Sunday 29 December 2019

Vision 2020 - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

So, as the Gregorian calendar year ends and a new one starts, what are our principal take home points?

1. Dancers never had it so good! Even ordinary ones are busy dancing here, there, everywhere. Dubai, London, Odisha, Kerala. USA of course is second home to most. Add the odd Australia or Africa in between and our dancers, if not dance, has truly gone global. There are number of festivals and functions, affording most an opportunity to show their talent, or often, the lack of it! Some are very active with huge outreach thanks to real art; others thanks to their overzealous husbands / godfathers / sidekicks / students / parents / forced fan club or lovers besotted with them! They spend many office hours posting pouting pics on FB as if they are wares! And art is a commodity. They have made it so.

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Friday 27 December 2019

Adhyasha Foundation's Shishirchhanda Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

Sarita Mishra, disciple of Yudhisthir Nayak and Bichitrananda Swain, moved in 2013 to Bangaluru. She established Adhyasha Foundation to teach Odissi with a cross section of disciples from diverse fields - banking, designing, professional interior designers, from IT, housewives, dancers from different dance styles and also foreigners. Within a short time, there was rapid growth of the foundation with the result that Sarita set up few branches. Within a short time, she has won appreciation from local established senior dancers and gurus and her two day annual festival is eagerly awaited.

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Wednesday 25 December 2019

Choreographic foray: Contemporary, classical - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

End-November and early December saw quite a pleasant outburst of choreographic creativity in the eastern metropolis, on both classical and contemporary fronts. While Kathak brought out a novel linkage with Baul singing of the village Bengal, Odissi saw a wonderfully vivid tryst of the women dancers with their inner domain, alongside gorgeous sets and subliminal illumination. On one side, Bharatanatyam went back to the Upanishad mooring of Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam; on the other side was an exhilarating contemporary exploration with "hugging the floor", in a near literary sense. To cap it all, there was an inner, extrapolated journey of classical dance visualized in a sumptuous stage. All in all, the exhilaration induced a euphoric sense of joy with a nip in the air, to match!

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Monday 23 December 2019

Classical dance trend - Entertainment or Engagement? - Ramaa Venugopalan

Entertainment is an activity performed to hold an audience's attention with the purpose of delivering pleasure.

Dance is a performing art form consisting of purposefully selected movements with a symbolic aesthetic value.

Classical means a representation of an exemplary standard within a sufficiently long-established form or style.

Considering these definitions, a classical dance performance can be defined as: A standard form or style of purposefully conceived movements that are specifically selected with the purpose of keeping an audience's attention. This, however, alters the meaning and intention of a classical dance performance.

As I sat to watch an extravagant spectacle of a classical dance production by an extremely popular classical dance company from Bangalore, whose dancers are revered as young stars, I could not but help observe aspects that now dictate the intention of this process, its consequences, and its success factors.

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Thursday 19 December 2019

Encouraging the young generation of dancers - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It is either everything or nothing when it comes to performance opportunities for a dancer in India. Performance space has been cornered by a handful of dancers who in most cases have had the good fortune to combine talent with power to influence the right decision making forces. Make no mistake; the latter has a big role to play in the scheme of things.

What happens within the Guru/shishya teaching and learning arena remains largely outside reflection in the performance circuit. Which is why Ashok Vajpeyi, under the Raza Foundation umbrella of activities, very astutely started Uttaradhikar series for the young dancers, many of who would seem to struggle endlessly for platforms to perform. He is providing a regular platform (at least once a month) but on the recommendations of the Guru, who ultimately will be judged on the basis of the student's calibre. Two day events feature one promising young musician and one dancer every evening.

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Wednesday 18 December 2019

Feminine Vanguard of Kolkata theatre - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Femme Fatale has usually been a pejorative term in the English language. But in the Dionysian world of theatre - first celebrated for the god of wine in ancient Greece -- Femme Fatales could very aptly describe the brave feminine front that has emerged in the two theatre-conscious metropolises. In Delhi, this critic knew the quartet of fiery female directors from the charmed circle of NSD: Neelam Mansingh, Anuradha Kapoor, Kirti Jain and Tripurari Sharma who have, together, created virtually a creative storm in the world of avant garde theatre in Hindi, and Joy Michael of 'Yatrik' in English theatre. In Kolkata, following the exemplary footsteps of the iconic Tripti Mitra - whose directorial oeuvre, beginning from Dakghar (1957), her solo classic Aparajita (1971), her Hindi ventures Guria Ghar (1980) and Sanjh Dhaley (1985), up to her last direction, Sarisrip (1987) had created waves among the cognoscente -- the suave Sohag Sen appeared and there has been no looking back ever since.

If one attempts a very brief recapitulation of the thirteen major women directorial talents active today in the Kolkata drama scene - in no particular chronological order -- whose impact on Bengali theatre has been nothing less than an artistic Tsunami, Sohag Sen would stand foremost, with her forte in depicting urban middle class. Having directed plays by dramatists as varied as Mahesh Elkunchwar and Botho Strauss, her association with theatre and allied media spans a period of almost sixty years. As an actor, she started her career under the guidance of the legendary Utpal Dutt in the year 1969 and her latest directorial venture Chhota Chabi (reviewed in these columns), was very well received in 2019.

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Monday 16 December 2019

Golden Jubilee of National Centre for the Performing Arts - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

On 28th November all roads led to Nariman Point to National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai. The occasion was the grand celebrations of 50 years of the Centre. Associated with NCPA for more than 40 years, it was for me a sentimental journey. The large crowd of aficionados, dancers, musicians, painters, drama directors, actors, music lovers, in particular from the Parsi community, moved to Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, the large auditorium named after Jamshed Bhabha, the patron and Trustee of NCPA. Almost modeled on the Garnier, Paris Opera House, with two side marble staircases and imposing foyer, it was bustling with who is who of Mumbai's art loving public.

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Saturday 14 December 2019

Prism - Classical dance vis-a-vis free thinking - Dr. Utpal K Banerjee

(An earlier, slightly shorter version was presented at the Ocean Dance Festival, November22-25, 2019, at Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, under World Dance Alliance-Asia Pacific)

It is a truism that, both individually and collectively, one tends to grow with time and change accordingly. Individually, one comes to grips with sex; grows to fathom the meaning of death; and so on. Collectively, the whole society changes with time. It is proposed that as a collective genre, classical dance of Indian sub-continent should relate to changes in their environment and discard MYTHOLOGY as their enduring 'sahitya' since the latter has lost its relevance to modern times. Classical dance - while fully carrying forward its techniques and treatment, and its highly developed aesthetics - should communicate to the modern society for deriving its contents for 'sahitya', as other sub-continental visual and performing arts have done in the recent years.

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Friday 13 December 2019

Thirty years of dance serenading Konark's Surya Deva - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Undeterred by years of choppy sea winds steadily weathering its stone carvings, Konark Temple stands as an architectural poem of unparalleled magnificence in salutation to the Sun God. The Konark Festival of Dance, with a massive open air stage overlooking the tiers of the Mahamandapa (the only part of the temple fully intact) in the distant backdrop, initiated by the Odissi Research Centre as a small beginning in 1969, has grown into a mammoth event held under the auspices of Odisha Tourism Department and the State Sangeet Natak Akademi, attracting tourists from all areas. With Chinese lanterns and tombas hanging from trees and buildings, and Pant Niwas lit up, the small township has a buzz, looking decked for a wedding. Walking through illuminated gardens and pathway decorated with large Rangoli patterns, one reaches the open-air auditorium with a seating capacity of 5000, which not infrequently, is filled to near capacity watching the dances.

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Tuesday 10 December 2019

Interview - Art requires sadhana and tapasya - Madhur Gupta

Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee (Kathak) for the year 2017, Dr. Shobha Koser has been a catalyst in promotion of Indian arts and culture at large. An exponent of the Jaipur Gharana, she has been a prime disciple of the stalwart late Guru Kundan Lal Gangani, learning from him several gems which the Jaipur style of Kathak is famous for. Zest for teaching and imparting these age old traditions at heart, Shobha Koser has been actively involved for decades in rendering arts education through her renowned institution Pracheen Kala Kendra in Chandigarh.

A doctorate in dance from Punjab University, we interact with Shobha Koser at length about her artistic journey, her will to propagate arts, and what it takes to be an artist.

Read the interview in the site

Monday 9 December 2019

Connecting text with practice - Nrtta Ratnavali to Andhra's devadasi dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The Kakatiyas, the second major dynasty of the Andhra region after the Satavahanas, were ardent patrons of art. Dealing with the classical and the regional dance forms of the Kakatiya period is the 13th century treatise Nrtta Ratnavali written by Jayasenapati, who surprisingly was the commander-in-chief of the elephant corps (gajasadhanika and senapati as the author himself puts it) serving ruler Ganapati Deva (1198-1262), between whom and the author existed an intimate bond with Jayappa becoming his brother-in-law. It was 'Ganapati Bhupala', who noting the talent and loyalty of young Jayana as he is referred to, put him under the right tutelage to be taught fine arts! And significantly the thousand pillared 13th century Ramappa Temple at Palampet (now declared a world heritage monument) near Warangal, the capital of the Kakatiyas built out of special floating bricks was by the then Chief of Army and Minister of Ganapati Deva.

Its extensive inscriptional and sculptural evidence pointing to the dance forms existing in this region inspired Jayappa while writing Nrtta Ratnavali. This would seem to point to an era when dance was a popular art form attracting people from all disciplines - not excluding the army! Jayappa's deep respect for Bharata and the Natya Sastra are reflected in the starting chapters on classical dance. In fact, he mentions that were Bharata to come back and reflect upon what he, Senapati had written, he would be very pleased at how completely faithful he, Jayana had been to Bharata's Natya Sastra! The later chapters deal with Desi or regional dances and here one sees the influence of Sarangadeva who belonged to about the same period, and is the author of the Sangeeta Ratnakara which also dealt with the Desi forms.

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Prism - Contribution of male stage artistes to the evolution of Odissi dance - Ileana Citaristi

(Paper presented at the "Purush-ang" seminar organized by Central Sangeet Natak Akademi at Bhubaneswar on September 19, 2000)

An important role in the formation of what we define today as Odissi dance was played in the first half of the 20th century by male artistes belonging to the performing art scene of those days. At the time when the devadasi tradition had come to an end and the gotipua tradition was looked upon as cheap and vulgar, a group of talented and versatile stage artistes infused new life into the dying dance scene.

The emergence of the present day Odissi cannot be totally understood unless we place it in the context of the fertile atmosphere which the theatre movement of the first half of the last century and the artistes behind it provided. Among the artistes were Mohan Sunder Dev Goswami, Ramachandra Mania, Laxminarayan Patra, Lingaraj Nanda, Kartik Kumar Ghose, Brindavan Das, Kashinath Sahu, Durlav Chandra Singh, Kalicharan Patnaik, and Dayal Sharan. They were totally dedicated and committed to the cause of reviving the performing arts of Orissa. Each one of them was an exponent of more than one discipline, like music, drama direction, dance or stage craft and each one was a self made artiste, having acquired whatever expertise he had, more by observation than by undergoing a systematic training.

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Saturday 7 December 2019

Trayambakam: Another feather in the cap of choreographer Vanashree Rao - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

There is no doubt that with Trayambakam, the latest choreographic work of Rasa United, Vanashree Rao has emerged as a brilliant choreographer. From a soloist and performing Kuchipudi with her husband Guru Jaya Rama Rao, her forays into choreographing works in three styles - Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Mayurbhanj Chhau - with a brilliant group of male and female dancers, Vanashree sets the stage on fire! There is not a single dull moment throughout the presentation. It grips the audience from the word go. The electrifying dances by the male dancers to the pulsating music, mood lighting and excellent costumes, the visuals hold one's attention.

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Wednesday 4 December 2019

Article - AI and the Arts - Media manipulators - Mridula Anand

For those who believe they cannot dance, here is a way to tick that off your bucket list. A recent paper by researchers at the University of Berkeley provides insight into how they could transfer moves from a dancer onto a person who could not dance. The result - a seriously impressive dance by an untrained amateur. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) has thus far been able to recreate voices and faces, dance was a new high. Although it involved impressive deep learning algorithms with a multi-step transfer process, the product mapped the bodily motion from a trained dancer to a novice very convincingly.

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Pickle Factory's Potpourri - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

In the early 1960s, Martin Luther King II announced, standing under the shadows of Abe Lincoln’s Memorial in Washington, DC, to the Blacks of the States: I have a dream… Over half a century later in the late 2010s, Vikram Iyenger too declared, standing beside the ruins of the dilapidated Gem Cinema in Central Kolkata, to the art-lovers of the eastern metropolis: I have a dream…If King had contemplated the much larger domain of freedom from the bondage of slavery for his people, the vision of Iyengar, a renowned Kathak dancer groomed under Rani Karnaa, was: “A hub for the practice, discourse and presentation of dance and movement-work in Kolkata … a space to think, know, talk, imagine dance … a home in a country that boasts of innumerable movement expressions from dance to martial arts.” He elaborated, “This is the big dream, and we invite everyone to join us on this adventure...”

Unlike the American Black’s freedom from bondage, Iyengar’s habitat for the art of dance has not yet materialized, the Gem’s site having proved to be too huge and too ramshackle, and there being no other site currently in view. Yet, Iyengar and his ‘Pickle Factory’ – a name he coined from a chance visit to a Chinese friend’s factory for manufacturing sauce – have pressed on regardless in their quest. Meanwhile, since 2018, Pickle Factory has been offering a delectable dance fair to the dilettante of the city. Only from August 2018 to October 2019, there have been 30 programmes; artistes have participated from the USA, the Philippines, Lithuania, Switzerland, China, Wales and Australia, apart from India; there have been 11 partners and 8 venues have been explored in Kolkata, Delhi and Bolpur (Shantiniketan). This critic witnessed three major events and here is the overview.

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Sunday 1 December 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - December 2019

Anita says...December 2019

"Every day brings you the chance to take a deep breath, kick off your shoes and Dance
When you hit a wall, climb over it, crawl across it or just dance on top of it."
- Oprah Winfrey

We live in an age of crass cacophony. When a 29 year old priest slaps a 50 year old female devotee right in front of the sanctum in the CHIDAMBARAM temple and immediately flees the scene, we are staring at a scenario where there are no safe spaces and no automatic sanctuaries. When the #METOO accused just one year ago are not just roaming around scot free but also performing in several December sabhas and receiving awards, we are facing a dire landscape of broken rules and splintered hopes.

It is not enough anymore for our politics to be separate from our art. No amount of dancing and praying to Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, and Devi can sublimate the anarchy of our times. No shouting and screaming about disrobing Draupadi or humiliating Sita will suffice. The praise of BEAUTY is just not enough anymore. For our art to be in sync with our lives we must embrace the turmoil of our times and find a way to enfold it in our artistic practice.

Read on...

Friday 29 November 2019

Dakshin December - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Dakshin means south. I'm qualifying it, as Hindi can be perceived as an onslaught or an infliction, by some in South India too. December is the month when majority of the dance scene and scholars, critics of national (even notional) relevance move South. Some of us who live there in South India anyway see this seasonal influx; like Siberian cranes, NRI birds and bees fly in to partake of the spread that Madras has to offer. Shows from morning to evening, many fighting for attention. Some sold out, some with 10 people in hall.

Dakshin school of Kathak sounds novel, especially in a city, where no Kathak exists. Why Kathak? Not even a tabla player or ghungroo stringer (Kathak ankle bells are strung together, 108 for each ankle, not stitched on cloth or leather) exists. So when someone trains over a 100 students and presents them at a full and overflowing Narada Gana Sabha on the last Sunday of November, then bells have been rung for a mad, mad, MADras December season, the famed Margazhi maasam or month. That someone is Jigyasa Giri.

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Wednesday 27 November 2019

Samyog-Viyog: Good intentions needed better treatment - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Kusum Awasthi Gupta's best intentions in wanting to showcase sringar rasa in a poetry/music/dance integration notwithstanding, the evening Samyog-Viyog in a collaboration featuring Asavari with Living Music Society for Arts, at Stein auditorium of Habitat in Delhi on November 13, ended in mixed feelings. One arrived to find a multi-level wooden installation on the stage, making one wonder if the dancer was going to be perched somewhere up above - till one saw the entire contraption being hammered and pulled down - with the stage having to be prepared for the music/dance interaction at the nth hour thanks to the auditorium being made available at the last minute after the previous show had finished. Artistes though seemed to take, what in this hall is a frequent enough phenomenon, in their stride.

Sringar Rasa in the two contrasting situations of Samyog (union) and Viyog (separation) was supposed to be explored through music rendered by Hindustani classical vocalist Sunanda Sharma with the dance expression contributed in Kathak by Shovana Narayan, well known Kathak professional. 

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Friday 22 November 2019

Arguing for a humanised rather than an idealised body - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

At Habitat's Gulmohar, the fourth lecture of the Kelucharan Mohapatra series organized by Art Matters, saw Sadanand Menon, Art commentator, (according to chairman Ashok Vajpeyi, one of the few really informed speakers on art) speak on Dancing Democracy.

In a hard hitting talk, Sadanand first put the search light on the opinion of a top bureaucrat who happened to be the Indian ambassador in the then Soviet Union of the eighties, when the Festival of India was held in that country. A wonderfully made documentary Sahaja by a top Kerala film maker (which in a later film festival in Japan won the award as the best documentary) on the Ardhanariswara concept, with clips by male dancers in stree vesha, or interpreting poetry defining a nayika like Radha, for example - slated to be screened during the opening of the exhibition in Moscow, was banned by the ambassador as an oddity presenting an unnatural and grossly lop-sided picture of India! The resulting fracas had the Prime Minister Mrs. Gandhi lightly making a point during the inauguration later that the ambassador was perhaps thinking of a 'Poora Mard' whereas we know that it is only one particular set of chromosomes which differentiates the male from the female. Actually femininity exists in every male just as there is masculinity in every female. Sadanand's story was to prove that the watchword for the State in a democracy should be accountability, and not arrogance of power. And the worse sin is when authoritarian negativism stems from a lack of knowledge on the subject concerned.

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Wednesday 20 November 2019

Mediating among media - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Alongside the ongoing resplendant programme of Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF), it is quite befitting to explore cinema's connection with theatre. There have been similar attempts earlier. One genre has been 'Filmed Theatre' capturing theatre perfromances on stage on the celluloid, without any frills or exaggeration. This criitc recalls a Filmed Theatre Festival at the Akashvani Theatre in Mumbai in the 1980s, when he had the privilege of witnessing an array of glitering drama - filmed faihtfully by the camera - in the company of the renowned actress Jennifer Kapoor. Another occasion can be discussion on the difference in acting modes between theatre and cinema. Considering that theatre is a 'live' medium where the dramatic action on stage evokes instant response from the viewers present, while cinema is a 'canned' medium waiting to be exposed to audiences much, much later, the dramatis personnae have to adjust their acting style in the presence of camera or otherwise. This does need clever adjustments which have given us brillaint theatre actors like Utpal Dutt, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah and Shah Rukh Khan's calibre, later as famous film stars. (KIFF, at the moment, is holding an interesting discussion session among actors and stars on the subject).

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Saturday 16 November 2019

Vasundhara Performing Arts Centre presented Sapthati - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

On the occasion of the 70th birthday of Bharatanatyam exponent Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy, Vasundhara Performing Arts Centre and Guru Shishya Parampara Trust presented a unique event including workshop and performances by disciples of Vasundhara on 1st November at Jagmohan Palace Hall, Mysore. It was on a grand scale and organized in a manner which won appreciation of one and all present there to wish Vasundhara a happy birthday.

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Wednesday 13 November 2019

From Novelty to Eternity - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The panache with which the third generation youthful dancer Shashwati Garai Ghosh went about presenting some new concepts of the interfacing of dance and classical music revealed quite a new fa├žade of creativity. Trained by the notable dancer Sharmila Biswas - herself groomed by the legendary Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra -- Shashwati's assertive flamboyance in crafting new choreography, over and above what she was handed over by Sharmila, was impressive and was indicative that the heritage of Odissi dance that had hardly reached its diamond jubilee of resurrection and consolidation is in safe hands.

Sampriti 2019 presented on October 31 at Kolkata by 'Angashuddhi' under the baton of Shashwati, was their annual festival, and this critic would like to highlight the especially innovative items in which a distinctive flair and novelty were noticeable. ...

The celebrated Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas - groomed by the iconic gurus Pt. Birju Maharaj and Kumudini Lakhia -- whose prowess in breaking the barriers of convention and pushing her classical form to ever new heights of imagination, has now become the stuff of a legend. ....

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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Vasundhara: Odyssey of a Dancer, Biography by Prof George S Paul - Dr. Sunil Kothari

On the occasion of the 70th birthday of senior Mysore based Bharatanatyam exponent Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy, her biography Vasundhara: Odyssey of a Dancer penned by Prof George S Paul was released on 2nd November in Mysore during the celebrations. Prof George S Paul is a recognized authority on Indian classical music and dance. Based in Thrissur, he was a Professor of Physics and has a long career as arts journalist and critic.

What is interesting about this biography is that it deals with the life of a dancer born in backwaters of Moodabidri-Mangalore, who by sheer grit, determination and complete support from her parents and her husband Mr. Doraswamy, an art connoisseur from Mysore, 20 years older than her, who was determined to make her a top dancer in field of Bharatanatyam. The author has a distinct advantage, being a close friend of Mr. Doraswamy and his cousin T.N. Harish, so he could elicit many personal anecdotes which make the narrative extremely interesting. The author being also an ace program organizer has enough knowledge and experience of the various hazards the organizers, dancer and her musicians face on various occasions.

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Friday 8 November 2019

Rangayan Festival of Arts and Literature: A festival with a difference - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

I am a great admirer of Sattriya dancer Sharodi Saikia. She has been organizing a multi-discipline festival of dance, music, paintings, poetry reading, lectures, literature, drawing competition, a freewheeling discussion, and get together of dancers, musicians, painters, literary figures. I know of no other dancer in Assam visualizing and arranging such a wide range of festival for three days.

I have been visiting Guwahati for past several years on various occasions for research, documentation, conferences, lectures, attending Nritya Parva since 2000 when Sattriya was declared as eighth classical dance and after few years, Sattriya Kendra started arranging annual festival featuring senior and up and coming dancers, and symposiums. Since I was conducting research on Sattriya dances, I visited Guwahati and also other major cities and Sattras on Majuli Island. Over the years, I started following Assamese language and of course made friends. Finally Marg Foundation published my book on Sattriya dances of Assam with photographs by Avinash Pasricha. I had started working on Sattriya dances from 1964 and by 2013 the book was released in Guwahati. It brought me considerable recognition and I was conferred the most prestigious Madhavdev award this year.

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Thursday 7 November 2019

October features varying manifestations of dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Indo-American Friendship Association, initiated by Ambassador Surendra Kumar as "non-profit, non-political, non-religious, non-sectarian, and non-commercial" to enlarge the horizon of friendship and understanding between India and the US, featured on October 9 at Habitat's Stein auditorium an evening of dancers trained under three stalwarts of dance, Pt Birju Maharaj, Sonal Mansingh and Saroja Vaidyanathan representing the traditions of Kathak, Odissi and Bharatanatyam respectively. Surendra Kumar's introductory words referring to the gurus as "true inheritors of renowned legacies," also in passing mentioned arranging the coming together of three known Gurus as being one of the most difficult objectives to have achieved - of all his programs so far arranged. With firm politeness, denying the veracity of this statement, Sonal Mansingh called the Gurus an easy people to deal with - and one needing all the support which now was going to areas which were affluent and were flourishing and did not need any outside support.

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Wednesday 6 November 2019

Other theatres - symbolic, magic - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

In the ancient Greek drama as well as in the great Shakespearean theatre it inspired, usually a single transition takes place in the performance that is crucial for you as the viewer: transition from "Here and Now" of your mundane present to the "There and Then" of the dramatic events. The theatre is palpable behind the "invisible fourth wall"; the flesh-and-blood actors deliver their dialogue; there is a reasonable unity of time and space; and the sequence of events takes you from the formulation of a problem right up to its solution.

But there can also be an alternative theatre of the kind conceived by Sergei Obraztsov of Russia, for instance, which may permit multiple transitions from the "Here and Now" to the "There and Then". In their world that calls -from the beginning -- for suspension of your disbelief, symbols and allegories are galore; the actors can be physical characters and/or puppets who speak the puppeteer's lingo and performing dolls; the unity of time and space goes for a toss; and the sequence of events can be equally topsy-turvy. Two excellent specimens of the latter variety were witnessed recently by this critic.

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Monday 4 November 2019

Profile - Gender, Nationalism: Sitara Devi - The Fiery Queen of Kathak - Navina Jafa

Remembering Sitara Devi on her birth anniversary on 8th November, the Queen of Kathak dance is as much about her fiery personality as it is about locating the legendary dancer in a wider frame. Hers is a story representative of women empowerment in the Indian performing arts, about middle-class ‘respectability’ and about culture during the National Movement against the British.

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Friday 1 November 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - November 2019

Anita says...November 2019

It is not up to you to decide if you are good or not
Leave your channels of inspiration open
Let the movement flow
Surrender your spirit to the dance
It is for others to decide, not you.
- Martha Graham's advice to choreographer Agnes De Mille about Self Doubt

Diwali in India this year was more subdued than usual, with the eco activists asserting their voice against bursting crackers. I was away from home and missed the welcome bustle of domestic cheer that has accompanied my annual Deepavali (as we South Indians say) in Chennai. For over a decade I have missed being woken by my mother and grandmother at 4am and led to the bathing areas for a special oil bath with turmeric paste and sesame oil while their soothing voices would sing that famous Telugu song SITA KALYANAM VAIBHOGAME...

This year I am not home to supervise the same ritual for my daughter Arya, who, incidentally, refuses to allow me to sing the words to the song, citing it as a patriarchal custom. So instead I just hum the tune to her.

I miss the rustle of a new silk sari and the excitement of visiting my elders and good friends, sharing news and plain town gossip.

Deepavali away from home just does not feel like a festival for me. And on that very day, October 27, I arrived in San Mateo, Bay Area, California. What greeted me was a giant power outage and zero connectivity! Imagine in the tech centre of Silicon Valley to have the raging California fires threaten not just lives but the working of so many homes!

It is festival season so let's switch moods and begin on a positive note!

Read on...

Monday 28 October 2019

Dancing doctors! - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

And one thought doctors were these noble but boring people who had no time for anything else leave alone the arts. Well, just as there are a few really good dancers who can cure bad evenings, likewise there are a few good doctors who can dance too!

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Sunday 27 October 2019

Prism - Purvaranga From Bharata's Natyamandapam to Kathak Proscenium - Sunil Sunkara, Edited by Dr. Puru Dadheech

Abstract: This essay looks at the Purvaranga Vidhi described in chapter V of the Natyashastra, focusing on the components of the purvaranga that became a part of the Kathak parampara, keeping in mind the lecture series, 'Kathak in reference to Natyashastra' conducted by Dr. Puru Dadheech at Bharata College of Fine Arts & Culture, Mumbai and 'Kathak Shastra' conducted by him at the Kathak Darpan Cultural Centre, Mumbai.

The fifth chapter of the Natyashastra deals with the preliminaries of the play or Purvaranga Vidhanam. It is here that Bharata lays down broad parameters of consecrating space which would prepare actors, performers and the audience to be transported to the world of 'kalpana' (imagination) and simultaneously to the divine. Thus the preliminaries were believed to have a dual role of protecting and sustaining the world of imagination as well as heralding auspiciousness.

In the words of Kalidasa, a performance is a 'chaksus yagna' i.e. an offering of that which can be seen and imagined by the eye (mind). The Purvaranga Vidhi is thus akin to the setting up of the yagna kund and samagri. The parts of the purvaranga to be performed in due order with the playing of drums and stringed instruments as well as recitatives (paathya) are:

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The Bharathanatomy Series: Introduction to Muscles - Sneha Rajagopalan - Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column

This month, as part of the 'Bharathanatomy' series, we will discuss Muscles; Bundles of fibre which possess the potential to contract.

Muscles can contract (activate) in various ways to a) generate movement and/or b) maintain a position. NOTE: all and any major muscle(s) may contract in all three ways.

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Thursday 24 October 2019

Dance stories from around the world - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

I have been travelling internationally a lot since being awarded the post doctoral Fulbright. The largest chunk of these travels was the Fulbright year itself in 2017-2018, when I was at the University of Minnesota, Twin cities Campus. I lived in Minneapolis which has become a big hub of art in the mid west region of America. Dance was the constant subtext of the year I spent there.

Subsequently, I attended several dance conferences, like the annual Dance Studies Association’s conference, and engaged with the most recent dance scholarship.  The Dance Studies Association conference happened at the Ohio State University at Columbus, Ohio in 2017, at the University of Malta, Malta, 2018 and at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, in August 2019. Each occasion allowed me to hear such brilliant scholarship, and realise how the field was both widening and deepening. Many of these papers encouraged me to relook at areas of dance that I had lived with but never applied critical understanding to. It has generated a new body of scholarly work from my pen.

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Wednesday 23 October 2019

Shobha Deepak Singh's enthralling dance-drama 'Shri Ram' - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

For the past 63 years Sri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra's production of Ramleela continues to enchant the audiences. I remember in early fifties whenever I visited New Delhi from Mumbai, during month of October there was always celebrations of Lord Rama. In those years on multiple stages, Narendra Sharma's choreography of Ramleela was staged. Shashidaran Nair used to coordinate and perform, so many actors performed for a long time. Now the new generation of young male and female dancers performs Ramleela under supervision, direction of Shobha Deepak Singh. As a matter of fact, Ramleela of Sri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra needs an independent special history.

The present production was inaugurated by the Vice President of India, Mr. M Venkaiah Naidu on 29th September at 6pm. That show was exclusive for invitees and had high security arrangements. We managed to go on 5th October and lo and behold, the magic of the present production held us in thrall. Our generation knows Ramayana backwards. Be it Tulasidas's Chaupais, or Sanskrit shlokas from Valmiki's Ramayana, the popular version of Ramayana and the script written by Arvind Kumar and Neelabh 'Ashk', the spell continues and the moment dancers arrive on the stage playing drums and cymbals and singing, you start humming with them. So powerful is the music arrangement that you start soaking yourself in the lyrics penned by contemporary Hindi poets.

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Tuesday 22 October 2019

Values across millennia - feminism, feudalism - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

How long can one go back to look at the definitive narratives about the human values? Considering the earliest Greek myths recorded, in the poet Hesiod's Theogony composed in the 7th century BC one gets snapshots of the myths on the origins and genealogies of the Greek gods. One comes across the bewitchingly beautiful Medea there, as the granddaughter of the sun-god Helios and wooed by Jason, the bravest of the Greek heroes. Based upon this myth, the Greek playwright Euripides built his epic tragedy Medea in the early 5th century BC.

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Sunday 20 October 2019

Obit/Tribute - PVK: Tireless foot soldier for spreading art awareness, no more - Leela Venkataraman

The world was a poorer place for me on hearing that a great friend, well-wisher and fine human being PVK, as P.V. Krishnamoorthy was fondly known, had left this world (at the ripe old age of 98) in the early hours of October 17th morning in Chennai. A deep sadness came over me when the person who for me, amongst all my contacts, was most deserving of one of the highest of State awards, had died quietly, with no all-India recognition - even while lesser talents are being decorated all the time. Less than a month ago in Chennai, I called on him to have an engaging hour's conversation, or see him playing on his Keyboard- something I had never failed to do in all the years he had settled in Chennai, in a flat very close to my daughter's house. As his loving daughter-in-law guided me to his bedroom, this last time, I saw a frail PVK, still recovering from an unfortunate fall he had. He spoke to me softly - happy I was there. I left soon on seeing that he was in no shape to engage in any sort of tete a tete.

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Tuesday 15 October 2019

Roses and Thorns - SNA award for Kuchipudi - Madhavi Puranam

(This article is an excerpt from the editorial of Nartanam, Volume: XIX, No. 2, Apr-June 2019)

The latest Sangeet Natak Akademi award for Kuchipudi is given to a Bharatanatyam dancer who studied at Kalakshetra, Chennai, and has been a member of the faculty in the Central University of Hyderabad for decades teaching Bharatanatyam in the Dance Department. Is the body of his work in Kuchipudi so staggering as to warrant this coveted award? However, he possesses the most vital ingredient which makes the recipe for obtaining the SNA Award for Kuchipudi, i.e being born into a Kuchipudi family, whereby the divine art of Kuchipudi flows in his body and thus such a mortal can lay claim to the SNA award for Kuchipudi. Moreover, a Kuchipudi clan member sits in the General Council after obtaining a Bismillah Khan Award for 'achievements' in Yakshagana.

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Monday 14 October 2019

Endemic problems stir animated discourse - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Prachi Hota's planning of a discussion Samanubhasana mounted at the IIC Annex provided a good platform for a free exchange of views on certain issues which the arena of classical dance will always have to contend with. It is encouraging to see youngsters in the dance world willing to participate in panel discussions, unafraid of expressing their views on various subjects. The first subject of 'Understanding the Pay and Perform Culture' never ceases to stir high passions and righteous indignation. Bharatanatyam dancer Tanya Saxena, a disciple of Saroja Vaidyanathan, provided an excellent start to the discussions with her well thought out, clear-headed introduction summing up all the aspects of this hydra headed monster which makes a dancer pay the organizers for a platform to perform, rather than being paid for her services. The exploitation comes in a host of packages - like providing an 'honorarium' which is for 'production costs' by the sponsor who of course gives the performer nothing; asking the dancer to manage with a lump sum provided (within which all expenses of light, sound, fee for the musicians etc have to be met); allowing the dancer to perform to recorded music and providing hospitality for the day (but never travel costs from another city); mentioning that the organization cannot afford to pay but will provide a stage and an audience (!); charging a 'registration' fee for organizing etc.

"Where does one draw the line?" asked the dancer. While money is a big concern, it may not be the sole criterion. The organization and the size of the audience, if fairly good, are matters of deep importance to a dancer. One can console oneself that through such a program one can cultivate a relationship providing goodwill, which hopefully will help one's future prospects. Tanya also made a forceful statement about none of these so called events (taking advantage of young dancers looking for a platform) being curated with care. They are haphazard with nobody to oversee events, even though the stage comes at a price. The dancer made out a strong case for dancers who seem particularly vulnerable to this state of affairs, with their also acquiring, over the years, a pitiful image of constantly having to beg for money. Musicians get a better deal.Why is it only the dancer who is supposed to provide entertainment with no compensation for her efforts?

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Sunday 13 October 2019

Assam Diary Sri Sri Madhavdev Award, visit to Narayanpur and Sri Sri Madhavdev's Sattra - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

When I received the news from the Department of Culture, Govt. of Assam that I had been selected for Sri Sri Madhavdev Award for the year 2019, I was delighted. This award is similar to Sri Sri Sankardev Award which is given for contribution to Assamese culture in particular and culture in general. It is the highest award given by the Govt. of Assam and is a national award. It carries a purse of Rs. 3 lakhs, a citation and a shawl. This award has been instituted only recently. The venue for conferring the award was Narayanpur, the birthplace of Sri Sri Madhavdev. It was to be given by the Chief Minsiter Sri Sarbanand Sonowal.

The invitation letter mentioned that the awardee will be the State Guest and all arrangements for travel, accommodation, visiting Sattra of Sri Sri Madhavdev, meeting with the CM etc., would be arranged. Arriving on 22nd September, I was received traditionally with Assamese Gamocha (scarf) by the officer from Dept. of Culture along with my friend Samar Sarmah at the Guwahati airport. It has been refurnished and when one arrives one sees the large scale masks of Nrusimha avatara and various other characters at the entrance. They are titled as Majuli vignettes, as the Sattra which has specialized in mask making is on Majuli Island known as Chamguri Sattra.

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Friday 11 October 2019

Start-up nurturing nascent talents - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Looking first, at an analogy from the business world, entrepreneurship has not been lacking among the young generation, but investment was. It is only recently that the millennial enterprises have sprouted "start-ups" and have been able to secure "venture funds" from what are named "angel investors". As is common in the business market, some start-ups have fallen by the wayside, some have just managed to keep their nose above troubled waters, and yet a few have done startlingly well.

In the rarefied atmosphere of performing arts, young dancers are known to be equally lacking monetary encouragement for their art. Both in the Marghazi season in Chennai or round the year in Kolkata, classical dancers are made to pay from their own pocket for their performance -- for a few precious minutes -- on the public platform. This seems quite reminiscent of the above model of the erstwhile business situation, except that here angel investors are yet to spring up.

Nritya Navin 2019 presented on September 23 and 24 by Nipun Nrityalaya, was the culmination of sponsorship efforts of a very refreshing "angel" in the form of Manojit Saha, Nipun's director and a Bharatanatyam dancer of repute --- being groomed by guru CV Chandrasekhar over last 10 years. Nipun took the initiative of selecting, after serial elimination, 15 young dance talents finally from five different classical styles and agreeing to have all their expenses covered including travel and stay, besides offering them an honorarium for the eventual performance. Nipun called for direct applications - supported by bio-data, solo performance video, guru's recommendation and press clippings if any -- through social media. Nipun's motto was: first, to stop the youngsters' "pay-and-perform" culture and, secondly, to promote art and young talented dancers by suitably paying them for their efforts.

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