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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Sunday 8 April 2018

Bonding with Global Theatre - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The stage is a reflection of society and in order to emphasize its importance, every year on March 27, World Theatre Day is celebrated. Initiated in 1961 by the UNESCO-sponsored International Theatre Institute (ITI), this day is annually celebrated by ITI Centres in different countries and the international theatre community at large. It was entirely appropriate that the eastern metropolis paid its own tribute to this day with a new adaptation from the American wizard playwright Eugene O'Neill's 1956 play - as staged in the Broadway a good three years after his death - Long Day's Journey into Night that was acknowledged as the Nobel Laureate's magnum opus and earned him a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

Long Day's Journey into Night takes place in four acts on a single day - supposedly in August 1912 - - from around 8:30am up to midnight. The setting is the crumbling seaside Connecticut home, Monte Cristo Cottage, of O'Neill's father. The four main characters are the semi-autobiographical representations of O'Neill himself, his elder brother, and their parents. In a nutshell, the play portrays a decadent American family in a ferociously negative light as the parents and two sons express accusations, blame and resentments: qualities which are often paired with pathetic and self-defeating attempts at affection, encouragement, tenderness and yearnings for things to be otherwise. The gnawing pain of the family is made the worse by their depth of self-understanding and self-analysis, combined with a brutal honesty - - as they see it - - and an ability to boldly express themselves. The story primarily deals with the mother's addiction to morphine, compounded by the family's addiction to whiskey, the father's miserliness, the older brother's licentiousness and the younger sibling's illness.

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Saturday 7 April 2018

8th Olympic Theatre Seminar on Natyashastra - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

During more than two months duration 8th Olympic Theatre Festival was organized by National School of Drama (NSD) and Ministry of Culture at several cities within India, with presentation of plays in various languages along with seminars on various aspects of theatre. One which was organized at Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal was on different aspects of theatre in relation to Natyashastra. Many leading scholars, practitioners, directors, dancers, musicians, authors and critics were invited to participate for two days on 23rd and 24th March, to discuss and deliberate on practice of Natyashastra. I was invited to present my paper and chair the session on Practice of Natyashastra: In perspective of Rasa. 

The Rasa Sutra as mentioned in the sixth chapter of the Natyashastra refers to bhava, vibhava, vyabhichari bhava and with their confluence takes place the rasanishpatti. The aphoristic formula for the issuance of rasa as given in Natyashastra is that the rasa issues forth when vibhava, anubhava and vyabhicharibhava are appropriately blended.

Natyashastra continues to remain a main semiotic text for plurality of various dance and dance-drama forms of India. In practice, the Rasa Theory applies more in principle to the performances of classical dance forms, which are eight in number with inclusion of Odissi, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam and Sattriya dances to well established forms of Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Manipuri and Kathakali.

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Friday 6 April 2018

Challenges in procuring public art grants for art and culture programmes - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It was a lively discussion on challenges people face in procuring Public art grants for promotion of art and culture, at the Habitat Gulmohar Hall, for the Shanta Serbjeet Singh Memorial Art Appreciation lecture of the month, sponsored by Legends of India. Since government as the main art promoter in the country owns the largest kitty (however miniscule it may be in the overall percentage of the total budget reserved for culture), it was but right to have representatives of government bodies dealing in art matters, as the main speakers for the evening.

With Suresh Goel, the permanent moderator for these lectures being unwell, Rajiv Chandran, at the last moment was asked to take over and he began by asking each of the speakers to first talk on what worked and what did not. Dr. Madhukar Gupta, a bureaucrat with a deep interest in the arts, now Additional Secretary with the Ministry of Heavy Industries after having served earlier in Tamilnadu and Rajasthan, set the discussion ball rolling by mentioning a very pertinent point on how a lot of government thinking perceives development as best represented in establishing brick and mortar edifices, without realising that software like good art performances can generate better responses, apart from having an economic potential that has not been tapped. Even when visitors look at a historical building, it is a live performance or an audio visual show that helps bring to life the monument. 

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Thursday 5 April 2018

Delving into Folk roots - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The Mangal-Kāvya tradition of Bengal was an archetype of the synthesis between the Vedic and the popular folk culture of Eastern India. According to the experts, indigenous myths and legends inherited from Indo-Aryan cultures began to blend and crystallize around popular deities and semi-mythological figures in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. A new story of the creation of the universe evolved, as quite different from the Sanskrit tradition but with an unmistakable affinity with the creation hymns in Rigveda and the other eastern myths of creation. Manasamangal Kāvya was the oldest of the Mangal-Kāvya that narrates how the snake-goddess Manasa established her worship in Bengal by converting a worshipper of Shiva to her own worship. Manasa, a non-Aryan deity, had her worship prevalent in ancient Bengal. It is believed, in fact, that she came to Bengal with the Dravidians who worshipped her in the hope that she would protect them against snakes. Manasa was also known as Bisahari, Janguli and Padmavati.

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Sunday 1 April 2018

Anita says...April 2018

April 1, 2018


- Chant for Women's History Month (March)

This month's thoughts come to you from the freezing cold of Minneapolis, where I made a brief but joyous visit to reunite with my high school friends. The simple pleasure of connecting with gal pals with whom you once shared lunches, brief crushes, sports, gossip and mark sheets cannot be replicated at any other phase of your life. 

My school mates just happen to be extraordinary women. Many firsts in our class batch from Presentation Convent Church Park are now Cabinet Ministers, Academic leaders, medical experts, CEOs and National Arts Awardees. However, all these prefixes fall away as do the years when we gathered. 

Except for me, nobody else in the group is in the arts although one dynamo is on the board of the Guthrie Theatre and a generous arts patron. Still, we attended the opera, a jazz concert and spoke in unison about the arts being the humanizing glue to our lives.

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Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - April 2018