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.

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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