Monday 31 December 2018

The French connection - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Shakespeare's 'King Lear' in Kathakali by Annette Leday, which travelled all of last 2 months and toured India through 7 cities - Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Trivandrum and Ranchi - is India's latest French connection. No, not the Rafael deal that makes occasional news but dance from France (it rhymes!), which is number one country for things Indian. Especially cultural. For long, the French are inspired by India as fodder for ballet (La Bayadere in 1800s), Lala Rookh / The Rose of Lahore (1900s) and since the 20th century invasion of France by Uday Shankar from 1930s onwards (whose 8th December birthday went unnoticed by even the dance fraternity, leave alone the nation) that continues by many French continuing to learn Indian art forms, especially classical dance. 

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Saturday 29 December 2018

Nalanda Dance Research Centre's Nartanotsava - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Established in 1966 by dancer, choreographer, researcher and Guru Dr Kanak Rele, Nalanda Dance Research Centre in Mumbai is a major research institution that has set high standards in academia winning national and international reputation.

The two day dance festival of NDRC's Nartanotsava (November 24,25) held at Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya premises, at the auditorium Kanak Sabha, was noteworthy for two major reasons: Dr Kanak Rele wanted to honour not only her own senior disciples and colleagues with Nalanda Kanak Nartana Pursakar, but also to present senior local dancers who have dedicated their lives to dance and who willingly agreed to her mentorship to work and choreograph in their chosen dance form, themes selected by Kanak Rele with guidance on how they can extend the boundaries of the dance forms. Also this was a fortuitous occasion as Kanak Rele was honoured with Kerala Government's Guru Gopinath Nritya Puraskaram for 2018 for her significant contribution to Kathakali and Mohiniattam, and Mumbai based Aditya Vikram Birla Kalashikhar Puraskar 2018.

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Tuesday 25 December 2018

Adoration and Abstraction - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Uday Shankar Nrityotsav organized by the State government’s own culture department, has become now a hardy annual over the years in the eastern metropolis. Bringing in a cross section of the State’s major dance institutions, this perhaps provides the largest forum for the dance bodies to present their latest compositions and be assured of a large number of viewers at Rabindra Sadan, the largest and the best-equipped auditorium of Kolkata.

It would be salutary to quickly recollect that Uday Shankar and Rukmini Devi Arundale – the two icons of Indian dance from the middle of the twentieth century – were both, most coincidentally, gifts to India from the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, whom these luminaries had approached, in own way, early in their career for assimilation in the Western genre and who were successfully and definitively sent back to their vibrant sub-continental roots. How both proceeded to give Indian dance “a local habitation and a name” is now part of the recorded history of Indian performing arts scenario.

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Article - She sees the real shakthi in underprivileged girl child - G Ulaganathan

For the pretty, talented Bharatanatyam dancer Nehha Bhatnagar, the world of dance is not just for making money and achieving fame. She strongly believes that she should share her knowledge with the children who cannot afford to learn any style of Indian classical dance. 

Having learnt Bharatanatyam from a renowned guru like Saroja Vaidyanathan in Delhi, and performing as a solo dancer in many cities, one thing that worried her was the same faces and people who came to witness dance and marked their   presence in the air- conditioned auditoriums in Delhi. She realised that there are hundreds of young girls who cannot even enter these auditoriums but were very talented. They lived in bastis, slums and colonies and their parents were  basically daily wage earners. “They also have a dream in their eyes. But who will give wings to their dreams? I realised that I need to give something back to society and the best way is to teach dance to these underprivileged children,” she says.

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Friday 21 December 2018

10th edition of Parikrama dance festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

On the occasion of renowned Bharatanatyam exponent, choreographer, disciple of Acharya Parvati Kumar and Kitappa Pillai, Pune based Sucheta Bhide Chapekar’s 70th birthday, Kalavardhini institute organized a four day dance festival from 6th till 10th December at Pune. 

Sucheta has carved a special niche for herself in the world of Bharatanatyam. Along with her guru Acharya Parvati Kumar she delved deep into compositions of Maratha rulers of Thanjavur, choreographed by Parvati Kumar and herself and later on with the assistance and guidance of Kitappa Pillai. ‘Korvyanche Sahitya’, the compositions of Shahaji and other rulers, have enhanced the Bharatanatyam repertoire. Maharashtra Sahitya Sanskriti Mandal has published ‘Thanjavur Nritya Prabandha’ pertinent to dance compositions of 18th century Maratha king Sarfoji. Sucheta did further research on compositions of Shahji of 17th century. She has been presenting them since 1970. The most significant seal of approval came from the Music Academy of Madras when Dr. V. Raghavan presented Sucheta in the Music Academy morning sessions before a galaxy of stalwarts and since then Sucheta has been performing it on many platforms within India and abroad.

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Tuesday 18 December 2018

The Theatre of Femininity - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Patriarchy had trumped matriarchy over eons, for all the wrong reasons. Millennia back, when the hunter-gatherers constituted the entire humanity, hunting of large animals and carrying them to the dwellings needed muscle power of the male, who dominated women, confining the latter to home for child rearing. With the emergence of agricultural communities just a few thousand years ago and with assured supply of food, the nomadic travels ceased, leading to enhanced population that, in turn, gave rise to increased pregnancies and consequent child mortality. Women gained precious little, till the arrival of industrial age and now the information age, when, for once, both maternity and muscle have started to matter less and equity has increasingly prevailed among the genders with higher quality of life for all. Or, at least, this seems to be so in the developed societies, but the lack of development still carries the legacy of an overarching patriarchy.

Beginning with the “free” female labor on the domestic front, the consequent ills are well-known and numerous. They extend all theway from female feticide; early marriage of the daughters; newly detected high mortality of nubile mothers; post-marriage dowry death; and widowhood contemptuously exploited; up to the point of women being perpetually treated as “property” by their male “masters”. Down the line, male predatory instinct prevails for the unprotected, harassment for the unwilling and subjugation of the downtrodden from the other gender: unabated and most often swept under the carpet. It was high time the performing arts in India dared pick up the cudgels in all seriousness and this critic finds it heartening that the indigenous drama groups of Bengal are developing a genre that can be given the nascent appellation: The Theatre of Femininity.

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Sunday 16 December 2018

Dance sonnets to the sun god at Konark - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Standing in isolated grandeur is Odisha's Konark temple, a stone paean to the Sun God, its tower despite centuries of sea winds chipping away layers from the glorious surasundaris sculpted on its walls, raising a silent toast to the artistic genius of India's ancient sculptors. Konark is more than just a temple monument. Over the years, its image has become the identity of Odisha. This normally quiet township, beckoning tourists with its temple site and unspoilt beaches, turns into an activity hub during the week long annual dance festival mounted by the Odisha Tourism Department in association with the OTDC and Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi, supported by Utkal University of Culture and the Kelucharan Sangeet Research Centre BBSR. 

The open air theatre, with galleried seating, with a massive stage on two tiers, with the top of the magnificent temple tower as backdrop a short distance away, is perhaps one of the most glorious performance spaces in India for dance groups. 

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Friday 14 December 2018

Kathak Utsav: Showcasing of Kathak in Imphal - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Kathak Kendra, constituent body of Sangeet Natak Akademi, showcased Kathak in Krishna bhakti soaked Manipur on 28th and 29th November at Imphal with a view of interaction between two constituent bodies of SNA- Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy and Kathak Kendra. Indeed it was heartening to see this meeting of the Kathak gurus, exponents, faculty members of these two institutions and watch performances in an intimate setting during the inauguration of the renovated stage at JNMDA. 

The dignitaries, Kamalini Asthana, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee of Kathak Kendra, Prof H. Tombi Singh, Vice Chairperson, JNMDA, speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly and Director of JNMDA, during the inauguration function mentioned that such performances bring artists from different dance traditions and regions closer through their art and serve the purpose of appreciation of its salient features, variety and also unity of culture. Kamalini Asthana also mentioned that whenever the artists of JNMDA visit Kathak Kendra in Delhi and display their Manipuri dances, they evoke a deep feeling of respect for the dance traditions. These exchanges therefore are very important and both the institutions aim to achieve this purpose. 

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Wednesday 12 December 2018

Interview - How a dancer transforms: Streevesham dancer Abdul Khalid - Shveta Arora

I once watched a performance by Ajay Kumar and Sathyanarayana Raju. Here, Ajay Kumar was portraying Satyabhama in the Kuchipudi repertoire, and I can swear that if I had not known that he’s a man, I would have thought he was a tall woman. It was not only his costume, but his entire face makeup, his expressions, his dance that exuded femininity. So makeup for a dancer is very important because it can transform the dancer totally. 

Shringara is, hence, not only classical dance’s favourite rasa, it’s also a very real prelude to the dance performance. The process of donning the traditional dance costume, wearing the many pieces of distinctive jewellery, doing the hair and applying makeup is an integral and intimate ritual that transforms the performer into a nayak or nayika. I recently interviewed well-known makeup artist Brij Mohan Gupta on the nuances of doing makeup for classical dance, and he explained what the stylist/makeup artist focuses on. But for a view from the inside, I also interviewed Abdul Khalid, a Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam dancer in Delhi who does stree vesham, and applies his own makeup for it. This one is about how a dancer transforms with and during their shringara.

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Article - Book extract: The Undoing Dance - Srividya Natarajan

(Excerpted with permission from The Undoing Dance, Srividya Natarajan, Juggernaut Books.) 

We waited for the performance to begin. It was gaspingly hot. The fans were too high up to be much help. The nasal sisters had stopped singing. A microphone was being temperamental. A baby began crying and was taken out, its receding wail broken into hiccups by rough joggling. Behind the backdrop the dancer walked up and down busily, her ankle bells proclaiming her location. On a rug at stage right, the musicians tuned their instruments. The mridangam player tested the pitch of his drum - dhim - dhim - dhim - raising the note infinitesimally with a tap! of his wedge and stone, over the thongs that bound the stretched skin to the wooden barrel. Dhim - dhim - tap - tap. It was a pleasant sound. The Biscuit King splayed his fingers comfortably on his thighs and leaned forward.

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Sunday 9 December 2018

Festival of Kathak duets - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Rag Virag Kala Kendra affiliated to Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal Mumbai and Prayag Sangit Samiti Allahabad was initiated in 2002 by late Sheila Siddhantkar. Since 2010, Kathak dancer Punita Sharma now the General Secretary, has been organising the two-day Duet Festival of Kathak in Delhi. Supported by the Ministry of Culture, the event sponsors young talents along with more experienced artists. 

When two persons share stage space in Kathak, the nritta part poses few problems. The challenge is in the traditional abhinaya segment with the Thumri, conventionally meant for solo depiction, which when presented by a pair of dancers sharing stage space calls for some imaginative designing in presentation aesthetics, with interpretative designing not marring this item's intrinsic identity. 

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Friday 7 December 2018

Dream and iconoclasm - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Mohit Chattopadhyay (1934-2012) was an avant garde dramatist in Bengali language and a poet, with over one hundred plays to his credit. Hailed as a Kimitibadi (one with the motto 'what is it?') playwright, because of the cryptic quality of his language, Mohit was critically admired for many milestone works in the history of Indian political drama produced with acclaim in Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai.

Captain Hurrah presented on October 31 in Kolkata by 'Ichchhemoto' was penned in 1970.....

Apparently imaged after the Middle-Age monasteries in Europe with their cloistered band of priests, Tagore's seminal play Achalayatan (The Static Institution) conjures up a fortress like closed space somewhere around us, with staunchly hierarchical religious luminaries, overseeing a group of well-secluded novices, bent on learning only their decrepit scriptures and strictly observing decades old rites in every walk of life. Tagore spins his allegorical tale in this cooped up atmosphere, where a certain learner has inadvertently opened up a certain window closed ritually for ages and is being administered mind-boggling punishments; a novice is brewing revolt by neglecting to learn his dicta and hobnobbing with the free tribals roaming around outside the closed institution's precincts; and the chief priest has uneasy stirrings in his mind on whether such rigorous formalism has at all been worthwhile. The "erring" chief priest is promptly banished; the overall 'guru' of the sect is heralded to visit after a very long interval and, when he finally arrives, he is seen in a rebellious mood to take down the stagnating citadel -- by leading the tribals to break into it - and freeing the institution of its accumulated bindings. .....

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Tuesday 4 December 2018

Shishira Chhanda Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Noted Odissi dancer Sarita Mishra established her Adyasha Foundation in 2010. Trained from a young age by various gurus and later on by Yudhishthir Nayak and by Bichitrananda Swain, Sarita moved to Bangalore after marriage. She found among Bangalore community, great interest in Odissi dance form. With increasing number of Odiyas settling in Bangalore, Odissi dancers receive support from the Odiya community. To the credit of Bangaloreans they have also shown interest in Odissi dance, despite the predominance and popularity of Bharatanatyam and Kathak. 

Four years ago, Sarita with support from well wishers planned a two day annual Shishira Chhanda dance festival inviting local senior dancers. Sarita also started showcasing her disciples along with the local established dancers and exposed the disciples ranging from tiny tots to senior dancers to other dance forms like Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Kathakali. She also presented her solo numbers which drew attention to her talent as a gifted solo dancer and choreographer. Within a span of four years, she succeeded in earning goodwill of several dancers and institutions for her sincerity, integrity and perseverance.

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Saturday 1 December 2018

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - December 2018

Anita says...December 2018

Creativity is not a will-o-the-wisp muse that visits erratically
Instead, Inspiration is a flower that requires pruning, tending, affection…
- American dance critic Erin Bomboy

I started writing this month’s musings from the calm environs of my ancestral home in the small village of Tirukurungudi, deep into the heart of Tamilnadu. When softened by the clean air, misty mountains and gorgeous architecture, it is easy to smile at the world. And perhaps I too need to smile, after a month of furious accusations, historic bans and the Carnatic music/dance world aflame with sexual accusations and festival cancellations.
I needed to exhale and the NAMBI Temple deep in the heart of Tamilnadu provided the perfect setting. 

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Friday 30 November 2018

Rangayan Festival of Art and Literature 2018 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Many years ago, when I had met Sattriya dancer Sharodi Saikia at Guwhati at Indira PP Bora's residence, I was pleased to learn that her contribution to revival of Sattriya dance was similar to revival of Odissi by Sanjukta Panigrahi. Very few women had taken to learning Sattriya dance, which was practiced by the monks in Sattras. Raseshwar Saikia was the first Adhyapak/Guru who after leaving Kamalabari Sattra and adopting grihasthashram (marriage), took a bold step to give training in Sattriya dances to few young girls - among them were Sharodi Saikia, Indira PP Bora and others. 

Hailing from a distinguished family, Sharodi had been performing and studying Sattriya dance with complete devotion. She had performed in Indonesia when she had gone with the President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. She had good academic career and had been serving in Department of Education. 

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Article - The ballet Bayadere - Temple Dancer - a favourite among ballet-goers since 1877 - Rajika Puri

Ever since its premiere in St Petersburg in 1877, the ballet La Bayadere has fascinated audiences not just in Russia but around the world. The master choreographer, Marius Petipa (whose bicentenary is celebrated this year) himself oversaw three different versions during his lifetime, the last in 1900 when he was 82 years old. This genius, considered the father of 'classical ballet', not only created over 50 of them but his versions of many classics, like the ballet Giselle that he revived, are regarded as definitive. Some of the most popular ballets seen today from Sydney to San Francisco: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, are associated with him and one of his most enduring creations is La Bayadere, a fantasy tale about an Indian temple dancer, devadasi, a being who fascinated the European world for centuries. 

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Tuesday 27 November 2018

When Kerala connected Kolkata - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

In the classical dance scene of Kolkata, Bharatanatyam has understandably a large number of institutions devoted to it, followed by those available for Kathak and Odissi - in no particular order. Thanks to the presence of the pioneering Guru Bipin Singh in Kolkata and influence of Santiniketan's overwhelming choice, Manipuri should have found a stronger foothold in the metropolis, but that does not seem to be the case, as seen from only a few scattered learning centres. Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam and Kathakali schools are not too many either. Sattriya being a new starter (with recognition received only in 1999) is yet to find a firm niche in the city. To set the records straight, Navanritya, an innovative synthesis of classical and folk forms by Manjushri Chaki-Sircar has a couple of centres and Gaudiya Nritya, Bengal's own tradition resurrected from sculptural and scriptural sources by Mahua Mukherjee, has its students securing Central government scholarships but no national recognition yet.

Under the circumstances, the recent happenings with Mohiniattam and Kathakali were like a breath of fresh air in the city. While the performances in the first case were in keeping with the complete rigor of music and costume, in the second instance they were sans the traditional attires. Both the events drew huge applause from the large number of viewers, showing renewed interest and enthusiasm for these styles.

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Sunday 25 November 2018

Inclusive Debadhara - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Bharat Utsav, as the two-day festival of Debadhara Delhi was titled, showed up the inclusive nature of the organization started in the name of late Odissi Guru Debaprasad Das - with half hour slots of Odissi, Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Mohiniattam being sponsored by them at the IIC auditorium. Indeed Debadhara is projecting itself as a strong supporter of all dance forms and an events manager - overriding its image as an institution producing young Odissi dancers. While applauding the festival organization, one pondered on some things which could perhaps be thought over. For instance, the start with screening of a film on the generous sponsor (but for whose support this festival could not have been held) followed by an Odissi presentation by the youngsters of Debadhara, not to speak of the inaugural formalities with chief guests from the bureaucratic world, the actual program scheduled to begin at 6.30pm, began a good forty minutes late on both days. Also does every dancer after a few years in the field, become a 'Bidushi?' This word is being devalued like the word 'guru'. Will not dancer so and so do?

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Friday 23 November 2018

Interview - Whichever medium you see it on, the make-up should be natural on the dancer: Brij Mohan Gupta - Shveta Arora

A dancer on the stage depicts a romantic scene between the nayak and the nayika. She expresses her love through her eyes and sensuousness through her lips as they tremble. As the nayak pulls her towards him, her face lights up, her cheeks radiant. And then, in the next scene, we see a nritta piece, in which the feet of the dancer move across the stage in different movements. It's as if the alta-reddened feet are a different entity altogether in this piece of dance. The hastas, the hand gestures are used to depict certain animate and inanimate objects, each finger beautifully made up to be seen by a house full of spectators. And then you wonder, who is this make-up artist who has made the dancer look so beautiful, and so expressive. 

Brij Mohan Gupta is a make-up artist very well-known in dance circles for his expertise. During a recent talk with photographer Avinash Pasricha, I learnt that Brij Mohan Gupta has made up many dancers for his photographs too. Brij Mohan, who has worked with dancers, theatre artists and others for decades, worked as a make-up artist with Doordarshan television, and now freelances. 

Read the interview in the site

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Roses and Thorns - TMK - Off Key

The unstoppable shenanigans of Carnatic musician TM Krishna continues. Grabbing the spotlight at every available opportunity, he has once again used his opponents to turn the spotlight on himself in New Delhi.

A recently cancelled concert in the park alongside dancers Sonal Mansingh and Priyadarsini Govind, resulted in the AAP government and his supporters organizing another show at THE GARDEN OF FIVE SENSES.

Read the media exchange that followed the original show cancellation

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Obit/Tribute - Guru Banamali Maharana and Odissi music-Inseparable - Ratikant Mohapatra

To be a Guru, is to touch a life forever. Their teachings live on, not only in their transference of an Art, but also in the humanity, sincerity and love that they bequeath to each and every soul they touch. It is with a heavy heart that the Odissi community grieves the loss of one of the finest masters of the Mardala and a legendary Guru of Odissi music, Guru Banamali Maharana. On November 17, 2018, Banu Dada breathed his last at Sum Hospital, Bhubaneswar. He was 77. He is survived by his wife, son and grandchildren. 

Guru Banamali Maharana was the younger cousin of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra (Guruji) and as my uncle, a father figure to me. Born on May 16, 1941 in the famous artistes' village of Raghurajpur in Puri district, Banu Dada was responsible for developing the grammar and codification of the Odissi Mardala, and giving it a special identity and establishing it as a solo instrument in the realm of Odissi music. He learnt under Guruji, and later became a pioneer in the field of Odissi music. 

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Sunday 18 November 2018

Delving tradition, deconstructing Ramayana - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Post-Independence, India has seen not merely an upsurge in its consolidation of eight recognised classical dance forms (and a few more waiting in the wings for formal recognition), but also a succession of gurus who have held the cudgels in their capable hands and led the ever increasing batches of learners - in India and in the diaspora abroad, keen to bond with cultural roots they had left behind - over the years. The first generation gurus have been, without exception, trail blazers and have left their stamp on the individual dance forms. An eager batch of new learners - marked by talents and quite often handpicked by the gurus -- were initiated into the mystique of canons of, and choreography in, their styles and have now transformed themselves into worthy second generation gurus in all the eight forms. It is with immense pleasure that one watches the scenario that heralds the emergence of third generation gurus, for, the show must go on.

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Friday 16 November 2018

Nityananda: The one-legged miracle dancer - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

That no hurdle barring ultimate death can hold back the determined dancer can be seen from the life of Nityananda Das. A young enthusiastic student of Odissi in Bhubaneswar, learning under his Guru Bimbadhar Das, the lad showed real promise of a bright future as an artist, till misfortune in the shape of a grievous fall, resulted in an operation robbing him of one leg. Moving on crutches, a sobbing Nityananda greeted his teacher who angrily looked at this mess of self pity standing in front of him, and in one fell sweep taking away the crutch, ordered him to join the dance class and learn to dance with what he had! Thus started hours of indomitable courage and effort, by both teacher and taught to get the body used to balancing on one leg. And today watching the aplomb with which Nityananda performs, one can only come away astonished at the tenacity and resilience of the human material. 

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Saturday 10 November 2018

The political spectra - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

If the historical curtain could open on the turning point of the first Christian millennium's end, one would accost the loose "confederacy" of Baro Bhuyan (Twelve Landlords) as a relic of the erstwhile Kamarupa kingdom that covered all of Assam, North Bengal and large portions of Bangladesh. When eventually the central Kamarupa kingdom fragmented, the system of small chieftains remained. In Bengal as in Assam, the Baro Bhuyans were found in regions within the traditional boundaries of the erstwhile large kingdom.The more prosperous ones gave themselves the epithet of Raja (the King). In times of aggression by external powers, they generally cooperated in defending and expelling the aggressor. In times of peace, they maintained their respective sovereignty. In the presence of a strong king, they offered their allegiance.

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Friday 9 November 2018

Nakshatra Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

The Nakshatra Dance Festival of NCPA (October 12 – 14, 2018) originated in 2009, and is held every October to feature innovative group choreographies. The festival featured two choreographic works on the first day - from Kolkata, Bimbavati Devi’s Ghana Baari Barikhata in Manipuri and Vikram Iyengar’s Shunya Se, a contemporary dance work based on Kathak.

Bimbavati is the daughter of late Guru Bipin Singh and Kalavati Devi. Dance is in her blood. Brought up in a house where dance was taught to young dancers round the clock she imbibed the best from both her parents. Over the years she has proved to be not only a brilliant solo dancer but also as a choreographer. Ghana Baari Barikhata (Reflections in a raindrop) is her latest choreographic work that I saw in Dhaka on a large stage with large number of dancers and at Rabindra Sadan in Kolkata when she presented it as a part of concluding program of centenary celebrations of Guru Bipin Singh.

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Monday 5 November 2018

Impressive Sattriya dance drama captures life of Sankaradeva - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It was by all accounts an impressive curtain raiser for Satraranga's collaboration with JNU; the latter unfortunately of late have been in the news for the wrong reasons. Developed as part of a Production Oriented Workshop for the Sattriya training classes held in the University, the choice of a dance drama on the life of the founder of Sattriya, viz. the religious teacher who compounded in his person the talents of artist, poet and dramatist, was very intelligent, for it provided scope for all levels of proficiency, enabling both novices and trained dancers to come together. 

Concept, Script and Direction for 'Dhanya Toho Srimanta Sankara' were by Dr. Bhabananda Barbayan with Niranjan Saikia Bayan working as assistant Director, and Rupashree Mahapatra, Gargi Goswami, Kiran Borah and Sukanya Boruah as the dance teachers. The manner in which the choreography was designed had to be lauded, for while enabling trained dancers to present their expertise in traditional group segments like Gayan, Bayan, Ojha, through experts from Uttar Kamalabari Sattra in Majuli, the narrative seamlessly wove in movement sequences by less experienced amateurs, without diluting the aesthetic totality.

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Sunday 4 November 2018

Article - The rise and fall of Jayantika - Ileana Citaristi

The word ‘Jayantika’ rings a bell in the mind of each and every Odissi dancer, old or new, upcoming or established, professional to amateur. All of us know that towards the end of the 50’s an association was formed among the gurus, intellectuals, dance researchers  and practitioners with the intent to systematize the practice and teaching of the Odissi style as it was known till then. Repertoire and technique was discussed, dress code was decided and fixed and guidelines were laid down for the future generation of Odissi dancers. In few words, if we are existing today and dancing Odissi in the four corners of the globe, it is largely thanks to Jayantika and the people who took part in it. 

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Thursday 1 November 2018

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - November 2018

Anita says...November 2018

Do not be daunted 
By the enormity 
Of the world's grief
Do justly, now
Love, mercy, now. 
Walk humbly, now
You are not obligated
To complete the work
but neither are you free
To abandon it. 

As this newsletter drops into your INBOX, the debate about the world's most famous hashtag rages on in India.

I will begin by getting some of the dance events out of the way so I can focus on the most crucial issue that is hitting the performing arts scene in India. 

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Tuesday 30 October 2018

A post-Plassey phantasmagoria - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Tagore wrote perceptively: The weighing scales of the shopkeeper reappeared as the royal sceptre once the night was over... The poet's allusion was to the ignominious Battle of Plassey (Palashi, in Bengali), waged near the then capital Murshidabad in 1757 between the Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, and the British East India Company, and led by Colonel Robert Clive and Admiral Watson. The British, worried about being outnumbered, formed a conspiracy with Siraj-ud-Daulah's demoted army chief Mir Jafar, along with others such as Jagat Seths (Mahtab Chand and Swarup Chand), Umichand, Rai Ballav, Rai Durlabh and others. The conspirators assembled their troops near the battlefield but made no move to actually join the battle. Siraj-ud-Daulah's army with 50,000 soldiers, 40 cannons and 10 war elephants was defeated by 3,000 soldiers of Robert Clive, owing to the flight of the Nawab from the battlefield and the inactivity of the conspirators.

Judged to be one of the pivotal battles for the control of Indian subcontinent by the colonial powers, the battle - lasting only 11 hours on a hot June day -- paved the way for the British to wield enormous influence over the Nawab and consequently acquired significant compensations for previous losses and fresh revenue from trade. The British further used the money to increase their military might and push the other European colonial powers such as the Dutch and the French out of South Asia, thus leading to the eventual rise of the British Empire. 

Mir Jafar, presented on September 25 in Kolkata by Kalindi Bratyajon, recapitulated on a grand scale the turbulent time period ranging from four months after that historic battle in 1757 till the year 1764, just before the battle of Buxar, waged by Mir Kasim as one final effort to dislodge the usurping British traders, but to be decisively quashed by the latter. In the play, the murky annals of Bengal were played out almost like a fantasia: as a sequence of real or imaginary images quite often like that seen in a dream. 

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Seeking an institutional framework: #MeToo and the unorganized domain of dance and music - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

Was the last column clairvoyant? Just about fifteen days after I wrote the "Me too in Dance" column, formally tilted"#TimesUp", and It is Your Time Now: Why the dance world needs to think about #MeToo", inspired by the #MeToo exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum at Toronto, the #MeToo broke out in India, first with Tanushree Dutta's outing of Nana Patekar, icon of regional pride, and then the outing of Minister of State for External Affairs, M. J. Akbar's toxic abuse of his editorial power, through acts of sexual harassment, by no less than twenty women journalists. 

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Sunday 28 October 2018

Book Review - Dancing into eternity: Life and work of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra - Lalitha Venkat

Reams have been written about the legendary Odissi Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, who was one of the key figures in the Jayantika Movement of the 1950s, that was instrumental in getting classical dance status for Odissi, as a major classical dance style of India. His son Ratikant Mohapatra, Director, Srjan, who is diligently carrying forward his father’s legacy, pays his tribute in his own special way.  The pictorial tribute DANCING INTO ETERNITY - AN ENDEARING VIEW OF HIS MULTIFACETED LIFE AND WORK: GURU KELUCHARAN MOHAPATRA published by Ratikant Mohapatra, was formally released on September 9, 2018 at Bhubaneswar on the final day of the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival.

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Friday 26 October 2018

Natarani theatre: A gift to the performing arts - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

By fortuitous circumstances and also because of serendipity, call it just luck, to be at the right place at the right time, I have been able to cherish so many moments of my career as a dance critic, researcher and a writer. Among them, one is of inauguration of Natarani open air theatre at Ahmedabad many years ago as a tribute to that legendary diva, Mrinalini Sarabhai. The performing arts scene since then in Ahmedabad has changed so much.

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Tuesday 23 October 2018

Creativity in classical orbs - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Is the spinning earth spinning out of control with its overload of human problems? Large segments of humanity, swathed and overwhelmed under depraved conditions -- without any fault of theirs -- are virtually beggars at the doors of the more fortunate and the affluent. At the other end, is the gap between the world of artistic expression and this horrific social reality of today's world becoming an over-widening chasm? Is our artistic reaction to our times aimed at all towards interpreting the ever-widening divisions created by hate and greed, through art's message of peace and harmony? Can Indian classical dance, in particular, play a role -- as was poignantly asked by the dance connoisseur Anita Ratnam, in one of her recent perceptive comments -- beyond depicting endlessly the images and icons to the tunes of the ethereal song, Krishna ni begane baro...?

Sangam presented on September 29 in Bhubaneswar by Art Vision, took up this challenge. ....

Artha Shringara directed by Sandhya Purecha, followed as another highly innovative item, derived from her research on theory and practice of Kalasa Karana and Sthanaka-Mandala Bheda.....

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Wednesday 17 October 2018

Article - #MeToo : Need of the hour - Establishing redressal mechanisms - Ananda Shankar Jayant

The #MeToo movement showing the darker side of many, from the worlds of cinema, arts, publishing etc., also brings to light the complete non-existence of a redressal machinery whatsoever, in these sectors.

The implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, and the earlier 1997 Vishakha guidelines, has seen most of us bureaucrats, serve on these Committees, conduct detailed enquiries leading indicting many, and recommending to the administration various degrees of punishment, even as we also sifted through many false allegations. These Committees are taken very seriously and over the years, this robust system has emerged as a powerful deterrent factor, making the Government workplace much safer, as has a strong and empowered HR, for Corporate enterprises.

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Sunday 14 October 2018

Of interpretations, Indic thoughts and dance dilemmas: A tale of twin cities - Dr. Sujatha Maringanti

As a keen observer of the cultural scene for well over a decade, I attempt to make sense out of a cultural phase that my city is going through. Let me conjure up a magic carpet and take the readers along. 

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Saturday 13 October 2018

Performances at the 2nd Nartanam Conclave - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Along with the day-long discussions on Music for Dance, evening performances were organized for four evenings of the 2nd edition of the Nartanam Conclave from Oct 5-8, 2018 at Hyderabad. It was in fitness of the things, as the participants and audience got a better understanding and appreciation of music for dance.

On the opening night, Pune based Shama Bhate's four dancers presented traditional Kathak dance to recorded music of a very high order. Each of the four dancers displayed a thorough training in Kathak and sound understanding of music. Parampara Ke Pada Chinha, the impress of footprints of tradition, was revealed in Shama Bhate's group compositions. In Shiva Vandana, the use of Om Namah Shivaya was imaginative. The rarefied atmosphere was evoked. Isham Ganesham, Gunatita rupam, Bhasvaram bhasmanga bhushita - five aspects were explored artistically. It was followed by Tarana in Todi raga. The synchronization was perfect. The use of tatkar, footwork, in seven beats Rupak tala, amad, paran, uthan ke tukde, expressions of body line, upaj ki tatkar, in Natwari the dugun ki bandish, were highly enjoyable for technical excellence.

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Friday 12 October 2018

The spark and the sparkle - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Suddenly the stage was all ablaze. Fiery particles were thrown from the performing faces, limbs and torsos, scattering in all directions and lighting up the surroundings. Suddenly, the bemused spectators discovered that they were in for - no, not the traditional Kathak, but for unmitigated innovation, offered only by the likes of Akram Khan and Aditi Mangaldas that glitter and glisten in the dark. The relatively arid dance scenario of Kolkata offered, for a change, fruits of imagination that did not vitiate the rigorous canons of the hoary style one bit, but soared the sky on wings of sheer, scintillating joy, in the glow of creativity.  Nava Disha presented on September 10-11 as the annual festival of Upasana Centre of Dance steered by Ashimbandhu Bhattacharya, was devoted to a wave of unbridled creativity on the second evening, as witnessed by this critic. 

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Wednesday 10 October 2018

Experts discuss theatre today and cultural transformation - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

“I can think only with theatre, because theatre has its own word syllables to express itself,” said Ratan Thiyam - one of the greatest post independent theatre personalities of India - speaking under Art Matters series of the Raza Foundation. He thought of theatre as a contemporary conversation between performer and spectator. Taking Bhasa’s liberalism on the one hand and Bharata’s code and art prescriptions on the other as examples, Thiyam maintained that theatre could be very simple or very complicated.  Inclusive of all other art disciplines in its totality, Theatre, the speaker said is also a relationship with empty space and sound.

Calling it a courageous and bold art form, Ratan Thiyam maintained that Theatre is ultimately a language of protest and in the last 2500 years, he said that no work had hesitated to stir and attack the establishment. Indian theatre’s uniqueness while creating a dialogue with people lay in its regard for soundaryabodh or aesthetics according to him, with dance and music too as part of it.

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