Friday, 29 November 2019

Dakshin December - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar


Dakshin means south. I'm qualifying it, as Hindi can be perceived as an onslaught or an infliction, by some in South India too. December is the month when majority of the dance scene and scholars, critics of national (even notional) relevance move South. Some of us who live there in South India anyway see this seasonal influx; like Siberian cranes, NRI birds and bees fly in to partake of the spread that Madras has to offer. Shows from morning to evening, many fighting for attention. Some sold out, some with 10 people in hall.

Dakshin school of Kathak sounds novel, especially in a city, where no Kathak exists. Why Kathak? Not even a tabla player or ghungroo stringer (Kathak ankle bells are strung together, 108 for each ankle, not stitched on cloth or leather) exists. So when someone trains over a 100 students and presents them at a full and overflowing Narada Gana Sabha on the last Sunday of November, then bells have been rung for a mad, mad, MADras December season, the famed Margazhi maasam or month. That someone is Jigyasa Giri.

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Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Samyog-Viyog: Good intentions needed better treatment - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman



Kusum Awasthi Gupta's best intentions in wanting to showcase sringar rasa in a poetry/music/dance integration notwithstanding, the evening Samyog-Viyog in a collaboration featuring Asavari with Living Music Society for Arts, at Stein auditorium of Habitat in Delhi on November 13, ended in mixed feelings. One arrived to find a multi-level wooden installation on the stage, making one wonder if the dancer was going to be perched somewhere up above - till one saw the entire contraption being hammered and pulled down - with the stage having to be prepared for the music/dance interaction at the nth hour thanks to the auditorium being made available at the last minute after the previous show had finished. Artistes though seemed to take, what in this hall is a frequent enough phenomenon, in their stride.

Sringar Rasa in the two contrasting situations of Samyog (union) and Viyog (separation) was supposed to be explored through music rendered by Hindustani classical vocalist Sunanda Sharma with the dance expression contributed in Kathak by Shovana Narayan, well known Kathak professional. 

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Friday, 22 November 2019

Arguing for a humanised rather than an idealised body - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

At Habitat's Gulmohar, the fourth lecture of the Kelucharan Mohapatra series organized by Art Matters, saw Sadanand Menon, Art commentator, (according to chairman Ashok Vajpeyi, one of the few really informed speakers on art) speak on Dancing Democracy.

In a hard hitting talk, Sadanand first put the search light on the opinion of a top bureaucrat who happened to be the Indian ambassador in the then Soviet Union of the eighties, when the Festival of India was held in that country. A wonderfully made documentary Sahaja by a top Kerala film maker (which in a later film festival in Japan won the award as the best documentary) on the Ardhanariswara concept, with clips by male dancers in stree vesha, or interpreting poetry defining a nayika like Radha, for example - slated to be screened during the opening of the exhibition in Moscow, was banned by the ambassador as an oddity presenting an unnatural and grossly lop-sided picture of India! The resulting fracas had the Prime Minister Mrs. Gandhi lightly making a point during the inauguration later that the ambassador was perhaps thinking of a 'Poora Mard' whereas we know that it is only one particular set of chromosomes which differentiates the male from the female. Actually femininity exists in every male just as there is masculinity in every female. Sadanand's story was to prove that the watchword for the State in a democracy should be accountability, and not arrogance of power. And the worse sin is when authoritarian negativism stems from a lack of knowledge on the subject concerned.

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Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Mediating among media - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Alongside the ongoing resplendant programme of Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF), it is quite befitting to explore cinema's connection with theatre. There have been similar attempts earlier. One genre has been 'Filmed Theatre' capturing theatre perfromances on stage on the celluloid, without any frills or exaggeration. This criitc recalls a Filmed Theatre Festival at the Akashvani Theatre in Mumbai in the 1980s, when he had the privilege of witnessing an array of glitering drama - filmed faihtfully by the camera - in the company of the renowned actress Jennifer Kapoor. Another occasion can be discussion on the difference in acting modes between theatre and cinema. Considering that theatre is a 'live' medium where the dramatic action on stage evokes instant response from the viewers present, while cinema is a 'canned' medium waiting to be exposed to audiences much, much later, the dramatis personnae have to adjust their acting style in the presence of camera or otherwise. This does need clever adjustments which have given us brillaint theatre actors like Utpal Dutt, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah and Shah Rukh Khan's calibre, later as famous film stars. (KIFF, at the moment, is holding an interesting discussion session among actors and stars on the subject).

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Saturday, 16 November 2019

Vasundhara Performing Arts Centre presented Sapthati - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari


On the occasion of the 70th birthday of Bharatanatyam exponent Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy, Vasundhara Performing Arts Centre and Guru Shishya Parampara Trust presented a unique event including workshop and performances by disciples of Vasundhara on 1st November at Jagmohan Palace Hall, Mysore. It was on a grand scale and organized in a manner which won appreciation of one and all present there to wish Vasundhara a happy birthday.

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Wednesday, 13 November 2019

From Novelty to Eternity - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


The panache with which the third generation youthful dancer Shashwati Garai Ghosh went about presenting some new concepts of the interfacing of dance and classical music revealed quite a new fa├žade of creativity. Trained by the notable dancer Sharmila Biswas - herself groomed by the legendary Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra -- Shashwati's assertive flamboyance in crafting new choreography, over and above what she was handed over by Sharmila, was impressive and was indicative that the heritage of Odissi dance that had hardly reached its diamond jubilee of resurrection and consolidation is in safe hands.

Sampriti 2019 presented on October 31 at Kolkata by 'Angashuddhi' under the baton of Shashwati, was their annual festival, and this critic would like to highlight the especially innovative items in which a distinctive flair and novelty were noticeable. ...

The celebrated Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas - groomed by the iconic gurus Pt. Birju Maharaj and Kumudini Lakhia -- whose prowess in breaking the barriers of convention and pushing her classical form to ever new heights of imagination, has now become the stuff of a legend. ....

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Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Vasundhara: Odyssey of a Dancer, Biography by Prof George S Paul - Dr. Sunil Kothari


On the occasion of the 70th birthday of senior Mysore based Bharatanatyam exponent Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy, her biography Vasundhara: Odyssey of a Dancer penned by Prof George S Paul was released on 2nd November in Mysore during the celebrations. Prof George S Paul is a recognized authority on Indian classical music and dance. Based in Thrissur, he was a Professor of Physics and has a long career as arts journalist and critic.

What is interesting about this biography is that it deals with the life of a dancer born in backwaters of Moodabidri-Mangalore, who by sheer grit, determination and complete support from her parents and her husband Mr. Doraswamy, an art connoisseur from Mysore, 20 years older than her, who was determined to make her a top dancer in field of Bharatanatyam. The author has a distinct advantage, being a close friend of Mr. Doraswamy and his cousin T.N. Harish, so he could elicit many personal anecdotes which make the narrative extremely interesting. The author being also an ace program organizer has enough knowledge and experience of the various hazards the organizers, dancer and her musicians face on various occasions.

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Friday, 8 November 2019

Rangayan Festival of Arts and Literature: A festival with a difference - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari


I am a great admirer of Sattriya dancer Sharodi Saikia. She has been organizing a multi-discipline festival of dance, music, paintings, poetry reading, lectures, literature, drawing competition, a freewheeling discussion, and get together of dancers, musicians, painters, literary figures. I know of no other dancer in Assam visualizing and arranging such a wide range of festival for three days.

I have been visiting Guwahati for past several years on various occasions for research, documentation, conferences, lectures, attending Nritya Parva since 2000 when Sattriya was declared as eighth classical dance and after few years, Sattriya Kendra started arranging annual festival featuring senior and up and coming dancers, and symposiums. Since I was conducting research on Sattriya dances, I visited Guwahati and also other major cities and Sattras on Majuli Island. Over the years, I started following Assamese language and of course made friends. Finally Marg Foundation published my book on Sattriya dances of Assam with photographs by Avinash Pasricha. I had started working on Sattriya dances from 1964 and by 2013 the book was released in Guwahati. It brought me considerable recognition and I was conferred the most prestigious Madhavdev award this year.

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Thursday, 7 November 2019

October features varying manifestations of dance - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


Indo-American Friendship Association, initiated by Ambassador Surendra Kumar as "non-profit, non-political, non-religious, non-sectarian, and non-commercial" to enlarge the horizon of friendship and understanding between India and the US, featured on October 9 at Habitat's Stein auditorium an evening of dancers trained under three stalwarts of dance, Pt Birju Maharaj, Sonal Mansingh and Saroja Vaidyanathan representing the traditions of Kathak, Odissi and Bharatanatyam respectively. Surendra Kumar's introductory words referring to the gurus as "true inheritors of renowned legacies," also in passing mentioned arranging the coming together of three known Gurus as being one of the most difficult objectives to have achieved - of all his programs so far arranged. With firm politeness, denying the veracity of this statement, Sonal Mansingh called the Gurus an easy people to deal with - and one needing all the support which now was going to areas which were affluent and were flourishing and did not need any outside support.

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Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Other theatres - symbolic, magic - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


In the ancient Greek drama as well as in the great Shakespearean theatre it inspired, usually a single transition takes place in the performance that is crucial for you as the viewer: transition from "Here and Now" of your mundane present to the "There and Then" of the dramatic events. The theatre is palpable behind the "invisible fourth wall"; the flesh-and-blood actors deliver their dialogue; there is a reasonable unity of time and space; and the sequence of events takes you from the formulation of a problem right up to its solution.

But there can also be an alternative theatre of the kind conceived by Sergei Obraztsov of Russia, for instance, which may permit multiple transitions from the "Here and Now" to the "There and Then". In their world that calls -from the beginning -- for suspension of your disbelief, symbols and allegories are galore; the actors can be physical characters and/or puppets who speak the puppeteer's lingo and performing dolls; the unity of time and space goes for a toss; and the sequence of events can be equally topsy-turvy. Two excellent specimens of the latter variety were witnessed recently by this critic.

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Monday, 4 November 2019

Profile - Gender, Nationalism: Sitara Devi - The Fiery Queen of Kathak - Navina Jafa


Remembering Sitara Devi on her birth anniversary on 8th November, the Queen of Kathak dance is as much about her fiery personality as it is about locating the legendary dancer in a wider frame. Hers is a story representative of women empowerment in the Indian performing arts, about middle-class ‘respectability’ and about culture during the National Movement against the British.

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Friday, 1 November 2019

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - November 2019

Anita says...November 2019

It is not up to you to decide if you are good or not
Leave your channels of inspiration open
Let the movement flow
Surrender your spirit to the dance
It is for others to decide, not you.
- Martha Graham's advice to choreographer Agnes De Mille about Self Doubt

Diwali in India this year was more subdued than usual, with the eco activists asserting their voice against bursting crackers. I was away from home and missed the welcome bustle of domestic cheer that has accompanied my annual Deepavali (as we South Indians say) in Chennai. For over a decade I have missed being woken by my mother and grandmother at 4am and led to the bathing areas for a special oil bath with turmeric paste and sesame oil while their soothing voices would sing that famous Telugu song SITA KALYANAM VAIBHOGAME...

This year I am not home to supervise the same ritual for my daughter Arya, who, incidentally, refuses to allow me to sing the words to the song, citing it as a patriarchal custom. So instead I just hum the tune to her.

I miss the rustle of a new silk sari and the excitement of visiting my elders and good friends, sharing news and plain town gossip.

Deepavali away from home just does not feel like a festival for me. And on that very day, October 27, I arrived in San Mateo, Bay Area, California. What greeted me was a giant power outage and zero connectivity! Imagine in the tech centre of Silicon Valley to have the raging California fires threaten not just lives but the working of so many homes!

It is festival season so let's switch moods and begin on a positive note!

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