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Ashish Mohan Khokar's attendance: The Dance Annual of India 2014-15
- Bhavanvitha Venkat

June 9, 2015

The feel in the hands of this edition is the same as it is of the expectation as compared with that of attendance 2013-14 ‘Telugu Traditions.’ The pleasant surprise is in the difference of the content and in the emphasis this time around. Yes, the content is of different bandwidth and presentation altogether. Attendance 2014-15 focuses in this edition about numbers, about significant milestones, on some memorable dancers, and wonderful institutions as they approach important anniversaries.  The cover mentions the importance of numbers vis-à-vis the above topics (of 100+ years of Zohra Sehgal or the golden jubilee of SPA Mauritius and so on).The  editorial is a simple note, Khokar’s wish and appeal to the readers to encourage more reading of the dance annual and his acknowledgements to the various contributions of individuals. I observed that in the previous version edited by Ananda Shankar Jayant, there was no section on male dancers and I am glad to have found that the male dancer got his due attention by way of a detailed article this time. The “opportunity-taboo and the career-dilemma" angles are covered nicely and Bharatanatyam dancer Praveen Kumar and Kathak dancer Muralimohan Kalva contributed their thoughts on how it is being a male dancer.

For those debating a particularly current topic, that of the ‘Role of Universities and Dance Departments’ in teaching classical dance, this edition is bound to be a good resource. Take-aways from the article relating to 50 years of SPA Mauritius, 150 years of Baroda Dance Department, 75years of Kalakshetra are precious.

The reader would find the coverage about some dancing greats like Zohra Sehgal, Sitara Devi (whose picture is on the cover), of Guru Maya Rao (1928-2014), of Rukmini Devi, Guru Valmiki Banerjee as interesting and overwhelming - not to be missed reminders to the true great dance personalities. These are memorable sections indeed.

Meet Anita Ratnam in ‘The Narthaki Story’ as she shares with her readers about the birth of Narthaki over fifteen years back, and its content editor Lalitha Venkat (along with Khokar) effortlessly speaks about 200 dance festivals, and as a bonus adds some interesting facts and trivia as she reports about them state-wise. I am sure dancers would love to know about these festivals. Lalitha Venkat has also co-contributed for the 75 years of Kalakshetra with Khokar.

A nice article from Shanta Serbjeet Singh looks into the mind of the “thinking dancer” and different dance productions like Parkaya, Aparkaya and Varnajaa and so on. Thinking dancers always ravel and unravel their thinking through dance and it’s good that what was always in some of our thoughts and minds is written about so nicely by Shanta Serbjeet Singh. She has shared her wisdom and dancers can gather and benefit from this article. Dance as a career is captured in two different sections and Dance and Capitalism in one.

The black and white and color pictures from the past and the present are a treat to the eyes and thoughts. The older ones transport you and you can’t but help trying to become the very dancer and feel their expressions.

Needless to say, the pictures are rare (for e.g: the Baroda group picture from the early 50s and of Uday Shankar – Zohra Sehgal)

Overall, attendance 2014-15 introduces itself at first as focusing on the “number-approach” and then deepens its relation with the reader through well gathered facts and material, mind you, it’s slow and gradual process unlike the ‘Telugu Traditions’ where the strength was on the very approach.  Not all sections of the book are mentioned here as the very purpose of the review is about giving a brief note about the annual and it’s recommendatory and suggestive but not to become a summary.

The suggestions are that the font reads small and at times is lost in the background. Not much breadth in the coverage, dance style-wise and the editorial could have been more speaking.

It’s good that libraries are now stocking the attendance editions. With that positive note, I join Ashish Mohan Khokar and appeal to the general public to encourage dance books and gift them on suitable occasions by way of replacing the existing shawls, bouquets or even mementoes.

Bhavanvitha Venkat is a Kuchipudi dancer and writer. He is a finance consultant, advisor to cultural institutes and likes to work on creative ideas.

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