Nirikshana - 39th Natya Kala Conference: Day 2
- Prof Dr Parul Shah
Photos: Vinay Tiwari
December 27, 2019
The first day schedule of the conference was changed to appease and accommodate the Sun god and moved to the afternoon. But 8am in the morning enthusiastic artists of the dance world thronged the Krishna Gana Sabha for the beginning of the 2nd day of the 39th Natya Kala Conference, curated by Rama Vaidyanathan with creative collaboration from Alap. Today was the day for Water and one could feel the waves of water with hues and colours ranging from foamy white to deep sea blue and pink water lily floating. For me, today’s prize goes to none other than Rama Vaidyanathan with her aesthetically and specially draped sea green shimmering saree and pearl colour blouse!
We did miss the first presentation of the outstanding artiste Dr. Sridhar Vasudevan showcasing the ageless traditions. His opportunity to learn under none other than Dr Vyjayantimala Bali as his guru allowed him to present Melaprapti, Todaya Mangalam and such gems, first time ever to be presented in Chennai by him. What inheritance!
ALARIPPU ADVENTURES made everyone in the audience sit on the edge of their seats. What strength of technique, brilliant like lightning, height of imagination still keeping the form and structure of Alarippu, subtle, light, playful and most of all enjoyable to the Sadhaka and the Rasikas! All of them, Christopher Guruswamy’s energetic Garuda Alarippu, Harinie Jeevitha’s Nritta Keli, the kaleidoscopical Chatushra Alarippu of the Quartet, all showed the balance of perfect guidance, freedom of artistic creativity and definite strength of the young minds. Congratulations to the composer and guide Ramamoorthy Sriganesh.
The next was a scholarly presentation by Dr. Arshiya Shethi on Cultural Graft(ing): An early history of Indian Dance in USA. This solid academic work is part of her Fulbright Fellowship. It is another level of Nirikshana, introspection. Her work looks at the early migrations, slave trading, coming of the first group of 5 Nautch girls who were nameless, faceless and treated more or less as labourers. The early pioneers of Modern dance were impressed by “Oriental Mysticism.” Ruth St Denis created Incense, Cobra, Yogi, Radha…But the main focus of Dr. Arshiya’s work I think addressed the “Appropriation.”
The journey of Savitha Sastry and A K Shrikant on the ‘Paths less traversed’ showed some interesting creative works with group and sexual abuse. The audiences were eagerly waiting for the next segment, round of hot debate: Arangetram - A Boon or a Bane. Moderated by Chitra Visweswaran, the participants included seasoned gurus. Rathna Kumar, in support argued that it is an important step in the dancer’ life, allows concentration and vigorous practice, close proximity between the Guru and the Shishya and definitely gives an edge during the University admissions in the USA. Deepak Mazumdar believes that you can have only one guru, to maintain the spirit of devotion. Dr. Saroja Vaidyanathan explained the relevance and need of Arangetram. Coming from Kalakshetra and its ethos, Leela Samson had definite strong views against doing Arangetram. She said through dance teaching, we hand over an important part of our heritage, beyond normal value system. Sheela Unnikrishnan believes in not giving extra financial burden to the students for the Arangetrams. For Meenakshi Chittaranjan, the word itself is an oxymoron with Boon being Painful and Bane being a Pleasure. Padmaja Suresh said each one has the right to knowledge and there is difference between the Guru and Acharya. With very little time on hand, the sparks did not fly and the debate was kind of cool.
As part of the Torch Lights and trend setting ensemble work, Sucheta Bhide Chapekar and group presented a few select pieces from Tanjavur Nrutya Prabandha. It was indeed a great experience watching Tai perform with ease and involvement, the subtle abhinaya and nritta sequences of the Sarfoji items. “Pahile Krishna” by her daughter Arundhati Patwardhan and the tillana in group with recreating Guru Kitappa Pillai’s choreography must be a great challenge. It was nostalgic for me to remember how starting from 1972, we danced the whole Margam in Gujarati in group all over, composed and created by Kalakshetra alumni and my guru late Anjali Merh ni Hora.
Prof Dr Parul Shah is Former Head and Dean, Faculty of Performing Arts, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Principal Investigator, E Pathashala and MOOCs, SWAYAM, MHRD-UGC-CEC.