Bengaluru dances to varied tunes
- G Ulaganathan, Bangalore
Pics: Shrihari Vemprala

May 30, 2012

All roads in Bengaluru led to Alliance Francaise in Vasanth Nagar on April 29, the World Dance Day. For the first time perhaps in recent history, Bangaloreans got to celebrate dance as never before, thanks to the efforts of Ashish Mohan Khokar, dance historian, critic and editor/publisher of the annual publication Attendance. Ashish has been organizing the dance discourse at the Alliance Francaise every month and offers a forum for dance gurus, dancers and critics to interact and witness the developments in the dance scenario in Karnataka. This is a much awaited event in the monthly calendar of AF, Bengaluru, whose president, the former Additional Chief Secretary Mr. Chiranjeev Singh has been a great support along with the director of the AF.

This year, Ashish and his team  (the 3ms! Madhulita Mohapatra, Murali Kalva and Madhu Nataraj) had planned a day long event which comprised of a panel discussion on ‘Dance Matters’ followed by performances by dancers representing various styles - both classical, non classical and contemporary styles of Indian dance. The day long festival provided a platform for more than 100 dancers in various age groups and their gurus to showcase their talent.

The event began with an impressive welcome ceremony at the foyer with a mélange of performances including a vigorous contemporary act by the Bangalore based Nritarutya group. Then came the most emotional moment for dance watchers like me - the inauguration of the exhibition - The Mohan Khokar Dance Collection. Though only a miniscule percentage of the total collection of Ashish’s father, the much respected Prof. Mohan Khokar, the exhibition took us back in time when dance was celebrated all over and it included posters, photographs, paper clippings, banners, masks, drawings, paintings, etchings, etc - the single largest dance treasure in the country today. The hall wherein the exhibition was organized was full of dancers, admirers, curious onlookers who were for the first time in their life experiencing anything like that. For some of us associated with Prof. Mohan Khokar and who knew his passion for dance, it was truly a moment to cherish and we could feel his all pervading presence. It was for the first time Bangalore has been witnessing these exhibits though it has travelled around a few countries earlier, courtesy the ICCR.
The day’s events started with the panel discussion and Guru Maya Rao inaugurated with a heart-felt impromptu speech, followed by Guru Lalitha Srinivasan who narrated her experiences as a guru, dancer and teacher.  The other gurus who also shared their thoughts included Sridhar-Anuradha, Vasundhara Doraiswamy from Mysore and Padmaja Suresh. Mayuri Upadhya, Poornima Gururaj, Murali Mohan, Vani Ganapathy and Praveen Kumar represented the younger generation. While the gurus spoke about the constantly evolving dance styles, the dancers gave their point of view on performing before a varied audience. I was the lone media representative and explained how as a dance critic one has to do a tightrope walking while reviewing a performance as very few dancers can take criticism in the right spirit. Ashish too chipped in with his experience as a critic.

After that it was time for the dancing feet to take over. Knowing fully well that the dancers would exceed the time allotted to them, Ashish had planned out a strict time schedule and it was heartening to see the dancers fully cooperating, for a change. Padmini Ravi, the well-known Bharatanatyam dancer from Bangalore, began the proceedings with short numbers to songs from Tamil movies like Thillana Mohanambal (Maraindirundhu parkum...). A Kuchipudi performance by Payal Ramchandani from Delhi, a Bharatanatyam recital by Guru Bhanumathi’s disciples Archana and Chetna, the colourful Manipuri by Angabala, Kathak by Hari and Chetna, a modern dance by Arch Ensemble, Veena Murthy Vijay’s students performing Chitra Nrutya were part of the morning programs. One of the interesting sights was the enthusiasm shown by little girls (above six years of age) and by seniors, gurus in their 50s and 60s. The forum was open to all age groups and all styles of dance.

Payal Ramchandani

The afternoon session was for the mid level dancers and performers. They included Geethalakshmi’s disciple Kavya Shanmugham (Bharatanatyam), Kaustavi Sarkar from Kolkata (Odissi), Nrithya Pillai (whose grandmother is the daughter of Natarajasundaram Pillai, brother of Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai), Samana Gururaja, disciple of Praveen Kumar, Shishira Shastry (all Bharatanatyam), Probal Gupta (Kathakali stree vesham). Lalitha Srinivasan’s disciple Manasa Rao (Bharatanatyam), Vyjayanthi Kashi’s disciple Gururaju (Kuchipudi), a lively Odissi recital by Madhulita Mohapatra and her students who showcased their talents.

Kaustavi Sarkar
Manasa Rao

In the evening, the seniors took over beginning with the Bangaloreans Anuradha Vikranth and Shama Krishna who presented a wonderful Bharatanatyam-Kuchipudi jugalbandhi. This was followed by a Kathak and contemporary performance by NATYA Stem Dance Kampni and the Chennai based Bharatanatyam dancer Shanmughasundaram. Vyjayanthi Kashi’s Kuchipudi solo and Nritarutya’s contemporary performances drew a full house. It was the only group to get a standing ovation.

Shridhar and Anuradha who took the stage next gave a spellbinding performance by enacting a few scenes from Mahabharata. What was most notable in their performance was the use of Sanskrit verses. After Vasundhara Doraiswamy’s yogic Bharatanatyam recital, it was the turn of Vani Ganapathy to take the stage and come up with pure vintage stuff not seen often these days. There could not have been a more attractive and worthy performer to conclude the day’s events. The program went beyond 10pm and the house was still going full with audience spilling over to the foyer.

Alliance Francaise has perhaps never seen a show like this before and the director as well as the support staff stood up to the challenge and provided the right platform to the budding as well as established dancers. As Mr. Chiranjeev Singh said earlier, the World Dance Day had its origin in France and it was quite apt that Ashish joined hands with Alliance Francaise in Bengaluru to host this memorable event.

One thing is for sure. The World Dance Day (April 29) is not just going to be a day in Bangalore henceforth. With the involvement of all the dancers and dance lovers, there are plans to take it to a bigger level and make it a day to look forward to by the Bangaloreans.

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Guru Maya Rao
Chetana and group
Madhulita Mohapatra and Anjali
Samana Gururaja

Young dancers who participated
Padmini Ravi

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Jyotsna Jagannathan
Probal Gupta

Parshvanath Upadhye
Manasa Joshi
Deepa Shashindran
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Aviji Das
Chitkala Tunga
Hoskere sisters