Monday, 11 December 2017

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur Diary - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Singapore Diary

I arrive by 3pm at the stage door of Singapore's Esplanade main theatre to see rehearsal of Anjaneyam: Hanuman's Ramayana. I have to submit my passport to enter. Three years ago when I attended Angkor: An Untold Story rehearsal, I had gone through this exercise. Abroad, be it Lincoln Centre in New York, The Kennedy Centre in Washington DC, Barbican in London, Opera House in Sydney, the authorities insist on this strict procedure to safeguard against any untoward event. But in India, anyone can walk in backstage, and no one is bothered. I think we need to follow this procedure. I read the other day that at Ravindra Bharathi Auditorium in Hyderabad, several purses and mobile phones were stolen from green room when the performance was on. In past in Mumbai at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, thieves walked in and stole Grundig German tape recorder and valuables of dancers. Of late in Mumbai precaution is being taken at NCPA and other major theatres. Dancers beware in India. ....

Kuala Lumpur Dairy

The Blue Mountain Exhibition: Ramli Ibrahim is the most renowned dancer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He has been honoured by Malaysian Government with civil honour Datuk, similar to our Padma Shri award. His Sutra Dance Theatre has performed his several choreographic works in Odissi in major cities of India regularly. He has a huge following in India. The moment his shows are announced there is a buzz about him and the auditoriums are full. He had a close association with painter Dinanath Pathy. For his services to Odissi, Ramli has been honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award.....

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Saturday, 9 December 2017

Article - Ascending the ladder of bliss - Payal Ramchandani

Rasa can at best be described as the fuel that ignites the soul. There will be no exaggeration in saying that a performance is successful when the audience is transported into a parallel world of emotional consciousness, and hence it is only fair and sensible to get an experiential understanding at a place that provides the expertise, experience and the space.

As I stepped into the tranquil premises of Natana Kairali, I felt a deliberate pull into surreally serene zone from one where it could sometimes be challenging to hear the voice of the conscience. However, destiny takes you to places you've never been to and shows you things you never knew of and this workshop was a perfect example of how nature re-establishes this principle time and again. I however must admit here that the silence that enveloped the Natana Kairali campus, which the Venus have put together brick by brick, with so much love and hardship, did bring with it some apprehensions. Having lived for most part of my life in metropolitans, 'quiet' can be slightly unsettling, but not for too long in this case. Apprehensions were tenuously transformed into a firm assurance as we met GopalakrishnaVenu or Venuji as he is lovingly called.

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Friday, 8 December 2017

Remembering Ram Gopal - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

I went to Kuala Lumpur at the invitation of Ramli Ibrahim to inaugurate the exhibition Blue Mountain by late Dinanath Pathy and ten painters from Odisha at Sutra Foundation's Gallery on 25th November. He had also arranged my illustrated talk on 'Remembering Ram Gopal,' the legendary dancer with screening of a rare film on his dances at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Indian Cultural Centre, a branch of Indian Council for Cultural Relations, on 23rd November.

The Centre has moved to another building with more space. Classes in Kathak are being conducted by Praveen Gangani. Other classes in Carnatic and Hindustani music and Bharatanatyam are also being conducted by expert teachers in these fields. Yoga classes are very popular. The Centre observes two holidays on Monday and Tuesday in order to accommodate programs on weekends when people have holidays and can attend in large number. On weekdays at times there is a less crowd, but at least around 100 persons turn up.

Ram Gopal was a charismatic dancer. He passed away in 2003 and since he had settled in London, with the passage of time, few remember him. Therefore with excerpts of his dance on a film, it was important to introduce him to the young generation. As good luck would have it Bangalore based visual artist, designer and a film maker Ayesha Abraham, daughter of legendary cartoonist Abu Abraham, has made a film on Ram Gopal titled 'I saw God dance'.

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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Interview - With changing mindsets, the dance also has to change: Kumudini Lakhia - Shveta Arora

Kathak legend and pioneer Kumudini Lakhia during a workshop in Delhi recently, was telling both young and experienced dancers, “Put a story in your movement, aise hoti hai choreography.” The workshop was part of the Naval Kathak Utsav in Delhi on 15th and 16th of November, during the morning sessions at Meghdoot Theatre. In the workshop, she was assisted by her senior disciple Sanjukta Sinha. The morning breeze had a nip in it, as the workshop started punctually despite the Delhi smog and traffic snarls. It was an honour to be a part of this workshop. In a brief chat, Kumudini-ji emphasized that dance space has to be ‘landscaped’ or ‘designed’, and that every movement should be graceful, like a brush stroke, not abrupt or jerky. After that, Sanjukta came straight to the nritta portion. The first day, she taught that, aamad, and the second day, gat, baant and a paran.

Kumudini Lakhia’s list of awards and honours, national and international, is endless. Equally well-known is her reputation for being something of a ‘rebel’ in Kathak. However, the outspoken doyen of Kathak insisted that she never broke away from tradition – “It’s all I know!” she said. She just tried to find more within the tradition than the limited form that was popular with audiences, she said. In this interview, the 87-year-old Kumudini Lakhia’s formidable, vital outlook shines through as she declares, “The dance has to change, because it’s a living art form.”

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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Miracle on wheels - Footloose and fancy free with Dr. Sunil Kothari

Syed Sallaudin Pasha trained in Kathak and Bharatanatyam at late Guru Maya Rao's institute in Bangalore, has for the past three decades carved a niche for himself by forming India's first inclusive dance company promoting the talents and abilities of people with special needs. It has been providing an equal platform for artists who are differently-abled along with abled artists. Their special needs are no different from the rest of the society. As Pasha says, they have extraordinary talents which are often ignored. The company brings them into limelight and showcases their skills across the nation and abroad.

Sponsored by My Skill Foundation in Kuala Lumpur for the first time, Miracle on Wheels company had an engrossing performance at Civic Centre. The Foundation arranged five more shows in different cities of Malaysia. For the past six years the Foundation has been rendering yeoman's service by providing young boys support, 'transforming lives of high risks youth', bringing them on right path to lead a normal life. 'Tears of Joy,' a brief documentary screened before the performance gave audience a glimpse into the lives of young people who after their wayward life - joining gangsters, attacking people, skipping classes in schools, moving in bad company - have their lives changed with help from the Foundation. The performances by Miracle on Wheels were one more apt choice to expose the youth to how the differently abled can overcome their inabilities and perform on wheelchairs with tremendous confidence bringing joy to one and all. My Skill Foundation has now acquired land and received financial assistance from the Government to build a permanent home for the youth for transforming their lives.

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Monday, 4 December 2017

Mega Hanuman - Seen and Heard by Lakshmi Vishwanathan

Aravinth Kumarasamy is a man who is passionate about Bharatanatyam and other classical forms. Decades ago, Neila and Sathyalingam, who had honed their dance and musical skills in Kalakshetra, settled in Singapore and did pioneering work in teaching dance. On one of my visits years ago they introduced Aravinth as the person to whom they were handing over the mantle to run their well established institution, Apsaras Arts. Little did I guess that one day Aravinth would be a leading figure in the Arts scene of Singapore. Well, hard work, imagination, a spirit of adventure, and a certain commitment beyond the merely commercial have taken him places.

His early experience with music (the veena), choreography (Temple of Fine Arts) and mentoring by Neila, have helped in establishing his credentials. With serious intent of unity in diversity, he has formed links not only with innumerable artists in Singapore and other South East Asian countries, but also with Chennai based dancers and musicians. Added to this is his bringing some buzz into the dance community every summer uniting many students and teachers at a lively camp called Dance India Asia Pacific in collaboration with Milapfest of Liverpool. His latest achievement was to fill up the big theatre of the Esplanade with an enthusiastic crowd to watch ‘Anjaneyam’, which had a huge cast of dancers and musicians. 

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Friday, 1 December 2017

Anita says...December 2017

"Everything comes to us that belongs to us, if we create the capacity to receive it."
- Rabindranath Tagore

And just like that we come to the end of another year Eleven months of whirling around the globe, sharing, teaching, learning, watching, discussing, applauding and DANCING.
It is this month when thousands of artistes and art groupies descend upon my city to soak in the month long festival of performances. This is the time for dancers to glisten, glimmer and glide through crowds like a shimmering scythe - cutting through audiences who will gape, stare, admire and covet our very special aura that we will exude.

Sitting in the ancestral home in my native village - deep in southern Tamilnadu - I look back on the year that was... another year... but not like just another... it has been a time when the #METOO campaign has resulted in a literal purge of the US entertainment industry and in India we are also coming to grips with our deep rooted prejudice and fear of male privilege in the arts and society. We are witnessing a hyper-nationalism and any whisper of dissent or argument is being construed as unpatriotic.
The arts are under attack more than ever.
Remember the killing of theatre activist Sardar Hasmi on the streets of New Delhi... Recall the mutilation of guitarist Victor Jarra in Chile by dictator Pinochet...
What happened in November? Plenty... So let's begin to wrap my head and my galloping fingers across the keyboard.

Roving Eye - Curated by Anita Ratnam - December 2017