Sunday 5 March 2023

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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