Sunday, 24 June 2018

Roses and Thorns - Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards 2017: Is the process mechanized? - Bhavanvitha Venkat


Sangeet Natak Akademi awards announced and congratulatory messages pouring in the social media is now the order of the day. During this time of the year it has also become essential to critically analyze the results. No doubt there are many complaints, some justified though. It has become a practice to ignore one classical dance art form, set more as an authoritarian assertion about prerogative of the body. There is no base for this. 

This time they did not consider Mohiniattam... "What's wrong with our dance?" exclaimed a Mohini! Is there logic? Yes, there is the mechanics of it coming to the fore. Previous year they omitted Odissi, remember?? The new phenomenon though is about self-promoting lobbies this year. The good thing about the lobbies is that they clearly put the selection committee to alert and the not so good thing is that their main objective is their very own benefit. Often you sense this informal and tacit understanding that they are ok with balance of mutual interests! 

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Saturday, 23 June 2018

Obit/Tribute - Guru Thokchom Brindashabi Devi (1934-2018) - Sinam Basu Singh

Manipuri dancer and singer, Guru Thokchom Brindashabi Devi, daughter of (late) Th. Thaobi Singh and (late) Th. Atolshija Devi , born on 31st March 1934 at Thangmeiband Hijam Dewan Leikai, Imphal, passed away on June 10, 2018. 

At the age of 4 she started to learn Manipuri Opera (Gouranggalila, Sansenba, Udukhol etc.) from various gurus of Manipur.

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Friday, 22 June 2018

Ravaged land, scarred psyche - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

KI-TA-RE-BA presented on 6 June in Kolkata by Sapphire Creations, was a tribute to the rich cultural mosaic of Sylhet in a filigree of dance, theatre, music and narrative. The title of the program came from Sylhet's customary term of addressing each other to mean 'How do you do?', especially for the youth, and had a strange resonance with 'Kitareba' that is used in distant Japan endearingly to mean: 'to arrive, to be forthcoming, to come'! The occasion was the launch of 'Subijoya Dance Foundation' in remembrance of the late parents - both belonging to Sylhet - - of Sapphire's director Sudarshan Chakravorty, who also conceived and choreographed the present program.

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Thursday, 21 June 2018

Measuring the SPIC MACAY experience - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

How does one measure what Spic Macay has achieved by way of actually opening up young minds to the richness of India's art disciplines? Over the years having watched how youngsters respond to the annual International convention (the sixth this year) gives some idea into how successful or otherwise the efforts of this movement have been. This year's Convention venue at the IIT Kharagpur (June 3 - 9) was special in more senses than one. If the keen interest taken by the Director and his staff in this entire effort was unusual, it was also because of the very significant past connections when the father of Dr. Kiran Seth, the founder of this movement, taught at Kharagpur with little Kiran roaming and playing on the historic grounds of this institution located at the Hijli Detention Camp where those taking part in the non-cooperation movement against the British Raj had been detained - because no prison could accommodate them, with two unarmed detainees also being shot by the British police in 1931. Closed down in 1937 but reopened in 1940, it was in 1942 that the camp was closed down for good, with the IIT township established in 1951 over its 2100 acres. Organised with an undreamed of efficiency, the entire week's events were like a fairy tale. 

Apart from the main performances with over 300 artists giving off their best, for me the real involvement lay in the other events built round these main performances, through workshops, intensives, and the packed schedule with youngsters being woken up in the wee hours of 3.30pm every day. 

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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Article - Indian spirituality in Western modern dancing - Pallavi Verma

India is a land of ancient wisdom and spirituality. While the west is a golden gate to technology and prosperity, today, Yoga in the west is all over the place just like their fast food. It has 20 million practitioners in the U.S alone. The number of high profile people involved in yoga, their adapted trendy gypsy dresses, popular henna tattoos, the display on a magazine or album covers, the culture has taken a fancy to Indian spirituality and fashion, the hot pursuit of a body beautiful. This cross-culture fertilization between two cultures has been like a long distance affair, caught in their blush of infatuation. Yoga has thus been led to its watershed version. We can see some of the catalyst events in the past.

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Sunday, 17 June 2018

Portrait of a tortured artist - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Taray Taray presented on May 29 by Swapna Sandhani – on their 26th anniversary – was a wonderfully vivid filigree of the Van Gogh saga encapsulated at multiple levels. At one level, it is young Ritwik (essayed very well by Riddhi Sen) suffering from hallucinations that he is the torch-bearer of the past legacy of Van Gogh. Lovingly looked after by wife Sharmila (Surangama), he is undergoing treatment by a psychiatrist Ruksana (donned most competently by Reshmi Sen).  In recapitulating Holland and France as the artistic milieus of the 19th century, Van Gogh is seen as the suffering, struggling painter – remarkably brought alive by the brooding acting style of the thespian Anjan Dutta – with whom Ritwik’s life is entwined as his younger brother, Theo, who has a love-hate relationship with sibling Vincent, while supporting him financially all through his years of gnawing penury. 

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Monday, 11 June 2018

Interview - Aditi Mangaldas on 10 x 10 - Shveta Arora

Kathak exponent and guru Aditi Mangaldas recently had younger dancers of her Drishtikon Repertory Company, present short thematic pieces as part of a production called Ten By Ten. Aditi Mangaldas elaborates on how a theme becomes several different concepts and pieces and how it all goes from idea to staging.

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Saturday, 9 June 2018

Fantasy: The Ominous and the Hilarious - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The proscenium stage in the eastern metropolis saw recently two significant forays into the worlds of hallucination: the one of a perilous all-encompassing autocracy and the other a boisterous rock-and-roll comedy, enveloped by a darling ghost who recites sonorously from Kalidasa's Meghadootam at eleven o'clock every night! 

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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Why Kumudini Lakhia’s Kathak stands out for its presentation - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

When Kumudini returned from London after performing with Ram Gopal and settled in Ahmedabad after her marriage with musician Rajani Lakhia, she was already an internationally renowned dancer. Her exposure to world dances, ballets, costumes, lighting and showmanship helped her a lot to improve the presentation aspects of Kathak.

She received scholarship from Govt. of India to study Kathak under Lucknow Gharana maestro Shambhu Maharaj in Delhi in late 50s. She had studied Kathak under Radhelal Mishra of Jaipur gharana and dancer Ashique Hussain Khan. However, with her innate sense of aesthetics she was not happy with the way Kathak was presented in those years. She was aware that the art she was learning was from the traditional gurus who were supported by a feudal system. And that is the first thing she planned to do away with, to free Kathak from feudal system. During the Mughal rule Kathak in courts was presented to please the rulers and the salutations were de rigour, to the ruling Nawabs.  

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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Unexpected Odissi bonuses - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Considerable time has passed since one saw Jyoti Srivastava in a full- fledged solo Odissi performance, which is why her recital devoted purely to abhinaya, at SNA’s Meghdoot III theatre for an event featuring one senior and one junior dancer, was pleasantly surprising! Always known for her abhinaya, her centre-piece of interpretation of the eight nayikas, all strung to Oriya lyrics, was a welcome change from the routine recitals.  After the Mangalacharan with Krishna Stuti, came the Ashta-nayikas, the lyrics comprising music by Ramhari Das with rhythmic punctuations conceived by Dhaneswar Swain. The sensitively conceived dance composition was by Guru Durgacharan Ranbir. In the typical Debaprasad Das approach to Odissi, the dance was bereft of an overdose of elaborations or sancharis. But the less embroidered version, when performed with intensity, was very persuasive..... 

Seeing the glossy printed pamphlet on Swapna Rani Sinha, one wondered how a dancer who is mentioned as having achieved so much is not even known in Delhi. This disciple of Durga Charan Ranbir, sitting in Odisha’s Angul, the district headquarters, has been running a school Nrutya Nilaya, apart from organising a festival Satkosia Mahotsav at Angul, since the last six years.  But what emerged as a major surprise were the slim, well turned out, proficient dancers of her group performing at Habitat’s Stein auditorium. Swapna Rani’s own choreography of the Shiva Shatakshara Stotram set to raga Madhyamadi by  composer/singer Ramhari Das with rhythmic inputs by Guru Dhaneswar Swain in  Ata and Jati talas , saw a well coordinated group perform. In the Durgacharan Ranbir  fashion, movement is punctuated by powerful frozen moments (interpreting ideas like Shiva with the snake garlanding his neck - vasuki  kantha  bhooshanam -  or the blue throated Neelakantha lord) designed for the entire group with the well balanced dancers very still, heralding each of the syllables Na Ma Shi Va Ya ....

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Monday, 4 June 2018

Book Review - Indian Dance under Gender Radar - Dr. Utpal K Banerjee

The Moving Space: Women in Dance
Ed. By Urmimala Sarkar Munsi & Aishika Chakraborty
Primus Books, Delhi, 2018
ISBN: 978-93-86552-50-1, Rs. 1395

As the book introduces itself, it highlights the idea of the 'space' created, occupied and negotiated by women in Indian dance. It initiates a dialogue between dance scholarship and women's studies, and brings together scholars from a multidisciplinary background, emphasizing the cardinal point that research and practice have roots in both these areas. The book takes dance as a critical starting point, and endeavours to create an inclusive discourse around the female dancer and the historic, gendered and contested 'spaces' that accommodate, or are created by her. 

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Friday, 1 June 2018

Anita says...June 2018

"We should consider a day lost in which we don’t dance at least once."
- Friedrich Nietzsche (Philosopher)

May is a month of heat, holidays and hiatus.

It used to be that dancers would take a break from the searing heat to rest, recoup and reflect.
No longer. 
Too many dancers - too many platforms - too little money. The conundrum continues…

With such low expectations, dancers are content to zip their mouths and accept performance opportunities without any remuneration - in India.

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Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - June 2018

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Festivals of Debadhara Sansthan and Dhwani - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Debadhara Sansthan of Delhi presented under Guru Shishya Sanman, senior dancers and their disciples at Habitat on 12th and 13th May, featuring on first day Aloka Kanungo and her two disciples Suvra Maity and Paulomi Chakraborty in Odissi, Guru Jayarama Rao and his disciples T.Reddi Lakshmi, Aditi Gupta and Abhirami Ajith in Kuchipudi and Saswati Sen and her disciples Elisha Deep Garg and Sunny Shishodiya in Kathak.....

Vaswati Mishra is a disciple of Pandit Birju Maharaj. Wife of Krishna Mohan, son of legendary Pandit Shambhu Maharaj, she has been active on the Kathak scene in the capital for more than 40 years. Younger sister of Saswati Sen, she represents Lucknow gharana. Vaswati’s Kathak exudes the khubsoorati, the beauty and nazakat, the delicacy of the gharana. Besides being a solo dancer, she is known for her choreographic works.  Her role of Sita in Birju Maharaj’s Katha Raghunath Ki is still remembered by her admirers. As a director of Dhwani, she has created several choreographic works, collaborating with outstanding musicians including sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Noteworthy compositions include works of Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachhchan. Rare rhythms in collaboration with Shivamani, Selva Ganesh and Taufique Qureshi, son of Allarakha Khan, are the feathers in her cap. A dance choreographic work Pinocchio penned by Gulzar and set to music by Zakir Hussain is another major work. Recently she worked with Parvathy Baul for a work titled Raha. She established Pandit Shambhu Maharaj Kathak Academy in memory of her father-in law in 1999 and has been imparting training to several students. She also has a special knack of choreographing group works for children.....

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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Dancing on rivers - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Dance built round rivers and also numbers has claimed audience attention lately in the performance scene in the capital. River as a theme, down the ages has inspired poets, writers, painters, musicians and even philosophers. The rivers of India have nurtured cultures, while their unpredictability has also caused destruction from time to time. A dance enthusiast, Churchill Pandian’s latest favourite concept is what he calls Connecting Rivers Through Dance. If rivers flowing through areas causing endless political friction today could so easily be made to change track through dance to foster unity, life would indeed be easy! Ganga to Kaveri presented at Habitat Centre’s Stein auditorium, was however based more on myth with research work by Chitra Madhavan and Praveen Rao of Bengaluru providing the music. The producer’s earlier efforts with this theme, featuring individual groups representing different dance forms working out their own music, had met with patchy results. So he now came to the capital armed with the music. The theme with the top names of Delhi dancers associated with the presentation certainly drew a large audience – many enthusiastic hopeful viewers having to be turned away thanks to the packed Stein auditorium. The performer groups, only worked at the choreography - though one would have thought that the days of dancing to ‘Churchill’s tunes’ as it was humorously  said, were well and truly  over!

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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Masks marking obscurantism - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Chhau dance that originated in the Purulia district in West Bengal and drew inspiration from martial arts and combative training has been used, down the corridors of time, as a means to portray mythical battle stories to the audience, which is why elaborate masks and headgear associated with fights and war are worn during the performance. Listed on UNESCO's world heritage list of dances, Purulia Chhau -- apart from being influenced by military movements -- was also influenced by a combination of regional dances. Their costumes were influenced to the extent of using more interesting clothes or fabrics to create the ensemble as well as using elaborate masks that were extremely creative. As their faces are covered by masks, dancers per force emote through body language.

Taser Desh (Kingdom of Cards) performed by Creative Dance Workshop on May 13 in Kolkata, provided a brilliant idea to use the creative idiom of Purulia Chhau to visualise the dance drama penned by Rabindranath Tagore in 1933 and dedicated to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

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Sunday, 20 May 2018

Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company's 10X10 bound by a single conceptual thread - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

'Have courage to dance your own dance, be informed by the immense history and geography of this great style Kathak but do not get bogged down by it,' said Aditi Mangaldas, the Kathak diva to her repertory dancers, musicians, and disciples of Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company. 'Conceptualize, choreograph and dance a production by yourselves.' All members of her company are individuals in their own right, who have continued their association with the type of training and philosophy of the company. Thus was born 10x10 which was presented in Delhi at Little Theatre Group on 10th May keeping in view the number 10, and ask the question: 'What do the numbers say to you?' 

They must have brainstormed, discussed, argued, practiced while conceptualizing short pieces as was evident when the number from One started materializing before the packed house. 

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Saturday, 19 May 2018

Article - Navarasa Sadhana: A system of acting methodology for actors and dancers - G. Venu ">

The Navarasa-s or the Nine Rasa-s are the greatest contribution to the Indian theatre from our rich tradition. The reality that the accomplished enactment of various characters and dramatic moments on the stage can submerge the viewers in aesthetical experience has been meticulously studied and analysed by our ancient Indian aestheticians. And they realised that this experience of beauty or aesthetic experience is created only when witnessing or experiencing a creative work of art. This realisation had led them to conduct exhaustive and micro-level analyses into the vast area of this subject. Navarasa sadhana is the systematic and daily practice of the Nine Rasa-s by the actors, with the aim of strengthening their capacities for producing this aesthetical experience in the viewers.....

For three years, I conducted enquiries and studies based on 'Netra and Hasta' (eye and hand). I contacted all the living masters of Kerala, visiting some of them in their residences. Some of the masters came to Natanakairali to participate in the workshop. Many classes by the masters were held throughout these three years. Sessions by the maestros of Kathakali, Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair, Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair, and Kavungal Chathunni Paniker were held. Kathakali artistes Sadanam Krishnankutty and V. P. Ramakrishnan Nair also held classes. Sessions in Kutiyattam led by Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar, Kidangoor Rama Chakyar and Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar, by Lakshmana Peruvannan on the 'Kannezhuthu' (painting of the eye) of Theyyam were held. Classes were also held at Tantra Vidya Peethom led by Brahmasree K. P. C. Narayana Bhattathiri. Acharya Gireesh Kumar's introduction to Sreevidya, the month-long practical classes by Lakshmanan Gurukkal on the Dasa Mudra-s of Sreevidya, classes by Swami Hari Om Ananda on 'Netra and Mudra in Yoga Vidya' and the session on the protection of eyes in Ayurveda by Swami Radhakrishna Chaithanya were all part of this three-year-long quest.

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Friday, 18 May 2018

Original way of looking at group Bharatanatyam - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It was an original way of looking at Bharatanatyam, with Bengaluru's Vyuti Dance Company at the Shri Ram Centre presenting the Delhi premiere of Sakhi, a group production which sought to be, and was, different from the usual Bharatanatyam recital. As a disciple of Leela Samson, Vyuti's founder Aranyani Bhargav's Bharatanatyam commitment has been unquestionable. While strongly affirming her loyalty to the dance form and its margam repertoire, she would seem to find its format, given its stylised entirety, too minutely structured for individual experimentation. Considering the almost insurmountably daunting challenges of trying to be original and standing out, within the solo presentational canvas, Aranyani and a group of Bharatanatyam dancers have got together to explore fresh ideas for presenting group expressions. In the process, they have harnessed two devices which strictly speaking, are outside the time honoured Bharatanatyam technique –one is the physical touch and contact, with two or even three dancers with arms linked performing as one unit. The single dancer's body even in interaction with more dancers on stage avoids physical contact in Bharatanatyam. Yet another device resorted to of lifts and elevations in the air saw a dancer being lofted off the floor. Negotiating between the group and solo, multiple and the singular, Sakhi contradictorily it would seem, aims at being different while not deviating from the prescribed Bharatanatyam technique. 

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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Zohra Segal Arts Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

The concept of the existential philosophy, 'I am therefore you are,' took shape in form of Nayaka Pratinayaka by Aruna Mohanty in Odissi dance to the libretto written by Odiya poet/critic Kedar Mishra. When I first saw it in Bangalore, it made an impression on me. The memories were revived again when Aruna Mohanty presented it during Zohra Segal Arts Festival at IIC in New Delhi. 

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Masquerade of grandiose dreams - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Miguel de Cervantes, belonging to the 16-17th century, was considered as the greatest litterateur of the Spanish language and one of the world's pre-eminent novelists. His masterpiece Don Quixote has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Bible and is considered as the first modern novel, a classic of Western literature and among the best works of fiction ever written. The story follows the adventures of a noble man who reads so many chivalrous romances that he loses his sanity and decides to set out to revive chivalry, undo wrongs, and bring justice to the world, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. He recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire, who often employs a unique, earthy wit in dealing with Don Quixote's rhetorical orations on antiquated knighthood. Don Quixote does not see the world for what it is and prefers to imagine that he is living out a knightly story. Man of La Mancha, a 1964 musical by Dale Wasserman was inspired by Cervantes and his 17th century masterpiece Don Quixote and tells the same story of the "mad" knight Don Quixote as a "play within a play" performed by Cervantes and his fellow prisoners as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition.

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Thursday, 10 May 2018

Obit/Tribute - Rani Karnaa - Dr. Sunil Kothari

When I was working on my book on Kathak for Abhinav Publications for exponents section, I had to gather information about the contemporary dancers. Keeping track of dancers by attending their performances and writing reviews I was aware of leading dancers. Contemporary of Maya Rao, Uma Sharma, Urmila Nagar, Kumudini Lakhia, Rashmi Vajpeyi, Shovana Narayan, Durgalal, Geetanjali Lal and others, Rani Karnaa's was an important name. In post independence era, Delhi had become a major centre for Kathak dance. Gurus like Narayan Prasad, Sunder Prasad of Jaipur gharana were training young dancers who were shining stars of Kathak.

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Is classical dance changing guard? - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

UNESCO has a healthy habit of reserving 24 hours for everything in the field of performing arts, so it is perhaps no surprise that there is an annual World Dance Day on April 29. It has been earmarked as a celebration for anyone who attaches "value and importance" to dance, and "acts as a wake-up call for governments, politicians and institutions which have not yet recognized its value". While this sounds just a little bit overboard, one would be surprised at how many places still frown upon, or outright ban, the act of dancing. Even in the open society of the USA, strict Southern Baptists do not dance, and this led to the famous work of Chicago teen Ren McCormack, who overcame the community through the medium of dance in a hard-hitting 1984 documentary, Footloose.

Nearer home, Kolkata has the "creative" dancers of the metropolis using the prime location of Rabindra Sadan to offer kudos to the World Dance Day and render their presentations. But surprisingly, as ruefully observed by Somnath Kutty (who directs the venerable Kalamandalam Kolkata for past 50 years), "The Rabindra Sadan celebrations normally exclude the classical dancers, so much so, that the latter tend to forsake their classical genres and present make-shift 'creative' forms at that venue!" 

World Dance Day presented on April 29 in Kolkata by Kalamandalam, comprised refreshingly just eleven classical dance groups, for a change. While noticing their performance, this critic also asked what the young classical dance choreographers looked forward to on this World Dance Day in terms of their rich heritage of given strengths: rigorous techniques, preponderantly mythological themes and traditional treatments. Did they contemplate changes - of any kind by way of "a wake-up call" - or did they seek to stick to their accustomed forte?

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Natya Vriksha celebrates World Dance Day - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Geeta Chandran and her institution Natya Vriksha celebrated World Dance Day on 28th and 29th April in collaboration with India International Center in their main auditorium in New Delhi. This was the 13th edition of their curating Young Dancers Festival, Dance Workshops, illustrated lectures and honouring persons with Lifetime Achievement Award. On both the days there was a record full house audience presence. In the morning at IIC’s Multipurpose hall on ground floor at Kamaladevi block, we saw active participation by more than 60 young dancers from 10am till 1pm, taking workshops from Delhi based theatre director Anuradha Kapur and Odissi exponent Sharmila Biswas from Kolkata.

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Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Nimitta: Shila Mehta explores new theme in Kathak - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Shila Mehta, director of Nupur Zankar Kathak institute in Mumbai was trained in Kathak by Prahlad Das, father of Chitresh Das. She also studied under Chitresh Das and later on under Vijay Shankar, disciple of Birju Maharaj, for a number of years.For some time she also attended Kumudini Lakhia’s workshops. She moved to Mumbai 20 years ago and established her Kathak institute at Kandivali suburb in Mumbai. Today there are more than 100 students learning Kathak at her institute.

When Shila’s husband moved to Princeton, New Jersey, she opened a branch of Nupur Zankar there, dividing time between USA and India. She also regularly visits Belgium and has opened a branch there at Ghent, visiting it to train Belgian dancers interested in Kathak. ICCR sends students from abroad wanting to learn Kathak to Nupur Zankar.

Shila consulted the celebrated Kathakali and Mohiniattam exponent Dr Kanak Rele in Mumbai for suggestions on mythological story of Shikhandi from Mahabharata to present in Kathak. Kanak Rele has choreographed it in Mohiniattam and her disciple Sunanda Nair has successfully presented it in Mumbai and abroad. Kanak Rele has also performed it earlier. The issue of third gender has drawn attention in recent years. The third gender community has suffered a lot and has been treated in a despicable manner by society. But of late, this community has come into its own and has asserted its rights. It is accepted that soul is above gender and therefore they need not be despised. So far such a theme has not been attempted in Kathak. 

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Monday, 7 May 2018

Dancing for oneself - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Lately there have been festivals held at the ICCR premises in Delhi, which have made one ponder on a few points. Ultimately to have the kind of mindset where one dances for one's own joy, no matter who is watching or not watching the effort, is great. But when a festival is planned and one sees half a dozen persons seated in the hall, one is left wondering as to who benefits from an enterprise of this nature. 

'Nritya Dhara' mounted by Sanskriti Bhuvaneswar, and publicised under the category India International Dance Festival, when I entered the auditorium at 6.30pm had just about half a dozen persons watching. Looking at the purposeful performance of Mayurbhanj Chhau dancers Alexandra and her partner (whose name was not clear) well trained disciples of Janmejoy Saibabu, presenting an Arjun/Krishna dialogue in complete costume regalia, I at first thought it was a dress rehearsal before the truth dawned on me that this was the festival in progress! Sitting through the evening one witnessed formalities of a special certificate of participation awarded to each performer by a chief guest (!) and all the courtesies were observed meticulously. But one was at a loss for so much being done ultimately for so little. Was this kind of an event which was mounted with a lot of effort with many talented dancers performing, really worth it in terms of getting hitherto unknown dancers into the radar of the Delhi circuit to be noticed by culture czars? Excepting for the venue's ICCR association, it is so far outside the usual complex of performance centres, that it is well nigh impossible to attract even modest audiences for events planned here. 

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Sunday, 6 May 2018

Interview - Kathak dancer Shivani Varma on the concept of a production - Shveta Arora

Shivani Varma has a slim and petite frame, and her big smile tells you she is an affable person. She performed at the India Habitat Centre, Delhi, on the 6th of March in a thematic production called ‘Champaran Se Bapu,’ her own choreography in Kathak. Shivani, a lawyer by profession, has learnt Kathak from Uma Sharma’s academy and is a disciple of Shovana Narayan. She has performed in several solo and group presentations to critical acclaim.

I recently started this exercise of listening to people who are working with the dancer and supporting her in the formation of her production. I’m calling this the Building Blocks series of interviews, in which artists explain how they contribute to constructing a production. The first thing that comes to mind is the concept of any production. Who develops the concept, gives it the conceptual framework? Who puts in that squiggly worm, or keeda, in the dancer’s head to not just do a traditional piece, but make a production? Is the pure margam or pure dance piece not as enthralling to the audience? I think it is equally gripping. But a thematic performance is more captivating since it makes you relate to the performance as a person, and more so if it does not stray from its classical form. And of course, the dancer is always uncertain in such cases about the success of the production and the process of relating to the audience. 

So this is a conversation with Shivani, a young dancer, about a production she conceptualized herself.

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Friday, 4 May 2018

Roses and Thorns - Is anybody concerned? - Ileana Citaristi

It does not happen so frequently to leave a hall in a disturbed state of mind during a performance and when it happens a strong reason must exist. It happened to me few days ago, but before describing the circumstances, let me introduce the matter. 

We are quite accustomed nowadays to see the makings and re-makings of dance items which, originally created for solo dancing, are being split into groups, duets, diagonal formations, alternate rendering, fused with other pieces and what not. I am not sure if this happens in other dance styles as well but in Odissi it seems to be the heaven for aspiring choreographers. Take one solo item, break it up, change it a little here and there according to whatever you remember or whatever you need and present it as group choreography. There is still a little bit of reserve in announcing the credits (original choreographer may be given credit in spite of all the distortions or alterations) but that’s all. It seems everything is admissible and permitted.

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Thursday, 3 May 2018

NCPA's signature Mudra Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Come April and NCPA mounts its signature Mudra Dance Festival inviting leading dancers to explore various aspects of classical dance forms. This year the festival embraced the interconnectedness between mind, body and soul through the spirit of classical dance. The dancers interpreted in a variety of ways, seeking to explore how the unique cultural contexts of Indian classical dance were formed, and how they come together for a purpose. The lineup of performers raised high expectations. And it must be said to the credit of the dancers that they put their best feet forward offering to rasikas an elevating experience. 

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Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Anita says...May 2018

Practice like you have never won
Perform like you have never lost

April arrived and departed in a blaze of dance events. Even with the mercury touching 45 degrees in some parts of India, hundreds of dancers were marking WORLD DANCE DAY- April 29th - with endless performances and dance-centric events. 

Certainly, this day could not have been dreamed up by anyone in Asia!

For this performer, just rehearsing daily became difficult in my semi open air studio, with face and limbs soaked in perspiration even as early at 7.30am!

Still, the experience of recollecting and reviving 3 early dance compositions of my guru Adyar K Lakshman and the original creative team of musicians Madurai Sethuraman, Madurai N Krishnan and genius percussionist Trichur Ramanathan, was a sweet ride down memory lane - albeit slippery with sweat!

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Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - May 2018

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Article - Messages on International Dance Day - Pallavi Verma

International Women's Day, World Health Day, World Poetry Day, International Earth Day and many more... Why do we celebrate these International Days? They mark an important aspect of human life and history. They highlight issues crucial to humanity thus promoting and mobilizing action at international, national and local level. Dance is an art concerned with human values. It may be used for decoration, entertainment, emotional release or technical display but primarily it is an expression. 

This era of dance is a reflection of dancers’ relation to the outside world, a reality illuminated by imagination. It is organic rather than synthetic. UNESCO, in the year 1982, recognized 29th April as International Dance Day enabling the dance community to promote their work on broad scale and to make people aware of the value of dance in all its forms. Each year, ITI (International Theatre Institute) circulates a message from an outstanding choreographer or dancer from across the world. Here are few of the message snippets from the past years and work of the great artists from different parts of the world who have left a benchmark and are sharing the joy of dancing with everyone.

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Friday, 27 April 2018

Evoking a feel of the Sadir dancer's joi de vivre - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Sandhya Raman's Art Studio has been a venue for some out- of- the way evenings of dance. Now with one end of the L shaped hall given a neatly erected wooden stage just a foot above the floor level with the audience seated on modhas in front, the performer has his/her space defined, with the intimate ambience preserved. And marking Tamil New Year's day, was a most entertaining evening of Stories that take a form devised and performed by scholar /performer Swarnamalya Ganesh from Chennai, who with years of research into the cultural, sociological, political history of what we call Bharatanatyam today, has worked at trying to reconstruct the old avatars of the dance - this evening's concern being with its manifestation as Sadir performed by the devadasis - the period dealt with being roughly from early 1700 till about 1920. In the then Madras Presidency, the dance had a very visible presence. The old diaries, records and gazetteers contain plenty of scattered bits of information and culling the details to be able to get out of it sufficient material to construct a dance edifice, is the unstinting work of Swarnamalya who acknowledges generously the help of other researchers of history, Tamil literature etc in this effort.

The memories from the past began right from the introduction to each item, the dancer's histrionics bringing alive the British dorai and the plantation owner, the Dubhash or any character featured in the interaction. The story begins with The Luz House of Moddaverappa Venkatasami Naidu, where several kutcheris were held - a famous place visited by renowned musicians like Sonti Venkataramana and even Tyagaraja. 

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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Nrutya Rangoli dance festival and seminar - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Academy of Music, Bangalore, under its aegis invited Veena Murthy Vijay to curate and conduct the annual dance festival for three days along with two morning sessions for dance seminar at Chowdaiah  Memorial Hall (April 13, 14 and 15). Titled as Nrutya Rangoli, Veena Murthy planned an inclusive dance festival which was from the word go a success.

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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Death and Resurrection - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Punoruthhan presented by Sayak on March 28 in Kolkata, was based on the novel penned by Amar Mitra, which brought out the hard realities down the decades of unchallenged exploitation running rampant in what are known as Khadans (illegal spots of mining coal), owned and operated by coal mafias. Dramatized superbly by Chandan Sen and directed by the thespian Meghnad Bhattacharya, the play opened most imaginatively on a dimly illumined cyclorama where the scantily clad indigenous people are seen underground, lifting up costly coal and suddenly an ear wrenching accident takes place, causing explosions and deaths - - never to be acknowledged - inside those dangerously unsafe pits. ....

When Nirmal Verma (1923-2005), the flag-bearer of Nayi Kahaani movement in Hindi literature, pioneered his brand of brooding novels, stories, essays and travelogues, his penmanship was constantly seeking out the people who got left behind, having been first lured by the magnetic narratives of the city. Recipient of Jnanpith Award, Padma Bhushan and the Sahitya Akademi accolade, Verma developed a trenchant style, which used rich, realistic description as a mirror of the inner life. This was largely due to a very productive period of his literary life spent in the 1960s at the Oriental Institute in Prague, where he undertook direct translations of contemporary Czech writers, such as Milan Kundera, Bohumil Hrabal and Václav Havel into Hindi, much before their work became popular internationally. ....

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Conversations with God - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Vaibhav Arekar's Naama Mhaane transported the audience to Pandharpur

Performing at Delhi's Habitat Centre on the first evening of the two-day Madhavi Festival in memory of Madhavi Gopalakrishnan, mother of Bharatanatyam exponent Rama Vaidyanathan, Vaibhav Arekar and his Sankhya Ensemble transported the audience to Pandharpur in Naama Mhaane. The percussion by Krishnamurty with the playing of cymbals created magic and with chanting of Jay Jay Ramakrishna Hari by the dancers one felt that one was at the holy place of Pandharpur in Maharashtra. Being born in Mumbai and brought up there with Maharashtrian neighbors, one was steeped into abhangas of Tukaram, Janabai, Sant Namdev and others, as much as being a Vaishnava one was steeped into Haveli Sangeet and Brajbhasha songs.

Rani Khanam attempts a rich amalgamation of Sufi/Bhakti poetry 

After an interval of three years, I watched vastly gifted Kathak exponent Rani Khanam, disciple of Reba Vidyarthi and Birju Maharaj, in a highly aesthetic presentation, at Delhi's Habitat Centre on 10th April. She transported the audience to the realm of abstract philosophical, Sufi and bhakti verses in an effortless manner using Kathak, revealing another dimension of Kathak which explores the Islamic aspect / concepts which merge so easily with not only bhakti but also universal truths.

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Monday, 16 April 2018

Interview - Jonathan Hollander: Dance allows people to forget they have been traumatized - Shveta Arora

Earlier this year, renowned American contemporary dancer Jonathan Hollander was in Delhi to present his production Shakti: A Return to the Source. Before the performance, he spoke to a small audience at the studio of his long-time collaborator, costume designer Sandhya Raman. Hollander's Battery Dance Company has performed all over the world and also held workshops with troubled participants in several countries. He has a special relationship with India, though, having been a Fulbright scholar to the country and also spent a lot of time here. He has facilitated US tours by many of India's leading dance companies and co-founded the Indo-American Arts Council in 2000, according to his website.

Responding to the questions of an audience made up of classical dance practitioners and enthusiasts at Sandhya Raman's Atelier, Hollander spoke about his production, the importance of dance in handling the fissures in the world today, and how difficult it is to make dance work professionally.

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Saturday, 14 April 2018

Folk Art embodying eternal spirit - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Mrudanga (literally meaning "clay limb") in Odisha -- not to be confused with  mridangam of Carnatic performing arts -- is a terracotta two-sided drum familiar all over northern and eastern India. An essential accompaniment for devotional music and dance, it is also known as khol in West Bengal, Assam and Manipur. Prevalent from antiquity, it has specially haloed association with Shri Chaitanya in Bengal and Saint Sankaradeva of Assam since the bhakti movement of the 16-17th century.  

Murchhana was presented on April 6 by Odissi dancer Sharmila Biswas with her well trained co-dancers in a very well attended ticketed show in Kolkata. The fascinating idea came to her -- in episodic form -- narrated by the mrudanga players when she was conducting research on the rural percussion instruments of Odisha. During the annual mrudanga making season, the mythic tales were repeatedly told to her through verses and songs (carefully culled and reworked) as part of mrudanga purification ritual and carried forward as an oral tradition. Said Sharmila, “The folk artists  believe that whenever a man plays the mrudanga with his whole being immersed in his art, murchhana, the spirit, enters and possesses the mrudanga, stirring the person from within. It transforms him, and his art elevates to a spiritual level. It brings supreme bliss.” 

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Thursday, 12 April 2018

Article - Celebration of Chaitra Parv Chhau Festival - Pallavi Verma


Folk dances are about more than dancing. It’s human’s natural urge to rituals, a direct expression of innermost spirit. The beauty of folk dances lies in its intervention with the lives of people. Each movement they perform is familiar and joyful. They are associated with the performance of daily tasks or activities like sowing, harvesting, hunting and the passage of season gives them a devotional theme. Chaitra Parv is one such season when people of Orissa worship Lord Shiva with utmost enthusiasm by performing Mayurbhanj Chhau dance. The Chaitra Parv Chhau Festival is celebrated on 13th or 14th April for consecutive three days. Understanding Mayurbhanj Chhau’s cultural and historical background on this eve will let us appreciate the strength of our traditions. 

Chhau is derived from the word ‘Chhauni’ meaning a military camp where the dance evolved from martial art. Some believe that this folk dance was performed to entertain the Oriya warriors inside the camps and has spread gradually. Others believe that the word Chhau is originated from such words as ‘Chhabi’ (picturesque), ‘Chhai’ or ‘Chhatak’ (clowning) and ‘Chhaya’ (shadow or phantom). Mayurbhanj Chhau is one of the principal folk dance forms of eastern India performed by the people vastly spread in contiguous areas of Mayurbhanj (Orissa).

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

I was visiting Bhopal after three or four years. Last time I visited was to participate in a seminar on Ratan Thiyam's plays. Six of his plays were staged back to back, with one day gap for a seminar. I have been associated with Ratan Thiyam for more than 30 years and have seen his plays within India and abroad and am a great admirer of his works. During that brief visit, I had missed visiting Gurukul of Gundecha Brothers and also the Tribal Museum. Anita Ratnam had specially asked me not to miss it. Therefore the visits to Gundecha Bandhu's Dhrupad Gurukul and Tribal Museum were on my list....

The Tribal Museum in Bhopal is very thoughtfully planned and the entire campus is theme based right from its entrance. Every art work has some meaning to it which is beautifully depicted but difficult to decipher without basic knowledge of the tribes. Therefore the best way to understand was to ask for a copy of their colorful brochure which describes meaning of all the major artifacts. We met Shri Ashok Mishra, who very kindly gave us the brochure in Hindi. We also got in English, brief introduction about the museum that helped us to follow the six galleries....

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Monday, 9 April 2018

Devadasi's legacy to the saint poet's glory - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It is almost ironical that dancers today celebrate the glory of Nagarathnamma, who from the thirties to 1947 (she died in 1952) led a dogged fight against the anti-devadasi movement, which deprived an entire community of its centuries old artistic credentials. Not knowing what to expect of Nagarathnamma- Pancharatna Pancharasam Natya conceived and choreographed by Kanaka Sudhakar of Sunaina, premiered at Delhi's Tamil Sangam auditorium, one must admit to being very pleasantly surprised at the laudable effort. Featuring Kanaka Sudhakar with her disciples, the production testified to great pains taken to capture the period details with backdrops of the Mysore court, the typical turbans worn at the time, sarees draped in the Karnataka style, with suitable jewellery etc. One very heartening feature was the uniformly well trained dancers. 

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