Saturday, 4 July 2020

Thadhiginathom: Part 1 - Zakir Diary


Preamble
I was born in the village of Thurinjipatti in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu. A village so remote and obscure but idyllic and blessed with natural resources. Situated on the foothills of Yerkadu, its picturesque beauty seemed straight out of a movie. The village benefitted from the plentiful rainfall on the hills which provided for an abundance of good drinking water in the wells, a constant supply of fish in the canals, bountiful harvests in the fields, and healthy cattle herds to roam.

A majority of the village’s residents belonged to the communities of Kounder, scheduled castes, Muslims, and Oriya speaking Boyar. They each had dedicated places of worship and their traditional ways of worshiping. There were not more than a hundred and fifty to two hundred households in the small village. In addition, the Nayakkar community made up a small minority of no more than four or five households.

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The contribution of Kathak exponents Dr. Puru Dadheech and Vibha Dadheech - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari


In the world of classical Kathak, the names of Dr. Puru Dadheech and his wife Vibha Dadheech's names are taken with great respect. Being self effacing by temperament and low profile, they were not known to other classical dance exponents and gurus. However, in Madhya Pradesh Kathak world they are legends.

Before Covid 19, in February in Mumbai, Dr. Sandhya Purecha, while celebrating centenary of Acharya Parvati Kumar, had arranged a special series of lectures by Dr. Puru Dadheech on Natyashastra and Kathak. This was for the first time ever that such a series was arranged at Bharata College, where a special course on classical Kathak and Natyashastra has been finalized and is offered as a course. I happened to attend Dr. Dadheech's lectures and as we were staying in the same hotel, I sought appointment with him to learn more about his career and the course. Of course, I had known about the couple as both had performed at Kal Ke Kalakar festival at C. J. Hall in Mumbai for Sur Singar Samsad.

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Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Anita says...July 2020

We dance...
to breathe, to bring the soul to the fore, to be free
to remember, to experience, to imagine, to connect, to share
to include all and leave none, to travel together, to persevere
to lift each other's spirit, to realise possibilities, to transcend boundaries
to inhabit spaces beyond the body, to manifest the extraordinary
to stand in the present and reach out to the future, to conjure the unknown
to be proud in our bodies, to coalesce all parts of our being into one
to wear eyes and ears all over our bodies, to welcome all colours and sounds
to reach the centre from the periphery
We dance to feel alive!
Stand up for dance! Stand up for all!

- Jayachandran Palazhy (Founder, Artistic Director, Attakkalari)

Another month passes. Touch is out. Distancing is in. Tempers run rampant. Patience runs thin. The body passes into numbness, no matter how hard we try to find a rhythm and a routine. Television is a cannibal, feeding on carcasses of dead ideas. In small cozy WhatsApp groups, the elite discuss "serious" issues and weigh in on life and death matters while sipping a "garam chai", filter coffee or a chilled Chardonnay - with coordinated designer masks of course!

How much longer can we continue to hope that things will resume as they were for the live arts? How fervently can we pray for the world to resume its chaotic but recognizable patterns? How many more appeals can we encounter without withering into cynical ennui? For those of us who have donated, supported, purchased and encouraged performers, crafts persons, weavers and creative people across all spectrums, the endless litany of woes does not seem to have a finish line.

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Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Article - Rainbow Rasa


Narthaki is delighted to share the voices of three artistes who speak from the heart about their dance and their life choices.

- Gerard Samuel, Professor of Dance, University of Cape Town and the very first Tamil/"Black" professional Ballet dancer in South Africa

- Kiran Rajagopalan, Bharatanatyam dancer from New York City

- Cameron Shanolin Govender, a makeup artiste and Bharatanatyam dancer in Durban, South Africa

Read more in the site

Monday, 29 June 2020

An audio-video-choreo trio - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Among the plethora of online products let loose in the current depressing situation of enforced isolation and solitude, Within... from Within stands out with its excellence. Produced by Aditi Mangaldas and Drishtikon Foundation - well known for their prowess in innovative Kathak - in collaboration with Raw Mango and #ArtMatters / Teamwork Arts, versatility is writ large on every frame of the production, both in terms of choreographic imagination and the brilliance of the audio-visual technology at the dancers' disposal. Brought out in a highly laudatory effort of fund-raising for distressed artistes, the outcome is entirely satisfactory both from aesthetic as well as technical points of view.

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Friday, 26 June 2020

Book Review - 'Mohiniyattam: Its Art and Aesthetics' by Bharati Shivaji - Dr. Sunil Kothari


Shubhi Publications, 479, Sector 14, Gurugram 122 001, Haryana, India
Revised Edition 2020 / Price not stated
Foreword by Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay, Photos by Avinash Pasricha

The present volume on 'Mohiniyattam: Its Art and Aesthetics' by Bharati Shivaji, a celebrated exponent of Mohini Attam, takes the reader to those early years when there were no takers for this dance form of Kerala. At the suggestion of Kamala Devi, Bharati undertook not only rigorous training in Mohini Attam (I prefer to spell it as Mohini Attam instead Mohiniyattam) but also did extensive research by visiting various parts of Kerala and contributed to the revival and further exposure to this near extinct dance form. Kamala Devi arranged for a financial grant for this project from the Sangeet Natak Akademi.

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Thursday, 25 June 2020

Article - Sanctity of the term 'Guru' in Sattriya parlance - Meenakshi Medhi

Some profound moments in life make you think and introspect. During one of my performances, the organizers added the prefix Guru to my name in the banners and invites; it somehow did not feel right and upsets me till today. Many a time, I have also been asked by my students why they should not address me as a Guru. I never had a definitive answer. I feel that the word Guru has great sanctity. It also may have stemmed from my experience with all the great exponents of the dance forms. I have not seen anyone address himself as a Guru.

The thought remained with me and hence the first thing I did was Google. I was not satisfied and hence I referred to my Adhyapak and elders who had a deep-rooted link to our Sattriya tradition and the revered scriptures that we as practitioners follow. After a lot of discussions, deliberations and reading a lot of texts, here is what I could come up with for my justification to be called an Adhyapika.

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Sunday, 21 June 2020

Prism - Six and a half decades on the stage - G Venu


Let me look back upon some memorable milestones during my pursuit of the arts that has lasted around six and a half decades.  Hopefully, the insights gathered from everything that I had experienced, seen, watched and heard, on the stage, on the back stage and in front of the stage, both within Kerala and outside, may turn out to be useful for those who are setting out on the same path as this.  My life in the arts was a free flowing journey. The journey that took me from Kathakali to Kutiyattam was the pursuit of a whole decade.

It makes me feel extremely proud and fulfilled to realise that Kutiyattam, in the revival of which I had played an active role right from 1976, had gained the recognition of the UNESCO in 2001 followed by Mudiyettu (in 2010),  another art form with which I was involved from 1997.  The realisation that these recognitions are the result of my own efforts also makes me feel tremendously pleased.

Recognising my passion to learn Kathakali, my father had started a Kalari at village in 1956. Four students other than me were also being trained in that Kalari. All the expenses of the Kalari were borne by my father who was not a rich man. We were living in a rented house at that time.

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Friday, 19 June 2020

Interactions and virtual Spic Macay Convention a unique experience - II - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Most dancers seem to combine the gift of silver tongued speakers. With guru- shishya being the main title of Spic Macay's Anubhav, Padma Subrahmanyam touched on many issues, including answering a question by a student on how mudra was different from Karanas! She spoke of her dance based on her Natya Sastra research as a 'revival with the Desi'. But one particularly appreciated her emphasis on the importance for dance aspirants of watching acclaimed dancers in action. As a junior, she mentioned just sitting in the class for hours as the seniors performed. Very important, considering how young dancers today want only to be seen on the stage performing and watching does not come easy for all.

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Interactions and virtual Spic Macay Convention a unique experience - I - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It was a fateful day in the 1970's when Kiran Seth, a student at Columbia University went "more to see" the concert of Dagar brothers Hameenuddin and Fareeduddin in New York's Brooklyn University, the experience turning out to be what he himself calls the 'Black box'. He went in and much later walked out, feet above the ground, not aware of what had hit him inside so intensely. "If I could have such an experience, it could happen to others too," he decided. And the idea of Spic Macay was born! After a stint as Mechanical Engineer and working with Bel Labs, the first earnest effort in India, to emulate the New York experience by inviting the Dagar Brothers had about ten people attending with five walking out! The first lec-dem effort at Delhi School of Economics in 1978 with the most acclaimed of artistes of music and dance involved, did not fare much better. But with the never-say-die persistence, helped by a handful of like-minded persons, not to speak of obliging artistes, today's colossus of Spic Macay stands as an exemplary instance of voluntary effort, enabling the exposure of young minds in the country to the best of India's culture and heritage.

With all live programming cut by the pandemic crisis, the ever striving Spic Macay team put together a bouquet of select recorded programmes of acclaimed artistes, supplemented by live interactions with them on the internet. Predictably, for volunteers not used to this medium, there were glitches in melding interactive live sessions with the recorded programmes and being able to provide timely links to interested persons. Despite all the drawbacks, the week turned out to be an unusually riveting experience.

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Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Article - Dear Dance - A humble note - Payel Chatterjee

My journey in dance dates back to a time when I was introduced to it as a kid by my neighbour in Kolkata. Looking back, I often reminisce about little snapshots of memories of the times that were. I often recall an incident from my first dance recital, where I ran away from stage because I was intimidated by the stage lights. When I began to receive training in Bharatnatyam under the guidance of acharya Rumela Chatterjee, there was something that I started liking about dance, deeply and madly. But, at that time I did not realize what it meant. Slowly, the pressure of academia started kicking in and I knew, somewhere, I had to take a call. After my under-graduation, I decided to pursue PhD in Biological Sciences and moved to Bangalore.

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Sunday, 14 June 2020

Pioneers of Corona Creativity: Dance Films on Poetry of Hard Times, Methil Devika, Shovana Narayan and Sangeeta Chatterjee - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

At a time when the domain of the arts is reeling with the economic impact of Corona and its devastation of livelihoods, the other buzz is around the'' creativity that has not ceased to pour out from the creative sector. Not just are artists being unusually deft at using technology to stay united, in conversations and 'guftagu', living up to Sardar Jafri's hope in the nazm 'Guftagu' band' na ho', but they are coming up with amazing creativity, in the form of online concerts, and very interestingly dance films on poetry of hard times. I must take a moment to mention here that there are some very effective music videos that have been made at this time as well, but I write here only on dance videos.

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Saturday, 13 June 2020

Article - Mental health and well-being in classical dance - An inquiry - Ramaa Venugopalan

A recent article in a world dance magazine addressed the mental health of dancers in ballet companies. The counsellor revealed key points that hinder the mental well-being of dancers through their training years. The article had a deep impact on me, and I could not resist from a similar inquiry into the world of Indian classical dance.

Are we classical dancers living in a mental sphere of happiness or anxiety? What are the factors that make up this health index? Are we assessing our mental and emotional well-being? Most importantly, are we dancers truly happy? Warped in layers of perceived notions of divinity, adherence, non-questionable notions, unspoken rules, dancers are so caught in multiple layers of agony that an inquiry into the mental well-being has been rarely assessed.

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Thursday, 11 June 2020

Interview - Vanashree Rao: I like powerful stories - Shveta Arora


Vanashree Rao is a Kuchipudi dancer/teacher who has come into her own again through Rasa United, a collaboration between Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam and Chhau, with Dr. S. Vasudevan bringing the Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music expertise and Kuleshwar Kumar Thakur providing the Chhau expertise and dancers. Over the past few years, the group led by Vanashree Rao, has staged impressive, action packed productions depicting dramatic mythological episodes. Their productions include Dramatic Tales, Abhimanyu Vadh and the latest, Tryambakam, which is centred on Shiva and depicts three aspects of the godhead - aghori, ardhanarishwara and kirat, but it also had other connotations. Three gurus from three dance forms presented the tales, and the choreography and music seamlessly amalgamated all three forms till it became one memorable experience. In an enjoyable and colourful conversation this past winter with Vanashree and Dr. S. Vasudevan, she spoke about her journey in dance and in life, and how they brought her to a point where she realized her creative vision through Rasa United.

Read the interview in the site

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Article - Indian dance: From real to virtual - Rashika Ojha

Covid-19 situation... It's a strange feeling. Life is moving, yet it is still...

A still movement, where you are not mobile, yet your idea and intention travels. When I asked Jaya C Mehta, an Odissi dancer from Delhi, about her lockdown trials, she unveiled, "I would like to see how my ideas of beauty and silence, can be shared on digital platforms as a kind of antidote to the stress of today's times."

For a dancer practicing Indian classical dance, the journey from an idea to the form is not an independent journey; instead it's a collaborative journey which you tread painstakingly. For this, you need to work in coordination with others like the orchestra and sometimes mentors for feedback and direction to co-exist in the world of "performance syndrome" (a term I borrow from Leela Venkatraman, a renowned dance scholar and critic).

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O for Omg! - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Continuing my vowel movement, we reach O.

OMG! That's what O has come to represent today, most. OMG indeed for the sheer survival skills of dancers, especially the FB-fittest lot, Darwin be damned! What did he know of internet era and sheer need for virtual presence or desperation in times of karo-na!?

Lockdown period gave new challenges too.

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Saturday, 6 June 2020

At last a discussion on 'Economies of Performing Arts' - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


The economic situation of performing artists seems to be a subject which has never engaged the attention of economic planners of present day India. So it was a most pleasantly surprising move to have the IGNCA's Kaladarshan host a Webinar discussion on 'Economies of Performing Arts' - 'to strategize recommendations' for helping this part of our artist population so badly hit by the Covid crisis that some of them face the peril of ceasing to be, unless provided immediate support. The panellists in the discussion were Dr. Sonal Mansingh (member, Rajya Sabha), with Bansi Kaul (Theatre director and visualiser), Viraf Sarkari (co-founder and director, Wizcraft International), Arjun Pandey (founder of Delhi Pedia), and Albert Almeida (COO, Live Entertainment, Book My Show). Dr. Sachchidanand Joshi, Member Secretary, IGNCA, was the moderator.

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Going viral, Going global: An artistic response to the challenges in the times of Corona - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi



In one of my earlier columns titled 'With "a lover's smile": Strengthening resolve in the times of Corona', that came out on April 25, 2020 , I had talked about how the arts were capable of carrying even difficult messages, because they charmed, like a "lover's smile". I pegged the column on an enactment of a poem, in dance, by Kathak dancer and data analyst Mrinalini, on the conditions we were facing during the times of Corona. It effectively told us of the constraints to our lives in the 'stay at home' circumstances, the protocols we had to follow of washing hands, sanitizing, physical distancing and reminding us of our social responsibilities, even while kindling a flame of hope. It was based on a powerful Hindi poem by Kuldeep Mishra. This reached us in a digital format and being on social media it is in a way immortalised and will always be there for reference. While in this column I was excited that this artistic piece had been picked up to be part of a news show, the column that I write today, takes off from Mrinalini's effort but takes us to a local artistic response that became a global endeavour with dancers, young and old, senior and junior, freshers and icons, Indian and international, coming together to mark the challenges in the times of Corona, and the only way forward.

It was sent to me very tentatively by Delhi based dance photographer, Innee Singh. Innee's real and formal name is Indirpal Singh. But I can assure you no one knows him by his full name. Innee is an unusual but winning mix of shy and friendly. For those who have got used to the brilliant photo-lens signature of the legendary Avinash Pasricha's work in dance photography, you may have noticed that there are nowadays some photographs, particularly of the younger generation dancers, that don't follow Avinash-ji's lines. If you have seen them, you would have noticed it. And if you have noticed them, then there is a strong possibility that they are the work of Innee Singh.

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Thursday, 4 June 2020

Profile - Vedantam Raghava: A dancer personified - Aparna Dhulipalla


Who is a dancer? Is dancing gracefully to the rhythm with appropriate abhinaya enough for one to be called a dancer? Maybe in today's parlance.

The various treatises on dance, apart from the physical attributes, define the qualities of a dancer as a person who is learned, who speaks sweetly, is eloquent, confident, of sweet voice, well versed in geeta - vaadya and above all learned in shastras / treatises on arts. Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeswara defines these qualities of a Nata / Nartaka (actor / dancer). One may think that such people can only be found in theory or in textbook definitions, but one would be surprised to know that there are living examples of "dancers" who possess the defined qualities.

This writer was fortunate to meet, interact and know about one such versatile Kuchipudi exponent Vedantam Venkata Rama Raghavayya, popularly known as Vedantam Raghava. Raghava hails from the Kuchipudi village of Krishna District in Andhra Pradesh. He is the elder child of Vedantam Rattaiah Sarma and Rajyalakshmi, belonging to the 'Vedantam' family - one of the hereditary Brahmin families of the Kuchipudi village.

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Monday, 1 June 2020

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - June 2020

Anita says...June 2020

In a city closed down
I hear rain before it falls
Birds gather under awnings
I throw open windows
Let words move
Living in wind and wings
Enter my heart!
Clean my sorrow!
You that are
Buried beneath tears
Please sing me back to joy
- Laura Simms, Poet


Wait! What day is it?
What? It’s June 1?
Already?
How many of you are feeling like this? Hours and days blurring into one another, eyes red with too much peering into our phones and screens, fingers sore from swiping this way and that, mind scampering like a monkey on a compound wall…

We are already into the half way mark into a year that will go down in our lives when the world changed. Forever? Well, that is what the experts say. Through the window I notice that my mango trees have borne the best crop in a decade. The annual hair oil, pickle and pappad making rituals are in motion. I sit on my faithful swing as my thoughts re-arrange themselves to be shared with all of you.

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Saturday, 30 May 2020

Nothing is more Local than the Arts of India: A suggested Package to support them - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

In my last column I had made a plea for a 'package', in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, for Indian artistes. Maybe I was delusional in thinking that the gatekeepers of the domain of the arts in India are proactive, read extensively and will at least take the hint if not get inspired. Not one to give up in the face of inertia, in this column I persist in my demand for a 'package' for the artistes of India in response to COVID 19 and the peculiar and unprecedented situation that faces the arts today.

The unprecedented setback by the Corona virus that has impacted the entire world has not spared India. In fact, the Indian economy that was already doing badly with falling GDP and an unprecedentedly high figure of joblessness, has now got on to a downward spin, and threatens to spin out of control. No sector has escaped its ill effects. The sector of culture and creative economy, which represents our priceless heritage of the arts, is also severely hit. Art remains an 'Unorganised Sector' making it susceptible to the vagaries of disasters even as all artists have become among the most 'Endangered Species'. Given the fragility of the constituency, there is palpable worry, emanating from the community as well as its stakeholders and watchers, that the arts may not survive in their glory, unless hand held and helped at this stage.

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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Interview - R Muralidaran: The 25 Varnams challenge

Dancer, choreographer and composer Madurai R Muralidaran wanted to make this lockdown period a useful one for the dance files. And he came up with this unique project. He shares his thoughts and work process for readers of narthaki.

What was the inspiration for this project?
Varnam 25 Challenge happened due to the extended lockdown.  I had requests from many of my followers and young talented singers all over the globe. I challenged myself with self confidence of my 40 years of experience in composing dance compositions. Inspired by Isaignani Ilayaraja's speech, I started this work as soon as the Government announced the lockdown period for 3 weeks. He actually did the whole re-recording in one day for a movie and he composed music for 3 movies in one day. He broke the record of so many music directors. It was in my mind for many years and honestly it was not humanly possible. I don't want to cut and destroy the banyan trees which were planted by the legends starting from Tanjore Quartet, Papanasam Sivan, KN Dandayudhapani Pillai, Madurai N Krishnan, Lalgudi Jayaraman and many great composers. I am trying to plant a small seed that will also grow and give shade for the future generation and I am doing it as a service to the field of Bharatanatyam. I didn’t want to write female oriented themes and I have written most of my Varnams in bakthi bhava and also in Nayaka Bhava.

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Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Interview - Siblings by Kuchipudi - B. Naveena




Sitalakshmi Prasad and Pasumarthi Mruthyumjaya Sarma count easily among the impressive exponents of Kuchipudi in the current crop. Apart from being solo performers, they often come together as a duo, with palpable synergy of taandava and laasya. While it is common to have a sibling, parent or spouse as dancing partner, what makes this pair unique is that they are bonded solely by passion for Kuchipudi: a passion so enduring, leading them to brave geographical barriers, personal handicaps and adverse circumstances to emerge not only as fine performers and teachers, but more importantly, as devotees of Kuchipudi and its great masters.

Read the interview in the site

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Inspiring week showing indomitable spirit of dancers - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Dancers would seem to have been busier than ever on the internet. For over two weeks is Kuchipudi dancer settled in Bangalore, Vyjayanthi Kashi's Herculean effort of an Online International Seminar on Kuchipudi hosted under the aegis of her institution Shambhavi School of Dance, attempting to feature in one sweeping canvas, artistes representing both traditional and contemporary versions of an art form, which passing through the corridor of time, from its Yakshagana avatar to the solo Kuchipudi of today, has met with more changes than many others. I enjoyed watching and listening to the cogency of Dr. Vedantam Ramalinga Sastry with his additional Kalakshetra experience, as he dilated on the differences between the Kuchipudi Yakshagana and the dance drama that Rukmini Devi pioneered. I noted his strong response when the usual explanation of music having taken the place of 'Vachika abhinaya' of Yakshagana was offered in the discussions, that trying to make what was a 'convenience', a substitute was no answer. With the support systems for Yakshagana troupes no longer available, and with the solo form emerging with dancers from different areas taking to Kuchipudi, the first casualty was bound to be the language, the main repository of the identity of cultural traditions.

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Monday, 18 May 2020

Obit/Tribute - Myrta Barvié (1933 -2020) - Silvia Rissi


Myrta Barvié (13 January1933 – 15 May 2020) was a pioneer in spreading the knowledge of the classical dances of India in Argentina and Latin America. As a dancer, writer, lecturer and teacher, she presented this art in its most classical, pure and traditional form, just as she learned it in India with her teachers.

Myrta was a classical ballet dancer, beginning her studies at the age of 8 with the Russian teacher Victoria Tomina who advised her to enter the dance school of the Colón Theater in Buenos Aires. At the age of 14 she joined the permanent dance company of the Colón Theater, where at the age of 17 she debuted as the first dancer in the role of Swanilda of the ballet Coppelia. Shortly thereafter, she made her first trip to India at the invitation of Rukmini Devi, director of the most important dance institute in South India, Kalakshetra. Thus Myrta began the most beautiful and profound relationship with India, its art, wisdom and spirituality.

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Thursday, 14 May 2020

Article - Abhinaya Darpanam in a nutshell - Dr. Maithili Nesargi-Naik

There exists a beautiful garland of 324 pearls strung together with the silken thread of nrutya shastra in the ancient Sanskrit literature -The Abhinaya Darpanam.

Abhinaya: To express / To take forward to

Darpanam: Mirror

Abhinaya Darpanam is a Sanskrit treatise on Indian classical dances having a detailed account of dance movements and expressions.

The entire text is composed in poetry (padya) form. 'Anushtupa chhand', 'Sragdhara' and 'Shardulvikridit' are the predominantly used meters for the composition of Abhinaya Darpanam. This padya format facilitates the 'memorizing and recitation' method of gaining knowledge. In the traditional Indian system of education, 'Patha-Anushthan-Avabodha' was the sequence one followed to gain knowledge. The author of the work is Nandikeshwara who is believed to hail from southern India.

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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Dance distorted during pandemic - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman



We are now living in a world of the internet where all manner of teacher/taught relationships have gone for a toss- not excluding the performing arts. A sea change indeed for the dance world we have loved to proudly tout as 'classical', where at one time, the Guru/shishya interaction was through 'Gurukula Vaasam' - considered the sine quo non for learning! The constant physical proximity of living in the home of the Guru (nothing less) paved the way for the student unconsciously imbibing the intricacies and totality of a tradition covering aspects not discussed in the formal classroom training.

All Gurus, this writer has spoken to, are unanimous that the live classroom with the throb of the students' response is the most effective adrenalin driving the Guru's teaching enthusiasm and with such responses as an aspect largely to be imagined on internet teaching, the task is made more exacting. Unlike music classes on Skype which have been in practice for some time, dance which involves the moving body seems to pose more problems. Says Aruna Mohanty, the Odissi dancer/teacher, "I am constantly itching to pat and straighten a slightly hunched spine, lift a sagging shoulder or correct a body slant in the wrong direction - while constantly realising that in this virtual proximity physical contact is impossible." She has now taken to making diagrams of the right body posture, the way knees are to be placed, and even the line that the hand movement traces in space. "My pictures show the starting position, the middle position and finally the concluding point showing exactly how the hand should move."

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Sunday, 10 May 2020

Poem - What is dance to you? - Tejsree Beharee

What is dance to you?
I am often asked!
Sometimes it is a prayer
Offered daily
Where I express my gratitude and I ask for positivity in life

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Friday, 8 May 2020

Article - Koothambalam: The performance theatres in Kerala temples - Haritha Haridas


Concept of a Koothambalam
The Koothambalam or Nrtta Mandapa came into existence during the day of Bharata. Bharatamuni in his extant Natya Sastra has in fact written an entire chapter on the construction of an auditorium for theatre. Though there is a legend associated with the necessity of an auditorium, practically Bharata believed in providing a specifically erected enclosed space for theatre to make it more aesthetic. Earlier, there were not any particular spaces for performing arts; performances were conducted in any open space or on temporarily erected stages and even on streets.

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Friday, 1 May 2020

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - May 2020

Anita says...May 2020

We will not go back to normal
Normal never was.
Our Pre Corona existence was not normal
Other than we normalised greed, inequity, exhaustion
Depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion,
Rage, hoarding, hate and lack.
We should not long to return my friends.
We are being given the opportunity
To stitch a new garment.
One that fits all of humanity
And nature.

- Dr. BRENE BROWN
School of Social Work, University of Houston, Texas

What do I say that has not already been said, seen and performed during these part 30 days?
I am so fed up with my phone and my iPad. I am sick and tired of desperate dancers performing in their non photogenic homes just so "they are not forgotten." I have seen so much bad dancing, especially Bharatanatyam, that it has turned me off this wonderful form for a while.

Dance is about human interaction. It's about the sweat and the panting and the effort and the exhaustion. It is about the exhilaration and excitement of having completed a phrase, an item, a performance, a rehearsal well. It is about the RASA of human eyes watching another human body in the same physical space and not through the cold, glassy eye of the camera. It's also about embracing and being applauded by actual audiences and not by "likes" and "heart" emojis.

I have enjoyed the riches of the world's greatest museums and cultural spaces. Operas, ballets, online tours, ancient history talks, cooking lessons, language lessons - my days have been filled with so much that I did not feel one day blurring into the next.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Article - Ruminations during lockdown #PandemicPonderings (Part 2) - Dr. Anita Ratnam

With the current pandemic sweeping our globe and with our lives forever changed in the foreseeable future, artistes share about how the month of March/April was for them. What they did that was different... what new hobbies they have started...

Read in the site

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Article - Ruminations during lockdown #PandemicPonderings (Part 1) - Dr. Anita Ratnam

With the current pandemic sweeping our globe and with our lives forever changed in the foreseeable future, artistes share about how the month of March/April was for them. What they did that was different… what new hobbies they have started...

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Article - Pandemic notes - Dr. Srinidhi Chidambaram

I have often been questioned how it feels pursuing two very different professions - healthcare and performing Bharatanatyam - both having a steady parallel trajectory all these years in my life. The COVID-19 pandemic has for the first time, made me feel a deep sense of gratitude that I have these professions in my life, ensuring that no day remains unproductive, predictable and boring.

I am a Public Health medical postgraduate but my work at Apollo Hospitals spans many dimensions. I don't directly treat patients but with data, outcomes and communication. My work in health communication and my participation in our extensive online initiatives and our Project Kavach give me a great feeling of contributing what I can to help people. Of course, if the outbreak grows larger (which I pray won't happen), I will be there in the front line helping in whatever way I can with my medical training.

My other great passion Bharatanatyam helps me keep fit and energised. It is absolutely fabulous to dance without a performance angle (Though I do have Insta performances lined up!). I have pulled out videos and audio tapes of my performances when I was in my teens and twenties. Dancing to my Guru Swamimalai S K Rajarathnam's haunting music and jathis is wonderful. Zesty Vazhuvoor jathis and swaras at high speed is more than enough to test stamina and endurance after so many years have gone by! I am also practising dancing to the adavus in slow speeds to gain better form. With all of us house bound, it is precious time as my husband shuttles between the parliamentary constituency and Delhi, while my daughter studies at Cambridge University.

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Monday, 27 April 2020

North Indian Kathak and American Tap: KA-TAP: Column by Janaki Patrik


Tatkar and Tap. In my mind the combination was a no-brainer.

By the time I hit my 20th anniversary as a Kathak dancer, I had thought about the similarity of Kathak tatkar and Tap dance steps for almost as many years. The opportunity to create a Kathak-Tap duet presented itself at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where I was an artist-in-residence from January through March 1990.

In conversations with Michael Simms, the ballet teacher in Stephens College's Dance Department, I learned that he had been a "hoofer" - a slang term for tap dancer. Michael somewhat reluctantly agreed to bring his tap shoes out of the back of his closet, but once we got into the studio, he enthusiastically joined in our "foot play". We decided to perform a duet to conclude my Kathak demonstration for the Dance Department's Spring concert. We chose an American standard composed in 1930, entitled "On the Sunny Side of the Street".

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I for...Indian dance in times of Covid-19 - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

I for innovate. The post-Corona lockdown made many dancers think anew and some came up with innovative ideas to keep busy meaningfully and reach out. Karona became karo-na! (Please do)!

Hyderabad's ASJ - that's the ever smiling Joy as in Ananda, Shankar as in Shiva and Jayant as in her best half, who posted cartoons sketches drawn by Vishnu Amaresan and designed by budding talents.

Bangalore's Lourd Vijay and Attakkalari offered virtual classes, the former even at a discount, which kept many on their toes. Bangalore learnt to keep its cool, no playing the fool on internet just to remain relevant or visible. Most frequent travelers were grounded and rested at home.

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Saturday, 25 April 2020

With "a lover's smile": Strengthening resolve in the times of Corona - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi


I am a news junkie. That is a genuine confession. I push sleep to look at the news-apps on my phone, just one more time. Recently, my two addictions, news and dance, went on to imbricate. Watching news reports and social media entries pertaining to the clouds cast by the Corona virus, I encountered, somewhat unexpectedly, a dance story on the popular news site, Lallantop. It came as a complete surprise. In the age of diyas, candles and torches, this was a genuine ray of light. Based on Kuldeep Mishra's Hindi poem, recited by him too, NCR based Kathak dancer Mrinalini, who prefers to go only with one name, a twenty-six year old data scientist working at an analytics firm, did an impromptu five minute performance, in what looks like the corridor of an apartment block, possibly her apartment block, since we are in a lockdown.

It took Mrinalini exactly an hour to come up with this choreography, after her mother introduced her to the poem. Like all young, digitally savvy people, quick fingered at making videos and sharing them on various interactive platforms, Mrinalini too posted a recording of it on the photo and video sharing platform, Instagram. While the poetry, when she heard it, may have touched a chord in her, leading her to do this choreography, and maybe her only purpose in making it was to find escape in dance during this time, her artistry apparently touched a chord in several thousand hearts and became a viral hit, collecting over 35000 views. Its hashtag #zarakathakcorona was gripping enough, and its message "India fights Corona" short, sweet and punchy! The comments were encouraging, with people liking it as something different, finding hope in it, and referring to it as the best thing they had seen in this period of quarantine. You can see the choreography here

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Friday, 24 April 2020

Article - Identity and Aesthetics - V. Kaladharan

The coexistence of several highly evolved dance and theatre traditions in Kerala has problematized the concept of identity of each form especially with the incredible outreach of Kathakali in the last century. Did Kathakali, an eclectic dance-drama, exert influence on Kutiyattam, Krishnanattam, Mohiniyattam and Thullal? While intransigent connoisseurs came down heavily upon the Kutiyattam artists of Kerala Kalamandalam in the late 1980's for diluting the identity of this Sanskrit theatre tradition by borrowing elements from Kathakali, eminent playwright and theatre-director, the late Kavalam Narayana Panicker derided the reformations in the vocal music of Krishnanattam (dancing the life-story of Lord Krishna that has for long been confined to the Guruvayoor temple) along the lines of Kathakali vocal music.

Against the above background, I had a prolonged interview with the legendary Kutiyattam actor, the late Ammannoor Madhava Chakyar, at his residence, for AIR, Thrissur. In the course of our conversation, I asked him the reason why he insisted that the young Kutiyattam practitioners keep themselves away from Kathakali. Chakyar replied, "This is a piece of advice handed down to me by my immediate ancestors. By incessantly or occasionally watching Kathakali, a relatively more popular performance tradition, a student of Kutiyattam is most likely to be influenced by its techniques. He/she may if so unintentionally alter the identity of Kutiyattam." Chakyar was undoubtedly voicing his concerns about the task of protecting the identity of Kutiyattam while it could be made applicable to all the solid art forms categorized by the term 'classical'.

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Sunday, 19 April 2020

Article - Together in the war against Corona - Ratikant Mohapatra




With every passing day, the Corona Virus has brought in major changes and forced many adjustments in our lives. In the new normal, artistes - especially performing artistes - have been very badly hit. In comparison, other professionals are somehow managing their lives. Vegetables, fruits, and a variety of food stuff are being sold; some companies are getting their work done 'online' by their employees from home. The plight of performing artistes is however terribly poignant. We are unable to leave our houses, no colleagues - professional musicians, dancers, and other technicians like light designers, and recording professionals - have been available to us for a month and god knows for how much longer we will have to bear this privation! So I have been thinking hard on how best to use this difficult incarceration, and keep the mood a little upbeat of those around me. Indeed, the whole world is in great stress and the agony of individuals is being communicated to large number of people through telephone calls, video calls and other communication devices. It is a great consolation that so far our normal communication channels are still available to us - and the dreadful Corona Virus has not been able to affect our exchange of creative ideas and nominal information.

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Friday, 17 April 2020

Article - Comparative study of traditional presentations and thematic presentations - Niyati Visal

(First prize winner in junior group of the Nrutya Shabda Essay Writing Competition, 2019-20 organized by Samvaad Blog of Swarada Dhekane and Loud Applause E-Magazine of Neha Muthiyan)

Art is a tool of expression, a product of humankind's intellectual and emotional evolution. The purpose of a particular art form dictates the course it takes over history. Among the various arts, classical dancing has experienced a tumultuous journey - from being equated with glamour and glory to being considered disreputable and inappropriate. Irrespective of the status dance holds in the society, it takes shape in the space society allows it to exist in.

In the context of Indian classical dance, religion has been a driving force for the development dance. Most of the dances began as part of the devadasi tradition. Devadasis (or maharis in Odisha) danced in temples to please the gods and subsequently danced in courts for the kings and patrons. Dances like Sattriya and Manipuri gained ground with the Bhakti movement between the 15th and 17th centuries. In the case of Kathakali and Kuchipudi, the purpose of these dance-drama traditions was to enlighten the common people on the various instances in Hindu mythology.

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Thursday, 16 April 2020

Does Corona compel us to think about a revival package for the arts? - Soch: Column by Dr. Arshiya Sethi

This is a topical and timely column. It comes in the series of Dance in the times of Corona. I share these thoughts, this 'Soch', with you, but address it to the policy makers who are working on a promised relief package for India, in the COVID 19 scenario. I hope they will not get bogged down by a one dimensional or myopic vision for the recovery of India, but will keep their ear to the ground, to hear the subterranean murmurs from various groups.

From dancers around the world, I am hearing a murmur. A murmur of anxiety. This murmur of anxiety is emanating from my friends, mostly from the world of the arts, artistes of all domains and hues, especially dancers, who are so special since they are the makers of the most intangible and chimerical art. Like the rest of the nation they too are anxious about what the future holds. It is like we fell asleep in one world and woke up in another. And we still don't know how different will be the world we closed our doors on, from the one we will open them to, after the lockdown is over. Nothing, as we wait out the health emergency and the clouds of the pandemic, seems to give any hope.

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Saturday, 11 April 2020

Article - The solitude has been bringing out the best in us - Dr S.D. Desai


I am grateful to Dr. Parul Shah (Vadodara) to have forwarded the image to me. A lady pulled her car over and offered biscuits and bottles of water to the family with four kids. Santushti, the woman in the family, smiled and said, Hai (We have). Good Time, the man behind, smiled too and said: Kafi hai, didi, kisi aur ko de dena (We have, sister, please give to someone else). Surprising. The two seemed to have all their belongings on their heads - and their kids by their side. Both and the eldest kid wore smiles of contentedness.

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Friday, 10 April 2020

Both acerbic and cathartic - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee


Bertolt Brecht and Luigi Pirandello have been two major phenomena in the European theatre-scape. Set poles away from the Greek narrative structure and neatly demarcating tragedies from comedies - not much deviated from, by the Shakespearean oeuvre in the form and treatment -- both Brecht and Pirandello have been bent into unraveling the society's underbelly and exposing the ills and the misbegotten. Both these playwrights are darlings of the eastern metropolitan spectators and are showcased with loving care to its theatre cognoscente from time to time.

In the two plays under review, while Brecht cocks a snook at the warped society of his time and launches a virulent "Theatre of Protest" on his own, Pirandello delves into a shimmering, psychedelic world and is indeed on the same plane as Jean Genet and Samuel Becket, hovering close to "Theatre of the Absurd" that materialized only in the subsequent century.

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Thursday, 9 April 2020

Obit/Tribute - Farewell Beppe Chierichetti - Ashish Mohan Khokar


In these times when we are so troubled anyway, the loss of dear Beppe is a final blow to many of us. He was the spine and spirit of TTB (Teatro Tascabile di Bergamo). He gave his lifetime to art, theatre and India.

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Wednesday, 8 April 2020

90th year celebrations of legendary Vidooshaka P.K.G Nambiar - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari


On 1st March, at Ottapalam, P.K.G. Nambiar, the celebrated Koodiyattam artiste renowned for his role of Vidooshaka, was felicitated on his 90th birthday. Son of the legendary Koodiyattam maestro Mani Madhava Chakyar, he has played an important role in bringing Koodiyattam beyond borders of Kerala, close to North India and elsewhere, with his chaste Hindi commentary in the role of a Vidooshaka.

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Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Article - 'Pay to perform' vs 'Paid to perform' - VP Dhananjayan

'ART FOR ART SAKE' is a bygone slogan when all art activities were patronised by kings and feudal societies. Gone are the days when all kinds of art practitioners think of their art profession as their livelihood. All genuine artistes dedicated themselves in pursuit of perfecting their god given talent, be it sangeetam, natyam, crafts, painting, sculpting, weaving and such art forms. Art activities flourished, so we have now so many wonderful art forms to stride on and make them a career for livelihood. Though our ancestors may not have left material riches, they left rich heritage of various art forms for us to choose and not only make a livelihood but also accumulate riches.

The art world has been changing rapidly especially the performing arts like Bharatanatyam. Scenario is alarmingly exploding where the theory of demand and supply is concerned. Talent is in abundance unlike in olden days. All talents have to be exhibited and opportunities have to be created irrespective of criterion, caliber and credibility. Ample opportunities are booming in the performing art field, but main drawback is lack of funds. Because of the surfeit of talented artistes in different forms of Bhaarateeya Naatyam and Sangeetham traditions and not giving it a professional status even by our Government, professionals are not getting their due recognition and adequate remuneration. Of course, some are lucky and some are not, especially in the field of Bharatanatyam.

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