Saturday 28 September 2019

Warped world vs. youth power - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The fossilized, walled-in civilization is a recurring phenomenon in the history of mankind. Tagore penned his seminal play Achalayatan (The Static Institution) in 1912 giving it an India orientation. The play is a satire on a society that stagnates by holding on to rituals, but when rituals are an end in themselves, it is a sign of bondage, for it dries up the vital sap of human life. The moral implication of the theme is archetypal in character, but Tagore draws a powerful picture of social, intellectual and spiritual stagnation. The first small voice of protest is raised by the young novice Panchak who reflects the yearning for freedom from the blind obedience to unnecessary injunctions. How his murmur of dissent snowballs into uproar and how the final arrival of the uppermost authority breaks down the autocracy of meaningless ritualism of the closed hierarchy, is the rest of the story.

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Of Teachers and the Taught - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

September 5th is celebrated in India as Teacher's Day, so celebrated since scholar-President Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan when asked how he wanted his birthday celebrated (falling on 5th September) said, “I am what I am because of my teachers. Honour them.”

Today teachers have come a long way, long way down actually in society, on the totem pole of professions. That's because a corrupt society hardly values for higher goal. Gone are the days when teachers were:
Acharya parama dharma
Acharya parama tapa
Acharya parama gyana
Acharya kim na sadhate?

Loosely translated, it means: Teachers show the righteous path; our teachers are full of penance; our teachers have knowledge, what can a teacher not solve or know?

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Wednesday 25 September 2019

Book Review - Tagore's Ethos of Dance - Dr. Utpal K Banerjee

Rabindranrityam: The Dance Idiom Created by Tagore
By Sruti Bandopadhay
Shubhi Publications, 479, Sector14, Gurugram 122001, Haryana, India
2019, 314 pages, Price Rs. 2995
ISBN 9910032282

Primarily a poet, but also a philosopher, a novelist, a lyricist, a painter and a man of letters, Rabindranath Tagore brought in a new sensibility in the dance scene in Bengal. An admirer of Indian classical dances as well as the myriad folk forms, Tagore sought to break the boundaries and evolve a new dance idiom. While retaining the essential "Indianness," he allowed to let it absorb classical and folk elements from all over the country as also such elements as Sri Lanka's Kandyan dance, Javanese and Balinese dance idioms that had enchanted him. A popular dance form gradually came out -- alongside his song tradition, known as Rabindrasangit -- that can truly be termed Rabindranritya (Tagore's dance).

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Saturday 21 September 2019

Book Review - The Last Dance: A lost opportunity - Madhur Gupta

The first thought that strikes after reading The Last Dance is of the brutal violence that spills over the entire extant of the book. From the political rebellions, murders, gurus slapping disciples, gurus raping disciples, the books seems to be dripping with gory details of humankind's wild side, more suited for a thriller than for a subject of classical arts.

The primary plot commences with the protagonist Ayla's family being caught in midst of the Kurdish rebellion, her grandfather getting executed, her family imposing self-exile running away to India, and their initial struggles of settling down in a foreign land. Another parallel storyline running is that of Chandrashekar, son of a renowned Bharatanatyam guru in Thanjavur, estranged from his father for reasons one can't fathom, wanting to make his own name in the industry and like Ayla's family self-imposing an exile and coming to Delhi. The book attempted to explore the complex relationship a Guru-shishya share between them, but it seems the writer who is not from the arts scene chose to be extravagantly surrealistic and ended up creating some incredible scenarios.

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Thursday 19 September 2019

Parallel streams - creative and classical - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

In the span of one month, two opposite polarities of ensemble dancing surfaced in the eastern metropolis. At one end, a group -- avowedly known for its contemporary credo -- threw the gauntlet into an open arena of creativity, to be picked up by any performative discipline. One can call it "collaboration" or "co-creation" or whatever one likes, the point made was to make the mantra of creative integrity and cut across borders of time and distance, and represent a global coherence of thoughts. In other words, they sought to celebrate the spirit of positive exchange and growth through a coming together of various artists and art forms, of tradition and contemporaneity, of individual and collective, of sensory and perceptive intelligence. At the other end was a well recognized body of corporate excellence, known for its running of successful whole night music and dance soirees for decades, now going for a clear amalgam of competitively chosen dancing talents and well established dancers --- all from the nationally demarcated classical genres --- with a judicious mix from Kolkata and outside, in a well honed three day format. It made interesting watching of both the polarities producing their own fascinating results.

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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Obit/Tribute - A tribute to Kathak dancer Veeru Krishna - Vijay Shanker

Veteran Kathak dancer and mentor Veeru Krishna Tiwari died on September 7, 2019 in Santa Cruz in Mumbai due to age related illness. Although Veeru could not rise as a Kathak dancer, he made a name for himself as a mentor and as an actor too in Bollywood films. He was in his 70s and leaves behind his family.

As a young boy from Madhya Pradesh, Veeru ran away from his hometown and arrived in the city of dreams, Mumbai. He ran away as he was unable to bear the exploitation and nobody really understood his passion for dancing. As a young good looking boy blessed with soft features, Veeru started as a dancer in 'Londa nach' (boys disguised as female dancers) which was quite prevalent in social circles in northern India wherein young boys would dress as females in order to entertain wealthy people; many at times would be mentally and physically exploited too. Against all adversity, Veeru somehow started to survive in Mumbai.

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Sunday 15 September 2019

The buzz around the dance of the bee - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

I don't know how many dancers follow fashion, but though it starts with fashion, this is in effect a good dance story. So go ahead and read it. In 2015, there was a big change in the leading fashion house of Gucci. It got a new Creative Director, Allessandro Michel, who grew from being a victim of bullying in school to being responsible for all of Gucci's collection and global brand image, earning for him the position of one of Hypebeast's HB100, an honor bestowed to the top 100 most influential people in the fashion industry. One of the first changes he affected was the inclusion of a menagerie of animals - birds, butterflies and bees. Most prominent amongst them are the bees. You find the bees on sneakers, bags and on the red carpet as the self weave of suits that bear the brand's label. I suspect that the choice has less to do with environmental concerns, rather than quirkiness quotient of designers.

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Saturday 14 September 2019

The Bharathanatomy Series: Anatomical Movements and Directions - Sneha Rajagopalan - Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column

"Dancers are both athletes and artists," declared Morgot Fonteyn. This notion however is only being recognised in more recent times in the Indian classical dance world. If you have ever heard Kalakshetra's Jayachandran Surendran speak, you will know that historically, dance forms such as Bharatanatyam were not performed with the intention of performing to an audience. Thus, concepts such as body alignment, postural control and flexibility were almost non-existent.

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Tuesday 10 September 2019

23rd Parampara Festival of Dance and Music - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari"

On 30th August, all roads led to Kamani Auditorium for the inauguration of the 23rd Parampara Dance and Music Festival organized by Raja and Radha Reddy's Natya Tarangini institute. Organized for the past 22 years, it features top dance gurus and musicians showcasing their disciples in terms of Parampara, in terms of how tradition is passed on from generation to generation, to present great gurus like Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra in Odissi and Pandit Birju Maharaj in Kathak and their recent new disciples in respective dance forms.

I had not attended the Parampara Festival for past four years as I was touring. Raja, Radha and Kaushalya Reddy have over the years earned lot of goodwill with a large following in the capital. They have trained for past 40 years, hundreds of students in their institution. Therefore when I saw the turnout of the audience I was further impressed at the disciplined way they were seated and there was pin drop silence. Normally, my experience is of a noisy crowd when the admission is free. The arrangements for inviting the audience Kaushalya informed me, was that they have a good data base and they collect the passes online and attend in large number. That was heartening.

After the usual lighting of the lamp and Raja's own announcement about Bharat Bharati, the latest choreography dwelling upon the eternal values that are found in our sacred texts and in Bharatamuni's Natyashastra, the group choreography opened up with traditional Rangapuja as is seen in Kuchipudi, the young dancers sprinkling the water to sanctify the stage. Then entered a bevy of apsara like young maidens holding plates in their hands and started decorating the place, performing to shlokas and created an atmosphere of devotion. Raja and Radha dressed in normal clothes appeared on stage, explained through dance the evolution of Natyashastra, how from four Vedas it was created as fifth Veda.

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Wednesday 4 September 2019

A tale of two cities and more! - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

August brought flood and fury - not just the real watery one but the metaphorical one too. The anger against the Sangeet Natak Akademi awards this year resonated in magazines, editorials (including in narthaki) and of course on the social media. Representations were made to Minister of Culture in Delhi and the Secretary Culture too. Let's hope something concrete comes of all this complaining. Let's also understand, in India, no awards list is infallible or final. There'd be always nazarbattus! Or the names on lists will have lacunae and loopholes. 

Should we scrap state awards altogether? Or put a stop for a few years? In the meantime, reassess and revitalise the process. According to me, the problem starts at the outset when a candidate's bio data is sought by those recommending him or her. As a national akademi, SNA should have the bio datas of all who matter, for the minute a person's bio data is sought the candidate starts canvassing.

Of course, these days most canvass, nay pester, earlier awardees to nominate them. Nomination should be secret. Those in the running should not even know. Simple. We Indians have found ways to beat the system to allow for corruption. In this simple case of awards processing, this can easily be rectified. All nominations must happen in complete secrecy. Period. Let SNA do some work and collect the resumes from state akademis or the zonal centres. What's the big deal? 

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Sunday 1 September 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - September 2019

Anita says...September 2019

Most people believe 
That physicists are explaining the world 
They are only dancing in it
- GARY ZUKAV, American spiritual teacher

For almost all of last month, I was far away from home. Not just geographically but also from the familiarity of dance, performance and the arts. And yet, global events and the magic of the internet kept me abreast of so many events in our wonderful and fractured world of the performing arts. The distance from my cultural space helped give me a respite and an objective view of many issues and shifts in our lives as performers. Some ideas are still floating as unresolved questions. Others have settled into patterns that are now more than mere trends. As we move into the Fall season and cooler weather, I share more thoughts and ideas.

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