Monday 30 January 2017

Awards and Rewards - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan

Dear dancers, this is in a lighter vein (sorry this sounds like some comedians who perform on American TV to a live audience...they have to laugh or applaud when a light with the message flashes), so you can laugh or smile, whatever...
Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, the great musician, was a family friend and so I used to interact with him now and then. His humour was sharp.  Once at an awards committee meeting he said, “Does this carry any cash or gold medal? If it is just a piece of paper why not give out more?” Whenever anyone approached him to accept any honour he would jocularly ask: "Panam ethanum  unda?" (Any money included?) His humour also showed that he did not take awards so seriously. But he always tried to see that people who had contributed silently were recognized. 

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Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column - Health Recipes 9: Mango Kerabu - Uma Pushpanathan

Sunday 29 January 2017

Mothers by Daughters & Others - Blessed to be the daughter of Jayalakshmi - Urmila Sathyanarayanan

It may sound like a clich├ęd statement, but I am a narthaki chiefly because of my mother. I was taken to class when I was three! I cannot recall my first few classes, but dance classes are a part of my early childhood memories. To me dance class and Church Park convent go hand in hand.

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Festivals round up - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

During the season with so many performances taking place simultaneously, one often has to choose out of the multiple performances, few which one would like to see and forego others. I have selected a few in this review of Festival Round up.

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Friday 27 January 2017

The return of the native - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Thomas Hardy remains the most enduring novelist writing stories based mostly on pastoral England. His Far From the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d’Urbervilles remain compulsory school readings for students of English literature. Mimi Partha Sarthy’s return to the stage was no less meaningful. A hiatus of 14 years is like Ram's vanvas and Mimi left the stage for family reasons. Nay, she was forced on stage because of her persistent mother who saw her potential then and now.
Seeing her return to stage performance was like a mini wedding event, full of assorted socialites and stars of dance in Bangalore. The night of Jan 16th (Ayn Rand, another classic), Mimi chose that day to be back in reckoning. Her daughter Hamsini did the intros and then her guru Padmini Ravi conducted the show by walking on stage casually and regaling the audiences with her dead pan delivery.  She is the eternal aunt of dance, having taught many in Malleswaram area. (What Mylapore is to Madras, Malleswaram and Basavanagudi - hence Mal-gudi - are to Bangalore). Padmini "aunty" can count two generations of dancers as students to her credit  because she started teaching very young as the "neighborhood dance class aunt." That she has class and is not crass (like new teachers calling themselves NATIONAL when they are notional) shows solid work has no substitute or competition. Corporate honchos Kiran Mazumdar, Sunil Alagh, (Padmini did state corporate Bangalore does precious little for dance culture) super bureaucrat and patron Chiranjiv Singh, educationist Vimala Rangachar and many local dancers like Sridevi Unni, Lakshmi Gopalaswami, Subashini Vasanth were in attendance, filling the Chowdiah hall to the brim.  

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Monday 23 January 2017

Tiptoe into my parlour - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

In this day and age, with the onslaught of artificial intelligence, when the humanoid robot is being considered for ‘de facto’ as well as  ‘de juro’ recognition as an ‘electronic person’, how  anachronistic would it seem to have the entire LGBT community to be derided and detested for their third-gender orientation and legally recognized only as non-persons? It would appear that way back in 1860, the British – as part of their colonizing effort -- introduced a standardised Indian Penal Code which replaced, among other things, a tolerant Indian attitude to sexuality with a highly moralistic and hostile Judaic-Christian one. Section 377 of the IPC was the legacy of an archaic law against “unnatural” offences and stated: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life…”

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Saturday 21 January 2017

Vempati’s Margazhi Utsav at Kuchipudi Art Academy, Chennai - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

In the overcrowded festivals in Chennai during the season, one new Margazhi dance festival has been added by Kuchipudi Art Academy for 7 days at the Academy premises. Conceived and curated by Venkat Vempati, elder son of Vempati Chinna Sathyam, it aims at providing platform for the young dancers. One welcomes it for this very reason as young dancers need a platform to showcase their talent.
The festival was dedicated to late Chief Minister Jayalalitha. It was inaugurated by Keshav Prasad, traditional Kuchipudi exponent from Kuchipudi village and Mr. Natarajan, local MLA. With assistance from Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, the festival from 25th till 31st December 2016 featured on the opening night Vempati’s granddaughter Vempati Lakshmi Kameswari, Jayapriya Vikraman and Sahana Rao in Kuchipudi.

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Thursday 19 January 2017

Obit/Tribute - Ranjana Jhaveri: Loss to Manipuri dance - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Manipuri exponent Ranjana Jhaveri, 87, disciple of Guru Bipin Singh, passed away on 17th January 2017 at Mumbai after a protected illness. Ranjana was the second elder sister of the four well known Manipuri exponents, the Jhaveri Sisters. The senior most was late Nayana Jhaveri.
The four sisters Nayana, Ranjana, Suvarna and Darshana were trained by Guru Bipin Singh in  Mumbai from early forties. The four formed a group by 1950 and started performing in Mumbai. They were closely associated with Bharatiya Vdya Bhavan and Indian National Theatre (INT) in Mumbai. Their father Navnitlal Jhaveri was a very progressive person and encouraged his  daughters to learn dance. The early forties were not very conducive and in favour of young educated girls to take to dancing. Dancing was still looked down upon as an art form. But the entire family was a great admirer of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and his love for the arts.

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Wednesday 18 January 2017

Changing faces of Kathak Kendra - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The well-known tenets of Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s apex body of the performing arts, overview “the vast (tangible and) intangible heritage of our diverse cultural expressions in music, dance and drama”.  Over time, SNA has been promoting  the practice, growth and awareness of various art forms and led to the setting up of such constituent units as Jawaharlal Nehru Manipuri Dance Akademi, Kathak Kendra, Sattriya Kendra and Rabindra Rangashala; and such centres as Kutiyattam Kendra, Chhau Centre and North-East Centre. Arguably, all the other southern classical forms as Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and Kuchipudi, and the eastern Odissi have so far been left to fend for themselves.

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Tuesday 17 January 2017

5th International Kuchipudi Dance Convention - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

With the division of Andhra Pradesh in Telangana State and new Andhra Pradesh state, the Kuchipudi village now belongs to Andhra Pradesh with its new capital Amaravathi.  In order to celebrate the formation of new Andhra Pradesh State under its Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Anand Kuchibhotla, Founder /Chairman of Silicon Andhra from USA, organized in collaboration with Dept of Language and Culture, Govt of Andhra Pradesh, the  5th International Kuchipudi Dance Convention at Vijayawada at specially constructed venue next to Indira Gandhi Stadium from 23rd to 25th December 2016.

Known for his flawless organizing capacities, Anand Kuchibhotla with Silicon Andhra volunteers and various local Vijayawada authorities, in collaboration with Govt of Andhra Pradesh, gathered more than 6000 Kuchipudi dancers who arrived from abroad and within India to participate in the three day festival, showcasing a staggering variety of Kuchipudi dance drama tradition at the spacious Golden Hall which Kuchibhotla managed to create for presentation of dance dramas and group performances, including lec-dems and lectures, culminating into Mahabrindra Natyam for Guinness World Records.

Large screens were placed on either side of the stage on which the proceedings were screened so that the large crowds could watch the various activities and also performances. The site was dazzling with Dashavatara figures on either side of Lord Shiva’s statue in the centre. And a moving camera was handled by the technicians projecting close ups as well as various scenes of dance dramas. The camera moved unobtrusively making it convenient for large gathering to watch the proceedings.

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Sunday 15 January 2017

Article - Education in Spiritual Values through Bharatanatyam - Part XV - Spirituality: Eternal aspect in Bharatanatyam - Chandra Anand

Art works are concrete symbols of human abstractions from life. Therefore, “the process of creating art is a process of making the universe knowable by bringing it within the range of man's consciousness, by establishing its relationship to man. In regard to human art, man has to be the measure, since he has to bring all things into the realm of the humanly knowable. By a selective recreation, art isolates and integrates those aspects of reality which represent man's fundamental view of himself and existence. For this, the methods which he has to employ require the most rigorous aesthetic precision, the most rigorous compliance with objective rules and facts -- if the end product is to be art.” [1]. Then, it becomes a criterion that all concepts in art are related to humans and their experiences, within reason that, although, all humans have different experiences in varying degrees of intensity with regard to their relationships with other people, the basic emotions of love and affection remain the same in all civilizations, whether ancient or modern.

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Saturday 14 January 2017

Interface of Sthiti Gati polarities - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Being anchored in core principles, while changing unconsciously or deliberately, moving through the corridor of time, has been the history of Bharatanatyam – as of many other traditional disciplines. Built round the theme Sthiti Gati, the 36th Natya Kala Conference mounted by Yagnaraman Centre for Performing Arts and Sri Krishna Gana Sabha brought out these complementing polarities of the Constant and the Changing. Amidst a host of high profile dancers who have conducted this event,   this year’s Srinidhi Chidambaran earned a hearty vote of approval for her meticulously planned calendar of events each day, (worked out with Aalaap as creative collaborator) giving equal opportunity for all shades of expression, her own neatly worked out introductions for artists /events to the point, flattering without gush. Politely firm on adherence to time specifications, she maintained an underplayed presence without hogging performance space or thrusting her opinions on anyone - her greatest achievement being in painstakingly contacting persons running dance institutions through volunteers, ensuring a near full auditorium every day, with several young minds instead of the handful of middle aged and senior faithfuls in attendance every day.

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Thursday 12 January 2017

5th Margazhi Dance Festival at Navi Mumbai - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

It was an eye opener for me to attend the 5th Margazhi Dance Festival that spanned 3 different days at Vashi, New Mumbai, held by G.V. Ramani Foundation’s Takshashila Dance Academy and Kalpavruksha Dance Academy. Though I am a Mumbaikar, having moved away from there in 1980 to Kolkata and then to New Delhi, my connections with Mumbai are strong. When I visit Mumbai, it gives me an opportunity to see how in last 30 years classical dance scene has developed. In particular, the development of forms like Bharatanatyam in greater Mumbai has been quite impressive. Besides the pioneers like late Kuppaiah Pillai and his sons Guru Mahalingam, Kalyanasundaram and son-in-law Govindraj Pillai and their Rajarajeswari Bharatanatya Kala Mandir, others like gurus Kalasadan Mani, G. V. Ramani and Rajee Narayan have also contributed to popularise Bharatanatyam . Mumbai has extended to Navi Mumbai with these two principal institutions, running academies for dance and holding annual Margazhi festivals. 

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Monday 9 January 2017

Malavika Sarukkai: Sharing the larger vision - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

In an exchange with Malavika Sarukkai in the space her dance studio opens out to, with the delightful bougainvillea at the side, its pink blossoms lending a fine touch of colour, I ask her about the latest ‘acharya’ award bestowed on her by the Music Academy, which comes at a time when she is on the verge of reaching the landmark of fifty years of dancing and 45 years of performing, on the 6th of March. She plans to be in Chidambaram before the Lord to offer her samarpanam.
How does the title of Acharya fit in?
I think it means in the sense of overall contribution to the art form - your legacy and what you have achieved in so many years in the field. 

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Saturday 7 January 2017

Article - A Winter's Tale: Margazhi Moments (A literary take on the Margazhi season)- Hema Iyer Ramani

(This was first published in Sruti in 2014)
Most dance productions (solo/group) seem to have a Shakespearean context. While most dancers would have us believe that their productions are nothing short of ‘A mid- summer night's dream,’ more often than not, they turn out to be ‘Much ado about nothing’ at least in content!

Critics often face the melodramatic “Et tu, Brute?” when artistes do not get to read what they wish to see.

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Friday 6 January 2017

Of Earth, Earthy... - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Manjushri Chaki Sircar, the ace scholar-choreographer-dancer from India and the USA, had always her feet firmly rooted to the ground. Born to dance and already dazzling the arts scene from her Presidency College days of the early 1950’s, she chose anthropology for her scholastic pursuit in Kolkata and New York, but dance remained in her genes. While researching on Lai Haraoba rites practiced in pre-Vaishnavite Manipur, she was struck by the myths of earth’s creation prevalent among its priests: the Maitis and Maibis, and began formalizing her dance language, Navanritya (new dance), for exploring a new body dynamic. Thoroughly down-to-earth, Navanritya became an organic synthesis of several traditional Indian dance forms: an amalgamation of classical moves (Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Manipuri, Odissi), semi-classical forms (Mayurbhanj Chhau, Kandyan dance of Sri Lanka), folk forms and martial arts (Thang-ta, Kalaripayattu), blending them with earthy rituals, yoga and daily life gestures.
In a sense, Manjushri (and later her highly gifted dancer-daughter, Ranjabati) sought to apply ancient tools to express modern day tensions. Under their dual inspiration, Navanritya evolved as a training method which helped dancers to de-construct traditional movements so that they could be used in a new context and still continue to draw on representational abhinaya as a pointer to motivation. With its roots in a variety of forms, mentioned above, and in textual traditions, Navanritya gained its ground as well as grammar.

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Wednesday 4 January 2017

The 36th Natya Kala Conference: Part 2 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

4th Day
The session opened with V.A.K. Ranga Rao dispelling wrong impression given when he had asked Padma Subrahmanyam to show Karana Valitoru. He said that he did not compare it to cabaret, but such an impression was created because of the hip movement. He reiterated that the text sung for dance must have correct wordings.

The session between Nandini Ramani and Swamimalai SK Suresh was illuminating for young generation of dancers. Nandini described how she had received training from the legendary Balasaraswati. She and her gurus Kandappa Pillia and his son K Ganesh held the tradition very high. Fidelity was the key word. The dancer had to stick to one guru, one bani. There were no questions allowed. One had to follow what the guru taught. By osmosis one learnt a lot. The music, the movement, the adavus, the abhinaya with reference to Balasaraswati was exceptional. Bala later on went abroad to teach. But within India it was just remembering whatever she taught. There was no specific methodology.  So vast and rich was her repertoire and music that dancers who studied under her feel blessed that they had glimpse of her greatness. Nandini maintained when young dancers asked if they could learn from other gurus, she told them that she also believed in fidelity to one guru and one bani.

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Tuesday 3 January 2017

The 36th Natya Kala Conference: Part 1 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

The 36th Natya Kala Conference in Chennai was inaugurated on 26th December 2016 at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha by Vyjayanthimala. The convener of the conference for current and next year is Dr. Srinidhi Chidambaram. She received the Nritya Choodamani award in 2000. She had performed at KGS when she was 11 and her association with Krishna Gana Sabha has been for more than 30 years. She shares her views about the theme of the conference Sthiti Gati - Bharatanatyam: constant, continuous. Sthiti implies a sense of stability, rootedness and being constant. Gati symbolises movement and progress. Bharatanatyam is ancient yet modern. Archaic, yet alive. Traditional, yet an art form of today.

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Sunday 1 January 2017

Anita says...January 2017

Welcome to 2017... the Chinese year of the Red Fire Rooster
As we said farewell to a turbulent and chaotic year across the globe, my home city reeled under a series of obituaries...

Our charismatic Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, a classical dancer and film superstar. Gone too soon at age 68.  

Political satirist, theatre director and outspoken humourist Cho Ramaswamy.

Over 100,000 trees, 10,000 animals and over 25,000 hectares of agricultural land were devastated by #CYCLONE VARDAH that hurtled through at 120 km per hour on December 12.

With traffic choking the clogged roads littered by fallen trunks and branches, our artistes were busy rehearsing time honoured themes of Gods lifting mountains and saving damsels in distress! Except there was no Krishna to sweep our filthy roads! And no connectivity to send or share selfies!

Some musicians even performed on the morning of the Chief Minister's passing even as a 3 day official mourning was announced!

December was, however, a month filled with many events beyond performance and beyond the borders of Chennai - several to which I was a participant or an eager attendee.

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Roving Eye - January 2017