Tuesday 27 August 2019

Nrityagram Ensemble puts best foot forward - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

In memory of Protima Bedi on her death anniversary on 18th August, for past 21 years Nrityagram dancers present performances showcasing the continuous progress they have been making in the sylvan setting at the now internationally renowned dance village, Nrityagram. This year, the program was held at Ambedkar Auditorium, Bangalore.

Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy had received special training in Natyashastra under Dr Padma Subrahmanyam, learning various aspects of movements mentioned in Natyashastra. The charis, movements on floor known as 'Bhu Charis' was the opening number involving dancers from the age group of 5 to 10, all dressed up in colourful costumes, entering stage in two rows and taking positions covering the space in a disciplined manner. 

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Monday 26 August 2019

Recapturing golden moments during Golden Anniversary of Kalasamarpana - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The packed auditorium of Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai, bore full testimony to the enormous goodwill earned by the Narasimhachari couple in the fifty years of running their institution Kalasamarpana Foundation. Though destiny denied the immediate family and gathering the physical presence of their founder Guru Narasimhachari, an epitome of warmth and good cheer, his genial spirit seemed to pervade the entire proceedings led and conducted with charm and efficiency by his life's partner Vasanthalakshmi, (who had joined him in wedlock as a child bride when but 12 years old) and his two daughters Lasya and Lavanya. Brimful of ever churning ideas with his prodigious music and dance talent, Narasimhachari was one who lived his art 24 hours of the day. And to note down spurts of flashing creative thoughts, to try out in his many productions in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, was his wife to diligently record what otherwise would soon be a has-been, dimmed with the new ideas taking over. While Bharatanatyam came from the Kalakshetra background, Kuchipudi was in his family with his own father learning under Lakshmi Narayanagaru.

Vasanthalakshmi recounting the guru's ever eager way of trying out changes, gave the example of his Pallaki Seva Prabandham production, where he used the indigenous art form of shadow puppets to show the Palaki with two bearers carrying Shiva to Parvati, his bride, with live dancers also part of the scene. But no matter what the original touches, the core qualities of tradition for the Guru were never negotiable and had to be fully retained. As a consummate musician, his musical scores, in tonal changes, reflected every bodily genuflexion in the dance movement.

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Theatre experiences - folk, freak and Greek - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Theatre in Bengal and Maharashtra are very much alive and kicking, with Marathi plays perhaps having an edge over their Bengali counterpart. Mumbai holds quite often ticketed drama performances - bang in the midweek, as morning and early afternoon shows and get a house-full at that, while Kolkata does not dare it, generally relegating its shows to the long weekend. But this does not deter the Eastern metropolis from experimenting with various theatrical forms. Over a little more than a month, this critic got to view a vibrant revival of the folkloric drama, a fantasy play built upon bizarre events and a wonderful take on a Greek myth of yore. 

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Sunday 25 August 2019

Interview - Interactive session of Rango'ntaratma - Shveta Arora

'Rango'ntaratma' - the ranga of the atma - was the name of a beautiful production conceived and directed by Kamalini Dutt, and danced by Purvadhanashree and Dr. S. Vasudevan in Bharatanatyam, and by Divya Goswami and Hemant Kalita in Kathak. The concept and complexity of the production merited a separate discussion session and an attempt to give a glimpse of this journey is sourced through the interactive session and personal interviews. 

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Sunday 18 August 2019

Registering ten years of Nrityantar with Naman 2019 - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Established ten years ago by Odissi dancer Madhulita Mohapatra, Nrityantar in Bengaluru has earned much goodwill through hard work and the dancer's low key bearing - the open minded Bangaloreans taking to Odissi like ducks to water. Naman 2019, the institution's annual magnum opus festival mounted at Bengaluru's ADA Rangamandira, for this critic, had some of its most rewarding moments in the interactions involving dance writers, scholars, practitioners and youngsters.

The organisational work behind this very efficiently managed three day event proved how professional dancers running institutions have taken to multi tasking very effectively, mounting large events, with minute details attended to carefully. For once, one had a fine compere for Naman 2019 on all the three days in Anjali Raj Urs. Madhulita's generosity in including in the programme dancers from other Odissi institutions based in different places in India provides a variety of Odissi gharanas, while making this an occasion for interaction amongst the larger Odissi community.

The take-off point came from the junior-most students on the first evening, with understandably varying degrees of proficiency. 

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These feet had to stop dancing: The trauma experienced by dancing bears - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

Continuing with the undesirable practices of dancing animals, we must refer to an ancient practice, of making bears “dance” which has a long history and was once widely spread in Europe and Asia. Today, though the practice got banned several years ago, till recently the last vestiges survived, mostly in countries of the Indian subcontinent, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. On December 19, 2017, the last dancing bear in this region was rescued, bringing to an end a terrible practice of cruelty and torture. When the Nepalese bear couple, Rangile and Sridevi were recovered, they bore severe signs of the trauma that they had undergone. 

Almost invariably the bears are exploited by very poor people who have few economic options, and even less awareness of conservation needs. That is why several critically endangered species of bears were found in the bear dancing business. Among them were the critically endangered Himalayan Brown bear (Ursos arctos isabellinus), the vulnerable Asiatic Black bear (Ursus thibetanus laniger) and the vulnerable sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), of which only some 8,000 exist in the wild. It is important to note that in the wild a sloth bear can live more than 20 years. In captivity, however, a dancing bear rarely lives past the age of 7 or 8 years.

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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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