Wednesday 29 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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Sunday 26 May 2019

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

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

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

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Saturday 25 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday 24 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday 19 May 2019

More praise than dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

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

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Saturday 18 May 2019

Article - Origin of Gotipua Parampara - Prajna Mishra

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

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

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Friday 17 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday 15 May 2019

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

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

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

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Tuesday 14 May 2019

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

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

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Monday 13 May 2019

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

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

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Saturday 11 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday 10 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 9 May 2019

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


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

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Tuesday 7 May 2019

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

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

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Saturday 4 May 2019

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

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

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

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Friday 3 May 2019

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

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

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Wednesday 1 May 2019

Anita says...May 2019

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

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

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

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Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - May 2019