Monday 28 October 2019

Dancing doctors! - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

And one thought doctors were these noble but boring people who had no time for anything else leave alone the arts. Well, just as there are a few really good dancers who can cure bad evenings, likewise there are a few good doctors who can dance too!

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Sunday 27 October 2019

Prism - Purvaranga From Bharata's Natyamandapam to Kathak Proscenium - Sunil Sunkara, Edited by Dr. Puru Dadheech

Abstract: This essay looks at the Purvaranga Vidhi described in chapter V of the Natyashastra, focusing on the components of the purvaranga that became a part of the Kathak parampara, keeping in mind the lecture series, 'Kathak in reference to Natyashastra' conducted by Dr. Puru Dadheech at Bharata College of Fine Arts & Culture, Mumbai and 'Kathak Shastra' conducted by him at the Kathak Darpan Cultural Centre, Mumbai.

The fifth chapter of the Natyashastra deals with the preliminaries of the play or Purvaranga Vidhanam. It is here that Bharata lays down broad parameters of consecrating space which would prepare actors, performers and the audience to be transported to the world of 'kalpana' (imagination) and simultaneously to the divine. Thus the preliminaries were believed to have a dual role of protecting and sustaining the world of imagination as well as heralding auspiciousness.

In the words of Kalidasa, a performance is a 'chaksus yagna' i.e. an offering of that which can be seen and imagined by the eye (mind). The Purvaranga Vidhi is thus akin to the setting up of the yagna kund and samagri. The parts of the purvaranga to be performed in due order with the playing of drums and stringed instruments as well as recitatives (paathya) are:

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The Bharathanatomy Series: Introduction to Muscles - Sneha Rajagopalan - Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column

This month, as part of the 'Bharathanatomy' series, we will discuss Muscles; Bundles of fibre which possess the potential to contract.

Muscles can contract (activate) in various ways to a) generate movement and/or b) maintain a position. NOTE: all and any major muscle(s) may contract in all three ways.

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Thursday 24 October 2019

Dance stories from around the world - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

I have been travelling internationally a lot since being awarded the post doctoral Fulbright. The largest chunk of these travels was the Fulbright year itself in 2017-2018, when I was at the University of Minnesota, Twin cities Campus. I lived in Minneapolis which has become a big hub of art in the mid west region of America. Dance was the constant subtext of the year I spent there.

Subsequently, I attended several dance conferences, like the annual Dance Studies Association’s conference, and engaged with the most recent dance scholarship.  The Dance Studies Association conference happened at the Ohio State University at Columbus, Ohio in 2017, at the University of Malta, Malta, 2018 and at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, in August 2019. Each occasion allowed me to hear such brilliant scholarship, and realise how the field was both widening and deepening. Many of these papers encouraged me to relook at areas of dance that I had lived with but never applied critical understanding to. It has generated a new body of scholarly work from my pen.

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Wednesday 23 October 2019

Shobha Deepak Singh's enthralling dance-drama 'Shri Ram' - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

For the past 63 years Sri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra's production of Ramleela continues to enchant the audiences. I remember in early fifties whenever I visited New Delhi from Mumbai, during month of October there was always celebrations of Lord Rama. In those years on multiple stages, Narendra Sharma's choreography of Ramleela was staged. Shashidaran Nair used to coordinate and perform, so many actors performed for a long time. Now the new generation of young male and female dancers performs Ramleela under supervision, direction of Shobha Deepak Singh. As a matter of fact, Ramleela of Sri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra needs an independent special history.

The present production was inaugurated by the Vice President of India, Mr. M Venkaiah Naidu on 29th September at 6pm. That show was exclusive for invitees and had high security arrangements. We managed to go on 5th October and lo and behold, the magic of the present production held us in thrall. Our generation knows Ramayana backwards. Be it Tulasidas's Chaupais, or Sanskrit shlokas from Valmiki's Ramayana, the popular version of Ramayana and the script written by Arvind Kumar and Neelabh 'Ashk', the spell continues and the moment dancers arrive on the stage playing drums and cymbals and singing, you start humming with them. So powerful is the music arrangement that you start soaking yourself in the lyrics penned by contemporary Hindi poets.

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Tuesday 22 October 2019

Values across millennia - feminism, feudalism - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

How long can one go back to look at the definitive narratives about the human values? Considering the earliest Greek myths recorded, in the poet Hesiod's Theogony composed in the 7th century BC one gets snapshots of the myths on the origins and genealogies of the Greek gods. One comes across the bewitchingly beautiful Medea there, as the granddaughter of the sun-god Helios and wooed by Jason, the bravest of the Greek heroes. Based upon this myth, the Greek playwright Euripides built his epic tragedy Medea in the early 5th century BC.

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Sunday 20 October 2019

Obit/Tribute - PVK: Tireless foot soldier for spreading art awareness, no more - Leela Venkataraman

The world was a poorer place for me on hearing that a great friend, well-wisher and fine human being PVK, as P.V. Krishnamoorthy was fondly known, had left this world (at the ripe old age of 98) in the early hours of October 17th morning in Chennai. A deep sadness came over me when the person who for me, amongst all my contacts, was most deserving of one of the highest of State awards, had died quietly, with no all-India recognition - even while lesser talents are being decorated all the time. Less than a month ago in Chennai, I called on him to have an engaging hour's conversation, or see him playing on his Keyboard- something I had never failed to do in all the years he had settled in Chennai, in a flat very close to my daughter's house. As his loving daughter-in-law guided me to his bedroom, this last time, I saw a frail PVK, still recovering from an unfortunate fall he had. He spoke to me softly - happy I was there. I left soon on seeing that he was in no shape to engage in any sort of tete a tete.

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Tuesday 15 October 2019

Roses and Thorns - SNA award for Kuchipudi - Madhavi Puranam

(This article is an excerpt from the editorial of Nartanam, Volume: XIX, No. 2, Apr-June 2019)

The latest Sangeet Natak Akademi award for Kuchipudi is given to a Bharatanatyam dancer who studied at Kalakshetra, Chennai, and has been a member of the faculty in the Central University of Hyderabad for decades teaching Bharatanatyam in the Dance Department. Is the body of his work in Kuchipudi so staggering as to warrant this coveted award? However, he possesses the most vital ingredient which makes the recipe for obtaining the SNA Award for Kuchipudi, i.e being born into a Kuchipudi family, whereby the divine art of Kuchipudi flows in his body and thus such a mortal can lay claim to the SNA award for Kuchipudi. Moreover, a Kuchipudi clan member sits in the General Council after obtaining a Bismillah Khan Award for 'achievements' in Yakshagana.

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Monday 14 October 2019

Endemic problems stir animated discourse - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Prachi Hota's planning of a discussion Samanubhasana mounted at the IIC Annex provided a good platform for a free exchange of views on certain issues which the arena of classical dance will always have to contend with. It is encouraging to see youngsters in the dance world willing to participate in panel discussions, unafraid of expressing their views on various subjects. The first subject of 'Understanding the Pay and Perform Culture' never ceases to stir high passions and righteous indignation. Bharatanatyam dancer Tanya Saxena, a disciple of Saroja Vaidyanathan, provided an excellent start to the discussions with her well thought out, clear-headed introduction summing up all the aspects of this hydra headed monster which makes a dancer pay the organizers for a platform to perform, rather than being paid for her services. The exploitation comes in a host of packages - like providing an 'honorarium' which is for 'production costs' by the sponsor who of course gives the performer nothing; asking the dancer to manage with a lump sum provided (within which all expenses of light, sound, fee for the musicians etc have to be met); allowing the dancer to perform to recorded music and providing hospitality for the day (but never travel costs from another city); mentioning that the organization cannot afford to pay but will provide a stage and an audience (!); charging a 'registration' fee for organizing etc.

"Where does one draw the line?" asked the dancer. While money is a big concern, it may not be the sole criterion. The organization and the size of the audience, if fairly good, are matters of deep importance to a dancer. One can console oneself that through such a program one can cultivate a relationship providing goodwill, which hopefully will help one's future prospects. Tanya also made a forceful statement about none of these so called events (taking advantage of young dancers looking for a platform) being curated with care. They are haphazard with nobody to oversee events, even though the stage comes at a price. The dancer made out a strong case for dancers who seem particularly vulnerable to this state of affairs, with their also acquiring, over the years, a pitiful image of constantly having to beg for money. Musicians get a better deal.Why is it only the dancer who is supposed to provide entertainment with no compensation for her efforts?

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Sunday 13 October 2019

Assam Diary Sri Sri Madhavdev Award, visit to Narayanpur and Sri Sri Madhavdev's Sattra - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

When I received the news from the Department of Culture, Govt. of Assam that I had been selected for Sri Sri Madhavdev Award for the year 2019, I was delighted. This award is similar to Sri Sri Sankardev Award which is given for contribution to Assamese culture in particular and culture in general. It is the highest award given by the Govt. of Assam and is a national award. It carries a purse of Rs. 3 lakhs, a citation and a shawl. This award has been instituted only recently. The venue for conferring the award was Narayanpur, the birthplace of Sri Sri Madhavdev. It was to be given by the Chief Minsiter Sri Sarbanand Sonowal.

The invitation letter mentioned that the awardee will be the State Guest and all arrangements for travel, accommodation, visiting Sattra of Sri Sri Madhavdev, meeting with the CM etc., would be arranged. Arriving on 22nd September, I was received traditionally with Assamese Gamocha (scarf) by the officer from Dept. of Culture along with my friend Samar Sarmah at the Guwahati airport. It has been refurnished and when one arrives one sees the large scale masks of Nrusimha avatara and various other characters at the entrance. They are titled as Majuli vignettes, as the Sattra which has specialized in mask making is on Majuli Island known as Chamguri Sattra.

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Friday 11 October 2019

Start-up nurturing nascent talents - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Looking first, at an analogy from the business world, entrepreneurship has not been lacking among the young generation, but investment was. It is only recently that the millennial enterprises have sprouted "start-ups" and have been able to secure "venture funds" from what are named "angel investors". As is common in the business market, some start-ups have fallen by the wayside, some have just managed to keep their nose above troubled waters, and yet a few have done startlingly well.

In the rarefied atmosphere of performing arts, young dancers are known to be equally lacking monetary encouragement for their art. Both in the Marghazi season in Chennai or round the year in Kolkata, classical dancers are made to pay from their own pocket for their performance -- for a few precious minutes -- on the public platform. This seems quite reminiscent of the above model of the erstwhile business situation, except that here angel investors are yet to spring up.

Nritya Navin 2019 presented on September 23 and 24 by Nipun Nrityalaya, was the culmination of sponsorship efforts of a very refreshing "angel" in the form of Manojit Saha, Nipun's director and a Bharatanatyam dancer of repute --- being groomed by guru CV Chandrasekhar over last 10 years. Nipun took the initiative of selecting, after serial elimination, 15 young dance talents finally from five different classical styles and agreeing to have all their expenses covered including travel and stay, besides offering them an honorarium for the eventual performance. Nipun called for direct applications - supported by bio-data, solo performance video, guru's recommendation and press clippings if any -- through social media. Nipun's motto was: first, to stop the youngsters' "pay-and-perform" culture and, secondly, to promote art and young talented dancers by suitably paying them for their efforts.

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Wednesday 9 October 2019

Interview - Rumya Natraj: Movements is life and life is a dance - Vijay Shanker

A professional clinical psychologist and an accomplished Bharatanatyam exponent, Rumya Natraj narrates her varied experiences as a teacher and performer and as a human being how one can make life beautiful with happiness and joy by sharing it with everyone through the medium of Indian classical dance and movement therapy.

Do you come from a dance background or is it a personal choice?
Of course, it is a personal choice. There is nobody in my family who is a professional classical dancer. I believe that I inherited this talent from my mother, who could have been a very talented dancer considering her natural attraction towards this art. However, in those days, she was not allowed to obtain technical training in the art. She used to choreograph by herself and perform whenever and wherever she got the opportunity, for instance in her school functions. When I was around 2 years old, she noticed the natural talent in me for dance from the way my body moved and flowed into unstructured movements as soon as I heard music. That's when she realised that I might have the interest as well to pursue this art and in due course she enrolled me in a class. I was never forced into anything. My mother made sure that I got exposure to most of the opportunities that came my way, so that I could choose whichever I wanted to continue with in future.

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Saturday 5 October 2019

Blend of maturity and grace in double bill concert - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

The program wing of India International Centre certainly hit the right button in its choice of Divya Ravi and Abhayalakshmi as a Bharatanatyam/Odissi twosome for the Double Bill Concert. The brief but telling invocatory duet with the starting prayer in Hamsadhwani to Vighneswara in the "Vakratunda mahakaya sooryakoti samaprabha" hymn followed by a prayer to the Goddess of learning Sharadambal in Kalyani with both dancers ending respectively with frozen postures of Mooshika with Ganesh and Saraswati on her Hamsa, gave clear indications of an evening out of the ordinary.

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Dazzling 'Ahuti' by Nrityagram ensemble and Chitrasena Dance Company - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

It was a privilege to witness for three days the rehearsals of Nrityagram ensemble and Chitrasena Dance Company of Sri Lanka at the Amphitheatre of Nrityagram, before the final presentation. Choreographer Surupa Sen and counterpart Heshma Wignaraja from Sri Lanka, with team of musicians gave final touches to choreography, with dancers relentlessly correcting themselves and dancing till they dropped. One got soaked into the melodious music floating in the air. It was interesting to see the overall attention that Surupa paid to the creation of this unusual piece of dance, be it music, dance, playing of drum, entry and exit.

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Tuesday 1 October 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - October 2019

Anita says...October 2019

My mistakes are my life.
- Samuel Beckett
Irish novelist and playwright

How many of us can say this? I saw this quotation printed on a tote bag in a quaint bookstore in Dublin, Ireland. It struck me, that could be the title of my memoir. The many, many mistakes along my journey - each becoming a teaching moment. The missed opportunities, the bungled collaborations, the stubborn ideas that I refused to push aside, the arrogant assumptions and presumptions, the stumbles, lurches and falls. Each embarrassing. Some in plain sight. Others, thankfully, hidden away. All papered over for the mask that is worn for the world that only wants to see what it wishes. Yet, it is through my mistakes that I have come to this moment.

So, can I just change the mood with a good old Texan welcome?

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