Sunday 24 December 2017

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

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

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Thursday 21 December 2017

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

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

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

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

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Sunday 17 December 2017

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

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

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

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Friday 15 December 2017

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

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

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Thursday 14 December 2017

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

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

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

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Wednesday 13 December 2017

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

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

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

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Monday 11 December 2017

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

Singapore Diary

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

Kuala Lumpur Dairy

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

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Saturday 9 December 2017

Article - Ascending the ladder of bliss - Payal Ramchandani

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

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

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Friday 8 December 2017

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 7 December 2017

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

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

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

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Tuesday 5 December 2017

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

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

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

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Monday 4 December 2017

Mega Hanuman - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan

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

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

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Friday 1 December 2017

Anita says...December 2017

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

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

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

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - December 2017