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:

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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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