Sunday, 21 August 2016

Article - The curious case of the Bharatanatyam mentor - Jitinder Krishna

Over the last few years yet another trend in the art of Bharatanatyam has emerged, to add to the growing list of (disturbing) trends - THE MENTOR.

Quite a few youngish dancers announce at the outset of their performances, "With respects to my gurus AND my mentor." When this happened at a recent performance, the lady in the seat next to me (in thick Tamizh English accent) asked: “Who is mental?”
Me: “Not mental, madam! Mentor!”
Lady: “Now what is this mentor?"
Me: "Someone you go to after the guru."
Lady: "Appadiya? There is a level after the guru?"
Me: “Yes, the gurus are level 3, followed by level 4, famous dancers.”

A mentor? What does that entail, and how is it different from the Bharatanatyam guru?

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Friday, 19 August 2016

Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari - 7th edition of Nrityantar’s Naman Odissi Dance Festival

In India, classical dance forms survive not only because the governmental agencies like Sangeet Natak Akademi, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Festivals of India abroad, organized by Ministry of Culture, Government of India, support classical dance and music but also by various efforts made by small institutions in different states of India. One would realize that if there is a horizontal growth of classical dance and music, the arts owe it to such efforts on part of such institutions and individuals.
I have been visiting Bangalore to attend festivals organized by few institutions among which for past four years I have appreciated the work of a couple, Madhulita Mohapatra and her husband Imran, who have for past seven years been arranging Naman Odissi dance festival, through their Nrityantar Odissi dance institution, raising funds on their own, without any sponsorship from other quarters. Madhulita is a qualified Cost Accountant and has M.Com and Management degrees to her credit. However, classical Odissi dance being her passion, she moved with her husband to Bangalore some ten years ago and started teaching Odissi to young children in a Government school. Then she established Nrityantar Odissi centre teaching young dancers besides children and within a brief span of three years, won admiration for her teaching abilities.                     

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Sunday, 14 August 2016

Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari - Paris diary: Milena Salvini, Centre Mandapa, and Shantala Shivalingappa

Arriving in Paris after almost a decade, I was looking forward to meeting friends with whom I had spent lot of time during my former visits. The constants were Milena Salvini of Centre Mandapa, Savitry Nair and her husband Shivalingappa, and painter Velu Viswanadhan. Savitry and I go a long way as she hailed from Kalakshetra and we knew each other from early 60s. She has been in Paris for more than 40 years.  She has played an important role by giving lec-dems, teaching, both classical Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music and working closely with France’s legendary choreographer Maurice Bejart. She was instrumental in creating awareness about classical dance and music and Indian culture in France and Europe.

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Saturday, 13 August 2016

Article - Dhepa Dhol / Dhepa Dhulia dance - Meenakshi Medhi

Dhepa Dhol, made from the trunk of mango tree, is a cylindrical drum of 1.5 mtr length. It takes 6 to 7 days to prepare the instrument. For better preservation, “Matia tel” (oil) is used while making this dhol. This dhol has a narrow left end which is called “Taali”. It is interesting that both ends of the dhol is covered with leather made from the skin of Khassi goat. The right end which is said to be “Kup” is double layered and has a small hole on the outer layer. With the help of “Pani Khuwa Khila” (the hole on the outer layer) water is poured into the small hole between the layers so as to get a thud sound. A unique sound is created when the Kup end of the drum is beaten with the "Bojuwa baah" (playing stick made with bamboo) . The instrument is so known as dhepa dhol due to the unique sound produced.

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Thursday, 4 August 2016

Simplicity sans glitz has Meera walking into every heart - Taalam: column by Leela Venkataraman

It is precisely because the story of Rajasthani Saint poetess Meera is so close to the heart of most Indians that visualizing any aspect of it through performing art poses more challenges in avoiding a sense of déjà vu and there is always the problem of keeping free from falling into mushy sentimentality or being tempted to veer towards ornate stage décor, which in trying to catch the royal trappings of Meera's aristocratic lineage, could dwarf and lose the saintly side  totally. Which is why one applauds the stark simplicity of ‘Meera - the soul divine’ as conceived and choreographed by Chitra Visweswaran for her students of the repertory of Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts, as part of the fund raising effort for ‘Aim for Seva,’ the movement launched in 2000 by late Swami Dayanand Saraswati - thinker, philosopher, teacher and one of the tireless social workers ceaselessly striving to better the lot of India's deprived children.
‘Meera - the soul divine’ premiered at Chennai’s Music Academy auditorium on July 30, 2016, held the packed auditorium spellbound. Doing away with all stage trappings, Chitra Visweswaran opted for starkly bare performance space, wherein an idol of Krishna and a white line drawing of a temple etched on the black back curtain were the only properties, leaving the whole story to be told by the dancers’ performances alone. The treatment steered clear of a historical narration, putting the emphasis instead on the spiritual journey of  a royal princess of Rajasthan, who defying the time worn conventions of royalty and society dared to follow the call of her heart engaging in a life long search to become one with her desired– Krishna.

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Monday, 1 August 2016

Roving Eye curated by Anita Ratnam - August 2016

Anita says...August 2016


Returning to the rehearsal space after a full year's hiatus has been a milestone. A healthier body, a calmer mind and a spirit revived by months of watching, reflecting, reading, walking, sailing, trekking and dining in far away cities, small towns and villages has rebooted my body and soul. I needed to take this break after 26 years of non-stop creating, performing, producing, speaking, convening, curating and mentoring. (In saying this, I realize that the time between age 5 and 21 that was spent in the dance class and a thriving performance career until age 21 is not being included in this discussion. I am only counting the years since my return from the USA in 1990). What if I said that NOT DANCING for 12 months has made me fitter, healthier and more energetic than ever!  Don't raise those eyebrows!

The time was spent analyzing my body and limbs - internal and external, immersing myself in yoga intensives and other cross training programmes, long periods of total silence and a 24/7 health regime that was very difficult to sustain with the constant pressure of daily dancing.

It was a RELIEF not to worry about putting on makeup, managing the pressures of producing and performing simultaneously and instead, concentrating on observing and assessing the world I had chosen to inhabit. Even writing this monthly column required a conscious tug back into the issues and events that unfolded in the dance world.

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