A week long unique workshop on dance writing 
- Chethana Radhakrishna, Mysore 
e-mail: medini.radhakrishna@rediffmail.com
Photos: Lalitha Venkat 
July 31, 2009 

I read about the dance writing workshop a month ago in www.narthaki.com, India's first online portal for dance, a brainchild of Anita Ratnam, the globally well - known Chennai based dancer. Being a classical dancer and a research scholar at Mysore University, with the thirst for knowledge and writing, I was overwhelmed by the whole concept of 'Dance writing.' The concept itself had such an influence on me; before registering myself for the workshop, I did not even give a thought to the troubles of leaving behind my family (including my 5 year old son) for 1 week at Mysore, quite far away from Chennai. 

When I arrived at Anita Ratnam's house, I met ten other dancers from different States who came to attend the workshop. When the sessions were started with eminent critic Leela Venkataraman's talk, I was astonished to know that the workshop was not only about dance writing but it covered the various important aspects connected with dance - classical and contemporary.  

It was thrilling to interact closely with globally popular classical and contemporary dancers through the workshop, which would have been impossible otherwise for an upcoming dancer / teacher like me based in small places like Mysore or Mandya. Through the interactions, we could know the work nature, choreography methods and teaching techniques of not only those dancers whom we met in the workshop, but also about other dancers from different corners of the world, as the dancers we met shared their own experiences of working with other dancers and their experiences with senior dancers and critics. 

We visited Dr.Padma Subrahmanyam where we had a very good interaction with her about her productions and choreographies relevant to Natya Sastra. We even watched some of her works through DVDs. We visited Kuchipudi dancer Sailaja, a disciple of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam to view her demo on Kuchipudi. Bharatanatyam dancer Vidhya Subramanian from USA, a disciple of Guru SK Rajaratnam, and Meenakshi Chittaranjan, Chennai, a disciple of Guru Subbaraya Pillai visited the workshop to give us information of the dance styles of their gurus, making us understand the importance of traditional styles of the senior gurus.  

Being classical dancers, much to our curiosity about contemporary dances, we had interesting sessions with contemporary dancers, Hari Krishnan from Toronto and Chennai based Padmini Chettur. We could not only watch their contemporary works on DVD, but also satisfy our doubts and curiosity about contemporary dances. Being classical dancers, we got our answers to the constantly evolving questions about the term 'contemporary.' 

Lakshmi Vishwanathan, disciple of Ramaiah Pillai, was with us to speak exclusively on abhinaya and Priya Murle, disciple of Guru Sudharani Raghupathy, to speak about nattuvangam. We discussed the topic 'Importance of male dancers today' with young dancer Praveen Kumar from Bangalore, a disciple of Late Guru Narmada and Guru CV Chandrashekar.  

Viji Rao from USA, who performed at Krishna Gana Sabha, came the very next day to the workshop to speak about her production Prayog's theme of dance and mathematics. We also had the privilege to watch dance performances at different venues of Chennai everyday and write reviews of each program. 

We had an exclusive, quality time with experienced senior writer Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan. Her talk not only made us aware of the nuances of writing, but also the spiritual sense of classical forms. Leela Venkataraman and Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan taught us the language of dance writing and the limitations of use of the language to describe traditional words.  

On the whole, we had an unforgettable seven days workshop led by the sweet guidance of Leela Venkataraman, with needful and helpful assistance of Lalitha Venkat. Our grateful thanks to Anita Ratnam, who has been a pillar of support and a great source of inspiration. She is not only a support and inspiration to young dancers but also a super woman, who is making Indian classical dance reach out globally through the web site www.narthaki.com. No wonder Ashish Mohan Khokar mentioned in his 'attendance - the dance annual of India 2000,' that "we need more Anita Ratnams to make Indian dance world a more productive and less petty place." 

Bharatanatyam dancer Chethana Radhakrishna is the director of Gurudev Academy of Fine Arts, Mysore and Mandya