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May 1, 2011

The number of birthday milestones being celebrated this month is quite remarkable. May showers us with reminders of luminaries who mark a special day throughout this month. The month of the precious emerald, May will witness the grande dame of dance, Mrinalini Sarabhai turning 94 and the ever effulgent Guru Maya Rao marking 83 majestic years! Wow! Just "google" and you can see the roll call shower of famous artistes in music, film, stage and performance born in this magical month.

Let us wish Mrinalini and Maya Rao with our love, admiration and respect for keeping the faith and love of dance and for inspiring their wonderful daughters in newer directions. Will we ever be as radiant and positive at their age? Do we think that we would even GET to their age in tact?

While the world watched gooey eyed at the magical telecast of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in London, Indians were bludgeoned with conflicting political reports about which party would eventually assume power when the votes are all counted this month. For us in the arts, it should not really matter since Culture is not a coveted portfolio in New Delhi and a Culture posting is considered a demotion of sorts for any bureaucrat! Not much opportunity to line pockets like Oil, Petroleum, Shipping, Aviation and Telecommunications!

What I have been speaking and arguing about for so long seems to have finally seen the light of day. Finally, a two year Masters Degree Programme in ARTS MANAGEMENT has been announced by Madras Craft Foundation (MCF) and Kalakshetra Foundation. The syllabus combines practical on-site management training of events with art history, museum studies, touring information, audience building and cultural studies. Affiliated with IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University), the much awaited degree comes at a crucial time when so many of India's organizations and museums are headless. Here's hoping that many dancers, who wish to expand their knowledge of the world of culture and who may want to move into another dimension beyond mere performance, come forth to enroll in this programme. I wish this had been available to me 25 years ago. What I have learned was only by actual DOING - ten years of being a television producer in New York and then 20 more in India as performer, choreographer, presenter, media entrepreneur and arts producer. Arts management was understood as something that your parent or relative did for you. Nothing serious or career building!

Film star-dancer Shobana has come up with an intelligent concept to spread Bharatanatyam (her version of it) through the many new apartment complexes coming up overnight all over Software City in South Chennai. Her school will open a branch at the housing complex to offer dance classes for all the kids in the colony. Her brand will be strengthened and parents can continue to be satisfied with their dose of Indian culture!

May is also the birth anniversary of our only poet Nobel Laureate - Rabindranath Tagore. Born on May 8, 1861, the 150th birth anniversary will be celebrated by India's Prime Minister to herald a year-long international commemoration of Tagore's prolific outpouring. The Tagore dance festival by Sangeet Natak Akademi is only one of the numerous events planned in India and through Indian embassies overseas. After spending a wonderful week in Kolkata, I can now understand why Bengalis in general and Rabindrik diehards in particular, worship Tagore and are quite condescending of us non-Bengalis who attempt to approach the works. Several Bengalis have found Tagore's words for every occasion in their lives. It is their Bhagavad Gita! Fortunately for me, I am now too immersed in Tagore's words to be scared away. Thank you to Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen and Jayabroto Chatterjee who introduced me to the inner world of Tagore.

You can send your birthday wishes to Mrinalini Sarabhai ( and Maya Rao ( at the given e-mail links.

To all those celebrating birthdays this month, enjoy the day. I mark my own milestone on the 21st and so do Mallika Sarabhai and Ramli Ibrahim.

Enjoy the heat! Revel in the sweat! Stay cool! Stay hot!
Let dance steam your month away!

Dr Anita R Ratnam
Chennai/ Coonoor/ Kodaikanal
(yes.. am actually taking a holiday!)

Twitter: @aratnam
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