Tuesday 26 February 2019

A month of many greats - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

February is now about the great Balasaraswati, who passed away on 9th February. Her acolyte Dr. Nandini Ramani celebrated her centenary in a grand 2 day function held in Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai, and a monograph compiled and written by Nandini Ramani, published by SNA was released on the occasion. Bala's story is stuff myths and history is made of and in India now her principal follower-disciple Nandini Ramani, with sister Priyamvada - both talented daughters of giant scholar Dr. V. Raghavan - continue to worship and propagate her art. Aniruddha Knight, Bala's grandson, was only 5 when Bala died and has lived and grown and worked mostly in USA. 

Bala was celebrated in a big way when Chennai dancers came together (a riot of talents and colours) to dance for her or speak on her. Nandini Ramani and family left no stone unturned to propitiate Bala's memory and art. 

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Saturday 23 February 2019

Obit/Tribute - Gina Lalli - Joe Daly

Gina Lalli died on 16 February 2019 in Austin, Texas, after an extended illness.

Gina was born in Binghamton, New York. Her intrepid nature drove her after initial Bharatanatyam lessons with Nala Najan (a student of Muthukumaran Pillai) in New York City to  India where she shared a time of vigorous training in the 1950’s with Gina Blau under Chokkalingam Pillai. Subsequent travel to India and chance path-crossings brought her to learn Kathak, first from Vikram Singh and then over an extended time from Birju Maharaj. She credited her acquaintance with and profound admiration for T. Balasaraswathi for encouragement to keep dancing and enjoyed a close friendship with Bala’s brother T. Ranganathan. She also trained under Nageswara Rao on the veena and learned to play pakhawaj and tabla when she went to Lucknow and Delhi. 

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Friday 22 February 2019

When dancing is a pleasure for birds as well - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

Steeped as we are in our love for dance, we fail to recognise sometimes that we are not alone in the dancing world. Many more species in nature dance as impressively if not more, than man. It is while watching the migratory birds visiting Delhi that urged me to talk of dance in the avian world.

Actually, very few animals really dance - that is to say that they can consistently move to music. I will talk about this in a subsequent column, but for the moment I must point out that the most attractive dancing is by birds.

There is a well-documented case, also a case that was the first to be scientifically explored, of a cockatoo called Snowball. This species come from Australia and New Guinea, where sadly they are regarded as pests. Snowball, with a distinctive, almost punky sulphur crest, had a rare talent. Snowball could dance, nodding and stamping to a variety of tunes, but his especial favourite was the Backstreet Boys tune, "Everybody". Snowball used his skills to appear on TV, initiate neuroscience research and raise funds for disadvantaged children. He was featured on an episode of 'Animals at Work', which described Snowball as a professional dancer. 

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Thursday 21 February 2019

Article - Social Media and Dance - Archis Abhay Kulkarni

(First 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) 

Just yesterday, I was browsing on YOU TUBE, when one video caught my attention. It included a “Bharatanatyam Fusion Dance” on the famous pop song “The Shape of You”. When I glanced to check the number of views, lo and behold – One Million!! And surprisingly the views included not only Bharatanatyam learners or lovers, but people from diverse fields across different states and countries! This got me thinking on how wide and crucial the impact of social media is on various facets of dance including of course, the Indian classical dance. 

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Wednesday 20 February 2019

Article - Guru Shishya Parampara and today's Pedagogy of Dance - Charanya Gurusathya

(Second winner in the senior category in the 'Nrutya Shabda' essay writing competition conducted by Neha Muthiyan's Loud Applause and Swarada Dhekane's Samvaad blog) 

Restoring Indian tradition and culture 
Indian traditional dance styles are more than two thousand years old and there arises the need to create awareness and interest in the minds of younger generation, so that they are able to enjoy classical dance learning and performances in the real sense of the term keeping our age old tradition and culture intact. 

The perception of guru-shishya has endured despite all the contemporary methods adapted in dance pedagogy in India. The modern guru-shishya relationship is an intermingling of the traditional gurukul system and the modern teacher-student relationship. It is constantly changing by inventing new methods of teaching, innovative choreographies, differently interpreting our mythological stories but tries to maintain the hierarchy and unquestioning respect that existed in the traditional gurukul system. The modern guru-shishya trend is yet to find its balance in the space between tradition and modernity that Indian dance is currently undergoing. 

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15th Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav 2019 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

I have been regularly attending the festival since its inception in 2003. Held at the backdrop of Dhauli peace pagoda, its ambience is enchanting. The Dhauli stupa and nearby temple are lit up. The artists, dignitaries, organizers are invited on the opening evening to hold mashals, the torches aloft and to the sound of the conch, the festival is inaugurated. The ceremony is awe inspiring. It suggests cherishing the idea of love, peace, compassion and humanity. The festival is a grand celebration of harmony between history and modernity. This is the very place where after the Kalinga war, on banks of Daya River, emperor Ashoka took to Buddhism. The festival held on this spot gives signals for peace in contemporary times.

At the very outset, I would like to congratulate dancer, choreographer, guru and an organizer par excellence Aruna Mohanty for mounting such an amazing festival. A worthy disciple of late Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, she has imbibed his style admirably, runs Orissa Dance Academy, teaches there and has to her credit several large scale dance works, doing her guru proud. The first opening ‘Gita Mahatmyam’ and the final ‘Make in Odisha’ took one’s breath away. The conceptualization and flawless execution using the classical dance forms with stunning visuals and melodious music are the hallmarks of these productions. 

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Profile - Malini Ranganathan: Cultural Ambassador

Dr. Malini Ranganathan, a French national of Indian origin, settled in France for the past 35 years, has been conferred the PBSA Award by the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind on the 23rd of January 2019 in Varanasi, for dual domains: Academics & Arts. The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award is the highest distinction given by the President of India to a NRI and only 15 persons per year are selected worldwide. On this occasion, Malini was invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, as a State guest of the Khumb mela at Prayagraj and for 26th January Republic Day Parade in Delhi. She is the first lady to be honoured from France.

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Book Review - Bharathanrithyam with a new focus - Dr.Nita Vidyarthi

The 128 pager gets straight down to charting how to focus on the credibility of the name 'Bharatanatyam' with attention to 'untold' and 'uncontemplated slips' and moves process of dance subjects. The work attempts basically to coin the term Bharatanrityam instead of the earlier name Bharatanatyam and subsequently Bharatanatyam, interpolating technically the name and content of the latter. The preface by her mentions that "sustenance of rudimentary entity and continued research," authenticates the work to coin the term 'Bharatanrityam.' Dispersal of the term Bharatanatyam and justification of Bharatanrityam is the running thread of the book.

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Monday 18 February 2019

Unrequited Love, Unrelenting bigotry - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Cyrano de Bergerac, the famous 1897 play by the dramatist-poet Edmond Rostand, is cast in the mould of the proverbial parable of 'Beauty and the Beast', except that the Beast here uses the vision of a handsome, yet dumb male upfront - as a friend to support -- to entice the incurably romantically-minded Beauty through recitations and verses. Only at the very end, the Beauty realises that the Beast was her destined lover, Cyrano. Rostand's memorable dialogue alludes to the final recognition: The Beauty says: I love you. And the Beast's ugliness falls like a magic veil...

Syed Waliullah (1922 - 1971) was a Bangladeshi novelist, short-story writer and playwright, whose 1948 award-winning debut novel, Lal Salu (translated by the author, calling his English version as 'Tree without Roots'), castigated fundamentalism and religious bigotry in Islam - as perpetuated by orthodox self-seekers - with whiplash sarcasm. Made into a memorable film, Lal Salu -- by Bangladesh's prime cineaste, Tanvil Mokammel -- went on to win many laurels.

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Saturday 16 February 2019

Sight for the gods: Rukmini Devi's Ramayana - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

It is no exaggeration when I write 'sight for the gods.' The eternal appeal of Ramayana and its six series presentation by Rukmini Devi transports us to another world. I had first seen it in Mumbai at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan during the World Vegetarian Congress. I was under a spell. I had never seen anything so aesthetically beautiful in all its departments, be it music, lighting, sets, design, costumes, dancing, abhinaya - the overall impression was indelible. I still see before my eyes Adyar Lakshman enacting the role of Dasaratha, Dhananjayan and Balagopalan as Rama and Lakshmana, in that unforgettable sequence of Sita's anxiety if someone else would break the bow, and looking from a window, the way one young Uma as Sita was framed. Even after sixty one years, the impression remains so vivid!

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Monday 11 February 2019

A good start on discussions on Dance Issues by Academy - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Unlike the past when dance was only to be practiced and seen, today there is a willingness to discuss issues in the world of dance and it is encouraging that a body like the Music Academy has taken the step of organizing Dance Discussions coinciding with its annual festival of dance. Still in its nascent stages, this small beginning can lead to more ambitious interactions. Conceptualised by Kami Vishwanathan and Sujata Vijayaraghavan, the first discussion on 'Teaching 21st century skills through classical dance' (which is another way of looking at what classical dance offers for the world and concerns of today), had Rajika Puri now settled in the USA as Moderator. Nalini Prakash, a board-certified dance/movement therapist and co-director of Spilling Ink, a multi arts organization in Washington D.C, spoke about the collective empathy and multi sensory expression derived out of learning not just Bharatanatyam but other art expressions (from puppetry to pottery, she became more exposed to in Spilling Ink) , which she as a certified movement therapist draws on to help set right the disconnect in body, mind and spirit in her clients. She finds the non threatening language flowing from these arts most suitable vocabulary for a movement therapist.

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Monday 4 February 2019

The Youth Brigade of Odissi - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

How does grooming of a classical dance form for the tiny tots make progress from year to year -- under the vigilant eyes of a dedicated teacher? It was a rare opportunity for this critic to observe four budding artistes - Asmita Kar, Tanishka Roy, Moumita Pal and Shinjinee Bhattacharya -- literally grow from last year's Taranga Dance Festival to this year's event, nurtured with the loving care of Nandini Ghoshal, a second-generation Odissi guru. Nandini herself was first initiated into her classical style under Poushali Chatterjee of Kolkata and then received a sustained teaching process under the redoubtable Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra for 17 long years, graduating into the leading roles of his dance dramas thereafter. Handed over the reins for youngsters now, how did Nandini handle her onerous mission?

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Saturday 2 February 2019

Ensemble productions in three dance traditions in Drishti National Dance Festival - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

For some reason, Bengaluru's Drishti Art Foundation's annual festival is called the National Dance Festival - which can mean everything or hardly anything. But what held my attention was the Art foundation established by T.M. Vikranth and artiste Anuradha Vikranth, the curator of this event. Visiting the studio with its indoor and outdoor spaces, and having a brief interaction with a few of the students, I was struck afresh with a sense of irony, about Bharatanatyam which despite its many students does not easily attract large audiences for its performances, holding such a fascination for many youngsters qualifying for or already qualified in, other-than-dance professions like medicine, law, teaching, science etc. From a scientist father-in-law with deep fascination for the arts, and a life partner in Mr. Vikranth working round the clock supervising out-of-performance matters, Drishti Art Foundation is more like a family enterprise established by T.M. Vikranth and Anuradha Vikranth with Dr. T.M. Manjunath as chief patron. From what one could make out, the aim of the foundation was not just the Dhristhi or (treating people to) a view of the arts but also educating them by bringing about an awareness through the experience of seeing - leading hopefully, to more discerning audiences.

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Friday 1 February 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - February 2019

Anita says...February 2019

HOPE has two daughters
Their names are ANGER and COURAGE
Anger at the way things are
And Courage to see that they do not remain as they are
- St Augustine of Hippo

When it's over, I want to say, 
All my life I was married to amazement
I was the bridegroom, taking the world in my arms
- Mary Oliver, American poet 

A loud round of cheers for two wonderful dancers we admire! NARTHAKI NATARAJ and PRABHU DEVA. Bharatanatyam has been their cornerstones and both have taken it in different directions with stunning success. On stage and on screen, these artistes have created an aesthetic and kinetic that is being admired and applauded. 
NARTHAKI, student of Natyacharya Kitappa Pillai
PRABHU DEVA, student of Natyacharya Udupi Lakshminarayana
MILENA SALVINI, for her contribution to Kathakali 

And congratulations to all the performing artistes in theatre, various music genres and other folk arts who were recognized by the Government of India.

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