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.

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.