Thursday, 15 August 2019

Article - Patronage, Economics & Solo Indian Dance - Navina Jafa

Replacing the Temples and court, the Indian Nation-State since 1947 emerged as the chief patron of Indian classical dance. With the opening of the economy in the 1980s, cultural economics led to dance spectacles as group productions, development of stitched solo performances on recorded music, the pay to perform malady, virtual learning and most of all, the disarray patronage of the State as chief patron. Cultural economics and patronage have led to marginalizing solo dance.

Importance of the Solo
Barring Kuchipudi and Manipuri, the basic feature of the Indian classical tradition is the solo dance. Taking an overarching view, one standing feature of the dances is the character of improvisation in performance. In most traditions, improvisation called manodharma is present largely in the abhinaya (mimetic) repertoire; however, in Kathak, it is called upaj (to grow) and applies to both rhythmic patterns and mimetic elaborations. The improvisation illustrates creative competence of a dancer. Greater the manodharma / upaj, the more outstanding the  artist.   
Ensuring the intrinsic character of every tradition, improvisations need to maintain the structural grammatical rules defining each dance tradition.  Unlike the West where the dance and the music are written heritage, the Indian is oral and is a flowing tradition (parampara). Every nuance imbibed/interpreted by individuals is different and the signature of an artist is to contribute to the flow of the tradition making it relevant for the contemporary time and audience.  

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Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Prism - Shringaar in Odissi dance: A recollection - Translated from Odia by Malabika Patel, Edited, notes and pics by Ileana Citaristi

(Translated from an Odia speech given by Harapriya Devadasi in the seminar on Odissi dance organised by Kendriya Sangeet Natak Akademi in July 1975 at Bhubaneswar)

I have been asked to say something about the getup and costume of Odissi dance. What shall I narrate; happy events, sad events or my own life experiences? I have no knowledge of scriptures. Whatever I have learnt is from my service and based on that, I have prepared something which I will now read out. Yesterday, Dhiren Babu said the fragrance has vanished, only the rag remains. I admit the scent has gone but the rag is still fresh. Because the piece of cloth is there, so much discussion is taking place and so many artists have gone and performed Odissi dance all over the world. What more can I say? Our service however remains the same. Service means giving happiness. Yesterday Rajguru-ji and Rathasharma-ji had said that we Devadasi were named 'Swamini'.

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Sunday, 11 August 2019

ABHAI's Pravasi Utsavam - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Chennai’s ABHAI (Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India), initiated in 1987 by Pakkirisamy Pillai was to encourage, amidst the highly competitive performance scenario, camaraderie among Bharatanatyam artistes. Since last year, ABHAI, in a friendly sensitive gesture, has mounted ‘Pravasi Utsavam’ solely meant for presenting proficient Bharatanatyam dancers settled abroad - who find it difficult to procure performance opportunities during the Season with its crowded calendar. And no matter how many opportunities for dancing one has in various countries, to present a Bharatanatyam recital on its home soil, has its own special appeal. 

After a brief invocation sung by Uma Namboodiripad Satyanarayana invoking Dakshinamurthy, followed by dancer Roja Kannan’s (President of ABHAI) very concise welcome address, the festival at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Chennai, had USA settled Lavanya Raghuraman trained by the Dhananjayans in Bharata Kalanjali presenting the curtain-raiser recital.  Beginning with a salutation to Nritta Ganapati as Parabrahma  swaroopam, the dancer went on to the Swarajati (Nrityopaharam for the Dhananjayan school), Sakhiye  inda  velaiyil in Anandabhairavi, with zippy teermanams and the expressional part of the nayika cajoling the sakhi to go as a messenger of love to fetch Rajagopalaswamy residing in the holy town, rendered with the confidence of a frequent performer. She finished with abhinaya in the Javali Sarasamulade  denduku in Kapi, the nayika trying to dodge the advances of the over eager nayaka for neither time of day nor the lack of privacy added up to an opportune moment for romance.

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Some charming colors and cadences - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

It was very refreshing to find half a dozen reputed and well-respected gurus of classical dance in the Eastern metropolis join hands and produce a well conceived item each, with well trained disciples, many of whom were recipients of national scholarship or junior fellowship awards from Ministry of Culture. Indeed, it was quite thoughtful of Pushpak and their director Alokparna Guha to organize their annual dance festival on July 31 in a properly thought out format, reducing traditional mythology for Sahitya to a large extent.

The evening began with Shibpur Omkar under Dr. Malabika Mitra presenting Chhanda Parikrama. Malabika is a veteran Kathak dancer, whom this critic had seen performing in Delhi as early as 1984 and who has not looked back since. According to an ancient Indian concept, dance is the source of creation and everything owes its origin to the rhythmic movement of dance of Mahashakti (Supreme Energy). We find different rhythmic patterns in every movement around us. There are also different rhythmic patterns in north Indian music: Aarh, Kuaarh, Biaarh and Barabar. The four dancers on stage played with pure dance patterns through footwork and traditional mnemonics like toda, parimelu and padhants set to different chhanda (rhythmic patterns). What emerged was quite an invigorating nritta that delights the heart. 

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Thursday, 8 August 2019

Article - Build me a porch! Hang me a swing!, A dancer's plight? - Ramaa Bharadvaj

And this happened in the month of July in the year 2019...
The setting is the MS University in Gujarat, India.
- First, there is Dr. Parul Shah who serves both as the Head of the Department of Dance and Dean of Performing Arts at this University.
- Then, after a meritorious service, having earned respect and all that good stuff, she retires.
- Then, there is a Bachelor's Degree course in Kathak dance style offered by this same University.
- Then, Dr. Shah, the 66-year-old ex-Dean, applies to join this course - as a student!
- And then... she is REJECTED! That's right! She is denied course entry / refused /declined! 

The reasons? According to a Times of India article, there are four articulated by the current HOD Mr. Jagdish Gangani:
- The other students will feel pressured by her presence in class 
- Her age and physical fitness will not allow her to keep up
- The department is already over its student intake 
- This is a dance-career oriented degree course

On the surface, the decision by the selection panel might come across as being practical, and resting on four solid legs. But, if we don our lens of reason, we can see that these legs are wobbly and their rationale falls so low on the moral quotient that one has to turn into a crawling centipede and hunt with one's antennae to find its justification. 

Of course, every educational institution is entitled to set its own qualifiers for admittance, but these should relate to the curriculum and the subjects being taught. Here, the reasons (IF these are the real reasons), that the dance department has chosen to publicly project as talking-points are so ludicrously wishy-washy, that I wish to address each individually, to cite its demerits both from the ethical as well as pragmatic perspectives.

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Prism - Resonating in Rasa - Sunil Sunkara

Abstract: This essay looks at the manifestation of Rasa and its resonance with Bhava, keeping in mind the tenets of the Natyashastra. In context of Kathak, Bhibhatsa rasa has been studied with respect to compositions composed by maestros and an analysis of the Vyabhicharis involved when resonating within this seldom depicted rasa

The journey of dance begins with first imbibing the aangik vocabulary of the dance into the body or the sthul sharir, which connects with sagun saakara (both quality and form). The next step is the transference of the effects of these movements into the physiological inner space or the sukshma sharira, which connects with sagun nirakaar (with quality but no form). This then transfers to the kaarana sharira or aatma that has no form or quality. What is absorbed into this formless space within us is an intangible imprint (sanskaar) that can best be described as 'bhaav'. These sanskaaras translate over lifetimes and are truly the only aspect of a human life that one can take forward from one lifetime to the next.

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Monday, 5 August 2019

Prism - Rhythmic narratives of Pt Lacchu Maharaj - The Kavit Paran - Paullumi B Mukherjee

Dance is a combined art form. Dance relies heavily on literature and poetry is the heartbeat of music. In the world of Kathak, Rasa is created through the myriad interpretations of poetry. A truly elevated Kathak performer imbibes the 'laya' or rhythm and with the help of word imagery infuses the 'prana'/ breath into the movements.

Late Guru Lacchu Maharaj, one of the most versatile gurus of his time, laid emphasis on expressing the feeling within the form of the beat. In his Kathak journey, Guruji experimented and specialized in the execution of body movements. To him, every exterior movement had to be an expression of the inner 'sense'. The 'Gross' movement was the outer shell while the 'Bhava' the invisible feel, was the inner kernel.

In his attempts to connect with the last viewer in the audience, Guru Lacchu Maharaj experimented within the gamut of the Kathak art form.

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Thursday, 1 August 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - August 2019

Anita says...August 2019

LOVE is a fire
That dies out
If it does not kindle others

YOU have burned with joy
So kindle them who come near you
If you can

Or become a stone

- Italian artist Giovanni Papini

In the midst of rehearsals, performances and more gushing in the guise of reviews on Facebook, I turn my lens to fewer topics but those that have caught my attention this past month.

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Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Famine in floods - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

So, with so many dancers that abound, especially in popular forms like Bharatanatyam, one would think the dance field is flooded with talents and finding a teacher would be easy? No way. 

In July, Guru Purnima messages became more inventive and innovative, with new trend that most were assuming they were great gurus at 30! Some super-imposed their own photos on ancient looking sages and flooded WhatsApp with their promotional materials. 

So when a well established institution in Gujarat said KUCHCH DIN TOU PADHARO HAMARE GUJARAT MEIN! tag line, I asked about 30 close people in dance if they would be interested in going to Gir lion land. Out of 30, only 3 showed interest. One may ultimately qualify. 

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Sunday, 28 July 2019

Natanagar Dance Festival paid homage to Guru Shambhu Maharaj - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

It is always a pleasure to see Madhavi Mudgal's Odissi recital for her seasoned approach and excellent selection. Selecting a shloka from Sangita Ratnakara in praise of Shiva set to music by Jitendra Abhisheki, she dwelt on variations of bols, mnemonics to suggest Shiva's Tandava with his favourite damaru. Takit takit takit resounded in a variety of ways suggesting dance of Shiva. The beauty of Lord Shiva, his three eyes and colour of his face, 'Mukhavilas', brought out the poetry in use of the suggestive hastas.

This year's SNA awardee for Hindustani music Madhup Mudgal, Madhavi's brother, composed pallavi in raga Jhinjhoti. Madhavi brought elements of 'alas kanyas' alive in their languorous poses, as seen on the walls of temples in Odisha, with sensuous movements. There were subtle but curvaceous movements strung with tribhanga postures. 

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Thursday, 25 July 2019

The pleasant and the poignant - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The enduring legacy of Indian classical dances has seen virtually a torrential flow in the post-Independence decades. One particularly strong stream has been the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam that -- taking off from an obscure village located over 200 km away from Chennai - had covered once some one-third of all the learners on the globe. It is part of history today that four particularly gifted brothers -- Chinnaiah, Ponniah, Sivanandam and Vadivel, all court composers in the early 19th century in Thanjavur -- created not merely ten dazzling Pada Varnams, which have lasted forever as masterpieces of Bharatanatyam, but also laid down the margam, a thoughtfully set-out sequence for presentation, which is still followed diligently by every practitioner.

Among the illustrious gurus, first and foremost, Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai (related closely to the Thanjavur Quartet's family), then his son-in-law Chokkalingam Pillai, and finally his grandson, Subbaraya Pillai, were the doyens of the Pandanallur form, beginning from the last quarter of the 19th century up to the very early 21st century. Along with a few more stalwarts, these gurus kept the flag up for the form, grooming -- among themselves -- almost everybody who was and is anybody for this style: from Ram Gopal, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Rukmini Devi Arundale, Indrani Rehman, US Krishna Rao and Chandrabhaga Devi, up to teaching at Kalakshetra and continuity of their tradition through Yamini Krishnamurthy, Alarmel Valli and Jamuna Krishnan, among a zillion others.

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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Obit/Tribute - In praise of Kuchipudi exponent Sumathy Kaushal - Dr. Sunil Kothari

Senior Kuchipudi exponent, Guru Sumathy Kaushal passed away on Guru Purnima day on 15th July 2019 at her residence in Rancho Cucamonga, California, USA. She had migrated there by 1981 and settled there with her two sons - Adarsh, who was a photographer (he passed away recently) and other son Abhiman who is a tabla player of renown.

I had visited Sumathy's residence three years ago during my visit to USA to take part in celebration of her institute Nritya Shikhar's completing more than 52 years. Her few students from different parts of USA and a film actor from Hyderabad had specially come to be with her. We caught up after a long interval. She told me she was happy conducting classes and occasionally visiting Hyderabad also.

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Sunday, 21 July 2019

Prachi Hota in Odissi impresses - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

Young and personable Prachi Hota has been trained in Odissi by late Guru Harekrushna Behera from her very childhood, when she was barely three. She continued to study under him for more than nine years, in between studying also from his daughter Kavita Dwibedi. Over the years she also studied under Aruna Mohanty, and occasionally under Kum Kum Mohanty. Currently she is continuing her studies under Y. Ashakumari. 

The fare she offered was varied as she has studied under various gurus. The opening Mangalacharan was choreographed by Aruna Mohanty. In praise of Lord Shiva, the well known Sanskrit prayer Nagendra Haraya explored the five elements, with multiple forms of the god as Ardhanarishwara, placing one palm on half of the face and later on other side. With such subtle touches, Vashishth Kumbhodbhavaya, Yakshaswarupaya, Digambaraya, evoking the forms with hastabhinaya and sculpturesque poses, she succeeded in performing with ease and cultivated practice for years. 

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Article - Here a Guru, There a Guru, Everywhere a Guru, Guru... - Ramaa Bharadvaj

This year, as the day of Guru Purnima dawned, I noticed that social media had become unusually cluttered with yesteryear snaps of dancers with their teachers, as well as reminiscences and offerings of gratitude by dancers to their 'gurus'. Amidst all this euphoric enthusiasm, a dancer-friend from the US had posted an observance that caught my attention! She recollected celebrating only Vijayadasami with her dance teachers when she was a student, and wondered how many dance teachers have had the experience of being felicitated on Guru Purnima day. 

Having already been amused by the lavish throwing around of the 'guru' title, this question in the aforesaid post got me thinking, and the thinking got me writing! 

First of all, we should understand that Guru Purnima is meant to honor the spiritual guru (Diksha guru) and it would be a good thing to keep it that way. It is Vijayadasami that is the appropriate occasion for honoring teachers in art and other fields. It is not necessary to just take my word on this topic; We just need to take a look at the traditions that are practiced on these two days, which themselves bespeak the distinctly differing attributes of these two celebrations. 

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Thursday, 18 July 2019

Article - My First Czech Arangetram: Musings - Dr. Joyce Paul Siamak

When you are a young teacher aiming for your first arangetram, you fret about things big and small. You want everything to be just perfect. You are nervous and excited at the same time. You look for a seasoned orchestra that can add brilliance to your event and be your support system. Your first student. Your first work of art nurtured in a different body. Your shishya is your baby irrespective of age. They are a painting that you created one stroke at a time, rinsing and repeating until every stroke and every hue is perfect.

I had been working on my Czech student, Stepanka’s arangetram for almost two years. We must have scheduled dates at least 6 times and then for some inexplicable reasons ended up not being able to pull it off. Mostly, it felt like the dates and the artists would all come together and then without warning slipped through our hands. Often the reasons were beyond our control or would be something as simple as one of us dropping the ball in responding to a text or not seeing an email which in turn became a cascade of events that somehow “prevented” the arangetram from happening.

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Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Yoga / Nritya reaches out to the common public - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Yoga as a means of attaining a state of complete harmony where body, mind and soul are united, forms one of ancient India's traditional disciplines. This state-of- being, when experienced, is described as one of pure joy or ananda. And all art forms also are regarded in the traditional world view of the country as sadhanas (disciplines which form the means), as a yoga and sacrifice with the same aim of evoking bliss or ananda. This state of complete harmony or samarasya is one of total release (svatantrya) from the life bonds, attaining visranti. The world view of the Hindu is of a seeker aspiring for that state of self realization and indivisible oneness or harmony leading to joy. 

Yoga has also been defined by scholar Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan (in her book Indian Classical Dance in Literature and the Arts) as that complete efficiency or what Bhagavat Gita calls the karmasukausalam, whereby every bit of mental energy gets concentrated in achieving that one end in view, while enabling the person concerned to see the underlying unity in everything. The inner freedom that Yoga aspires for is through a discipline which is ethical, non-violent, non-exploitative, and health promoting. 

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Saturday, 13 July 2019

Article - Influence of Bharata's 'Tandavalakshanam' on Kathak 'Taalpaksh' - Sunil Sunkara

AbstractIn the journey of evolution of any species, there are certain intrinsic elements that withstand the test of time. Evolved from the earlier apes and bonobos, the Neanderthal man evolved into the homo sapiens, the homo sapiens sapiens and so on. But at one point in this process the species was no longer that of 'ape' but that of a 'human'. This same lens has been applied in this essay while looking at the connection between Natyashastra and Kathak Prayoga. While the movement vocabulary of the Natyashastra as described in the Tandavalakshanam classifies as margi, all the movement vocabulary in Kathak today would classify as desi. That withstanding, this essay bases itself on the belief that there have been certain connecting principles that connects with the very ethos or internal fabric of dance and its creation. It is with this perspective that the influence of Bharata's Tandavalakshanam principles have been looked at in perspective of the taalpaksh in Kathak. 

The chapter IV of Bharata's Natyashastra, Tandavalakshanam deals with the cadence of movements, the karanas and longer sequences built upon them, the angaharas. None of the descriptions can be understood without the aid of Chapters VIII, IX and X which deals with the micro and micro movements of the body - in short, all that Bharata recognizes as the larger rubric of Aangikabhinaya [Vatsyayan, 1996].

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Friday, 12 July 2019

SPIC MACAY Convention with JNU collaboration centre stages multi- flavoured exercise as meditative not entertaining - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

A fruitful collaboration saw SPIC MACAY's seventh International Convention simultaneously celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Even as the torrid summer heat sapped energies, JNU hosted the week-long event on its spacious grounds. For SPIC MACAY's founder Dr.Kiran Seth, braving forty years, surmounting financial and organizational bottlenecks, armed with just total commitment and faith, that the right cause with 'Nishkama Seva' will keep the flame burning despite impediments, destiny this year ensured the collaboration of Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar, Vice Chancellor JNU, who, including the concluding all-night program from 8pm to 6.30am, was present right through with his wife. 

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Thursday, 11 July 2019

Social mirror - real and surreal - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Mirza Ghalib, Delhi's iconic reconnoiter, said once, "My whole life, I kept dusting my viewing mirror, without ever removing dust from my own body..." Two recent adaptations from the Western dramatic genre attempted to seek reflection of our own society, warts and all, in the playwrights' own mirror.

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Wednesday, 10 July 2019

An unusual Kathak performance by Ishwari Deshpande - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

In August 2013, when Guru Mohan Rao Kallianpurkar's centenary celebrations were held at Pune by Prerana Deshpande's Nrityadham and Shama Bhate's Naad Roop Kathak institutions, Prerana Deshpande had performed in Chitramala composed by Mohan Rao. In Ganga Jamuna section, Ishwari Deshpande, 16, (daughter of Prerana and tabla vadak Supreet Deshpande) in the centre had executed the taal with such confidence and brilliance that the celebrated musician Satyasheel Deshpande had spontaneously said: "Wah, she is like AK47 Rifle!"

That sweet 16, now 22, has turned into a mature Kathak exponent. Her recital on 29th June at Shakuntala Jagannath Auditorium, under the aegis of Nrityadham, was proof of her maturity and growth as brilliant dancer. Everything is going good for petite, charming Ishwari. From the age of three, she has been brought up in an atmosphere where round the clock there was dance and music. Her mother Prerana, a disciple of late legendary pioneer in Kathak in Pune, Rohini Bhate, groomed her from very childhood. Father Supreet Deshpande, an ace tabla vadak, son of the celebrated Kiran Deshpande, provided all facilities for her training. Being a daughter of parents who are artistes of a very high standard, Kathak is in the genes of Ishwari. Her own deep interest has helped her bloom into a fine dancer.

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Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Prism - Krishna or Godot? - Ileana Citaristi

(Note: This article was written after the first East West Dance Encounter held at Tata Theatre, Mumbai, organized by Max Mueller Bhavan and NCPA in January 1984 and published in NCPA Quarterly Journal, June 1984, Mumbai).

During the evenings of the East-West Dance Encounter (It took place from 22nd to 29th January 1984) on the stage the gap was striking; the Eastern dancer all dressed up, ornamented and protected, the Western one naked, exposed, vulnerable.. The latter with wide-open eyes expressed uncertainty, anguish, desperation in relation to the unknown; the former, with devoted and submissive eyes, expressed a longing for her beloved.

Krishna or Godot? Is the yellow-robed one with the smiling face and inviting flute in his hands, the target? Or is the unshaped and indefinite aim of our existence to be evoked? In both cases, body, space, energy, directions, music were used. The emphasis was different. Here the face, there the legs; here bright colours, there black; here the beat, there the off-beat; here the expected, there the unexpected.

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Sunday, 7 July 2019

Article - Tana varnams: The promise of more than an abhyasageetham - Mridula Anand

Varnam, touted as the centerpiece of a dance recital, also brings out the nuances of the ragam that it is composed in. Composed of short metric pieces, varnams are a fundamental part of a recital. Normally a varnam consists of lyrics, swara passages such as a pallavi, anupallavi, muktayi swaras, charanam and chittaswarams. However not all varnams are similar. Commonly acknowledged types are the padavarnams, tana varnams and daru varnams. While pada varnams and daru varnams are found to be pervasive through angika, tana varnam were predominantly found through vachika - or vocal expression.

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Saturday, 6 July 2019

Dance is a part of who they are not - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

In my last column, I talked about when dance is unsafe. In this one, I would like to carry forward the same thread of argument and talk about some of the cruelty around dance. This is about animals that are made to dance for human sustenance. And we have seen plenty of them on the streets and fairs of India - dancing bears, monkeys and snakes to name a few obvious ones.

Any animal biologist or vet will tell you that animals do not enjoy acting like humans—that, in fact, they have to be forced to do so, usually through cruel means. Yet, animal performances have a long history stretching back to ancient times. Today, animal performances are banned or happen under strict regulation and rules.

Few animals other than humans can move in a synchronised fashion to movement. Yet YouTube is flooded with videos of animals moving rhythmically. They include dogs, bears, cats, ferrets, horses, pigeons, squirrels, dolphins, parrots and even fish. From fish experts however, I have heard that when fish appear to be dancing in home tanks, they may in effect be ill! So, the question I ask is whether the stomping, bobbing, wagging, nodding, swaying and jerking that these animals do, is it truly dancing?

Dr. Aniruddh (Ani) Patel is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Tufts University. His interests include the neural bases of rhythmic processing, and it was his theory that few animals can move to music like humans can, although given the fact that the universe of biology is marked by rhythms and "so it is a reasonable intuition that they would be deeply ingrained in behaviour". Thus a rhythmic pulse is felt in the croaking of frogs, in the flashing of fireflies, in the beating of a hummingbird's wings, in the jumping display of the Bengal Florican. Many animals use rhythmic patterns to frighten predators, to attract mates or mark territory.

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Thursday, 4 July 2019

Summer in Delhi - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Before the curtain comes down on the performance scene during summer with the temperature a scorching 45 degrees, many dance institutions decide to have their annual day - for school final exams are over, and there is a gap before many families begin to leave for vacations.

At the Triveni, Jayaprabha Menon's International Academy of Mohiniattam students Ananya Nair, Abhirami Dileep, Ranjitha Rajesh and Reji Anoop, and finally Chhau dancers Hemant Sparsha and Sudhir Kumar performed. And wisely, offering youngsters the opportunity of watching an established performer's recital, Odissi dancer Lipsa Satpathy, a disciple of late Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, was specially invited for the occasion.....

Bold try requires more polish
The evening was called 'Her Stories'. Conceived and choreographed by Bharatanatyam teacher/dancer Kanaka Sudhakar and her daughter/disciple Aparajita Sarma, the innovative evening presented by Aparajita pertained to stories of characters from myth - the situation in each case being relevant to women in society today.....

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Article - Freezing Performance - Art of Avinash Pasricha - Dr. Navina Jafa

Performing Arts photography in India has assumed a place of its own. The image in a photograph and its interpretation assumes an independent life. This article is a critique of the art of the well-known artist Avinash Pasricha based on a few selected photographs on dance and music. Among other arts, the performing arts are most temporal - the moment you perform or nuance is born, that very moment it dies. Intriguing is the manner that the performance acquires a new life in another art form - photography. Pasricha's large number of images of dance and music as 'performed' comprise of a large number of Indian dancers and musicians. His body of work spans several decades. 

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Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Interview - Reviewing the Reviewer - Madhur Gupta

Leela Venkataraman is a name to reckon with in the field of Indian arts and culture. A grand dame of art criticism in the country, Venkataraman has been a direct and indirect participant to several crucial moments in the development of Indian dance and music scene. Having actively participated in prestigious dance seminars and workshops including the likes of Odissi Festival and Seminar in Washington (and Malaysia); the International Kathak Seminar and Festival in Chicago; the Biennale de la Danse in Lyons, France; the now octogenarian critic has been a force shaping up the cultural scene of India in her own way. An SNA awardee, she has written, commented, and critiqued several generations of artists. We speak to her now and try delving into her own life's journey:

Read the interview in the site

Monday, 1 July 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - July 2019

Anita says...July 2019

Awake my friends!
Let us pray for 
Verdant fields drenched with rain
Cows with udders swollen and full
Families sated with gratitude and plenty.
- ANDAL, mystic poet 9th century

I am reading these verses as I am in the midst of endless rehearsals for the new version of my 2002 ensemble production NAACHIYAR. I am struck with the irony of these words replete with generosity and grace. 

I write from a city now famous as the worst city for WATER shortage and drought on the entire planet!

How can I begin my monthly musings about DANCE when every waking thought on everyone's mind in Chennai is about water or the lack of it! 

We have become the headline!

So what AM I doing, I asked myself. Dancing and singing about rain when everywhere around us we are bombarded by images of women standing with plastic pots for hours waiting for the water lorries to arrive. 

All through the month reports poured in about musicians and priests engaged in praying for rain with several versions of pujas and invocations. Rationalists scoffed, politicians became camels and hid their brains in the sand, social media was inundated (I do notice the pun!) with varying opinions between the rationalists and the faithful. The crisis also caught the attention of Hollywood actor Leonardo Di Caprio who highlighted the environmental calamity through a tweet. 

When the first rains arrived on June 27th - a month late - the entire city was out in celebration. Water that fell from the skies was never more beautiful! It was the truly visual embodiment of the dancer's mantra - JEEVATMA meeting PARAMATMA! 

And so to the month that was!

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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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