Thursday, 3 December 2020

Article - AI, Indian Art and the World - Prachi Hota

 Do India's ancient art and craft traditions naturally prepare it for a world where Artificial Intelligence is at the centre of affairs?

Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) dominates the market to the extent where it influences the socio-cultural fabric of the world. This has led to a shift in the way we form and affiliate ourselves with social groups. There has recently been a lot of discussion about what aspects of human life AI can take over, and whether machines can do everything that humans can. Arguably, creativity is among the few characteristics of human beings that cannot be fully replicated by machines. In such a world then, what role can India with its ancient art and craft traditions play? Vivian Balakrishnan (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore), American philosopher John Searle, economist John Maynard Keynes, psychologist Abraham Maslow and poet and screenwriter Prasoon Joshi, all of whose opinions have been examined here, are some people who can inform the conversation around art and its importance in a highly mechanised world.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Anita says...December 2020

 Heal yourself

With the light of the sun
And the rays of the moon
With the sound of the river
And the waterfall
With the swaying of the seas
And the fluttering of the birds
Heal yourself with mint, neem and eucalyptus
Sweeten with lavender, rosemary and chamomile
Hug yourself with the cocoa bean and
A hint of cinnamon
Heal yourself with the kisses that the wind gives you
And the hugs of the rain
Stand strong with your bare feet on the ground
And with everything that comes from it
Be smarter every day by listening to your intuition
Looking at the world with your forehead
Jump, dance, sing, so that you live happier
Heal yourself with beautiful love
And always remember

You are the medicine

- Advice from Mexican healer and poet MARIA SABINA

At the last month of the year, a year that has tested and tried us in many ways, we have arrived at a SANKOFA moment. The mythical symbol of the Akan people of Ghana - the image of a bird with its head turned backward taking an egg from its back. It expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past and bringing it into the present in order to make a positive impact and to move forward.

What have these 9 months of lockdown and forced isolation given us? What have we learned about ourselves and the art that we hold so dearly? How have we faced the idea of our own mortality? How have our memories and the past bolstered or weakened us?

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - December 2020


View the images in the site

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Obit/Tribute - Yog Sunder Desai (1921-2020) - Ashish Mohan Khokar

Delhi: He got up on 27th November morning, asked for juice, sipped it quietly and was gone. What a way to go! For a man almost a century, who saw India from times of pre revival to calling his group Indian Revival Group; meeting pioneers who came to India from abroad like Ted Shawn or Ragini Devi, to learning from a pioneer like Uday Shankar and Kelu Nair; from seeing his royal family in Gujarat surrender all land and titles to cause of India's independence to seeing India get independence in 1947 - he saw all and created dance drama productions based on many such themes.

Read more in the site

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Virtual, with visual variety - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Trained by Mamata Shankar in Uday Shankar style and also interested in Western ballet and jazz, Subhajit brilliantly sets off the online series with his solo Jatajuta Samayuktam ( featured earlier in 'Devi Diaries' series hosted by Known as the Dhyan Mantra of Durga from Matsya Purana, Jatajuta Samayuktam describes the physical attributes of the goddess: how extraordinarily glamorous she is, what is her complexion like and what accoutrement she has put on. The picturesque locale -- an ancient site of 26 Shiva temples in Khardah, West Bengal crafted in the classic Bengali architecture - comes alive in the dancer's controlled postures and especially in the skillful 'slow motion' camera shots.

Read more in the site

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Shantha Ratii Initiatives presented Sparks - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

Shantha Ratii Initiatives presented the two day Singapore International Dance Day Festival SPARKS on 6th and 7th November 2020 at the SRI studio. It was conceptualized, created and choreographed by Shantha Ratii in collaboration with Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (SIFAS), Sheng Hong Arts Institute (SHAI). It was sponsored by National Arts Council of Singapore, A.R.T.S Fund, and SG Cultural AnyWay.

Read more in the site

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Article - Re-imagining the University - Dr. Kaustavi Sarkar

How can one find resilience in loss of livelihood? This article hopes to model an institutional solution to the pandemic by creating communities of practice across sectors - higher education and gig economy. Nevertheless, dance studies and arts policy scholar, Sarah Wilbur critiques "a celebratory stance toward the adaptive resiliency of artists amidst the mass estrangement and economic losses of the present" due to the high risk of exploitation of creative resilience. Noted Odissi artist Sharmila Biswas shouted out a clarion call for the professionalization of the artist fraternity especially in the pandemic induced dilemma regarding the virtual dissemination of performative content. Wilbur and Biswas both point towards artists' rights to make a living through art-making. Artistic content creation and dissemination require entrepreneurial skills.

While discussing the lack of entrepreneurial education in the gurukuls or the Indian classical dance conservatories in the backdrop of arts entrepreneurship as a discipline, Jasmine Pradeep Gajare argues for the need to instill a sense of drive and individual decision making capabilities in students for ensuing successful careers as artists. Gajare proposes the inculcation of entrepreneurial qualities, such as "awareness, sensibility and desire. An awareness of one's own potential and opportunities that either exist or can be created. A sensibility to subtle signs in communities, where dancers and other artists can make their talents and skills meaningful and finally the desire to explore, to realize one's own artistic dreams" (Gajare 362).

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Virtual and virtuoso - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Ileana Citaristi, the celebrated Odissi dancer in India today, did not have it all laid down for her on a silver platter. Born and brought up in Italy, she had imbibed the best of her culture and acquired performing arts skills, including an exemplary grooming in contemporary theatre from the Polish maestro Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999), an innovative theatre director and theorist whose approaches to acting, training and theatrical production have significantly influenced theatre today. In June 1979, having decided to come to India by land route from Europe, Ileana did not have it all hunky dory. Roughing it out over a perilous journey, when she finally arrived here to learn dance, the sub-continent was not exactly ready for her with welcoming arms. This critic was acutely aware of her arduous situation at that time when she had huge problems in eking out even a decent, daily living.

Having roughed it out over four long decades and having simultaneously learnt her art and craft in Odissi and Chhau from the very best of gurus, she had stuck to her steely resolve to settle in India and become a really good performer, choreographer, teacher and scholar. If today she has an idyllic cottage for living, practising and teaching in Bhubaneswar near Lingaraja temple - where, among other things, she is able to offer an excellent fare of lec-dem to interested foreign visitors every year under the aegis of Odisha tourism - it goes to her immense credit to have come this far. Additionally, she has put in a credible effort in innovating new quality of choreographic content year after year and have them showcased with her students, besides writing her academic tomes. No wonder she has earned accolades.

In the online 16TH SANGAM FESTIVAL held from November 7 to 9, Ileana presented a mix of four hardy favourites resurrected from earlier years, with three new items. 

Read more in the site

Monday, 16 November 2020

Roopbandh Festival - Shama Bhate's welcome initiative - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

During the pandemic, senior dancers, choreographers, gurus have been busy exploring the new site of virtual platform to showcase their choreographic works. Of the various ways, celebrated Kathak guru/choreographer Shama Bhate of Nadroop institution, Pune, presented her latest choreographic works online on 7th and 8th November 2020 in Roopbandh Festival.

Rhythm Labyrinth
On 7th November, Nadroop presented Rhythm Labyrinth. In the nritta section was explorations of Pancham Savari tala of 15 beats. Its seeds were sown nearly four decades ago, and I had seen a performance at NCPA of the same nritta section. Shama Bhate in the new visual medium with help of technical team of cameramen Pradyumn Pathak, Pranav Pathak, editing by Pratik Parkhi and Apurva Sathe, sound by Prashant Urunkar, light design by Gunavardhan Soman of SGA Lights, video direction by Apurva Sathe, and participating dancers Ameera Patankar, Avani Gadre, Shivani Karmarkar and Bhargavi Sardesai, has pulled off a hat trick.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Profile - Kala Vijayan - Venugopal SK

As part of my efforts to pay tributes to some of the finest gems in the field of Mohiniattam, who gave their lives and times to promote this beautiful dance form of Kerala, I wish to cover today, Kala Vijayan, one of the senior most dance teachers in Kerala, who I had a chance to interact with a few times during the past few months.

Read more in the site

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Article - The Anjali Yathi - M Subhashini Vijay Santhanam

Arrangement of rhythmic percussive syllables to match a pattern that pictorially represents a shape or object is called a Yathi. This Yathi is a common phrase set up or pattern that is typically used at the very end of several time cycles of creative rhythmic meandering to make a pretty flourish that elegantly leads to the beginning of the new rhythm cycle or Samam. Typically, the pattern of the flourish or teermanam repeats thrice. 

There are typically 6 accepted Yathi in practice. Dancers as well as percussionists use these throughout their works.

Monday, 9 November 2020

Article - Speaking the Art of Aesthetics through the eyes - Compiled by Dr. S. Divyasena


Bharata’s Natya Shastra is vast like an ocean and is layered with very profound thoughts and ideologies. It is a boon to researchers, dance practitioners, scholars, teachers and students. As we all know, eyes or ‘drishti’ plays a vital role in creating an emotion or Bhaava to evoke the relevant Rasa.

I hope this small attempt of mine to consolidate the 178 Slokas in Chapter 8 of Natya Shastra, will act as a tool and give you an insight in understanding the importance of ‘drishti’ in Rasa. The following tables   illustrate the different eye movements used to create all nine rasas, the stayi Bhaavas and how to express the vyabichari Bhaavas.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Book Review - Evolution and mutation of dance in Eastern metropolis - Dr. Utpal K Banerjee

 Kolkatar Naach, Samakaleen Nagarnritya

Aishika Chakraborty
2019, Rs. 450
ISBN 978-93-86443-80-9

Ranjabati: A Dancer and Her World
Edited & Introduced by Aishika Chakraborty
40 Satish Mukherjee Road, Kolkata 700 020
2018 (third reprint), Rs.500
ISBN 978-93-81703-67-0

The three villages, Kalikat, Sutanuti and Govindapur -- where Calcutta was located -- came into the possession of the British East India Company only in 1690. Some scholars like to date the city's beginning from the construction of Fort William by the British in 1698, though this is debated. From 1772 to 1911, Calcutta was the glorious capital of British India. This status was lost when the capital was shifted in 1912 to Delhi. But up to India's Independence in 1947, it remained the capital of the entire Bengal. Only after Independence, Calcutta (now Kolkata) became the capital of the truncated Indian state of West Bengal.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Profile - Kalamandalam Sugandhi - Venugopal SK

My tributes to some of the finest gems in the world of Mohiniattam practitioners who made their mark with their typical style and identities, yet contributing substantially towards developing the dance form to the present level of acceptance worldwide. Earlier in one of my previous articles, I shared my experience of going through a wonderful virtual journey through the most enchanting dance form of Mohiniattam. This was possible during the past 6 months or so, when I had lot of time at my disposal to explore and find out more about the dance form I love the most.

As a sequel I would now like to start a small series of write ups on a few wonderful personalities I came across during this sojourn. It's purely to satisfy my own inner self that I am writing this series and it covers only my views and observations as a tribute to these fine artistes. They are some of the veterans in the field of Mohiniattam, who have given their life and times to learn, practice, innovate and propagate the dance form to their best of abilities. I am not going by any specific order based on seniority or reputation, but by purely following my instincts.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Interview - Devi Diaries: Part 2

 Inspired by the writings of Sri Aurobindo's 'The Mother,' initiated DEVI DIARIES, inviting artistes to share their personal experiences and enhance it with a brief video presentation of their favorite Goddess or a real life female heroic figure.

The basic questions asked were:
Who is your favorite Goddess figure / why?
At what point in your life did the particular Goddess become your favorite? / Do you recall any particular incident connected with the Goddess?
How did you celebrate Navaratri in the past? / What are your plans for this year?

Read more in the site

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - November 2020


View the images in the site

Anita says...November 2020

 Success is not final

Failure is not fatal
That counts
- Winston Churchill

What are we watching? What are we reading? What are we learning? What are we having fun with? What are we struggling with? What are we unlearning? What are we thinking about? What is making us smile-laugh-weep-gasp?

With the IPL on right now, I wonder who is actually watching anything but cricket! And yes... there are so many dancers who are cricket crazy!

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Article - Honey, I shrunk the kids - V.P. Dhananjayan

Today's virtual viewing of naatya performances reminds me of the Hollywood movie titled "Honey, I shrunk the kids" (1989). About 15 years ago when I did a lecture demonstration for the august audience of the Madras Music Academy, I explained the reason for the limited audience for naatya performances. Naatya is an intimate theatre and Rasotpathi (enjoyment) happens only when one watches the artistes closer. Proximity to the performing arena enhances viewing pleasure and makes it enjoyable. Music concerts have larger listeners because the amplification brings the performing artists' voice and sound of instruments much closer to the Rasika's ears, so they could enjoy the music even sitting at the last row of a proscenium stage or an open arena. Light music concerts attract a much larger audience because it is louder, so a stadium-like place gets filled up. So the bigger and larger the size, has a better impact on the human mind. A solo performance has lesser attendance than a group naatya show.

Read more in the site

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Interview - Shama Bhate: Reclaiming the stage - Nikhil Ravi Parmar

Guru Shama Bhate, also known as Shama Tai, is a Kathak exponent whose career spans over 40 years. She has been learning and performing Kathak from the age of 4 and is a teacher involved with choreography and training of Kathak dancers. Guru Shama Bhate celebrates the thirty third anniversary of her dance institute 'Nadroop, the school of Kathak dance' based out of Pune, Maharashtra. The institute grows a leg stronger with every passing year nurturing young dancers, musicians and attributing to the very basic foundation of 'quality over quantity.'

The pandemic has been no different as an experience for all artistes, but with the robust will and fierce determination to inspire, Nadroop explores different possibilities in the ever-changing times of technology. Through curation, creation and challenges, Nadroop dives into the digital realm reclaiming the stage in their first ever online festival to celebrate the essence of Kathak. ROOPBANDH is scheduled for the 7th & 8th November 2020.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

12th edition of Erasing Borders Dance Festival 2020 - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

From September 20 to 27, 2020, Indo-American Arts Council, New York, presented the 12th edition of Erasing Borders Dance Festival. Moving to a virtual format has its own artistic challenges. Deepsikha Chatterjee, the new director of the festival, says that for the first time, in its 12th year the festival has brought 11 artistes together in a virtual borderless. She further informed that it had more than 200,000 viewers in total with approximately 17,000 tuning in each day of the festival.

I viewed the performances featuring interviews with dancers and curators Uttara Asha Coorlawala, Parul Shah, Deepsikha Chatterjee, Shruti Mohan and various other interviewers. The dancers were introduced and asked about the dance form, its history, process of creating and then screening of the performance.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Jewel from Manipur treasure trove - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Ima (meaning 'Mother' in Manipuri) presented online on October 16 by Bimbavati is a startlingly new choreographic work of hers, with innovations seen in multiple dimensions. At the outset confides Bimbavati, "Manipur has much more than meets the eye. Although Manipur is popularly associated with Vaishnavism and the performing traditions revolving around the life of Lord Krishna, it is a part of the Himalayan Tantric belt; Shakti cult also plays a vital role in shaping the land's cultural edifice". The twin spirit is inextricably interwoven in the crystalline presentation.

Read more in the site

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Naach, Nachman; watch, watchman! - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Reading some notes on the net, one learns how there's so much information now and some mis-information too! Take the word naach, which the British couldn't pronounce properly. Them folks had problems with most basic names and words: JeyPour for Jaipur; Vadodara became Baroda; Mumbai, Bombay; Madras was MADruss. And so on. So imagine a niche word like Naach (dance) which became Nautch (even today, reputed channels like the BBC can't call Nepal as Ne-paal but NeyPaul. Notice next time you do watch news. Unless you are busy making it!).

Earlier, a copy editor or sub checked facts, even English (or any language one wrote in) and only then a piece got published. Such writings stood the test of time. Nay, they became a reference point. What was written yesterday is forgotten today. Besides, today, many more are writing. If not books, then on Facebook, facts be damned. Who cares anyway? This is creative writing age at its best. Who reads or who cares? And books? Everyone who craves and wants attention is on Facebook too.

So when a new book, a real book - as in printed on paper version - nicely put together - on dance, yes - that most marginalized of art forms - hits the stands, is it time for celebration? Yes, especially if it is well researched, well written and reasonably well published and affordable.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Fine filigree of vintage Manipuri - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Nestling in the verdure green of low lying hills in the country's north-east is Manipur, the Land of Jewels. Its population - an endless potpourri of tribes migrating through the ages from the East and the North - has grown into a mass of gentle people, whose innate disposition towards arts spills over in the fondness for singing, dancing and patronizing colorful costumes, jewelry and handicrafts.

Manipuri dance - rooted into antiquity among the praying priesthood of Maitis and Maites who observed intricate rituals of Earth's Creation during the Lai Haraoba festival and its ancient martial arts of Thang Ta - transmuted during spread of Vaishnavism into classical Manipuri dance, based on Ras Leela (with its clusters of Nritya Ras, Kunja Ras, Vasanta Ras, Maha Ras, et al.) and Nata Sankeertan in the temple precincts, and especially in Bhagyachandra's Vaishnava temple in Imphal.

Leisem, organized on October 6 by 'Sparsh Studio of Performing Arts' was remarkable for three reasons.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Navadurga and Colors of Navaratri

 Sharad Navaratri or Maha Navaratri is commonly celebrated during the Indian month of Ashvina that commences from the first day of the lunar fortnight. As per the English calendar, it usually falls in the months of September and October. The festival is celebrated for nine nights (this year from Oct 17-25) and devotees pray, take part in the Dandiya Raas and Garba and offer prasad to please Goddess Durga.

According to some Hindu texts such as the Shakta and Vaishnava Puranas, Navaratri theoretically falls twice or four times a year. Of these, the Sharad Navaratri near autumn equinox (September-October) is the most celebrated and the Vasanta Navaratri near spring equinox (March-April) is the next most significant to the culture of the Indian subcontinent. In all cases, Navaratri falls in the bright half of the Hindu luni-solar months. The celebrations vary by region, depending on the creativity and preferences.

Bangalore based dancer Sathyanarayana Raju displays his creativity for NAVADURGA, his take on the NINE COLOURS OF NAVARATRI with jewellery by Asha Nandkumar and makeup by Shekar Rajendran.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Interview - Devi Diaries: Part 1

Inspired by the writings of Sri Aurobindo's 'The Mother,' initiated DEVI DIARIES, inviting artistes to share their personal experiences and enhance it with a brief video presentation of their favorite Goddess or a real life female heroic figure.

The basic questions asked were:
Who is your favorite Goddess figure / why?
At what point in your life did the particular Goddess become your favorite? / Do you recall any particular incident connected with the Goddess?
How did you celebrate Navaratri in the past? / What are your plans for this year?

Read more in the site

Friday, 9 October 2020

Outdancing our exceptional times - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

The great pop singer Bob Dylan – a Nobel Laureate to boot – sang famously, “Times, they’re a-changing”. Of course, Shakespeare had pronounced half a millennium back, “The times are out of joint”. Having spent a life-span of 86 years, this critic has seen two tumultuous times: one around 1947, the year of Independence and the few preceding years of nationalist movement. The other is right now in 2020, around an incomprehensible pandemic round the entire globe. 

Read more in the site

Thursday, 8 October 2020

A towering post-Independence presence in Indian art history and aesthetics is no more - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Indian scholars and art lovers exploring Indian art and aesthetics may not, for years have the benefit of a towering personality in their midst to equal Kapila Vatsyayan. Unlike the Greco-Roman approach of western scholarship in studying art, Kapila Vatsyayan looked at the holistic nature of Indian art totally from an Indian point of view. She believed that other traditions of art could be viewed through the Indian window. Studying Vastu-Sastra, Silpa Sastra and Sangit Sastra, her prodigious intelligence was able to decipher inter connectivity among all disciplines of India, which in their multi-layered complexity evolved with a give and take, taking off from the Indian world view which looked at no aspect of life - inanimate, animate, geological, biological, matter, energy, sense organs or sense perceptions - as being in 'absolute autonomy and isolation.' Spatially and temporally key concepts and seminal ideas permeate all art and literary traditions.

Read more in the site

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Obit/Tribute - Guru VS Ramamoorthy (1920 –2020) - Ananda Shankar Jayant

Revered Bharatanatyam Guru V.S. Ramamurthy (Sept 20, 1920 – Oct 2, 2020) passed away aged 101. Lovingly called Master by his own students and others, Guruji was teaching Bharatanatyam in Secunderabad for more than 5 decades.

We artistes at Hyderabad were blessed to receive his blessings as recently as December 19, 2019, when we celebrated the amazing and loving centenarian Guru. He would attend all our programs, come backstage, bless us before the show and afterwards, and then call us next day, for detailed praise and blessings.   

Read more in the site

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - October 2020


Anita says...October 2020

 Sometimes I open the window

And the dusk rain touches my face,
A lightness on the edges of knowing
That when this frozen summer fails, children locked
Without knowledge of tomorrow's light
Will leap as the sun breaks, molten though their corridors
Night fleeing rapidly from their eyes -
While mothers and fathers hurtling with the hurricane
Will struggle
To stand still, struggle to let go the darkness...

by Anu Majumdar, Auroville

I begin with the piercing beauty of words from my friend and take the liberty of slicing her luminous poem into two parts - to envelop this mostly "non joyous" missive with her ray of hope. Like gentle arms that holds a troubled soul close.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Obit/Tribute - Tribute to Natyacharya Rajee Narayan - The Dhananjayans

It is sad to note the passing away of Rajee Narayan of Mumbai. A Vaggeyakara by all virtues, she was an inspiring Natyacharya loved and respected by the Bharatanatyam fraternity. A very humble, simple person with great scholarship in naatya, music and literature is a rare  phenomenon in the performing arts world.

Read more in the site

Friday, 25 September 2020

Article - When Aharyabhinaya, the extraneous representation becomes integral in Performing Arts - Dr. Varada Pandit

'Gulabo Sitabo' is the recent film by director Shoojit Sircar that revolves around a heritage structure - the 'haveli'. The protagonist - a 76 years old landlord and multiple other characters have diverse interests in the haveli. As the film proceeds, it slowly reveals that the haveli is not just an external structure, but the director has portrayed it as a prime character. Whenever the camera focuses on the haveli, it seems that she is watching the chaos around her, sometimes with sheer amusement while sometimes feeling helpless. The very idea of portraying the haveli as a silent protagonist adds depth to the theme. The haveli is a metaphor that offers multiple interpretations on a broader canvas.

A similar theme was explored in the Marathi play 'Wada Chirebandi' by the renowned playwright Mahesh Elkunchvar. The plot was about the three generations of Deshpande family that reside in a heritage house - the 'Wada'. The wada is a witness of the ups and downs of the family and acts as a central character...

Today, the trend of choreography in Kathak is very well established and artistes continue to explore novel ideas. In 2018, Guru Shama Bhate presented 'Chaturang ki Chaupal', a choreography which was based on the idea of space...

Read more in the site 

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Slick virtual presentation of 26th Kelucharan Mohapatra Awards Festival - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Few festival designers can compare with Ratikant Mohapatra's efficient programming and layout of events and despite the pandemic restrictions necessitating a virtual event, the latest Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Awards Festival in Bhubaneswar, carried the same trademark of a slick and neat presentation of an eclectic mix of events, where time honoured classicism lived in proximity with a more trendy modern approach, on all the five days. Very appropriately dedicated to the recently departed musical prodigy Pandit Jasraj and to light expert Jayadev Das who for years was the man behind the scene illuminating many an Odissi performance, this year's event in true flamboyant style, had Hema Malini, the dancer/matinee idol/turned Rajya Sabha member inaugurating the festival with a few appropriate words, paying homage to Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

Read more in the site

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

To many, this tribute may appear to be highly egocentric, for which I need be amply excused, since I am helpless. Kapilaji was always aglow in my life's firmament and I always basked in her reflected glory. On the whole, I had the most profound regard for her deep erudition in Indian art and culture. In turn, I felt she had a sneaking appreciation of my abiding cross-disciplinary interest in the sciences and the arts. How I perceived this, I would come to, a little later.

It began in 1975. I was already Dy. Secretary, Min. of Defence in 1968, when I left India as a Commonwealth Scholar and I had then returned with a Ph. D. in "IT and Management" under my belt from Manchester. I was duly made Adviser (Information Systems), Min. of Industry, but I began seriously wondering where I would go in my civil service from there. Tata Steel jumped into the fray and offered me a plum technical position. I was in a dilemma - should I leave the lifelong security in the services and join the fiercely competitive private sector? I escaped to - an unlikely place -- the Himalayas to contemplate and sought the advice from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I sought and got - absolutely unexpectedly - an immediate "holy audience", provided I could climb the steep hillside from the Dharamsala Tourist Lodge to his hilltop abode, to keep the appointment in time. I did and received his blessing with a beatific smile, "I shall pray for you." I returned and took the plunge.

Read more in the site

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Roses and Thorns - In response to TM Krishna's article - Ramaa Venugopalan

('The guru-shishya structure is inherently prone to abuse. It needs to be demolished'

T.M. Krishna writes: The guru-shishya relationship in Indian music is grounded not just in a power imbalance, but in a celebration of inequality, which makes it vulnerable to abuse, which is then romanticised.

My response to T.M. Krishna's article in the Indian Express dated Sept 19, 2020
On this 'one' account I agree with his thoughts. At least he has the guts to consistently call out and speak about this issue. What is pertinent is the last line in this article (because enough has been said about the other aspects he addresses).

"In the guru-shishya parampara of Indian "classical" music and dance, rarely can a shishya stand up against her or his guru and hope to survive another day."

First off, to call a teacher imparting arts a Guru is problematic for me. As he says let's just address it as domain experts. The power play comes mostly in teachers who are performers themselves. When one is a popular performer, the adulation is beyond comprehension. Calling them deities, Gods and Goddesses of the art form... whatever else, is the problem. By practicing a performing art form, one cannot by default become divine. Two, a student who ventures or seeks to learn from such a star without doubt wants to imbibe those qualities to make them the next God or Goddess and also garner the popularity and opportunities that catapult them into that position. This is the truth! It's transactional in that sense.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

"Obit/Tribute - My tribute to my Guru - Navina Jafa

Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, once called the Czarina of Indian Culture, was a legendary scholar on Indian culture. An administrator, institution builder, scholar, and dancer all packed in one. Her comprehension of the journey in understanding the seeds lying in the internal soils of India and Asia to the ephemeral fragrance was unmatched. My journey with her started at the age of 10 and a half when she was our neighbor in Satya Marg. We often shared time over dinners, shopping, and walks. She became my affiliated guide for my Ph.D. along with Dr. Narayani Gupta at the Jamia Milia Islamic. Here are some excerpts from my diary:

"How can you go to the fragrance of a flower? Well, you need to understand the soil in which the seed is nurtured, then the journey of the plant, and then the flower. But most times, the journey begins and ends with the fragrance, something that dissolves as soon as it is released."

Friday, 18 September 2020

Obit/Tribute - Tribute to Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan - V.P. Dhananjayan

The passing away of Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan creates a vacuum in the arts and cultural field of Bhaaratam. An erudite scholar and cultural activist par excellence she drew high reverence from all quarters of our society, for her steadfast nature and contributions she made to keep our cultural ethos flying aloft in the international arena.

Read more in the site

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

UPAJ - Improvisation in Kathak: Column by Janaki Patrik

Classical north Indian Kathak dance has been my life's work. Having studied since 1967 during extended periods with India's pre-eminent Kathak dancer and guru Pt. Birju Maharaj, I have witnessed many of his solo performances, given many performances of my own and seen many performances by other Kathak artistes. Over the more than 50-year period of my life as a Kathak artiste, I've also had a chance to analyze the components of this great classical dance tradition.

Improvisation is one of those components which has fascinated me since I first saw Pt. Birju Maharaj perform in 1963 and was mesmerized. His performance did not appear to be composed. It appeared to be effortlessly improvised. When I decided in that moment to become a Kathak dancer, I wanted to learn everything, and especially improvisation.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Interview - Reading 'The Poetic Saree' - Rashika Ojha

 While meditating, the mind takes a plunge inwards from the laughter of the outside to the silence of the inside. Treading this journey is like going through a catharsis of emotions but what happens when the inner self is constantly talking to you... then there is just dialogue. When Jaya Mehta talks with her inner self, she 'spills' over 'melody' of poetry and gives birth to a new idea or genre of poetry, 'Dance Poetry' as beautifully described by the renowned poet, playwright and philosopher Dr. H.S. Shivaprakash in praise of the book 'The Poetic Saree.'

Read more in the site

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Stree vesham and a stree without parallel - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Exalted evening of Shakespearean classics inspired Kathakali stree vesham

The inspiration behind the elegantly organised Kathakali event by the Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, was a book on Stree Vesham in Kathakali (Shubhi Publication) by exponent Prabal Gupta, dedicated to two famous people in the world of dance who changed his career - the most important being his Guru Sadanam P. V Balakrishnan, groomed under stalwarts like Kalluvazhi Ittirarissa Menon Asan, Pattikamtodi Ravunni Menon and the eminent teacher, innovator whom the guru regards as his role model for life namely, Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair Asan. The second person is Mohiniattam dancer/guru Bharati Shivaji who as Prabal's first dance mentor was instrumental in steering his aptitude for lasya oriented dance towards stree vesham in Kathakali for which she deemed he was a more suitable candidate.....

Remembering the dance legend Shanta Rao
A 'formidable lady' in more senses than one, Shanta Rao was one of those rare dancers, who will never have a second to equal her. And yet, but for the book Dances of the Golden Hall authored by Ashoke Chatterjee and a clutch of extraordinary photographs of her by Sunil Janah, images of this dancer, who lived in her own private world and whose magnetic almost masculine energy in dancing became a byword in the lasya immersed Mohiniattam world, would have been totally unknown. Great minds were arrested by the electric quality of her dance. 

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Article - The quest of a yearning heart - Sudha Sridhar

 The incredibly intriguing journey in the realm of art world keeps one on the edge of emotions ranging from that of the pleasant to the most painful while a mystical quest keeps guiding all through.

As a student in pursuit of learning the art form, the heart yearns for a Guru to take one through the rough and tough and reach the acme of the art world knowledge wise. This yearning gets transformed when the same heart reaches the stage of a teacher or Guru yearning for or crying out for transferring the knowledge to discerning students. It is in this context, that one can see how pivotal and paramount the role of the Guru in the art world is. It is akin to how a spiritual aspirant needs to be kept on course on the river of life - Samaskara Sagaram - under the watchful eyes and guidance of the Guru to reach the ultimate goal of life. Any diversion or distraction from the main goal makes the aspirant settle on the banks of the river under the influence of their samaskaras be it good or bad, both unequivocally altering the course of the journey.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

A piece based on several questions about dance - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

As the title suggests, this piece is about questions. Questions are important. Not because they get us the answers, but they get us understanding. The right question at the right time can enrich a learning experience, or embed it more permanently in memory. A question creates a needle-point of light which in a jiffy can grow into a glowing orb, even as it suggests darkness. It jabs and fingers at the mind, then burrows in like a drill. These little fragments of curiosity, that get at the marrow of important issues, resonate, throb, linger and finally open up vast spaces of understanding. The great Greek philosopher Socrates subscribed very strongly to the importance of questions in enhancing knowledge. These disciplined questions Socrates believed, would enable the examination of ideas, determine the validity of those ideas, and pursue the thought in many directions and for many purposes. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that the former is systematic, disciplined, deep and usually focused on fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues or problems.

Read more in the site

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Kathak and Dhrupad: Hand in hand - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

Both Kathak dance and Dhrupad music are steeped in hoary history of this subcontinent.

Kathak having been danced in the Mughal courts is well documented, with the Agra Fort (and perhaps Delhi's Purana Qila) having resonated to the ghungrus of the petite dancers. While Emperor Akbar was known to have been privy to this dance, Jehangir was reputed to have conceived the costume of Kathak as is known today. On the other side, Srimad Bhagavat mentions Dhruvapad and Krishnapad in synonymous terms, sung devoutly in Vrindavan from the 15th century onwards. While Akbar had Govind temple built in his time, Shri Chaitanya sent Jeev Goswamy and Roop Goswamy all the way from Bengal to restore the Vaishnava temples in Vrindavan. These ace disciples of Mahaprabhu were instrumental in building the Radharaman temple in the 16th century, still redolent with Ras Leela in Kathak form alongside Bhagavat music.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Article - Phoenix: Rising from ashes of modernity - Priyakshi Agarwal

I should begin expressing my motivation for joining the Course by saying that I was born and went to ‘Government’ ‘Girls’ Higher Secondary School with instructions in Hindi for 16 initial years of my life in the village of Banera in the South-East of Rajasthan in India. This is not to begin from the original location in chronological order and claim any indigeneity but rather to mark this point of departure as a constitutive condition of my journey with dance and my practice. I participated in complex dances in my village such as Ghoomar, Terah Tali in innumerable festivals in the village, marriage celebrations, state celebrations of Independence Day and Republic Day at the school. I navigated them through a sense of movement and formations, community and space before I came to recognize them as ‘folk dances of Rajasthan’. It was also quite later on that I came to see being raised in a middle-class joint family of 16 people - the obstructions to my requests to dance, creation of hostile conditions towards my desire of expression through my movements, constant demand of duty and care, making it clear to me in no fuzzy terms my role in society - the iron curtain of ‘Girls don’t go out’ as continued violence of a paternalist society.

Read more in the site

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Anita says...September 2020

 In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.

In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the mist of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realised, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy.
For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me,
Within me, there's something stronger -
Something better, pushing right back

- Albert Camus, Nobel Laureate, philosopher, author, journalist

We are in month #6 in India's state of the pandemic. There is still much uncertainty and fear. However, August brought its fair share of drama, theatre, great dialogue, high emotions, tears, chest beating, wailing, public confessions and pompous posturing. A truly gripping reality show of dance-theatre!

Friday, 28 August 2020

Profile - Guru Gopinath and Kerala Natanam - G. Venu

Guru Gopinath and his wife Thankamani are dazzling artistes who shone upon the 20th century history of Kathakali, Mohiniyattam and Contemporary Dance. I had joined as a student under Guru Gopinath after he opened Viswa Kala Kendra at Vattiyoorkavu in Thiruvananthapuram in 1963. At that time he was the most well known dancer of Kerala. The newspapers and other journals of the day gave a lot of coverage to his performances both in India and abroad. I had become an ardent devotee of Guru Gopinath after seeing the photographs of his Navarasa-s that was published in a magazine. The expressions that unfolded upon his perfect dancer's face always held a unique charisma and radiance.

Born into the rich heritage of Kathakali in Kuttanad, a treasure house of performing art forms in southern Kerala, Gopinathan had received training in Kathakali under stalwarts like Chambakulam Paramu Pillai, Mathoor Kunjupillai Paniker, Guru Kunchu Kurup and Chengannur Raman Pillai for seven or eight years before joining Kerala Kalamandalam. He belonged to the first batch of students at Kalamandalam which was opened by the great poet Vallathol Narayana Menon in 1930. His class mates included Krishnan Nair (later, Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair), Sivaraman (Ananda Sivaram), Madhavan (Kalamandalam Madhavan) and Kelu Nair. Great artistes like Guru Kunchu Kurup, Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon and Vellinezhi Nanu Nair were among the teachers at Kalamandalam then. Gopinathan, however, joined the American dancer Ragini Devi to form a new dance troupe, with the permission of Vallathol. Ragini Devi had visited Kalamandalam at that time. It later proved to be a great turning point in the history of Kerala's dance forms.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Article - Complexion Complexities - Kasi Aysola


Makeup is transformative. Whether it be performance makeup or just a lipstick - we become.

What entails are best practices I have developed over the years of working as a makeup artist. I started doing my makeup myself at the age of twelve. I remember looking at myself and wondering why I looked so angry, only to realize my eyebrows were drawn too aggressively! You live and you learn. My most favorite make overs are the ones that hit home - Indians.

New normal: Dancing behind doors - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

 Since the most trying times are beating this sub-continent down from March last, the performing arts have, among several other domains, perhaps taken the hardest knock. Deprived of its usual soirees with appreciative clientele, all the performances have disappeared from the responsive public gaze and hearing, vanishing with the consequent patronage and succor. These arts are now busy devising their own trysts with technology, to ensure “virtual” space for practice and performance, replacing their physical, audio-visual space they have been used to so long.

Amidst the prevailing conditions and concerns, since each such artiste has to fall back on his or her own resources, this critic felt it was important to take a quick stock of the efforts being made and outcomes being expected, so that there is some mutual sharing of knowledge and taking note of each other's experience and corrective actions. A survey was, therefore, attempted among several major gurus who run large dance institutions in the eastern metropolis, asking them to briefly introduce their dance bodies and respond to the following four questions:

1 - How are you conducting online your teaching / learning classes and exercises?

2 - How do you propose to hold online evaluation / test of the students, after their learning process is over?

3 - How are you planning to produce online performances / hold online seminars / conduct online workshops?

4 - How will you be recruiting online fresh students and assessing their suitability?

The replies received are summarized -- alphabetically arranged under the gurus' names.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

U..... = You: The reader - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

 U. Last of the vowels before I throw in the towel (I'm just rhyming.... Though towels and tissues are very relevant these days of being extra sanitised and sensitised to personal hygiene)...

U= You, the reader. The audience. The recipient of all that is done in the arts, say, our dance field specifically. Are you a rasika? Are you a patron? Are you a viewer or reviewer willing to surrender to art more than the artiste? Are you willing to support the arts? Are you willing to buy a ticketed show? Are you really interested (enough to leave 10% in your will, to cause of art and artistes)? Are you ready to suffer "bad" shows? Are there any bad shows or philosophically speaking, nothing is good or bad, it just is?