Wednesday 26 June 2019

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

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

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

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

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Monday 24 June 2019

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

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

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

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Article - Towards bliss with nritta - Chandra Anand

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

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

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Friday 21 June 2019

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

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

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

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Monday 17 June 2019

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

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

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

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Friday 14 June 2019

Ratikant Mohapatra Calling.... - Navapallava in Bhubaneswar

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

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

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Wednesday 12 June 2019

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

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

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Monday 10 June 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday 9 June 2019

Article - Project Tama-Show - Dr. Navina Jafa

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

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

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

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Saturday 8 June 2019

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

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

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

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Monday 3 June 2019

Interview - Guru Munnalal Shukla - Nita Vidyarthi

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

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Saturday 1 June 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - June 2019

Anita says...June 2019

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

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

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

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