Narada Gana Sabha
Nadhabrahmam to Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman
Senior Musician Award to Kalyani Ganesan
Nagaswaram Award to Seshampatti Sivalingam
The Indian Fine Arts Society
Sangeetha Kalasikhamani to A. Kanyakumari
Natya Kalasikhamani to Priyadarshini Govind
Tamil Isai Sangam
Isai Peraringnar to Seergazhi Sivachidambaram
Sri Krishna Gana Sabha
Vajra Utsav Acharya Choodamani to A. Lakshmanaswamy
Vajra Utsav Nritya Choodamani to Gayatri Kannan, Zakir Hussain, Ratikant Mohapatra, Sujatha Mohapatra, & Deepika Reddy
Brahma Gana Sabha
Gaana Padhmam – Trichur V. Ramachandran
Naatya Padhmam – Priyadarshini Govind
Naataka Padhmam – A.R. Srinivasan (ARS)
Vaaadhya Padhmam – R. Ramamurthy
Kartik Fine Arts
Natya Darshan – Lifetime Achievement Award to Sadanam Balakrishnan
Tamil Isai Vendar – Kadri Gopalnath
Isai Peroli – S. Saketharaman
Nadanamamani – Anwesha Das (Bharatanatyam)
Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha
Vani Kala Sudhaakara to
Priya Sisters: Shanmugapriya & Haripriya (Vocal)
Kadri Gopalnath (Saxophone)
V. Kamalakar Rao (Mrudangam
Leela Samson (Bharatanatyam)
R. Neelakantan (Neelu) (Theatre)
Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha
Sangeeta Kala Sarathy to N. Vijay Siva
Natya Kala Sarathy to Deepika Reddy
Gnana Kala Bharathi to Trichur V. Ramachandran
Viswa Kala Bharathi to Bombay Jayashri and Priyadarshini Govind
Acharya Kala Bharathi to Prof. A. Janardhanan
Nadaga Kala Bharathi to Bombay Gnanam
Gana Kaladhar to Vani Jayaram
Sangeeta Kala Bharathi to Janardhan Mitta
Laya Kala Bharathi to Madras A. Kannan
MLV Book Release
MLV.. the one & only (book and Audio visual) was released on October 5th, 2014 at Chennai by Rupa Gopal. L. Sabarethnam, Chairman, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai Kendra, Aruna Sairam and Priyadarsini Govind were the guests of Honour.
Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam was presented the Kalamandalam Fellowship award for 2013, which carried a purse for Rs 35,000 and a citation.
Kalamandalam P K Narayanan Nambiar was presented the Kalaratnam award. Other awardees included Kalamandalam Rajasekheran (Kathakali dress) and Kalamandalam Subramanyam (Kathakali music).
The Papanasam Sivan Rasikar Sangam conferred the title Sivanisai Selvar on T.M.Krishna during the 124th anniversary of eminent composer Papanasam Sivan on 26 September 2014 at Narada Gana Sabha.
Fifth Indira Sivasailam Endowment Medal
Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna was conferred the fifth Indira Sivasailam Endowment Medal at the Music Academy on 25 September 2014. The late Indira Sivasailam was a patron of music.
The artist was selected by a panel comprising members from the Endowments Committee of The Music Academy and Ms. Mallika Srinivasan (Chairman - TAFE Limited), daughter of the late A. Sivasailam, former chairman of the Amalgamations Group and Indira Sivasailam.
The previous recipients of the award have been Sudha Ragunathan, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, Aruna Sairam and Bombay Jayashri Ramnath.
Carnatica Archival Center-T.A.W.F.
Rasikas.org, is one of the popular websites on Carnatic Music, with members being rasikas as well as few musicians and maestros. Few members observing the plight of artists playing the tambura and the need to offer support to the needy artists and technicians of tambura instrument, conceived the initiative of Tambura Welfare Fund with contributions from members of the rasikas.org. Sri Chitraveena Ravikiran and Carnatica Bros Sri K.N.Sashikiran, in appreciation of this initiative and also committed support. Sri K.N.Sashikiran taking the leadership, has included this initiative as part of Carnatica Archival Center, a Trust, in operation successfully since its launch in July, 1999 serving the cause of Carnatic Music by preserving, promoting and propagating Carnatic Music globally.
Vid. Smt. Aruna Sairam, a maestro and popular musician has consented to perform for a fund raising benefit concert, as a part of Bharath Sangith Utsav-2014 of Carnatica in the month of November, 2014.Vid. Smt. Aruna Sairam’s benefit concert is on 2nd November, 2014, Sunday at Narada Gana Sabha Hall. The proceeds of this fund raiser and benefit concert and contribution by the members of rasikas.org will be the fund for meeting the critical needs of welfare of artists and technicians of tambura, located in the cities of Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Tiruvananthapuram.
CAC-T.A.W.F. is appealing to all the rasikas, patrons, sponsors, Corporate, foundations and institutions to liberally contribute to the fund and support this highly worthy initiative. CAC is a Trust and donations are exempted from tax. Please send your cheque/demand draft in favor of Carnatica Archival Center, New No: 12, Dwaraka Colony, Mylapore, Chennai-600004. E-mail Id: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also send a note along with the cheque/draft, 1. Name. 2. Address. 3. Contact details. 4. Cause-CAC-T.A.W.F.
Critiquing dance criticism
A small but important initiative was launched on the premises of the University of Pune in August on the eve of Ganesa Pooja in the historic city of Pune. It was a two-day national seminar on dance criticism, much needed to revitalise the dying genre of dance writing.
India has the dubious distinction of having thousands of dancers and dance recitals but few competent dance writers. The rapidly shrinking space in the media has further contributed to the much marginalised genre of dance criticism. Against this depressing backdrop, the seminar that was timely, generated rave responses. Titled “Dance Criticism: macro and micro perspectives”, the well-designed and well-executed seminar was the brainchild of the famous city-based Bharatanatyam exponent Sucheta Chapekar, who was earlier the head of the performing arts department of the University. The idea was wonderfully translated into action by the young and dynamic Assistant Professor of Dance, Parimal Phadke, who was ably supported by a large number of involved students of the dance department.
Spread over four sessions, the two-day seminar featured four focus groups – critics, editors, dancers and readers – with interludes of intense interactions and questions-answers in between two sessions. While the critics group comprised Sunil Kothari, Leela Venkataraman, Manjari Sinha, Veejay Sai and Shyamhari Chakra, the editors group had Ashish Mohan Khokar of the Dance Attendance annual, Lalitha Venkat of narthaki.com, K.K. Gopalakrishnan representing Nartanam dance quarterly, and Shumita Mahajan of Pune who served a major English daily. Similarly, the dancers-scholars segment included Sucheta Chapekar, Shama Bhate and Roshan Datye – all from Pune, Chetana Jyotishi, former director of Kathak Kendra, New Delhi, and Jayashree Rajagopalan, Bharatanrityam exponent from Mumbai. The readers group featured presentations by Jyoti Tilak with a background in library science who teaches at a finance and management institute in Pune, and Neela Sharma, a senior journalist with a regional newspaper.
Setting the tone of the deliberation, globe-trotter Dr. Sunil Kothari termed dance criticism as a “thankless task” in India today. Explaining it as a post-colonial concept that arrived in India along with the British rule, he presented a panoramic picture of the “systematically killed” dance criticism scene in Indian mainstream media down the decades. The job of a dance critic demands sound knowledge of literature, Sanskrit, technique of dance styles and familiarisation with Natya Sastra apart from constant exposure to dance performances, he emphasised. In conclusion, he said, “I see a bleak future for dance criticism in India and I don’t see any reversal in the trend”.
Deliberating on “Terminologies in dance criticism”, Leela Venkataraman referred to the “jargonising writing” that the readers often come across – classical, traditional, experimental, modern, innovative – to explain how it poses a great deal of difficulty for a dance writer to analyse a particular genre of dance. Referring to the works of Chandralekha, Swapnasundari’s Vilasini Natyam, Bengal’s Gaudiya Nritya and Odisha’s Mahari dance, she lucidly explained how ‘convention’ is being confused with ‘tradition’ by the critics and connoisseurs at times. “The approach to dance has changed completely and hence the whole mindset needs to change for appreciating and critiquing dance. The critic has to be vivid in conveying the essence of the dance and has to find out an apt language to appropriately explain changes taking shape in the dance genres”, she pointed out.
Manjari Sinha’s presentation – the relevance of content in criticism – emphasised how a critic must be a ‘connoisseur’ and ‘compassionate’ besides being aware of the essence of the arts form to be able to help the readers to appreciate the arts tradition. Initiation into the art form – that a critic deals in – is immensely important, she felt.
This writer presented a paper on “Dance criticism in Indian mainstream media today – a journalist’s perspective’. Drawing from my own experiences and admitting the challenges aspiring dance critic encounters in India, I hinted at the many ‘hitherto unexplored opportunities’ for a dance writer like research, documentation and writing books on dance. I said that a dance writer need not be confined to classical dances but should write on the numerous folk, tribal and ritualistic dances that India boasts of.
Veejay Sai’s presentation on “The role of a critic as a catalyst for art and culture” defined how “a critic is nothing but an involved audience and a catalyst” as well. Referring to “the Victorian model of criticism”, he observed that arts criticism has not yet come up in India to its desired level.
The findings from the editors’ focus group offered much hope for dance criticism through an alternative media – journals, periodicals and web portals – in view of the rapidly disappearing space for dance in mainstream media. Ashish Khokar shared his experiences through his presentation on “Making space for dance – the Attendance model”. Born out of his illustrious father the late Mohan Khokar’s “idea and inspiration”, the year book has finally become financially viable following 15 years of struggle for survival through hard and good work, he acknowledged. The editor should never be judgemental and yet has to take a stand, he emphasised while stating that “editing is an art”.
Representing the 14-year-old Nartanam quarterly dance journal being published from Hyderabad, its honorary editor, Kerala-based K.K. Gopalakrishnan described the challenges of bringing out the journal in the absence of support from subscribers and advertisers. He made an important observation and a refreshing remark: “The readers’ opinions are as important as of the critics. The critic is a mere instrument in initiating an aesthetic dialogue between the dancers and the audience”.
The wit-laced, lively presentation of Lalitha Venkat, content editor of narthaki.com since its launch 14 years ago, was an eye-opener. The saga of success of this web portal from a mere address bank on Indian classical dances to the most visible web-magazine on Indian classical dances today has made it “a democratic forum for dance writers, readers and dancers”, she said. One of the rare advantages of the web-magazine has been the facility to modify the contents even after being published apart from its no-space constraints and access to the website from any part of the world.
Shumita Mahajan’s presentation, ‘In defence of media’, revealed how advertisers come ahead of the readers in the mainstream media today and how the editors have been sandwiched between the commercial motives of the management and the expectations of the critics and readers for more space in an era when “the voice of the media has been silenced”.
The session of a dancers-scholars focus group on the following day emerged as a healthy dialogue – and not a duel – with the critics and editors who, on the previous day, had blamed a section of the dancers for not tolerating dance criticism and for not supporting dance publications as readers and buyers. In her presentation “Reflections of a dancer”, Sucheta Chapekar maintained that “the critics’ views should be taken seriously” while making an appreciative assessment of the presentations made by all the critics and editors. She, however, pointed out that the use of language in criticism matters a lot to dancers. The younger generation dancers feel discouraged by negative reviews, she indicated.
Kathak exponent Shama Bhate’s paper on “Subjective criticism” emphasised the “holistic evaluation of dance as it is a composite medium”. She lamented the lack of national level presence of dance criticism and publications. “No more do we get to read the review of a performance across India in any newspaper as it used to be earlier. Coverage of dance events has gone regional and hence there is the need for more of national level publications”, she felt.
Roshan Datye, another Kathak exponent from Pune, emphasised on dancers getting into dance criticism. Presenting a panoramic picture of the dance criticism scene of Pune down the years, she regretted that “rarely do we come across a dance critic who has due understanding of more than one dance form”.
Jayashree Rajgopalan’s narration of her guru Padma Subrahmanyam’s sweet-sour experiences with dance critics spanning over several decades made an interesting presentation. Her narrations revealed how critics and dancers can complement each other in pursuit of knowledge and in the service of dance. The most poignant presentation of the session was, however, by Chetana Jyotishi who, extensively quoting Bharata Muni from the Natya Sastra, lucidly explained the qualities of the critic and of the audience. Being a critic means bearing a big responsibility and therefore the critic has to a unbiased, hard working, with the ability to surrender ego, willing to learn and enquire apart from acknowledging the source of the knowledge.
The presentation by the readers focus group during the concluding session had Pune-based senior journalist Neela Sharma who put forth her views in Hindi as “aam darsak, aam pathak” (common audience and reader) in her presentation of “Sameekshyaki upekshya kyon!” (Why negligence of criticism!) in which she gave a bird’s eye view of dance criticism in Maharashtra. There are only reports on dance and no reviews, she lamented and reminded how Pune’s late luminous dance personality Rohini Bhate used to write in mainstream media on dance in Marathi in an attempt to reach out to the layperson. Jyoti Tilak, the other reader with a background in library science, made a very informative and articulate presentation which was a useful guide to access the world of publication of books on dance.
The keynote address on “Introduction to criticism” was offered by Rekha Sahni, an expert on literary criticism.
(Arts journalist and writer)
Dr. MLV Memorial Award
Well known Carnatic vocalist Geetha Raja has been selected to receive the Dr. MLV Memorial Award instituted by CMANA (Carnatic Music Association of NorthAmerica), U.S.A.. The award will be presented during the inaugural function of the Music and Dance Festival of Narada Gana Sabha on 13th December, 2014 at the Sathguru Gnanananda Hall, Chennai
Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan honoured in New Jersey
Mridanga vidwan Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan was honoured in July 2014 with the New Jersey Assembly proclamation for promoting Carnatic music abroad.
The citation said Vaidyanathan, born in a family of percussionists, began training at the age of six from his grandfather and uncle. With his inherent sense of rhythm, disciplined practice and urge to excel in the art of playing the mridangam, he was showcased in concerts when he was a high school student. He underwent rigorous training under the tutelage of mridangam maestro Karaikudi Mani and with dedication and hard work he became a much sought after percussionist for countless leading musicians in India and abroad.
Vaidyanathan has performed in leading venues such as Lincoln Center in New York and Kennedy Center in Washington DC. He launched a symphonic ensemble called Vibrations which performs multiple genres of music on a global level. He promotes music through his position as Faculty Member of SIFAS in Singapore and as a mentor of young musicians who established the Tiruvarur Talavadya Vidyalaya in Chennai, the official proclamation added.
Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan was honoured by Upendra Chivukula, deputy speaker of New Jersey State Assembly. Divya Yeluri, founder director of Nrithya Madhavi School of Dance, in New Jersey and Venu Yeluri participated in the ceremony.
India by the Nile
After a successful first edition in 2013, India by the Nile, returned for the second consecutive year (1-20 April 2014) to cheer the politics-weary people of Egypt in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Hurghada. The festival offers an avenue for dialogue and collaborative exchange between Indian and Egyptian performing arts, ‘Women of Substance’, the major theme of this year’s festival, attempted to highlight the challenges and similarities between women in India and Egypt.
This year’s festival was a large-scale event featuring classical dance, folk arts, an Indian Film Panorama showcasing well-crafted films, Bollywood dance workshops and talks by celebrities, an exhibition of Indian women’s traditional saris, and culinary specialities.
Kathak exponent Marami Medhi enacted stories from Indian myths and legends in a thematic concert. Free Kathak dance workshops were also conducted.
Nagada, of the Indian folklore kettledrums, was performed by the Rajasthan Josh troupe at Cairo and Alexandria. The performance showcased folk traditions of Rajasthan using instruments like the morchang, nagara and the bamboo flute.
India Inc. presented an exhibition of Sudhir Tailang’s political cartoons at the Egyptian Modern Art Museum. Literary figures exchanged ‘Words on Water’ – scripting engaging discussions at the Supreme Council of Culture.
TCI Sanmar Chemicals SAE was the lead sponsor for the festival, which was scripted by Teamwork Productions in partnership with the Embassy of India, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism and the Cairo Opera House.
“We have always enjoyed close ties with Egypt and there is a genuine fondness for Indian culture amongst the Egyptian people. The festival is part of the embassy’s pro-active approach to reach out to the Egyptian public and to promote cultural understanding,” said Navdeep Suri, India’s Ambassador in Egypt.
As one of the most attended international arts festivals in Cairo since the 2011 revolution, India by the Nile added more layers to the Egyptian conscious, deepening the level of awareness of Indian arts.
Manipur dance academy celebrates diamond jubilee
The Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy (JNMDA), Imphal, a constituent unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, celebrated its diamond jubilee (60 years) in the first week of April. It was established in 1954, when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the state and after seeing the traditional Manipuri dances suggested that an institution be set up to preserve and perpetuate the traditions of the region. Well known exponents and teachers Amubi Singh, Amodon, and Atomaba were appointed as gurus and thus began the first move to institutionalize Manipuri dances.
Over the last six decades, JNMDA has made phenomenal progress and trained generations of dancers, offering practical and scientific knowledge about the rich heritage of the art forms. Pre-Vaishnavite dance forms like Lai Haraoba, the dances of Maibees and the Vaishnavite dance forms have a long history. Nowhere else in India are music and dance so closely interwoven with rituals and religious practices in daily life as in Manipur. This sets Manipuri dances apart from other dance forms. From the birth of a child, the piercing of the ears, the sacred thread ceremony, marriage, death and after-death ceremonies, all the major stages in life are celebrated with dance and music in Manipur. You rarely come across a Manipuri (Meitei) who does not know dance and music.
In November 1958, I was part of a research team of the Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur which visited Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura under a Fellowship from the Ministry of Scientific Affairs. I have happy memories of having met the great gurus and watching the classes held at Johnson School. I was ushered into a world of dance in its natural habitat, which mesmerised me and since then regular visits to Imphal have helped me appreciate Manipuri dances. Therefore to attend the celebrations on its 60th year revived memories of several performances of Nata Sankeertan, Rasaleela and Lai Haraoba.
As the programme was overcrowded and I had missed my flight, I could not attend the inaugural events and the seminar. On the Foundation Day the Governor V.K. Duggal, who is also the Chairman of JNMDA, attended the ceremonial pooja. The invocation was presented with Nata Sankeertan, the solo dances were performed by gold medallists of the Academy, and items from Lai Haraoba, Holipala, Thang-ta (martial art) and Nata Sankeertan were performed. Next day Leela Samson, Chairperson of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, initiated the proceedings and the souvenir and commemorative volumes were released. Special Diamond Jubilee honours were conferred on eminent gurus, dancers and scholars, and the cultural evening consisted of Kabui, Kuki, Mao dances of the tribes, and Vasant Raas. It was followed by Rabindranath Tagore’s Bidai Abhishap – a dance-drama choreographed by Amusana Devi and performed by artists of the Production Unit of JNMDA.
The symposium on ‘Growth and Development of Manipuri Dance – a Perspective’, was held the next day with Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan chairing the session. Speakers R.K. Singhajit Singh and Debjani Chaliha emphasised the need to preserve these forms without imitating other dance forms. In the afternoon session chaired by Ratan Thiyam, Leela Venkataraman and Priti Patel participated in a discussion on the solo presentation of Manipuri dances, which are essentially group dances. There were solo performances in the evening by Noyonsakhi Devi, Ibemubi Devi and a presentation of Kathak by Sharmistha Mukherjee and her group from Delhi on the theme of Varanasi.
A variety of Manipuri dances was presented during the celebrations, including a Pena recital by Guru Leibakmacha Singh, Cholom by Guru Shyamchand Singh and some scenes from the dance-drama Moirang Sha choreographed by W. Lokendra Singh.
There was an interactive session with gurus, artists, scholars and critics which could have been more meaningful if immediate translation had been given after a few brief speeches. The topics covered were physical training and the relevance of Natya Sastra with Manipuri dance. Many more young performers should have taken part in these discussions.
The most fascinating presentation was that of Nupi Pala by A. Tombino Devi and group. Two groups of women singers seemed to be competing when two drummers joined them, matching their singing with frenzied movements and arriving pat on the sam. As many of us could not follow the Meitei song, the import was explained by Prof. Tombi Singh, Vice-chairman of JNMDA and senior exponent R.K. Singhajit Singh. The women dressed in costumes with pink borders and singing in high-pitched voices reminded me of opera singers of the West. The way they played the small cymbals with their neck movements synchronising with the notes of their singing was fascinating. I suggested to Prof. Tombi Singh that someone must translate the text of the sung into English for its proper appreciation. A mind-boggling variety of Manipuri dances was showcased.
Ariba pala, which is rarely presented, was performed by Ng. Ingochou and group. The men, clad in spotless white dhotis and pugrees, moved gracefully in a circle as they played the cymbals gently, and at times at a fast pace. They performed with great intensity and devotion, in praise of Gaurangaprabhu. The pung drummers competing with them kept both the tala and the rhythm. This form of dancing, in many ways, reminded us of Nata Sankeertan. Once again I wished the recited text would be translated into English. I was told a text is published in Meitei language as Sankeertan Vichar. These performances in traditional mandapas have their own charm and magic.
During the valedictory function the Governor honoured some of us visiting scholars and critics as well as Sattriya guru Jatin Goswami from Guwahati. Goswami had choreographed in Sattriya style Rabindranath Tagore’s Chandalika, which was presented by Anita Sharma and dancers from Guwahati. Though it was a departure from Sattriya tradition, a decision was taken to present Chandalika during Tagore’s 150th birthday celebrations and it has since become a part of the repertory of the Sattriya Kendra. Since the dance form has come to be recognised as the eighth classical dance form of India, it needs to keep pace with changing times.
Though the songs were translated into Assamese, the Rabindrik music was overpowering. The form of Sattriya in terms of nritta could have been explored more to give the flavour of Sattriya dance. The dance of the Bhairavis was well choreographed, Padmalochana Konwar was Prakriti, and Anita enacted the role of Prakriti’s mother in an impressive manner. It was indeed heartening to observe neighbouring states coming together with their dance traditions while retaining their regional flavours.
The diamond jubilee will be a yearlong celebration that will include presentation of Manipuri dances in other states, honouring of dancers, panel discussions, and presenting famous exponents of other classical dance forms in Imphal. A volume on Manipuri dances reflecting the “voice of Manipuri scholars, gurus, and exponents” on the lines of books on Kathakali and Sattriya dances, is also under consideration and I have been invited to edit it.
The challenge that JNMDA and Manipuri dance are facing with globalisation and lucrative careers is to retain the core values and spirit of Manipuri art forms. However, JNMDA has a commendable track record. It offers three years Foundation, Diploma, and Post-Diploma course. The subjects taught are Rasa, Lai Haraoba, Nata Sankeertan under three categories of Ishei, Pung and Cholom and also tribal dances and Thang-ta (martial art). Gold medals and merit awards have been instituted and several scholarships are offered. The Production Unit established in 1976 has to its credit several dance-dramas including the famous classic Kaibul Lamjao about the vanishing species of the Sangai deer. JNMDA has 23 gurus, 17 visiting gurus, 21 members of the Production Unit and an office staff of 31 members. It has at the helm an experienced young Director L. Upendro Sharma along with Vice Chairman Prof. Tombi Singh. From 1964 till date the Production Unit has travelled to more than 35 countries, and 50 gurus and dancers have received national awards including the Sangeet Natak Akademi awards. Currently a history of JNMDA is under preparation.
From stories of gods to stories of people, Manipuri dances have come a long way. With the emergence of young choreographers, the boundaries of Manipuri dances are being extended. Dancers do not shy away from boldly bringing in elements of martial arts which quickens the pace and invests the form with a pulsating, throbbing, vitality. We no longer think of Manipuri as slow-paced, as only a flowing, meandering, gentle form. Instead we marvel at the ability of the exponents to adapt to changes reflecting contemporary sensibilities. Night-long performances of Rasleela coexist with bold experiments. JNMDA has played a major role in its development and we can look forward to its pioneering efforts in balancing tradition and open mindedness to embrace changes without diluting tradition.