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The A to Z of dance in 2021!

December 25, 2021

Anita Ratnam kept the flame aglow in dark and depressing times with posts, photos, portal upgrade and professionally seeking answers through an Impact Questionnaire which hopefully most filled there and then. I did. What doesn't get done today, never gets done - this is the most important take home of PCE (Post Covid Era).

B for Bollywood for making dance insufferable in films and on TV. WHY ARE WE SUFFERING THIS SILENTLY? Dancers can be very vocal where self-interest is concerned, but here see no opportunity to advance art and outreach? Why is no one even commenting on social media, which is now almost unsocial? The new normal is that one's life is so empty and in need of endorsement that one needs to be in the face and over-active. Sad.

Culture ministry mounted many events but one that got moffusil India to Delhi to dance on prestigious Republic Day 2022, was the VANDE BHARATAM Nritya Utsav. Done with Defence ministry and managed by Showcraft it was an organisational challenge and they acquitted well in the short time given. The whole competition, from district level to zonal to national, was transparent and telecast live. It was heartening to see young India dance, the wannabes and the have-beens too. Seems South India - rich in many classical and folk traditions - sent maximum worthy groups. West zone, a few of the same predictable fare. North gets all facilities being close to Delhi, East India, zilch. Chalo, Delhi.

Delhi dancers have a new patron and platform for dance, 6 months a year, every Saturday at Neemrana (on way to Jaipur) group of fort heritage hotels. They pay well too! Plus, high class treatment, royal hospitality and hosting. Dancers got lucky pan-Indian if they can reach Delhi on their own. Many do. Two venues of late. Tijara near Alwar added too. Read more on Tijara under T.

E-pathshala of UGC dance modules gained momentum with more students enrolling and some teachers finding fault with content. A few contributors were shocked to see their labour of love murdered or mauled by incompetent, irrelevant vendors palming off as university academicians. Star dancers, gurus and content providers are incensed for their final product being tampered with.

France TV continued to provide best cultural fare on TV. See their programmes and content, style and substance. Add Arte channel that's European. Or TV Asia, again French. Indian channels remained at sea!

Gurus tried valiantly to teach virtually and reach out. Some knew technology or were new to it. Most mediocre ones were active and ordinary ones, over-active! Real ones rested and created anew. Quietly. Empty vessels make most noise.

Himanshu Srivastava is his name and art ought to be his middle name. He can sing, dance, paint, think, act and react. This lad from tamancha (means 'guns' in colloquial Hindi) capital of India has much Yogi-c potential many say.

Dr. Joshi delivers under PM's vision for Bharat
Dr. Joshi delivers under PM's vision for Bharat

IGNCA was among the few cultural institutions that remained national, not notional. Not only it remained active and alert, it also shifted its mammoth premises, 300 staff, 2 lakh books, 40 prestigious Collections and all, from one high-end side of Janpath Road to the hotel side of Janpath. Its head, Dr.Sachidanand Joshi, needs to be complimented for leadership and steering of events, seamlessly. A good leader delegates. He has the genius of making an old, derelict, sleazy hotel into a five star avenue for art and culture. May he continue to do so in future till IGNCA has its new premises. IGNCA'S art loving trustees are an asset, as is its President. Hope the same lot continues to guide it through to its final stage of reaching its new swanky premises in Jamnagar House, soon. Ache din ayenge!?

Jigyasa Giri and her group kept Kathak afloat in sambar-land, where only BN dominates. That's Madras for you. Chennai is a city; Madras is an emotion, aver some. Its sabhAcademy does a virtual BN festival but calls it a DANCE FESTIVAL. Then they should've called it a BN festival, no? Why use all encompassing DANCE?

Kathak Kendra and Kalakshetra activated themselves under a new/old director and mounted interesting seminars and shows, even if mostly virtual. K for KaroNa often became the moola-mantra of most pan Indian kumbhakarnish institutions.

Lalitha Venkat, the content editor of this portal, worked like an ant, gathering information, putting up issue after issue together diligently and admirably. Even obits of lesser known musicians or dancers were platformed and given a decent farewell. attenDance honoured narthaki 10 years ago, seeing the work and worth.

Poster by Shibani
Gunjan group
Gunjan group

Meera Das's Gunjan mounted its 25th anniversary in November through a 3 day festival in back-of-beyond Cuttack town comprising of 52 streets and 54 shopping centres. Her students shone and some have grown too big for the stage, literally! A national festival often becomes an annual day of the school too. Meera Das's in-house talent Shibani painted: WHY WALK WHEN YOU CAN DANCE! And Meera's core group, headed by Sasmita Panda proved it. Meera Das's dance production got a standing ovation from no less than the icon of Odishi today, Padma Vibhushan Sonal Mansingh, MP.

Nadam group
Nadam group

NADAM returned to real stage in December at ADA with a polished 3 day festival where the best of groups were presented, even duets though one solo was so bad that one wondered why this BN lady was even on stage. Live music didn't help either when the singer was besura. Kiran Subramanyam's Rasika group was a delight and NADAM's own Kathak repertory shone like a well-cut diamond with Pavani shining - twinkle twinkle little star. Odissi by Nrityagram girls had good foundation but suffers from loads of attitude, loud foot thumping and hooting in hall. NADAM is Bangalore's best Kathak dance group and festival organizers today. Its Chinna-Nadam festival for kids too got good platform at the prestigious NGMA. Kudos to Murali-Nandini team.

Kiran Subramanyam's group
Kiran Subramanyam's group

Odishi as a form is going the Kathak way. Fast, furious and filmy. The languorous, lyrical content is being sacrificed by jazz-m-tazz costumes and choreographies. Lalitya, lost in translation. Whom are they competing with? Salsa?

Padma Subrahmanyam remained the most academic artiste of the year, quietly attending to her tome on Karanas, in stone and on film. She teaches sincerely, inspires generously and reaches out quietly with her solid work. Her flock is increasing day by day. So are fans of another P. Praveen Kumar. Dark horse of BN. He is a first-rate professional and perfectionist.

Queen of yogic dance and BN, Rukmini Vijayakumar was very visible on the YouTube with huge following and successful shows. She is the new sensation of Indian dance with Parshwanath Upadhye, Gururaju, Mahati Kannan, Laxminarayan Jena and Aishwarya Nityanand. Add Revanta Sarabhai.

Laxminarayan Jena
Laxminarayan Jena

Ranee Kumar, the journo and arts writer came up with a novel on music - Song to Silence. Nicely written, it runs like a Ruth Prawer Jhabwala meets Rohinton Mistry tale. She is also putting together the 2021 issue of attenDance yearbook, with "dance and mysticism" ( as the main theme. Hyderabad based again now, she is the only mainstream qualified dance writer from there. R for Revanta Sarabhai too, who shone like a pole star at the most magical dance space - Neemrana. Here's a future star of Indian classical dance to watch. It is in his DNA. Mallika Sarabhai's son and Mrinalini amma's grandson... His dance is a delight. Effortless.

Sonal Mansingh
Sonal Mansingh

Sonal Mansingh remained most active, alert, astounding artiste of the year. Covid didn't keep her down and she rose and regaled with performances on stage, in Parliament and on TV. Here's a national spokesperson for art and artistes finally, whose voice is heard and read. A brilliant mind and sharp intellect are her assets. Sometimes one wonders if she is a single person or plural... Power House of performing arts.

Tijara sounds like a jewel in the crown. It is! (In Aman Nath's Neemrana group of heritage non-hotels.) What a beauty it is, each part so - oh! so elegant - and functional that it proves it is possible in India to do a high level, quality work. Just 100km from Delhi, on way to Alwar, Tijara is the new happening spot for art and artists with an E too (painters, designers, musicians and dancers). Go see it.

University courses on dance need a serious overhaul. Books being used are from last century and much of pedagogic work too is dated. USA or Europe is setting the agenda and jargon, some have started copying, thinking that's being up to date. We need Indian definitions for Indian dance, not German or Japanese. Education ministry (UGC too) ought to work with Culture Ministry on this important topic.

Valli. Class, elan and exquisiteness. Despite health setbacks, she shone in the NCPA offering. Valli is a benchmark in BN, like Yamini Krishnamurthy was. V for virtual art too that dance became all of 2021. Good part is one could leave a virtual show anytime one wanted to, which was often! In a hall, audience becomes a captive audience, critics more so! All eyes see and note and tell (on FB, instantly. He came @637 and left at 747! ). Last quarter of the year saw real stage shows, not virtual.

Whither dance? Groups are the vogue now increasingly, as all need to be accommodated and presented. Gurus are teachers mostly. Most state-run institutions ran in Covid times. Patronage dried off. Dancers survived only on art. That's an achievement. Did any corporate body help dancers practically in their worst year ever? Any crorepati? Govt can't be sole supporter and provider when 2.3% Indians only pay income taxes. Think.

YouTube is almost a noun now. Renowned too. This platform was so ready for the Corona Age and became a stage for all and sundry. It got flooded with the good, the bad and the plain ugly. Every rose comes with a thorn, so pick carefully.

X and Z would mean we are forcing the issue. Let New Year bring FORCE (josh) to the dance field, not be another forced year indoors, glued to virtual world. Why sit when you can dance your way through life? Dance gives movement to life. Amen!

Ashish Mohan Khokar
Khokar is a senior, seasoned dance commentator with 40 years solid work in art field as a pioneer arts administrator, archivist, critic, curator, author, academician and more. Detailed bio on

Great compilation of events of year 2021. Concise capture. Thank you.
- Hema Maya (Dec 29, 2021)

Awesome Creation of Reality...from A to Z. Excellent as usual.
- Ravishankar (Dec 28, 2021)

Many thanks for sharing your thoughts on A-Z of dance 2021.
Inspiring and motivating and full of foresight. Hope 2022 will bring happiness and prosperity.
- Virendra, Jammu (Dec 26, 2021)

A to Z is very well written and valuable cum informative content. Dance is the identity of cultural India. So pleased to read and will share this.
- Badal Kumar Thakur, National Archives of India (Dec 26, 2021)

Topics are so well covered, Ashish ji. As usual good to read... wonderful & latest.
- Prashanth Gopal Shastry (Dec 26, 2021)

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