Friday, January 16, 2009

Kuchipudi serving a cause!

Kuchipudi notes
Global Hindu Heritage Foundation had organised the programme "Kumarasambhavam" of
"Natyacharya" Pasumarthy Venkateswara Sarma to raise funds for saving temple in the US. Funds are used for awareness campaigns and legal expenses. Several illegal sales of temple lands were challenged in High Court and put on hold by the Foundation.

There are 2,07,000 temples in Karnataka and the total income of these temples are Rs 72 crores. Only Rs. 6 crore is spent by government for temples, 50 crores for the madrasas and 10 crores for the churches, 6 crore for other activities. In a period of 5 years 50,000 temples closed for the want of funds --Sri Sri Ravishankar

Temples in India are under Government control. Only 18% of revenue generated is said to be given back for temple purposes, while remaining 82% is used for other purposes by Govt. at their discretion, by massive sale of temple lands, demolitions, lootings, encroachments occurring all over AP, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, etc.

The kuchipudi artiste Pasumarthi comes from the lineage of Kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh. He got initiated in Kuchipudi Dance under the tutorship of Sri Vedantam Radheshyam and Sri P.V.G.Krishna Sarma. He had an extended training under legendary Kuchipudi exponent Padmabhushan Dr. Vempati China Satyam. He gave several performances spreading Kuchipudi art with several of his disciples all over the world. He is accompanied by Smt Lakshmi Babu and her several students trained in the Kuchipudi Dance Academy. Smt. Anita Krishna is a popular with several excellent performances with songs in different languages in several places in USA with her team.

Profile of Kuchipudi Dance Academy

Kuchipudi Dance Academy is a pioneering Kuchipudi dance institute in Dombivili, Mumbai. It is a non-profit organization, established in the year 1981 by Smt Vijaya Prasad with an aim to popularise Kuchipudi in Maharashtra. The teaching is imparted in Guru Shishya Parampara style. Each student is personally trained under the able guidance of the guru herself. At a time when this sacred art form is elusive to the common man due to high commercialization, this institute relentlessly trained potential and talented students irrespective of their economic capabilities. Standing testimony to the twenty five years of dedication are many awards and accolades that students and the academy have won. Read more...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Dance for perfection

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nandini evening





The evening could not have been better with a double take on dance performance by two different splendid kids, masters of their own art. Smitha and I came to see the performance of Nandini Nandan the budding kuchupudi artist on a last minute invitation from her father and it was really worth it as the evening proved quite rewarding to say the least.
Any artist whether budding or an expert shows the sign of mastery not just when they display their prowess in the pursuit of their art but when they are honest about ow they go about their job and Nandini took a cent per cent on this score when she retorted to me after her performance that "dont complement me uncle. I didnt expect the normal words of praise from you, I made such a big mistake today I am so unhappy". The "mistake" she was referring to a nano second of a missed step and the fact that she was talking about with so much of passion and conviction showed what a professional she was and also it proved that she is surely on her way to being the best in her chosen line of dance.
Her performance was nothing but steller and her energy and precision was beyond words. As she swirled and moved in the stage she could paint scenes from world of the epics, the beauty of the times long past, the enduring beauty of Bhakthi, the total surrender to the god almighty. Kuchipudi being an elaborate art form and requiring huge energy to perform, one could easily see that the effortless performance of nandini could have come only through a combination of years of training under an expert guru like Swapnasundari and her own dedication based on her modesty and upbringing.
Nandini gave such an amazing performance I guess it is best appreciated by the pictures that I have listed which may convey more than my words would ever will.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dance of Soul!

This is a tribute to the two who inspired me to take interest in dances and write about it to the best of my ability. Both are biding their time to reappear on the stage one for Kuchipudi and another for Bharatanatyam. These are no great names. But then you dont dance for popularity nor for attention. You dance because you need to. You dance because your soul tells you to. You dance because there is nothing else that will give you the happiness of meeting with yourself, your inner self as you spin on the stage.

Creative people and that definitely includes Kuchipudi artists certainly seem to be quite a moody lot. Even the best of them tend to get disillusioned and withdraw themselves into a shell. There are no particular reasons for this. It just happens that one day you decide to hang your payals or salangai (the jingling leg ornament) and that is that. Days and months and even years pass by and the memory of the stage and the sounds of the cymbals and mridangam are lost in mists of time and one fine day it all comes back. And How!
Suddenly things revive the stage swims back into the realms of reality and the make up has been done and the and costumes are characteristic of the art, bright and beautiful have been worn. The long plaits have been intricately done and the flowers are in place so also the head ornaments like Rakudi the hand ornaments Chandra Vanki and the neck ornaments Adda Bhasa and Kasina sara is been adorned. The jingling jewellery for the feet is daintily hugging the twin feet. Everything is set and the nervousness of the stage and the fear of returning to it after so many years lost is thing of the past.


what remains is the audience, the thrill of appearing before this group of sharp witted rasikas, some of whom may know the art some ignormus, but all would be ready to witness the etheral performance that would evolve before them as the evening will wear on.

Nothing matters to me saki, I am Rukmini, I am Sathyabama, I am Krishna, I am gopika, I am the cause of the world, I am the destroyer of the earth, I am the reviver, I am the almighty and I am the ignorant, I am all and I am noone. I am everything and I am nothing. The feet will tap out rhythemically the songs written so many years ago by the great artists gone long past. The stage they strode the notes that they sang, the music to which they danced is all there but the dancing feet is gone. If I had not come back to this dance floor even I would have been forgotten to relics of time, the yellowing pages of history, to the memories of a few living beings, to the pages of books where a small reference to my work would have been made, may be to the websites which alluded to me when I performed.

But I am not history, I am not time, I am here, I am dancing I am going to be your being, I am going to be my being. I am going to dance and I am going to live through my dance, albeit for the brief time slot that is provided to me. I am the beginning and I am the end and because I am there the world is bright and beautiful. Because I dance the world is rejoicing. This is not vanity but this is reality. If I had not been dancing, someone wouldhave been. After all there were so many dancers before and so many more would come after me. And yet since I am here I matter. The world is there because I am there and when I am gone the world will still be there and you will be there and one day even you will be gone and yet the world will still be there. The stage will still be set, the percussion instruments will still be made and the ageless Kuchipudi will still be practised. I want to enjoy the time slot provided to me so that I can be part of the ever present world to which I am but a brief visitor.

I chose to come back to the stage because I need to come back I need to be part of this scene, this is my soul , this is my meaning of life this is the etheral dance which the Lord Shiva himself lent his soul to at the beginning of everything. The celestial dance will continue in many myriad form. I will dance because the Lord danced.

The day will wear on, the audience would clap, the feet will beg to be relieved, the back will cry for attention, the sweat will tell me that I am done and yet I will be back on stage again and again, till such time I will bid adieu and all that, not because I need to go but because I choose to go!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Kuchipudi evening in Delhi



Nava Pallava 2007

Kuchipudi has evolved from a dance operatic form to the present day solo and stage ballet form over a period through a series of experimentation is what the experts who practice this art say. Any living art form naturally has to take the sights and sounds of the period and incorporate in its repertoire. This was quite evident in the evening performance of the quiet and almost demure artist Prabir Datta and his disciples at the PSK auditorium in Delhi today August 18 2007.

Meliflous music, extremely colourful costumes and sheer energy of two male artists backed by the graceful troupe of senior and junior artists took the audience through an evening of entertainment in pure Kuchipudi peppered by bold experimentation by the seasoned artist Prabir Datta, an unique male dancer from Bengal who learnt and practices the difficult dance form Kuchipudi unique to Andhra Pradesh in National capital Delhi. There cant be a better example of national integration than this!

Coming back to the Dance programme which was dedicated to celebrate the 60th year anniversary of Indian independence and also at a personal level to the memory of Prabir's departed mother who died this day seven year's earlier, the renowned artist was able to offer a highly entertaining and thought provoking kuchipudi dance performance. The programme had a rich blend of tradition and modernity with the Vande Madaram rendered anew by A R Rehman, the celebrated music composer of Tamil Nadu bringing up the rear as the last programme.

Prabir was only matched by Arindam's own highly energetic stage show which saw him rule the stage in gay abandon with sheer strength and expression. In the Ramayana Sabdam which itself is a difficult and long dance song to render, leave alone with a group coordinating its movements, Arindam was everywhere smoothly taking up the leadership and guiding the other fellow artists through the complex story of Ramayana starting with the aranya Kandam and ending with Rama Pattabishegam.

The song weaves the delicate story with the staccato one line stanza which shifts scene after scene bringing forth the vanity of Seetha in seeking to possess the magical deer, her admonition of Lakshmana, his seeking out the deer while Ravana coming in to seize Rama's consort and the Eagle king Jatayu fighting him, Rama coming to know of the abduction from Jatayu, the brothers meeting Hanuman and then his master the monkey king sukreva and the amalgamation of the monkey soldiers, the vanquishing of the lankan king Ravana, restoration of the kingdom to Sukreva and donning of the Royal mantle at Ayodya by sri Rama all were reenacted with exacting precision and even repetition of every scene by the different pairs of artists on stage. Quite an amazing show which left the audience breathless

Rabindranath Tagore's song that followed afterwards was like the proverbial autumn wind after a cyclonic storm! the lilting music and the graceful steps of the audience guided by Prabir himself in the middle was an experience which the audience well deserved.

If it was experience, sheer expression and of course tremendous energy by the pair of male artists, it was elegance, grace and beauty that was on display with the senior artists from prabir's troupe and the show was rounded off by the sheer grit and determination of the youngsters from the group to win everyone's heart. The show was compered with elan by Smitha Raman, a Bharatanatyam dancer.


The last time one saw Nava Pallava was in its maiden launch year and this year round it has matured as a group even though it is regret that one had to wait a full one year to be treated to such an evening of Kuchipudi. Hopefully one need not wait another year 's to see the Nava Pallava on stage again.


Kuchipudi past and future

While the dance performance like Nava Pallava greatly helps to bring to centre stage the living art form like Kuchipudi and also helps to expose many young artists to the real experience of facing the audience.
The programme also endorsed the willingness and boldness of the successive artists to experiment with the art form and not be rigid in maintaining its "purity" for its own sake. An interesting article by shobha natarajan one of the foremost exponent of Kuchipudi based in the US in the website link http://www.boloji.com/dances/00117.htm highlights the need to revisit the past to plan for the future in Kuchipudi.


Some excerpts from the article.


"While its close cousin, Bharatanatyam achieved recognition and international fame, Kuchipudi was lagging behind and was confined to its village setting. In the forties, a few teachers ventured into big cities like Madras and Hyderabad, and started training female students as well as directing dance sequences for the cinema. New dance pieces were added to the existing repertoire and soon Kuchipudi gained popularity. It is now considered one of the six major dance styles of India. Some of the front-ranking dancers are Yamini Krishnamurthi, Swapnasundari, Raja and Radha Reddy, and Sobha Naidu."


"Having performed Kuchipudi in several parts of the world, I find that it always makes a direct and immediate impact on audiences. Through performances, classes, collaborative stage ventures, and research, I hope to do my share in helping Kuchipudi get wider exposure on the world dance map. The responsibility now rests on the younger generation of Kuchipudi dancers to take this art form to a new higher level"


The message to young artistes is quite clear!
Personally I think any aspiring artist should get their basics clear by first reading and learning about the dance form and gaining as much knowledge about it as possible. While it is a good idea to go asking your Guru about it, considering the way any dance is being taught and learnt at present with one class a week for one hour sandwiched between senior and novices, there is hardly any time to interact with your Guru. The next best source is the Net which is definitely a great source of information. Take for instance the great dance guru Shoba Naidu Kuchipudi Art Academy website http://www.kuchipudi.com/ It is a veritable library of facts and details about Kuchipudi dance form and its practice. It is definitely important for any student to first get to know about the greatest exponents of this art form. The simplest thing to do is to click on the following link http://kuchipudi.com/htmlfiles/person.htm which will take you to the pages which will give amazing information about the dance gurus of the past beginning with Chinta Venkata Ramayya (1860-1949) founder of Venkata Rama Natya Mandali the earliest known organised attempt to propagte this dance form. You want to know about various dance styles of Kuchipudi read more
The website is also designed extremely well and contains so much of content that it should be a Must Visit section for all the budding Kuchipudi students young and old.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Of knowledge and its propagation about Kuchipudi

Nava Pallava Dance performance on 18th August 2007 (artists Sharanya, Priyamvda & Sukanya Datta)

Kuchipudi like any other art form needs to be nurtured through the near activist zeal of its practitioners. For instance, Vijaya Prasad, one of the most prominent exponent of Kuchipudi from Maharashtra took up the issue of a wrong information in the school text books about Kuchipudi having originated form Tanjore Tamil Nadu and got the government to correct the school text book.

Many of the prominent artists have written books on the subject, published papers and even done their phds devoted to the subject. Most also regularly visits temples associated with the art form to study the sculptures and try to incorporate the themes in their presentations. There are others who delve deep into the India epic and folklore to isolate stories and themes to embellish their presentations. Some more look at the music related to Kuchipudi and try to ferret out rare renderings suited to the rendering of the dance form. There are yet others who try to blend the dance with other popular dances from the classical order to find the amalgam of beauty and expression of this rare art form.

Numerous ballets, songs, dance competitions, dance expositions, temple dances and other public performances are taking place in Kuchipudi around the world as the audience in support of this dance form keeps growing in sheer size and also quality.

Every year dance festivals are sponsored by the Government of India’s Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). ICCR also supports the artists from all forms of art and a regular calander of events are brought out by the council every year, the details of which can be had by linking to the council’s website. If you want to be a regular to ICCR’s programme the best thing you can do is become a “friend” of ICCR by joining their “Friends of ICCR Forum” by paying a nominal life membership of Rs 3000 per couple or Rs 2000 for an individual. Considering the kind of massive dose of entertainment information you would receive every year, the membership is worth every rupee. Follow this link provided by http://education.vsnl.com/ for an application form of ICCR friendship forum.

ICCR also brings out books, publications and multimedia CDs on various art forms and don’t look for any books on dance from ICCR you will not find one! If there were any, one cant find it as the search option on the site does not yield anything. It just doesn’t work. Someone should immediate remove this glitch from the site otherwise it could be quite embarrassing. ICCR has a calander of events link under the happenings section and the calendar has the latest month’s events August 2007.

Capturing the nuances and the rare work of the grand artists is no easy task even though the internet has given the tools for research to do the task. More awareness of the use of Internet and the facility to put together the available knowledge and offer it to the wider audience—whether they practice the art or mere rasikas—is a challenging task. Also the delicate question of intellectual property right of whether a rare information belongs to a website or can it be propagated to a wider audience, ascribing to the original website of course, is a moot question.

I am taking the stand that so long as the source of the information is identified anyone is free to distribute the information based on their interpretation and use of the information as after all, knowledge is free so long as it has been put in the public domain. We will keep growing this blog!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Elements of Indian classical dance

Indian classical dance

Indian classical dance are essentially Bharatanayam, Kathak, Kathakali, Odissi, Mohinyattam, Manipuri and Kuchipudi. Each of these dance forms have evolved their own techniques, tradition, music and performance standards. Added to this is the style which the exponents of each of this art form follows while rendering their performance on stage.

What is common to all is the abinaya or expression.



Abhinaya

Abhinaya is common to all Classical Indian dances. Abhinaya is the expressional aspect of dance, or nritya. In contrast to this, Nritta is composed of only pure dance and will feature striking and aesthetic poses, but will have no expressional meaning and symbolism. Abhinaya have been categorised into four types:

Angika - or physical, using movements of every part of the body to convey meaning, with hastamudras (hand gestures), mandis (postures) and even the walk of the dancer.
Vachikabhinaya - or vocal/verbal, used formally today by members of the orchestra or supporting, non-dancing cast.
Aharyabhinaya - or external, expression, mood and background as conveyed by costume, make-up, accessories and sets.
Satvikabhinaya - or psychological, shown by the eyes in particular and as a whole by the entire being of the performer, who feels the mood, the character and the emotion as emanating from the self, not as an act or practical presentation.

The Navrasas or the nine moods

In addition, the navarasas, or nine emotions, give all dance a completeness that allows the dancer and the rasikas (audience) to experience the full beauty and meaning of the lyrics and the movements they are portrayed by.

These emotions are expressed in the eyes, the face, subtle muscle shifts and the body as a whole.
1. Hasya (happiness)
2. Krodha (anger)
3. Bhibasta (disgust)
4. Bhayanaka (fear)
5. Shoka (sorrow)
6. Veera (courage)
7. Karuna (compassion)
8. Adbhuta (wonder) and
9. Shanta (serenity).