Saturday 29 February 2020

E for.... - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

E for....Engrossing. Ethics. Entertainment. Eeks!

How can Indian dance be made engrossing? Or entertaining? Is it not so, currently? Name 10 performances or productions in a year, that were worthy by way of a repeat show, abundant audience or outstanding reviews that matched the work. Ten is too many? Then how about five?

Forget us editors, critics, historians, commentators and assorted opinion makers and givers. Even if dancers don't care for our opinions - unless flattering or it suits them - what we often report or state reaches far. It reaches higher echelons of babudom, decision makers and VIPs. They often put us on committees that decide candidates for festivals, awards, even grants.

Dancers may think their art is great or they are god's gift to mankind but where's the audience? And, more importantly, where is the PAYING audience? Except in Mumbai and the Chennai Sabha December season, most dance shows are "family and friends" affair. Excuses abound after 70 years of state spoon-feeding: ours are divine dances (then please go dance in heaven; don't create hell here on earth!) Or, its inbuilt chamber-art content is that it makes it less accessible to masses, it's only for the classes (who understand sangeeta, shastra, sahitya). Some dancers ably and without much effort themselves have made it less accessible. One Delhi dame made parables saleable by stating geometric patterns as part of art discourse!

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Friday 28 February 2020

Interview - Mohiniyattam exponent Vijayalakshmi on her UCLA Regents' Lecturer Program - Sudha Prakash

Vijayalakshmi is a globally acclaimed exponent of Mohiniyattam, the graceful classical dance form from South India. She is also a celebrated choreographer, singer, writer and speaker. She is the founder director of Mohiniyattam Institute, Los Angeles and Artistic-Director of the Center for Mohiniyattam, New Delhi. Her unique interpretation of the dance form resonates with contemporary universal relevance, delving deeply into femininity and beyond. Vijayalakshmi grew up imbibing a deep knowledge of this traditional dance form which is the dance of the divine enchantress. She trained under her mother-guru Bharati Shivaji who is the principal architect, involved in the revival and re-construction of Mohiniyattam ensuring its rightful place both on the national and international map. Using this substantial training as her foundation, Vijayalakshmi developed her own vision for this art form through her own insight and exploration of the form's aesthetic principles and lexicon, with her path breaking innovative choreography and interpretation, using contemporary subjects without digressing from the essence of this traditional art form. She has performed at major venues around the globe. Her long and distinguished body of work in dance is a testament to her artistic caliber and eminence.

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Thursday 27 February 2020

Dance: visceral, visual, ritual - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

At the high risk of being dubbed "hasty generalization", a casual observation could pardonably be made that the canonized dances on planet Earth - once one leaves out classical and modern ballet --- fall perceptibly into three streams, with, of course, many delightful deviations that palpably transgress into each other's territory.

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Wednesday 26 February 2020

Message of peace from Dhauli-Kalinga - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

With untimely rains calling the shots, the postponed Dhauli -Kalinga Mahotsava 2020, proceeded without weather playing tricks again from Feb 10-12. After the peace oath, with V.I.P's holding aloft flaming torches facing the Peace Pagoda atop the hill, at the site where, in the aftermath of the bloody Kalinga war, Emperor Ashoka became Dharma Ashoka converting to Buddhism, a joint curtain-raiser offering of Pallavi as a tribute to Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra by Orissa Dance Academy and Srjan Bhubaneswar was excellently thought out. With two good minds, Aruna Mohanty and Ratikant Mohapatra guiding, the large expanse of the stage, at three levels, was fully utilized, bringing out the excellently trained dancers from two institutions - wisely functioning in independent groups - though in simultaneity as part of one large frame. Each group got chances to be in the centre, on the flanks and right on top. The movements blended beautifully and to listen to the music of Bhubaneswar Misra with Guru Kelucharan on pakhawaj uttering ukkutas for Pallavis in Shankarabharanam, Hamsadhwani and Kirwani created a deep sense of nostalgia.

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Yugantar: Kumudini Lakhia's journey of 60 years,90 and NOT out! - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

Having known Kumudini Lakhia for more than 60 years since we met in Mumbai at Cross Maidan in 1957, it has been quite an interesting journey of her career that I have been privileged to witness. Therefore, when we few dance critics were invited to attend two day Kathak dance festival Yugantar she had planned with her disciples, all came to learn more about the trials and tribulations she had undergone when establishing her institution Kadamb to train young generation of dancers way back in 1960!

She says: "There were only three dancers who joined. Then five, and then seven, and so on. I soon realized that in Ahmedabad, Kathak was not even accepted as a dance form. People had a misconception that it was considered dance of kothewalis, nachanewalis and girls from good families do not learn dance. It was a huge challenge for me to give Kathak a status that it deserved. I had returned to Ahmedabad having studied under the great Lucknow gharana master Shambhu Maharaj, Jaipur gharana master Sunderprasad and others. And I had appreciated Kathak as an excellent art form. So it became a mission for me to give Kathak the respectability that it deserved."

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Sunday 23 February 2020

Article - Evoking Navarasa in you - Devaki Rajendran

The journeys we make and the roads we take lead us to ourselves. This is a thought that constantly lingers in my mind. Every visit to Irinjalakuda and that mandatory visit to Natanakairali fortifies this very thought. The peaceful atmosphere and the palpable energy here, pulls me back again. The last time I visited Natanakairali, I witnessed a series of Koodiyattam performances that enriched me as a lover of art. This time, it completely changed me as a human being and an artist. The experience of the Navarasa Sadhana cannot be expressed in words. It was more than just learning a process. It changed the way I perceived, how I sought inspiration, how I acknowledged things.

The Navarasa Sadhana is an intensive practice routine designed for artists from all performance spheres. The workshop is structured in such a way that the participants explore the different layers of the nine rasas in detail and depth. Venuji through years of research and experiments has created this methodology drawing inspiration from the Koodiyattam training, Kodungallur technique of abhinaya, theatre practices from across the world.

The workshop began with an informal meeting and inauguration. The 15 member group including me introduced ourselves. We were blessed to listen to the soulful music of Parvati Baul and her group that morning. From here, we began our days of explorations.

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Saturday 22 February 2020

The Bharathanatomy Series: Balance Part 1 - Postural Control - Sneha Rajagopalan - Not just anyBODY: a health and fitness monthly column

The Bharathanatomy series is back!

Over the next few months, we will be looking closely at the concept of balance and its role in movement and dance.

To be able to balance means that we are a) able to maintain an upright posture against the force of gravity and b) ensure that our body's centre of mass is exactly above our support base (in dance, this base of support is our feet).

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Friday 21 February 2020

36th Kinkini Nrithyotsava - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

Kinkini institution was established in 1983 in Bangalore by N.R. Ganapathy and Yamuna Ganapathy to promote, propagate and popularize classical dances. They hold the position of the President and Secretary of the institution respectively. Among their children, their daughter Bharatanatyam exponent Rangashree has been very active since 1986 undertaking several activities relating to training young generation of dancers in Bharatanatyam and Yoga. She is the artistic director of Kinkini.

Kinkini has been organizing dance festivals in Bangalore for past 36 years featuring national level celebrated artists in tandem with young upcoming dancers. Kinkini has a branch in Kuwait, so Rangashree divides her time between Kuwait and Bangalore. Kinkini is the only institution which has been conferred with Karnataka Kalashree award for its distinctive services in 2014.

This year, Rangashree curated the festival presenting duets in different styles in the first half of the festival, followed by duets in Bharatanatyam. The five day festival from 25th till 29th January included Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathak, Kathakali and Mohiniattam in the first half and Bharatanatyam duets in the second half. I could attend the festival from 27th January for three days. The artists who participated on 25th were Kuchipudi Guru Jayarama Rao and his disciple T. Reddy Lakshmi from New Delhi, and in Bharatanatyam, Sathyanarayana Raju and Saundarya Srivatsa. I was told that on account of indisposed health of Saundarya, they presented solo numbers. On 26th Madhulita Mohapatra and Pankaj Kumar Pradhan presented Odissi followed by Vijna Vasudevan and Renjith Babu in Bharatanatyam.

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Wednesday 19 February 2020

Profile - Manoj Kumar Das: The talented Khol player - Dr. Jintu Sarma

"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain."
- Bob Marley

Manoj Kumar Das was born on 21st August 1990 to Nalini Kanta Das and Lakshi Das in a small village called Ghoramarahati in the Sattriya town Barpeta. He completed his schooling from Barpeta Govt. Higher Secondary School and graduated from M.C. College, Barpeta, both of which are notable institutions of the town. Inspired by his parents, he took a deep interest in Sattriya culture, especially Khol Vadya from his childhood. He took his first step towards formal music training from popular academic institution, Sankardev Kala Kshetra Barpeta, in 1999. He then trained in Khol Vadya under the tutelage of Shree Jagannath Bayan, the chief Bayan of Barpeta Satra and successfully mastered as Gunin in Khol Vadya.

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Friday 14 February 2020

Obit/Tribute - Wendell Rodricks: A hard act to follow - Madhu Nataraj

I vividly recall how at our dear friends, the Puris' birthdays, anniversaries, even a prayer meeting, Wendell and I would be asked to speak. He would always go first and my opening line would be: "Now that's a hard act to follow!" Couldn't have meant it more now, than ever before...

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Music of the Spheres - The Eastern Eye: Column by Dr.Utpal K Banerjee

It is not often that our classical dancers leave their beaten paths and refrain from executing the set routine of their forms but, rather, turn within and listen to their innermost hearts. This is akin to harking back to the ancient Greek notion - prevalent till the Renaissance --- that Sun, Moon and planets all emit their own unique celestial music physically inaudible to the human ear but, nonetheless, perceived by the sensitive soul. Is not the yearning for this ineffable Harmony of the Spheres echoed by PB Shelley while closing his 1821 ode to immanent love: The desire of the moth for the star / The night for the morrow / The devotion to something afar / From the sphere of our sorrow...?

Katha Angika presented on January 28 by Nandanik Movement of Arts attempted to turn on the above idea, namely, persuading a few seasoned classical dancers to listen to their inner calling. Nandanik is a collaborative venture between leading classical dancers and theatre practitioners, and explores annually such new themes, structures and forms in dance and theatre through the medium of story-telling and other means. As they elaborate, "Dance for us, is not just a series of movements which covers space with time aesthetically, it also has the power to connect mind with soul, connect a performer to a spectator without any restriction of language. Rasikas realise Katha with Angika through the dance presentation which make them a part of the performance and not mere spectators. Using the medium of dance as communication, we come together, to celebrate the festival - Katha Angika".

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Tuesday 11 February 2020

Shraddhanjali: Nupur Zankar pays tribute to Pt Vijay Shankar - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

When you entered the Saradar Patel Sabhagraha Auditorium of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan at Andheri West in Mumbai on 26th January, you saw on the stage a large photograph of the gently smiling late Kathak exponent Pandit Vijay Shankar, a disciple of Pandit Birju Maharaj. On either side of the auditorium at strategic places were placed photos of, from Kolkata, Madhumita Roy, Sushmita Banerjee, Rama Prasad Chattopadhyaya and Sauvik Chakraborty, and of Asavari Pawar from Delhi. The photo of Shila Mehta, the organizer of the event, was also placed with them. She is from Kolkata and had studied under Vijay Shankar for many years.

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Monday 10 February 2020

Prism - The Katha of Mudras-Asamyukta Hastamudras from the Natyashastra as seen in Kathak Parampara - Sunil Sunkara

While in the Natyashastra Chapter IX on Upangabhinaya, Bharata refers to the gestural language as hastas, the word mudra is seen in the Bharatarnava, a later work by Nandikeshvara. It is also seen as a part of tantra culture, whose communities were closely following the commentaries of the Natyashastra. Thus, we come across the joint word hasta-mudra that later came to be referred to colloquially as 'mudra'.

While looking at the history of Kathak, one can see its focus was towards drawing emotions from the daily life of people and creating connections with narratives from itihasa, which is what we perceive as a 'lokadharmi' approach. The kathavachaks or travelling bards were a medium of mass communication. The stories they weaved drew on lessons from itihasa like Mahabharata or Ramayana. Abhinavagupta and Bhatta Nayaka, 10th CE, speak of Saadharanikarana - art enabling the viewer to live the emotions, thus a tool for thought inception. The Communicator (the Kathak dancer) and The Subject (the audience) are bound through The Objective (the creation of the rasa). The use of mudras requires the subject audience to understand the meaning or signature behind usage of the mudras. This knowledge was to be found mostly among the elite post the 18th CE, making it a necessity for the kathiks to start using as 'close to life' depictions as possible. In the 20th CE, the reformation and revival in Kathak, especially with the advent of government supported institutions led to recreation of both the knowledgeable sahhridayi audience as well as an expansion in the 'vastukram' or repertoire of Kathak to bring to the fore once again a dance laced with the implied beauty of meanings through Kathak adorned by various mudras.

This article looks at the various Asamyukta hastas mentioned in the Natyashastra, attempting also to connect with their current popular usage in Kathak. A valuable reference has been the in-depth analysis on mudras done by Dr. Vibha Dadheech, Bharatiya Nritya Ki Varnamala Hasta-Mudrayen.

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Saturday 8 February 2020

Book Review - Naṭyayana: Book of philosophical maturity to dance - Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

'Naṭyayana - A Journey of Dance from Bhāva to Rasa'
Authored by Dr. Shobha Shashikumar
Published by Noopura Bhramari, January 2020
Pages: 300
Price: Rs. 475

The book was released on 17th January 2020 at a national level conference on Performing Arts, at Jain University Campus, Bengaluru.

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Thursday 6 February 2020

Fourth edition of Navvarsh Dance Festival - Footloose and fancy free with Dr.Sunil Kothari

Under the aegis of Saraswati Educational Cultural and Charitable Trust and Sri Ganapathi Seva Samiti Temple, Bengaluru, at the temple venue a two day classical dance festival Navvarsh Mahotsav was organized featuring Mohiniattam, Odissi and Sattriya dances on 18th January and Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and Kuchipudi on 19th January. This year, the trustees honoured Kathak exponent Shovana Narayan, Kathakali Guru FACT Padmanabhan and Guru Rangashree Srinivasan.

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First Steps - Choreographing between two worlds - India and the United States: Column by Janaki Patrik

I didn't set out to be a choreographer. I would have been happy if someone else made dances for me. But that just didn't happen. When I returned to Chicago in 1969 after my initial training at Kathak Kendra, there was no ready-made niche waiting for me to fill. Very few people even knew what classical Indian dance looked like. If I tried to describe Kathak, people would rotate their hips and waggle their heads, saying, "Oh, like belly dance . . . . ?" I performed in the Indian student organizations at the University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology and Northwestern University. But I was limited to giving lecture-demonstrations accompanied by music on two reels which Maharaj-ji and musicians had recorded at the Sangeet Natak studios in 1969. The same recorded music - time-after-time.

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Tuesday 4 February 2020

Promising youngsters in Music Academy's endowment program - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

K. Chandrasekharan (1904-1988) could be called a renaissance man, with many talents. An avid Sanskrit scholar, for years Secretary and Trustee for the Madras Sanskrit College and Ayurvedic College and Dispensary, Secretary of Kuppuswamy Research Institute, Vice President of the Music Academy and Member Vice-President of Kalakshetra, he was a prolific writer in English and Tamil, Tagore professor of Humanities, a sensitive portraitist in miniature and above all an ardent rasika of dance and music. It was in the thirties that under the banner of Sahridaya, he started providing a platform for young artists. And very correctly the annual endowment programme Bharatanatya Manjari presented by the Music Academy in his memory presents well selected young dancers, many of whom have become part of the Academy's major dance festival today. This year's Bharatanatya Manjari presented two young dancers, Yogesh Kumar followed by Shreema Upadhyaya, coincidentally both from Bangalore.

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Saturday 1 February 2020

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - February 2020

Anita says...February 2020

Before I begin to express battle fatigue at the never ending dance season in Chennai and elsewhere in India, let me wish the 4 PADMA SRI dance awardees all best wishes for the honour bestowed upon them by the Government of India - - Shashadhar Acharya (Chhau), Indira PP Bora (Sattriya), Vajira Chitrasena (Kandyan dance, Srilanka) and Purushottam Dadheech (Kathak).

Significantly, there were no awards for Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi and Manipuri. The bulk of the awards went to unsung heroes who have worked silently and tirelessly in their social and medical spheres. However, the special delight was to see the name of 85 year old matriarch of Kandyan dance, VAJIRA CHITRASENA in the honour roll. I have watched VAJIRA play the drum almost daily at the evening dance classes in Colombo. Such energy, dedication and passion are rare qualities and it is a wonderful gesture to honour great artistes from our neighbouring countries. Ramli Ibrahim was also a PADMA SRI recipient two years ago.

So, to all those dancers who were busy rushing to Delhi, brown nosing political scavengers and wearing orange in their costumes to curry favour - here is a piece of advice. Dance well. Dance brilliantly. Focus on excellence and minimise the IN YOUR FACE PR campaigns. Or perhaps, one needs both these days, but mere PR has to work doubly harder to camouflage mediocrity!

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