Wednesday 22 March 2023

Nritya Veerangana - Brainchild of Dr. Sonal Mansingh - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

Why is it that while heroic exploits in any field evoke high praise and recognition, dance figures, who have been trendsetters and have contributed to changing the whole course and history of the art form in the country, do not elicit similar accolades? Nagged by the absence of dance names among Indian heroes, Rajya Sabha member/dancer/choreographer/scholar, Dr.Sonal Mansingh, conceived Nritya Veerangana- the indomitable Women of Dance, paying tribute to a few exceptional women from the world of Indian dance - the contribution of each treated through the dance form of the area the person hailed from. 

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Wednesday 15 March 2023

Article - Note to Myself - VP Dhananjayan

'Note to Myself' is a YouTube portal produced by Museum of Performing Arts (MOPA)

directed and produced by Savita Narasimhan with large international viewership. If you have not seen this, I recommend everyone to see and get to know musicians and dancers through their own self note.

During the pandemic - between 2020 and 2022 - every artiste engaged themselves in creative endeavours. Some were blown big and some blown out of proportion. Some got good attention among the art connoisseurs and some went obscure, swept under the carpet.

The two major ventures Bharata Kalanjali launched during the vacuum period, I should confess did not get much attention or exposure, even though they were on air for international online viewing. The local audience was least bothered to know what was brewing in Bharata Kalanjali. We also could not explore the possibilities of putting up stage performances for the discerning connoisseur audience of Chennai with adequate publicity.

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Saturday 11 March 2023

Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav: When war games transform into peace messages - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

What was initiated in 2003 atop the Dhauli hill at the site of the Peace Pagoda as a Martial Arts Festival by Art Vision's Ileana Citaristi, is today the Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav mounted at the foothills of Dhauli, overlooking the Shiv Mandir on the left and the Peace Pagoda on the right, under the organisation of Odiya Language and Culture Department, Government of Odisha and Orissa Dance Academy, in association with Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi, Ministry of Tourism and Art Vision. The festival projecting a blend of martial arts and group dances of different denominations, in the open setting, away from the city environs of Bhubaneswar, has an individuality of its own - quite unlike other festivals. And wisely, State government patronage, with special buses plying to and fro, enables school and college students of Bhubaneswar to attend the Mahotsav, which otherwise would be out of reach for most youngsters.

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Thursday 9 March 2023

Warrior Queens: Ranis of Dance! - Dance Matters: Column by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Indian history provides enough fodder for thought and interpretation through art. In dance, there have been several themes explored in the last century. In the 1930s, there was Uday Shankar's Labour and Machinery on the theme of colonial industrial exploitation. In the 1950s, Nehru's Discovery of India was made into a fantastic production by Shanti and Gul Bardhan. In the 1970s, there was Darkness at Noon by Yog Sunder. Then there were countless poets like Subramania Bharati, Tagore, Rizvi whose works were made into dance productions.


In the clime of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav today, quite a few senior dancers have presented their patriotic flavoured works with the ball set in motion last year in April, by Delhi-based veteran Sonal Mansingh, the ruling party's nominated MP to the Upper House. Her works on women leaders before connected to Buddha or recently on the queens of Kashmir and mythological characters before - like Draupadi - have always made her someone who has taken up women's issues and causes. In that, she is a pioneer of Indian dance in this segment.

Senior dancer Prathibha Prahlad has come up with a wholesome production where patriotism meets pride and art meets warrior queens. This production is a good introduction to the canvas of history of a few chosen women warriors of India in last 200 years.

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Wednesday 8 March 2023

Article - On being mentored and the Pratiroop Project: Voices in my head - Mythili Maratt Anoop

There are life-changing moments in every dancer's path. For me, meeting Guru Sadanam Balakrishnan and getting an opportunity to perform in his Radha Madhavam for the Kinkini Festival was one such moment. With just two full days of practice with the artists, we went onstage. After the performance, I asked Asan for his feedback and what he told me reaffirmed my faith in myself, on the one hand, and my thirst to learn more, train more and fix my flaws. There were unkind words from gurus earlier and doublespeak from a critic that had wounded me. But even in those few days of interaction, I saw many gleams of what a brilliant teacher Balakrishnan Asan was, apart from being a great artiste. To become a teacher, a generosity of spirit is an unnegotiable criterion and Asan had an abundance of that. I could see that his keen observations and suggestions would be spot on, and his comments were never of the kind that would break my spirit, or make me wonder if I should stop dancing altogether.

If Asan's presence for me was a quiet luminous lake of many riches for me to delve into, Guru Vyjayanthi Kashi was a brilliant storm of all things benign. Always probing, never letting me lapse into a lazy spell, unrelenting in her comments and expectations, but with infinite patience. She wanted the best from everyone, the script, the musicians, and me of course! She would never settle for less, and that was a life lesson for me!

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Sunday 5 March 2023

Interview - Leela Samson: The creative process is a response to theme and music - Shveta Arora

What is the creative process like for a group choreography based on a concept or theme, as in 'Nadi'? How do you conceptualize thematic movements for multiple dancers performing in tandem?

First of all, it is not possible to talk about the creative process as it is a response to the theme and the music. Analysing it is not possible. It is instinctive. The group dancers are not always dancing in tandem. Sometimes they are together in unison with each other, in tandem and sometimes not so.

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Tributes to the legendary Mohiniattam dancer Dr Kanak Rele - Vijay Shanker

Eminent Mohiniattam dancer, mentor, choreographer, scholar and dance educationist, Dr Kanak Rele left for her heavenly abode on 22 February 2023, at the age of 85, after a cardiac arrest in Mumbai. She was cremated with state honours at the Vile Parle crematorium. Condolence messages were received from the Governor Ramesh Bais, actress Hema Malini and several other dignitaries. Dr Rele is survived by her husband Yatin Rele, son Rahul, daughter-in-law Uma Rele and grandchildren Vaidehi and Nikunj Rele....

Since Mohiniattam is considered the sister style of Kathakali, Kanak Rele was slowly drawn towards Mohiniattam, which was almost extinct, due to the distorted version of the dance form. The term "Mohiniattakari" was used as a word of abuse, hence many dissuaded Kanak Rele from learning Mohiniattam but she was determined to delve deep into the aesthetics, sensitivity and sensuality of the lyrical classical dance of Kerala. In 1972, The Ford Foundation grant enabled her to make a film on the three pioneer mentors of Mohiniattam - Chinnammu Amma, Kunjukutty Amma and Kalyanikutty Amma. After observing and learning from these three mentors, she gradually evolved her own style, based on her theory of body kinetics, wherein the body movements were divided into two main segments; the upper body movements that involves the hands and the graceful sway of the shoulders, which is symbolic of movements of the palm trees of Kerala and the lower body movements that involves the torso and the feet movements that moves accordingly. Kanakben's style was distinct and quite different from the traditional style of Mohiniattam, as taught in the premier institute of Kathakali and Mohiniattam - Kerala Kalamandalam.

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Friday 3 March 2023

Getting to know Vitasta's gift to India - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman


VITASTA, the ever flowing legacy of Kashmir, a four day event, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, on the occasion of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav,  held  amidst the spacious environs of Chennai’s  Kalakshetra, proved to be a once- in-a-lifetime experience. It provided intimate, vital, and ineradicable glimpses, of that part of our country, symbolising its very spirit and consciousness. A well-knit  effort, involving  a host of names like Siddharth Kak as resource person, Bharat Gupt, Trustee and Executive Member  IGNCA, Director  of Kalakshetra Revathi Ramachandran, who played an active role in laying out the basic format, Dr.Chandrakant Gariyali with her vast experience in the Centre and Tamilnadu (committed enough to come all the way from Australia where she was visiting her son, to participate in the event), the Sahitya Kala Parishad which organised seminar talks on the first day (followed by two days of lectures arranged by Revathi), the North Zone Cultural Centre which provided cultural groups from Kashmir to stage performances, the Lalit Kala Akademi which sent craftsmen to participate and organise stalls, Seerat Narendra who provided the d├ęcor for the festival, et al, in different roles - all participating in what was by any standard, an extremely well-crafted endeavour.

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Wednesday 1 March 2023

Anita says...March 2023


In love’s struggle
One withers, as the other blossoms
One is shaded, the other illuminated
One’s a sheep, the other a shepherd
One’s the feet, the other a towering head
One’s a glutton as the other starves
One rides the winds as the other is trampled underfoot
One blossoms, the other fades
Geetanjali Shree, Booker Prize Winner RET SAMADHI (Hindi)
From the English translation TOMB OF SAND by Daisy Rockwell

March opened with sadness. My guide, well-wisher and long distance mentor, Guru Kanak Rele passed away. It was on the morning of February 22 that she took her last breath. Ailing for several weeks, the end was predicted. But nothing prepares us for the finality of the end. In this instance, Kanakben departs with an amazing legacy of an institution, pedagogy, performance, teaching and 50 continuous years of dance-obsessed service!

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