Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Prune in June - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

June is a hot and happening month when summer solstice takes place. While cold countries like Sweden celebrate Midsummer with dance and music festivities, in hot and happening countries like India, it's a time when the full dance calendar whittles down to a trickle, bit like inadequate water supplies in most metros. It is also a time when most professional dancers tour abroad or those rich ones who can afford, go to hill stations to breathe or take a breather - even a workshop. These are often more shops than work! But commonplace now. 

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Article - My tryst with classical dancing in 1950, at the age of six! - Satish Pillai

Over time and with lack of initiative, certain events of the past pass into oblivion and fail to get recorded. I was a Bharatanatyam dancer at the age of eleven, the first male to perform a full-scale Arangetral at Sunderbai Hall in 1956, under the auspices of The Film Journalists' Association, Mumbai. Mr. Burjor Pavri was then the President. The Arangetral was presided over by Sardar K.M. Panikkar, historian, art connoisseur and the then Ambassador to Russia.

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Monday, 24 June 2019

Borgeet makes the evening of Assamese classical music/dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Time seemed to have little consideration for the organizers of Pratishruti Foundation in collaboration with Assam Peoples' Welfare Association, mounting an evening dedicated to Music and Dance of Assam at the Sai Shankar Auditorium, Delhi. Not a soul could be seen in the compound when one reached at 6.15pm for a program scheduled to start at 6.30pm. About to turn back feeling one had perhaps come to the wrong place, I saw the poster after walking up to the lobby and entered the auditorium to find about half a dozen people seated with sound and light being tested with singers seated before microphones, with bizarre shifts of light rays from right to left which made one feel unsettled creating a headache. Expecting the pitiful lack of audience to improve, the organizers seemed inclined to wait beyond half an hour. Realizing that more delay would discourage even those present from remaining, the evening finally started.

For an evening devoted to Assamese culture, Sri Krishna Goswami and his party provided the perfect start with Borgeet (also spelt as bargita or borgit), the neo-Vaishnav music of Assam, comprising compositions of Sankaradeva (1449-1568), the founder of the Sattriya tradition and his disciple Madhavadeva. From the Prabandha Gana tradition and Prasangia style practiced in the Sattras, (individual Sattras have their own singing conventions of the same Borgeet) this composition set to raga Aheer, in the totally devotional tone of this music, was sung in perfect sruti by Sri Krishna Goswami accompanied by two female singers. The reposeful singing was like a meditation, accompanied by the melodious flute and the percussion of the kohl. The composition was in a set of talas - each statement of the lyric in a different rhythmic metre of multiples of 3, of 5, of 7 etc. Starting with the Haribol "Ramo more Ramo, Krishna, Sankara Guru..." the slow moving music, totally devoid of virtuosity, derives its power from the emotive throb of bhakti and complete adherence to sruti. The group sang one more composition, this time of Madhavadeva. The raga announcement by the compere was so muffled over the mike that one could not hear it clearly. Altogether, this evening's singing was for me one of the finest experiences of Borgeet singing.

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Article - Towards bliss with nritta - Chandra Anand

Nritta is defined as pure dance where stylized movements are performed to rhythmic music. Nritta element enhances the beauty of the dance. It does not convey any message. 

Nritta elements: 
Dance is performed with coordinated movements of major and minor limbs of the body. Cadences of body movements are combined to make dance patterns. Small units of dance patterns are called as adavus. These adavus are basic units that are combined to make major dance patterns called korvais and jathisAdavus, korvais, and jathis are nritta elements of Bharatanatyam. 

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Friday, 21 June 2019

Sudraka's glimpses into ancient society - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Kalamandalam Piyal Bhattacharya's single-minded effort of remapping Bharata's early first-millennium practices of Natyashastra had begun with his founding of 'Chidakash Kalalaya' as a center of art in 2013. Dedicated to preserve and propagate the wisdom of Bharata's whole gamut of Natya system, comprising Angik, Vachik, Sattvik, Geet, Vadya, Aharya and Sajja, his institution stands virtually alone amidst the Babel of modern society in its present milieu. Its endeavor has been to contribute to the richness and importance of Guru-Shishya Parampara - recognized by Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2017 - resulted into an exploration of the form of 'Marga Nritya' that has been bearing fruit of late.

Padma Pravritakam (the Lotus Consent), presented on May 26 by the same group, was a sign of the continuous effort to uphold the early first millennium Natya tradition of Bharata, covered in Chapter 18 of Natyashastra. The first fruition earlier was an Uparupaka - with dance direction and musical rendition by Piyal himself - in the form of Bhaanak, a Shaivaite male-oriented presentation. Then came another Uparupaka, this time as Bhaanika, which was a feminine version of Bhaanak. The main goal remained to groom the students in various forms of abhinaya and to ensure holistic development of the actor's language. Padma Pravritakam, in contrast, was with script written, music composed and Dhruba Gaana created by Sayak Mitra, a gifted disciple of Piyal's, besides essaying the pivotal role of Sutradhar (narrator). Only the artistic direction was kept by Piyal, which is an admirable effort to build up the disciples.

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Monday, 17 June 2019

Interview - Epitome of shringara in Kathakali with Guru Sadanam Balakrishnan - Shveta Arora

The makeup of the performer is very important for any performance. Kathakali is one dance form that has very distinctive makeup and costuming, which can totally mould the dancer in that character. Here, you see a dancer wearing very elaborate aharyam and the makeup has totally transformed him into the monkey king for the performance. So many aspects of his makeup are remarkable. His facial colours, his eye makeup, the enhancement of his lips and the beard-like mask. This art of makeup is probably as old as the art of Kathakali itself. He goes about moving his very heavy, cumbersome costume and making strange expressions on his face.

This is Guru Sadanam P.V. Balakrishnan, one of the most renowned and established exponents of Kathakali today. A respected guru of the dance form for decades, he has added several new plays to the repertoire, written a book on Kathakali, travelled to over 25 countries and trained and guided several younger artists. Among his several awards is the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (2004). He took over as principal and chief artist of the International Centre for Kathakali in Delhi in 1980 after several years of performing and teaching. We spoke to him about the distinctive makeup in Kathakali, what it's made of, how it's done and how it helps in the performance.

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Friday, 14 June 2019

Ratikant Mohapatra Calling.... - Navapallava in Bhubaneswar

In an effort to support and encourage the new generation of classical dancers across India, the first edition of Navapallava was organised as a collaboration between Srjan and Orissa Dance Academy at Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Bhubaneswar, on May 25, 2019. This initiative aims to provide a dignified platform for promising classical dancers aged between 25 and 40 years, to showcase their skill and talent pan India, under the patronage of eminent gurus across their respective cities. While Navapallava was conceived as the brainchild of Ashok Jain, Vice Chairman of SPICMACAY, it is an ideological collaboration among dance gurus across various cities, who have been working relentlessly towards the smooth operation of the movement. 

On behalf of the entire dance community, Aruna Mohanty and I are privileged to initiate Navapallava as a series of classical dance events in Bhubaneswar. Our prime focus is to highlight the role of the young dancer in Indian classical dance while taking a stand against the practice of 'Pay and Perform' that many upcoming dancers face in their journey of art. 

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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Family bonds under lens - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Kolkata saw two masterpieces from the West presented in brilliant adaptations within a spell of one week. First, there was a classic, Death of a salesman, by Arthur Miller (1915-2005), the acerbic controversial figure of the American theatre in the twentieth century, whose razor-sharp wit could make him comment: There are two things most common in this world, the first is hydrogen and the second is stupidity. Coming before him almost by a century had been an epic saga, Father, by August Strindberg (1849-1912), the Swedish playwright, who combined psychology and naturalism in a new kind of European drama that evolved into Expressionist drama. Described variously as "neurotic, reactionary, religious and fragmented", the world of performing arts learnt from Strindberg sexual madness, fluidity of form and the power of dreams. Poles opposite from Miller, Strindberg also had written about sex with absolute realism, dramatizing the compound of love, hate, fury and desire that characterizes random couplings and permanent relationships. If Henrik Ibsen - the other Scandinavian celebrity playwright of the time -- caught the tensions of the night before, Strindberg revealed the acrid taste of the morning after. In summary, the two plays, showcased in this metropolis, provided an excellent contrast of dramatic study across the span of one century.

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Monday, 10 June 2019

Srotas: An unusual jugalbandhi in Kathak - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

I was attending a dance conference in Charlotte University in USA, when I received an invitation from Neelima Adhye, a senior disciple of Rohini Bhate to attend an unusual program in Kathak. We all who were attending Kathak Prasangs organized at Bharat Bhavan by Ashok Vajpeyi, knew of Neelima Adhye who accompanied her guru Rohini Bhate from Pune. She had also performed at Khajuraho Dance Festival and was acclaimed as a brilliant exponent of Kathak as developed by Rohini Bhate.

Nritya Bharati established by Rohini Bhate in 1947 in Pune is an institution which has trained a generation of dancers. As a matter of fact, credit goes to Rohini for establishing Kathak in Pune and later on in Maharashtra and growing over years crossing the boundaries of India and spreading abroad wherever her students continue to train the young generation.

Neelima is the director of Nritya Bharati Dance Academy, Pune. She also runs Prakruti Kathak Nrityalaya which she established in 1995. It is a branch of Nritya Bharati. She is a visiting lecturer at the Lalit Kala Kendra of University of Pune. I was surprised to learn that she is an M.S. in Maths having received the training and degree in USA. Once University of Pune was established with dance faculty, she obtained an MA in Kathak. She, as a performer has won critical acclaim from connoisseurs. As a teacher she transmits the technique of what may now be called Rohini gharana to her disciples.....

In the first half of the program, Neelima would ask questions to Subhash Chandra, a disciple of late Guru Mohanrao Kallianpurkar, his association with Mohanrao, and also demonstrate special features of Mohanrao's technique both in terms of nritta and abhinaya. In the second half of the programme, Subhash and Neelima would perform simultaneously, numbers as taught by Mohanrao to Subhash and as taught to Rohini Bhate from whom Neelima has studied, to bring comparison and also show few differences.....

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Sunday, 9 June 2019

Article - Project Tama-Show - Dr. Navina Jafa

Two years ago, Project 'TAMA-SHOW' was launched by the Centre for New Perspectives (CNP), a not for profit think tank that works on cultural skills and creates sustainable livelihoods through pilot programs and research.

Its program TAMA-SHOW addresses marginalized Folk-Street Performing Arts, and through pilot programs CNP has illustrated unique ways to re-position, address skill upgrading, and reconnecting these performing arts with different markets.

A seminal issue is that the practitioners of these several forms of performing art forms remain one of the largest traditionally self-organized skill sector. Due to utter neglect, the tradition bearers are not teaching their children. One needs to remember that it is important that these cultural skills survive not merely for conserving intangible heritage, but these skills if ingeniously re-positioned can prevent de-skilling of Skill India, generate self and organized employment and add to the economic growth of India.

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Saturday, 8 June 2019

When dance is not a good practice - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

In my last column I wrote about how dance is not allowed in certain contexts and nations, and I appealed for remembrance and inclusion. But it is true that while dance mostly has good things going for it, there are circumstances in which it is not desirable. Strange argument coming from someone who has passionately pushed for democratizing dance and increasing its access! But let me explain what I mean.

In my last column, I made an oblique reference to tearing up at the Asian Broadcasting Union's Television Dance Festival's inaugural showcase in Hyderabad in January 2017, on seeing the team from Afghanistan perform Attan. It was a wonderful moment to see this energetic dance from Afghanistan which had, till recently seen the banning of all forms of dance and anyone who defied the ban meeting with fatal consequences. Yet all forms of dance are not empowering. Some are demeaning, disempowering and plain painful. Here are some examples of such situations when dancing is anything but pleasure. If you are wondering, let me hastily tell you that I have in mind the forced dancing by children and young people with little or no agency where sexual abuse follows, the cruel training of dancing animals, and highly dangerous, thrill seeking dance videos that are trending on social media. So despite us just having celebrated World Dance Day, these examples convinced me that I must write on those sad occasions when dancing ceases to be a pleasure.

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Monday, 3 June 2019

Interview - Guru Munnalal Shukla - Nita Vidyarthi

Acclaimed Kathak Guru Munnalal Shukla is one of those rare personalities who has interpreted and moulded his vision of life through his training, research, experience and perception of dance. Recipient of several awards including the one from Sangeet Natak Akademi, his latest is the 10th Raseswar Saikia Award (2018) at Guwahati. But awards to him do not make or break a life. It is simply a recognition. He has given abstraction to the age old art without sacrificing traditional movements or dramatic sensibility. His sharp style of conversation attracts and is continually interesting as it works on so many levels at once and has a range which few other contemporary virtuosos possess. The art of this renowned dancer may be mystification, casual and joyous but it is equally truth seeking and truth revealing. He was going down memory lane sprinkled with humorous anecdotes of his experiences quite nostalgically. The interaction with him does not falsify reality.

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Saturday, 1 June 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - June 2019

Anita says...June 2019

Civilisation has always depended on
Selective memory
So, when does the road become a river
Or bone become marrow 
When demons crawl beneath the surface
And wait.. wait to burst forth
The soft earth mellows heat
And the dandelion rises through the crevice
- Dialogue from the British TV series SHERLOCK 

It was a roller coaster month
I was in five cities over the last 31 days and so there is much to share.
And of course, India voted in the largest theatrical exercise - of strong words, ranting, raving, hatred and tears. A gigantic spectacle! 

But first, the month that was in dance and theatre.

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Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Dance Conference at North Carolina University, Charlotte - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

Dance Department of North Carolina University at Charlotte in USA organized under the leadership of Assistant Professor, Odissi dancer Kaustavi Sarkar, an international dance conference titled 'Sensate Technicities, Dance Connecting Communities' in collaboration with Odissi International, and India Association of Charlotte from 3rd till 5th May 2019.

From India, I was invited to participate. When I arrived on 2nd May, I came to learn that there was shooting on the campus and two students were killed. Not only that, there was another shooting in an apartment and one more person had died. The university campus was inaccessible, police had cordoned off the campus, and Kaustavi and her Head of the Dance Department were under great tension if the conference could take place or not under such circumstances.

However, the situation was soon under control and the green signal given with revised schedule. On Friday the 3rd May in Robinson Hall in room number 330 South Asian Studies, there was an opening as some other program was cancelled. Kaustavi arranged my talk during the discussion of South Asian Aesthetics. Since I had the film on the legendary dancer Ram Gopal, it was decided to screen it as none of the dancers present and participating in conference had ever heard of him. The screening took all of them by surprise that besides Uday Shankar who had put Indian dance on the world map, Ram Gopal had with his solo performances put classical Bharatanatyam and Kathakali on the world map. Later on he had also choreographed The Legend of Taj, based on the historical story of Shahjahan and Mumtaz Mahal as a dance-drama at Edinburgh Dance Festival. 

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Sunday, 26 May 2019

Delhi inauguration of fine idea of Nava Pallava needs more clarity - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Nava Pallava, the brainchild of Ashok Jain of Spic Macay deserves all encouragement, for it aims at providing performance opportunities to young artists, who apart from being outside the charmed performance circuit, are also exploited by so called impresarios providing platforms for a fee. With this money the organizer not only pays for the venue but also earns a percentage of profit for oneself. Senior artists like Sharmila Biswas in Kolkata, Aruna Mohanty and Ratikant Mohapatra in Bhubaneswar, Parwati Dutta in Aurangabad and some others have taken up the Nava Pallava cause in earnest with highly encouraging results. 

New Delhi's Sangeet Shyamala stepping in to help with an inaugural event mounted at its premises is all to the good. With trustee Chetna Jalan not in station, her sister, Vasundhara Tiwari, Principal of the institution, conducted the event. But the evening, as conceived had a few confused areas. 

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Saturday, 25 May 2019

A for arangetram - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Earlier, a guru decided when his or her ward - shishya - was ready for the stage to be presented to the society of peers, family and friends. Today, a student is ever ready! Parents are more ready (read, often over ambitious) and most gurus too want to show off their wares, in the hope that seeing the debutante on stage more may join the guru's class, raising both the income of a school or chances of a teacher to shine with a prized pupil. 

Arangetrams also means gifts that a guru gets (move over days of gold chains and saris, one in Madras takes a car per arangetram and had so many lined up in their street that neighbors thought the guru was a car dealer too!) hosting such a do akin to a wedding. From the card, to hall, decor, costume, even food, everything looks like a mini wedding, a glittering gathering.....

Qualities of heart one looks for in artistes. If they don't have it, how can they even claim to be one? Most are mistaking skill for art. Anyone who learns little dance or music thinks they have become an artist! They have only acquired a skill. Like plumber does, or an electrician. Only after years of practice a skill becomes a craft. Once a craft is honed and sharpened it sometimes becomes art. Artists are born, not made. It's not mere training but attitude. Unless you are a born genius like some legends were - Ram Gopal, Uday Shankar, Guru Gopinath - Balasaraswati whose centenary just got over and IGNCA under a truly cultured head Dr. Sachidanand Joshi, made effort to mount a two day focus in May. Trustees Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam and Dr. Sonal Mansingh, flanked by another great Pt. Birju Maharaj recalled her life and work. Thus, the month of May was fulsome.

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Article - Guru-Shishya Parampara: Then vs. Now - Madhur Gupta

There have always been profound discussions on the difference between a teacher and a guru. It's often said that a teacher teaches skills but a guru imparts knowledge of how to efficiently use those. Guru-Shishya parampara where the relationship between a student and his teacher extends beyond the realm of gaining knowledge and delves into a deep seated personal equation, has always been an integral part of the Indian education system. This tradition though now diluted, is still followed by Indian classical dancers and musicians where the guru creates a talented artiste out of the student and also tries to ensure that the student retains the necessary humility to go beyond greatness. 

The tradition of classical dance and music is an ever flowing river. An individual is but a tributary of this greatness. I met some of the revered gurus of today and delved into their own journeys as a student and now that of a guru.

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Friday, 24 May 2019

A medley of classical dances - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Most major metropolises in the world - spanning from Havana to Shanghai - go gaga on the International Dance Day holding flagship events with dance performances participated by the young and the old alike, literally on the select streets and city squares. Created by the Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute, the main partner for the performing arts of UNESCO, the event takes place every year on April 29, the anniversary of the birth of Jean-Georges Noverre, the creator of modern ballet. Kolkata is no exception to this endearing global frenzy, with select conclaves at Rabindra Sadan and Govindan Kutty Auditoria in particular. Out of the score or so performances at the latter venue witnessed by this critic, here is a select view of the significant performances of the evening.

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Sanjali's Pravah Dance Festival in memory of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

Opening the Pravaha Dance Festival organized by Sanjali Dance Company of Odissi dancer Sharmila Mukerjee at Chowdaiah Hall, Bangalore on 13th April, Anita Ratnam presented in her Neo Bharatam style, her work 'Ma3ka' that she had conceived and choreographed in 2009. In her choreographer's note, Anita mentions: 'Every ten years I revisit a work of mine because I want to see if what I created continues to be relevant. Today the audience demographic is almost new, their attention span is much shorter, and also to reach out to the new audience it is important to retrace past works. I was inspired reading Shri Aurobindo's book The Ma3ka, I explore the three facets of Aurobindo's the divine feminine - Saraswati, Lakshmi and Meenakshi.'....

Geeta Chandran and her daughter Sharanya Chandran presented Bharatanatyam, solo and duet. Geeta is a seasoned dancer, with lot of experience performing as a solo dancer and also as a choreographer. Under the aegis of her institution Natya Vriksha, she and her husband Rajiv Chandran organize for past 15 years, a two day World Dance Day festival, curating it with thematic talk.....

Sharmila Mukerjee has choreographed the dance-drama in memory of the anniversary of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Though I had seen it four years ago, it was refreshing to watch it once again. As a matter of fact, I have liked Shookshma better than Hansika that Sharmila choreographed recently. While both are different in content and approach, Shookshma has more gravitas. It is about a woman who is blessed with the ability to transform into a flowering tree as the name suggests. It is subtle, intangible, all pervading spirit that manifests in the form of a boon for the protagonist. The flowers in abundance bring progressive changes in the life of her sisters until tragedy strikes....

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Sunday, 19 May 2019

More praise than dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Some of the emerging formalities of late have made me wonder if strict rules should be insisted upon on how long a master of ceremonies or the compere can speak. A new trend is now being noticed of three or more dancers featured in one performance, each presenting one item! The large part of the evening is spent on formalities with a row of chief guests having courtesies extended to them – and more importantly the master of ceremonies praising them and reciting details of their achievements – including those of the bureaucrat who is called for obvious reasons. Suramya organising Nritya Darpan recently at the Habitat Stein auditorium, had senior dancers with titles to their credit as chief guests, invited to the stage with lengthy introductions. It was as if they were being recommended for the Padmashri, which, on their own merit, most had already earned – and which was the reason they were being called as chief guests, one presumes! So where was the need for these long winding introductions for such well-established dancers? The formalities took up precious time. And I wondered how four dancers slated to perform could be accommodated in the rest of the time. I need not have worried for each had one item to perform!

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Saturday, 18 May 2019

Article - Origin of Gotipua Parampara - Prajna Mishra

In Odia, Goti means "single" or "one" and Pua means "boy". The tradition of boys being dressed as girls and performing abhinaya in praise of Lord Jagannath was named as 'Gotipua' dance.

It is believed that during reign of the Mughals in Odisha, the devadasi tradition was under threat and devadasis feared for their own safety. As a result, to continue the tradition, boys were dressed as girls and trained to dance. According to an anecdote, during the reign of Pratap Rudra Deva (King of Odisha from 1497 to 1540), the famous Vaishnava saint Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 to 1534) had visited Puri. And Vaishnavism gradually flourished in Odisha. Devotion and love for Sri Krishna found its way into the hearts of many. Numerous people imagined themselves to be the consort of the lord, who alone was considered as a man. They dressed themselves up as women and expressed their deep love and devotion to him through dance and music. They became completely engrossed in it. Many people believe, this is how the Gotipua dance came into existence.

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Friday, 17 May 2019

Obit/Tribute - Musical Footsteps in Poetic Dance: Jamuna Krishnan - Dr. Navina Jafa

"Come to me, Abhinaya and poetry is healing!" It was a time when I was facing several personal challenges, and this invitation by the iconic Guru Jamuna Krishnan was hard to ignore. It galvanized me to travel dusty roads from Delhi to Faridabad once a week for two years. Arts is a process of image making, and awakening imagination, but the entry into the universe of Jamuna Krishnan ignited the process to access an unimagined cosmos. 

As one entered her home, you encountered- the invigorated painted image of a Kartikeya riding a parrot, a carved wooden masterpiece of Krishna under the bower, a bronze of a dancing Shiva; host of books in different languages neatly packed in plastic bags, a beautiful carpet, birds singing in the porch outside where hung different plants in terracotta pots - multiple beauties that took each artist to an imaginative sphere.

I would sit, Rita, her house-help dressed in magnificent South Indian saris promptly served me one of the best South Indian filter coffee; and then - dramatically Jamuna Akka came in holding a small, beautiful embroidered bag carrying her mobile phone. The cerebral warm ups to the class of abhinaya were unique - every class began with conversations about latest news in the world - cricket matches, movies, arts, crime and of course dance. Looking back, it was a distinct way she prepared the mind by transporting it into variety of spheres of existence, the tempo built and she would take out a diary and say, "Now get up and start..." 

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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

A fairy tale and a morality play - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Return Ticket presented on April 15 by Natyaranga was a very brave attempt to create a similar parable in the practice of clinical psychology. Here an almost maniac psychiatrist turns the conventions of therapeutic practice on their head and develop his own radical solution to provide his patients much sought-after relief. The story stands in three legitimate assumptions. One, the cause of each mental illness is different. Two, the role of medicine in treating mental illness is undoubtedly important, but usually the relief provided is short-term. And three, the mental state of such patients is seldom understood by the family and even less so by the society.....

Bhalo Lok (A Good Person) presented on April 24 by Sayak -- a nearly 45-year-old group of theatre enthusiasts -- was faithfully adapted by Chandan Sen to an Indian milieu reflecting a placid rural background in a village 'Majher Char' on the Bhagirathi river bank, where the breeze of urban culture blows but mildly though. Directed by the thespian Meghnad Bhattacharya, we locate two childhood friends, Satyacharan and Dhurjati, both disciples of an erstwhile great man Nityananda in socio-political ideology. But the two friends are eons apart in their inclinations. ....

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Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Article - Abhinaya - The most relevant and contemporary of our repertoire - Amrita Lahiri

As a teenager, I watched Priyadarsini Govind dance for the first time, at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. in the 90's. I thought a sculpture had truly come to life! I tried to find some flaw, but she was simply perfect from every angle. Back then, it was her pure dance movements that impressed me the most- the stretch of those long arms, the aramandi, the rhythms, the dramatic poses....all the aspects of dance that impress teenagers. Over the years, I watched her again and again, as I did many of the others I admired - Leela Samson, Malavika Sarukkai, Alarmel Valli, Swapnasundari, Pandit Birju Maharaj - and I found my perspective changing - the nritta pieces were not so exciting to me anymore. Over the years I started noticing how much they could say with the smallest of movements - turn of their head or a raise of their eyebrow or a slight glance. It was the abhinaya I most looked forward to seeing. 

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Monday, 13 May 2019

Interview - I can weave through many interesting identities and roles: Ramli Ibrahim - Vijay Shanker

Acclaimed as a brilliant Odissi exponent and contemporary western choreographer, credited for his flamboyant and aesthetic performances, Malaysia's 'Datuk' Ramli Ibrahim commenced his career as a dancer with Western Australian Dance Company and later established Sutra Foundation (2007) in Malaysia with a team of talented dancers, travelling all over the world with spectacular performances. In an exclusive interview, Ramli talks about his India tour, his career that spans more than four decades, how he placed Odissi on the world map and much more. 

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Saturday, 11 May 2019

Nrutya Rangoli Samanvay Art Festival: Part 2 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

On third day, the morning session began with Kuchipudi by Dr. Saraswati Rajathesh. She presented Vempati Chinna Satyam's choreography of his popular "Jayamu Jayamu" in Bilahari raga, set to music by Bhujangaraya Sharma, with nattuvangam by Vempati Ravi. Disciple of Veena Murthy, despite avoirdupois, she was light on her feet.

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Nrutya Rangoli Samanvay Art Festival: Part 1 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

It was a Bangalore Bonanza, the three day (19, 20 and 21 April) Nrutya Rangoli Samanvay Art Festival organized by that dynamic dancer, guru, choreographer, curator, and an able administrator Dr. Veena Murthy Vijay, held at Chowdaiah Auditorium. 

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Arts in whole-child education - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

An excellent symposium at the IIC (which as collaborator provided the venue) mounted by Kri Foundation and Kala Bharati (Montreal) on Arts Education for Youngsters, presided over by Arshiya Sethi, resulted in some valuable interaction on a topic which is crying out for intelligent discussion among the art minded and artists. Dr. Sunil Kothari in his paper drew attention to the path breaking work done by late Dr. Harbans Nakra, an electrical engineer by profession, who took private studies in psychology, neuroscience and who was very interested on the role of dance in child development. Along with his wife Mamata Niyogi Nakra, an internationally known Bharatanatyam guru, scholar and writer (who runs the institution Kala Bharati in Montreal) who was also deeply interested in dance education for youngsters, the couple attended and took part in several Dance and the Child International Conferences. 

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Friday, 10 May 2019

What we need to remember on World Dance Day - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

This column was meant to be written for World Dance Day, but foreign travels took priority and I decided that just so much happens around and on World Dance Day, that the delay will probably be welcome to a mind already buzzing with dance overload as happens on World Dance Day.

World Dance Day is more than a celebration of dance. It is an acknowledgement of the important role dance plays as a language of human expression. It also recognises the way dance benefits us all by way of mental and physical well being. In fact, the healing capacity of dance has long been recognised in India, and that is why it is called a Yoga, but around the world today this truth is being acknowledged and respected.

World Dance Day also has a political underpinning. It is a day we acknowledge that dance is not permitted, in fact it is declared illegal in many countries in the world. In some countries and societies certain groups, separated on religious lines, gender cohorts and social stratifications, are denied the right to dance. Dancing bans are also imposed on certain days and at certain times and places.

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Thursday, 9 May 2019

Prism - First Presidential address by Biranchi Narayan Rautray in the first meeting of Jayantika established on June 22, 1958 (Translated from Odia by Malabika Patel, edited by Ileana Citaristi)


Human beings have an important and vital aspect to their lives which is of great significance besides their economic and social life. This is their cultural life. The evolution and development of cultural life bestows inner happiness in human beings. The gamut of culture is vast, it encompasses dance, music etc which is an integral part of life. If this part is deformed, it distorts the entire society. The equipoise is disturbed. Hence, all of you working in your respective field of dance should realize its importance in the society and understand your duties and responsibilities. Like all other forms of education, this also calls for tenacity and grit. Without hard work, indomitable courage, patience and perseverance, it is difficult to achieve excellence in dance. So, those of you, who have achieved this or have been striving for it, should not feel inferior but consider yourselves equal to other well educated elite class.

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Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Profile - In praise of MBE awardee Kathak exponent Pratap Pawar - Dr. Sunil Kothari

A few days ago I received a call from my friend Pratap Pawar in London informing me that he was awarded MBE, ‘Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’ in the Queen’s New Year’s honour list for 2019.  I wished him my heartiest congratulations. From among the Indian dance community in London, he is one of the few artistes to receive this award.

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Saturday, 4 May 2019

Samsmaranam: 15th anniversary of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Srjan, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Nrityabasa presented a two day program of Odissi dance by Srjan Ensemble and Shivagni Musical Ensemble on 6th and 7th April at Rabindra Bhavan at Jalpaiguri, West Bengal. I was told by senior local Kathak dancer Kuntal Raha that she had seen Guruji on television for the first time and invited him to Jalpaiguri in the year 1998. Many saw Guruji and were completely won over by his affectionate nature, minus any arrogance that he was a great guru. 

Paushali Mukherjee, a disciple of Guruji and also a mardala player, a student from Rabindra Bharati University trained in turn many young disciples, among whom was Pompi Paul from Jalpaiguri, who established Kalpodrum institution there to start teaching Odissi. Two years ago, Pompi arranged an evening of Odissi dance in Jalpaiguri but I could not make it. However, this year I got an opportunity when Guruji's son Ratikant Mohapatra, after visiting Jalpaiguri for a workshop, accepted the suggestion of Ritu, a member of Srjan Ensemble, to have Guruji's 15th anniversary program in his memory in Jalpaiguri. With help of her brother-in-law and renowned theatre director, actor Amalkumar Sengupta, Srjan planned a major event including Shivagni Music Ensemble. Thereby hangs a tale.

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Friday, 3 May 2019

Delving into Partition's realpolitik - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Trust Utpal Dutt (1929-1993) – the redoubtable Indian actor, director and writer who was a radical figure in Bengali theatre and all-India cinema for more than 40 years – to have written controversial Bengali political plays. He was perhaps best known for such political drama, which he often produced on open-air stages in rural Bengal, as well as for his commitment to a strong leftist ideology. His plays became an apt vehicle for the expression of his Marxist ideologies, visible in socio-political plays such as Kallol (1965),  Manusher Adhikar,  Louha Manob (1964), Tiner Talwar and Maha-Bidroha (1989).  He was arrested in 1965 and detained for several months because the ruling political party feared that the enormously successful play Kallol was provoking anti-government protests in West Bengal. His stay in jail unleashed a new period of rebellious and politically charged plays and he continued to direct and stage his plays even when he was in prison. During the 1970s, as many as three of his plays were continually staged and drew capacity crowds, despite being officially banned!

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Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Anita says...May 2019

Every day brings a chance for you
To draw in your breath
Kick off your shoes
- Oprah Winfrey

There have been flood of celebrations across India for WORLD DANCE DAY (April 29) that it would seem as if the day was created by an Indian. The fact is that the day, follows World Music Day (June 21) and World Theatre Day (March 27) and all three were created by - Jack Lang, Maurice Fleuret (Music) / International Theatre Institute (Theatre) / Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute (Dance).

India does not stop dancing. Performances occur throughout the year with a deluge during the months between October and March. However, a single day to commemorate the very act of dancing also focuses on issues and reflections on those individuals who have shaped and tinted the gorgeous, gritty and glamorous world of dancing and dance making. 

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Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - May 2019

Sunday, 28 April 2019

A well-articulated April - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Art articulates and a few genuine artistes, really articulated April well. 

First - Mysore Nagaraj - who is a unique character of Mysore, settled in Bangalore, who learnt Kathak from veteran Kathak guru, the late Maya Rao - has served arts selflessly. A good guru himself now with well-trained students, Mysore Nagaraj presents through his Articulate Foundation, a monthly event in Mysore and a yearly one in Bangalore. Yeoman service he does to dance and mostly, selflessly. He is what can truly be called a rasika, a genuine art lover. Only a true art lover can honor and value other artists. I'm happy to note ten years ago, our Dance Discourse at Alliance Francaise started the trend of honoring gurus who were missed by the system, through the attenDance Awards.

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Saturday, 27 April 2019

Prism - Inventing of a Notation System for Mudra: The language of Dance and Theatre in Kerala-Part 2 - G. Venu

It was in 1977 that for the first time the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi organized a dance workshop which was directed by Guru Gopinath. Guru Chandrasekharan, Kalamandalam Gangadharan and myself were assistant directors. All the gurus of classical dance styles in Kerala participated in the lecture demonstrations and encounters in the workshop. It was after my discussions and interviews with prominent figures in Mohiniyattam including Kalyanikutty Amma and Satyabhama that the idea to study in detail the mudras in this style evolved in my mind. The field work towards this end was done by my wife Nirmala Paniker. Nirmala had trained under Kalyanikutty Amma for a long time, and as part of our study of the mudras did a short term course at Kerala Kalamandalam. It took us four years to complete the work on notations that analyzed the hand gestures in the then existing repertoire including Cholkettu, Padam, Varnam, Slokam and Saptam.

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Prism - Inventing of a Notation System for Mudra: The language of Dance and Theatre in Kerala-Part 1 - G. Venu

Dance Notation
Dance Notation is the medium by which the body movements are scientifically analysed and are delineated accordingly through the appropriate use of symbols. There is documentary evidence to show that from the 15th century itself dance was notated in the West. Recently I happened to read that even many centuries prior to this, the dance steps of Buddhist rituals in Tibet were documented using signs. The most popular notation systems available for Western dance is 'Labanotation' and 'Banesh System'. I did try to learn 'Labanotation'. In the Western style of dance, importance is given to the movement of the parts of the body and choreography. But in Indian dances, equal importance is given to all the constituent parts and subparts from the head to the foot. The different parts of the body have different movements. The notation system of the West and their symbols is not sufficient to document the Indian dance forms. Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan who had studied 'Labanotation' much earlier has also made similar observations. I have devised a dance notation system to record Kathakali mudras in 1965. This article is about delineating and publishing 1752 mudras of Kathakali, Mohiniyattam and Kutiyattam over the years which has become perhaps the world's largest collection of hand gestures.

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Article - Aharya Abhinaya - Pallavi Shidhaye

(Second winner in the junior category in the 'Nrutya Shabda' essay writing competition conducted by Neha Muthiyan's Loud Applause and Swarada Dhekane's Samvaad blog. This is a translated essay.) 

Aahaaryo Haarkeyur Veshaadibhi: Alankruta

An act which is adorned by external accessories like garland, ornaments around the arm and costume is called Aharya Abhinaya. The concept of acting (abhinaya) has its origin from Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra. Acting is an art of expression. Aharya Abhinaya plays a significant part in the classical form of dancing. Abhi is a Sanskrit word and means "leading an audience towards" the experience (bhava) of a sentiment (rasa). 

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