, given her involvement and swaying grace of movement, could perhaps control her exaggerated torso genuflexions – to preserve the Kathak angik profile. 

Read the review in the site

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Article - A transformative journey through the Nine Emotions - Shereen Saif

Renowned Kutiyattam exponent, scholar and founder of Natana Kairali, Venu G. elaborates: “The Natyashastra is the greatest work on theatre and stagecraft in the world. This was written when theatre development was at its peak in India. In 6,000 verses what Bharata essentially talks about is how an actor should prepare for stage, fully supported by a practical, living tradition of theatre. With the decline of theatre, quite naturally the application of Navarasa-s got watered down from its full potency to such an extent that today, in some representations it is reduced to the enactment of emotions with mere contortions of the face.” 

Read the article in the site

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Book Review - Contemporary Dance in India - Dr Sunil Kothari

Marg volume 68 # 4, June –September 2017
Edited by Astad Deboo and Ketu H Katrak
Marg Foundation, Mumbai 400001
Price Rs. 350 / $14 (plus postage)

After the publication of New Directions in Indian Dance (Marg vol. 55 No. 2, December 2003 and its reprint in 2005, edited by Dr Sunil Kothari), the major important work on the subject was published by Prof Ketu H Katrak of Irvine University, California: Contemporary Indian Dance, New Creative Choreography in India and the Diaspora (Palgrave Macmilan, UK). It has covered in depth the subject with interviews of major dancers who have been creating contemporary dance within India and Indian Diaspora abroad. Another welcome addition to the writings on Contemporary Dance in India is the critical thinking in: Tilt Pause Shift: Dance Ecologies in India edited by Anita E. Cherian published in November 2016 by the Gati Dance Forum in association with Tulika Books, New Delhi. 

Read the review in the site

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Interview - Dr. Nandkishore Kapote: I want to take Kathak to new heights - Vijay Shanker

One of the senior most Kathak exponents based in Pune, whose enriching contribution spans more than three decades, Dr. Nandkishore Kapote is the disciple of Pandit Birju Maharaj. He has established the Nandkishore Cultural Society and the Sitara Devi Art Museum. He is known for his charismatic performances and as a choreographer for thought provoking and social dance dramas. He has won several prestigious awards and is a senior fellow of the Ministry of Culture. Nandkishore reveals his journey and his aspirations in this candid interview.

What drew you to dance?
I was inclined towards dance since my childhood and I recall my family members telling me that at the age of three I started dancing. I stayed with my grandparents in my childhood; my grandfather who was working as Commissioner in the Revenue Dept got transferred frequently and hence I had to change my school every time he got transferred. We were at Tilaknagar near Shrirampur where my talent was first recognized in the school. I performed for songs "Madhuban mein Radhika nache re...," "Laaga chunri mein daag" which I myself set and performed and this was highly appreciated by my teacher who advised my grandmother to impart dance training to me through a proper guru so that I can perform better.

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Discourse on dance - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Dance discourse is undergoing a slow but steady make over. Wherever one goes, one sees added energy to dance presentations. The commentary has improved greatly. Introductions, punctuality, program notes, contextualization. Dance Discourse. 

Mumbai first: For a city where many felt in this century (2001 onwards) classical dance almost was on its last legs as patronage had declined and most veterans were past performing actively, an over-bearing presence of films and TV - loosely called Bollywood – didn’t help and also dominated. Now there is a sense of revival and survival of the fittest. After the veterans had had their performing careers for 50 years from post-independence to last decade, there was a lull and slowing down of classical dance eco systems. Organizers were few; only some dancers survived and by and large, those waiting in the wings didn’t get a chance. Only 2 or 3 established institutions even produced dance or students.

NCPA has done yeoman service to promotion of dance in the last few years. Their calendar is fulsome. Nalanda does its own in-house talents, a large pool of students and teachers. The generation (in the age group 50 to 60+) that has now come of age professionally are Daksha Mashruwala, Uma Dogra, Uma Rele, Sandhya Purecha, Jhelum Paranjape, Sunanda Nair and Vaibhav Arekar. These are the happening classical dancers of amchi Mumbai today, who are active, visible nationally and committed. All are keeping the flame alive and taking a tradition forward. 

Read on in the site

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Sparkle of Kathak-Gharana or Otherwise - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Indian classical music especially in the north India, with its hoary beginnings, came quickly into a Gharana system in recent times. Venerable gurus, since the last century onwards, established their own preferences in ragas, modes of melodic elaborations and nuances in improvisations. Over next two or three generations, their disciples took their gurus’ styles forward and established what came to be recognized as ‘Gharanas’.

Indian classical dances, comparatively a late starter, did not get time enough to entirely freeze with their gurus for a few generations, though distinctive characteristics emerged. Only Bharatanatyam did evince variations between Pandanallur style and Vazhuvoor style, besides a Kalakshetra style. Odissi developed, for instance mellifluous manifestations associated with guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and tantric overtones with guru Debaprasad Das. Kathakali had its distinct genre of Kerala Kalamandalam, as did Mohiniattam with gurus in Mumbai, Delhi and Kerala. Kuchipudi – moving out of Kuchipudi village -- varied somewhat between Chennai and Hyderabad, if not Delhi. Manipuri from the far-east remained fairly homogeneous in character though gurus from Kolkata and Delhi did occasionally differ from Imphal. Sattriya‘s entry into the scene was much too recent. But -- barring Bharatanatyam to an extent – no other form had anything remotely resembling Gharanas: except perhaps Kathak.

Very briefly, the spectacular entry of Darbari Kathak into the Indian dance scene from Lucknow in the mid-19th century, with its dazzling emphasis on sattvikand angik abhinaya, led by the illustrious Bindadin Maharaj’s family and so many others, became known as Lucknow Gharana, followed at the turn of that century, by bold rhythmic  syllables of kavit, acrobatic spinning and strong powerful footwork of Jaipur Gharana under Sunder Prasad and a galaxy of other gurus. A late amalgam of Kathak dance under Sukhdev Maharaj and Gopikrishna led to Banaras Gharana, while the king and his conclave of gurus at Raigarh brought up Raigarh Gharana. They all are deservedly called Gharanas, although it so happens that the bulk of gurus and trained Kathak dancers –seen performing -- belong to Lucknow Gharana today, with gurus from the other three Gharanas getting unwittingly a short shrift. The legitimate question voiced by many -- especially those from what could pardonably be called “minority segment” – is whether this is entirely fair, or, whether there can be one single Gharana for Kathak.

An all-India survey was undertaken by this humble critic to elicit brief answers from among the country’s cognoscente belonging to the Kathak fraternity – especially from among the legendary masters; from renowned gurus and top dancers; and from some brilliant youngsters. The survey obviously could not be exhaustive in a limited time and the views expressed were from the dance exponents themselves. This critic is immensely grateful to the Kathak celebrities who took their time off and framed their thoughtful replies.

Read the responses received in the site

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Brave effort in Delhi by Bangalore based dancers - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Steadfastly refusing to be dampened by the sapping heat of summer or the Azad Bhavan auditorium of the ICCR as venue - too far from the art hub of the city to attract a large viewer clientele - not to speak of the scant interest from the scattered city students of dance, Bangalore's Abhivyakti Dance Centre with Manasi Pandya Raghunandan as Director of the festival, mounted what was called the National Dance festival in association with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

The first half of the event in the form of a seminar featured senior dancer Geetanjali Lal, Ranjana Gauhar, Bharati Shivaji and Prathibha Prahlad, along with Guru B.K. Shyam Prakash, Founder Director of Sanskruthi Bhavan Keshava College of Music and Dance, Bangalore, Dr. Uma Rele, Principal Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya, Mumbai, and this writer. Cautioning against the craving in dance aspirants for catapulting to stage performances even before gaining proficiency in the art form was Geetanjali Lal's narration of the lambasting she received from her Guru Roshan Kumari for having succumbed as a child student to performing in a event. That learning a dance form entailed much larger effort involving study of other disciplines beyond only body movement and that the process of the learner's inner growth could not be hurried was a point stressed by this writer also in the opening talk. 

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Thursday, 13 July 2017

Gods through syncretic prism - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Odissi Parampara, presented by the petite Muslim dancer Arnaaz Zaman, all of 22 years old, on the occasion of Rathayatra in Kolkata, was a perfect illustration of the deep cultural amity that the likes of Raskhan and Salabega have established and sustained in this country. Beautifully groomed by the Odissi stalwart Kavita Dwibedi, Arnaaz followed the usual margam of Odissi. Beginning her program with a Mangalacharan following the Jagannath Ashtakam, she went over to an elaborate Saveri Pallavi which was well delineated. Switching over to an ashtapadi from Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, she rendered soulfully the song “Sakhi he keshi mathana mudaram…” in raga Pahadi. Although less than a year old on the stage from her Rangapravesh last year, she showed commendable dexterity in depicting child Krishna’s Kaliya Damana, but Govardhan Dharana should have been paid a little more attention. This was followed by yet another ashtapadi “Srita Kamala…” in raga Misra Khamaj. In a short recital, her concluding item was a delightful Moksha in the scintillating raga Bhairavi.

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