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.

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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."

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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…” 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Lights On - Magical experience to be on stage - Aalaap

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

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

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Sunday 19 November 2017

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

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

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

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Saturday 18 November 2017

Branding - TRENDING by Ashish Mohan Khokar

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

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Thursday 16 November 2017

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

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

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Saturday 11 November 2017

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

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

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

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Friday 10 November 2017

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

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

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

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Wednesday 8 November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday 7 November 2017

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

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

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