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Nirikshana - 39th Natya Kala Conference: Day 3
- Prof Dr Parul Shah

December 29, 2019

On dot 8am, Rama Vaidyanathan started the announcement welcoming all on the third day of the Natya Kala Conference. The hall was overflowing and the organisers had arranged a screen outside. This timely starting of a performance is just unbelievable for many venues and in many cities. Maybe the registered participants who have come from near and far can inculcate locally this style. Dr Narthaki Nataraj did not even waste a single minute in announcements, as she was sure the dance crowd will follow easily the raga, tala and lyrical details of her presentations. She was part of the "Solo showcasing of ageless tradition of lineage of Kittappa Pillai." Beginning with the shloka, her performance of Mohamana varnam, Ivar yaro padam and javali were mind boggling! Such freedom of expression I think came with strength of belief and conviction. We saw two facets of Guru Kittappa Pillai lineage in these two days.

Narthaki Nataraj

Uma Nambudripad Sathya Narayanan and Lakshmi Parthasarathy Athreya had conducted about 6 months intense research to give an insight to the Shramavidhi, that is the Adavu codification of Sangita Saramruta of King Tulaja. Detailing Adavus, Bhramaris and Mandalas with explanations and enactment will be very useful to all. They often pointed out that there was a lot of freedom for interpretation in the shlokas. Rajika Puri came from New York. Her presentation of 'Bharatanatyam Then and Now' traced the change in the content and performance and took the audiences with her. The film showing of dance of Devadasis at Baroda court was a highlight. She showed both sides, then and now through examples of Balasaraswati, Shanta Rao and some special films. For her and I think for all of us, the traditions are alive and change is inherent.

Dominique Delorme

Dominique Delorme may be French by birth but his soul is definitely Indian. He learnt Karanas from Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam for a long number of years. All his three Karana based presentations had a special evocative quality. The first one with slow motion, almost like Noh walk, the moonlight and the Whirling Dervishes all wove Karanas beautifully with haunting music. Guru-Cool a discussion on emerging trends in new age training was moderated by Aravinth Kumaraswamy and some of the well known names in the field of dance teaching were the panellists. All of them were in total agreement as to the teaching under the guru-shishya parampara as the base to dance teaching at all times. Urmila Sathyanarayanan has started giving classes through Skype as she has long distance students. Priyadarsini Govind says she does not have a large teaching institution. She believes that younger generation is hungry for knowledge. She made videos which will satisfy this need as well as provide footage for posterity. She is very happy for the production of Kalanidhi Narayanan video series. She is positive regarding teaching through the workshops and feels there is no conflict of interest, it broadens horizon and creates constant learning process. Bragha Bessell explained her process of teaching which she follows from her Guru Kalanidhi Maami. Jai Govinda from Canada tries to take his students through self experience by giving examples of things familiar and important to them. He joked that in the panel, there were all female teachers and he one Caucasian! Sreelatha Vinod emphasised that it is not enough for a student just to get trained for performances but also must have knowledge of theory, music, literature and such. Through their institute "Prayatnam" they are trying to create such holistic education. For Indira Kadambi, who really conducts a Gurukula at her home, workshops are important and making use of technological knowledge keeps the continuous interaction process with the students.

The final of the third day was Nokkam by Leela Samson and Spanda Dance Company as the trend setting ensemble work. River of Time and Tillana (Pranavkara) introduced contemporary sensibility in the thought process. Intensively technical but looking like effortless dancing, scintillating group formations and great creative music were the benchmarks. To me the Chhota Khayal sung by Shubha Mudgal on Pt. Kumar Gandharva's music and the most intense but gentle movements of dance evoked such soothing feelings. It was like the water to the lily! What an abhinaya experience. And in the end, Leela Samson's group had no gender bias as all dancers' basic hand position was the same!

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.

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