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March 2022


We watched. That is all we did
Watched faces as they came in and out of focus
Watched as the angles of our vision widened
To include even what we would never see
In our lifetimes. This is how we begin

Somewhere in the middle
We lost our way
We thought mazes and labyrinths
And brains folded around themselves
Patterns teased and seduced us
We believed we had all the time in the world

- Excerpt from TWISTING, a poem by SRIDALA SWAMI

Anita Ratnam

We have almost arrived at an important moment!
104 weeks that started with a "trial lockdown" on Sunday March 22, 2020 and will be completed on March 20, 2022.

And now, two whole years later, it is time to take stock of our lives, ourselves and our artistic pathways.

All of us have either suffered the virus - some more than once - and many have lost loved ones.

My own personal loss of my favourite uncle one month ago, came as a rude shock and a wakeup call. Seeing the stream of mourners who came to condole made me realise that no amount of wealth and resources can make up for the way every face had aged, grayed and wrinkled over the past 2 years.

Sprightly friends were walking slower, stooping a little, shuffling too. Some came in wheelchairs and others were missing. The virus had taken their last breath.

The only gleaming, glossy, glamorous objects on display were the new SMART PHONES that everyone was carrying!

Such morbid thoughts may not be the way to start an editorial when Spring is in the air and we are all looking forward to warmer weather and getting out into the "real world". Holiday and destination travel have quadrupled.
Read on...



KALIDAS SAMMAN was conferred by the Cultural Ministry of Madhya Pradesh on February 20, 2022 on Shanta and VP Dhananjayan (Chennai) for 2020-2021 and Sunaina Hazarilal (Mumbai) for 2019-2020 during the Khajuraho Dance Festival.

South Asian Women Network and Allies - SAWNAA Award for South Asian Women in Art Leadership goes to Dr.Priya Srinivasan. She is the co-Artistic Director of Sangam: Performing Arts Platform and Festival of Diaspora which she founded in 2019 as a corrective to the lack of opportunities for artistes of colour in Melbourne.

On 12th March 2022, Shanta Dhananjayan receives STREE RATNA AWARD that honours women achievers for their dedication and contribution in various domains, from the Fine Arts Society at the Sivaswamy Auditorium, Chembur, Mumbai.

WUD (World University of Design) confers CRITICS' CHOICE AWARD on Sharon Lowen on March 5, 2022 at Delhi.

Sarangapani temple, Kumbakonam Photo: Lalitha Venkat
Sarangapani temple, Kumbakonam
Photo: Lalitha Venkat


Odissi Abhinaya
Workshop by Sharon Lowen

March 16/18, 2022

Drishti Art Foundation presents
17th Drishti National Dance Festival

Chowdiah Memorial Hall, 6pm
March 19, 2022, Bangalore

Soorya Foundation Los Angeles - Atlanta presents
Los Angeles Indian Dance Festival 2022

De Toledo High School, 2.30pm
March 26, 2022 West Hills, CA

The beauty of longer, "boring" presentations is fast being replaced by made-to-order, "less-than-a-minute", high-resolution capsules. For one, this has changed the very art forms as they are presented on social media. Secondly, it has led to a surfeit of content that stands the danger of becoming cookie-cutter stuff. But, more significantly, the very purpose of art is now to please people and see how to make the content go viral.
('The big question' by Anil Srinivasan, The Hindu Friday Review - 25 Feb 2022)


Mahagami's searchlight on pedagogical pathways for traditional performing arts within folds of university education
Meticulously planned by the Mahagami Gurukul, a two-day seminar Vidyagama featuring eminent Gurus, experts, mentors and educators, put the searchlight on evolving the right pedagogical paths for imparting training, enabling the teaching and sustaining of traditional performing arts.

Music Academy's digital all Bharatanatyam Annual Festival of Dance
One had no issues with the choice of dancers, though an all Bharatanatyam 15th Annual Festival of Dance in a digital form, even when sponsored by the Music Academy Chennai, makes viewing a taxing experience for even the most committed of dance watchers.


Thanjavur Revisited
Namakkal, Umayalpuram, Karur, Thiruvayyaru, Pudukottai, Oothukadu, Kumbakonam, Papanasam, Nagapattinam and Thanjavur (Tanjore, Thanjai) ... dots on a map but very important ones, full of history and heritage. Not just of Tamil Nadu but India.


of Kalakshetra passed away on the morning of February 3, 2022 in a comfortable home in Chennai. She was 93 years old. She served Kalakshetra as Superintendent of studies, was Secretary to Rukmini Devi and Sankara Menon till she retired. She was a close friend of N.Ram of The Hindu. She had her education in Besant Theosophical High School. After post graduation, she joined Kalakshetra assisting Rukmini Devi and Sankara Menon to build the institution. Her dedicated service to the institution is laudable. Her father was a theosophist, so she lived in the Theosophical Society in Adyar, Chennai, since childhood. She was instrumental in helping publish 3 books on the Kalakshetra stalwarts: 'Nirmalam: The genius of S Sarada,' 'Sankara Menon Purushothaman,' and 'Krishnaveni of Kalakshetra.'
Thanks to Preetha Reddy (of Apollo Hospitals), Sundari Teacher as she is popularly known, had a good and very comfortable old age care in a Home for the last few years. With her demise, another important branch of the Banyan Tree falls.

G. Sundari of Kalakshetra
- VP Dhananjayan

Ati Sundar-i: A personal homage
- Ashish Mohan Khokar

MENAKA BHANUCHANDRA THAKKAR (March 3, 1942 - February 5, 2022) passed away in Toronto after complications from Alzheimer's.
Menaka's life was devoted to dance. Born in Bombay, she started learning at a young age, training in the Indian classical dance styles of Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kuchipudi. Menaka's training in Bharatanatyam began at the age of four with older sister Sudha Thakkar Khandwani in the Kalakshetra style. She then continued advanced training more generally in the Pandanallur style with Guru Nana Kasar. During the tenure of a three-year Fellowship Award by Bharat Sangeet Sabha of Bombay, she studied with Guru Tanjavur Kadhirvelu Pillai; and later, on intensive visits to Madras every year she studied abhinaya with Guru Kalanidhi Narayan and a wide variety of rare works of the Tanjore repertoire with Guru Kitappa Pillai.
Menaka studied classical Odissi, first in Bombay with Guru Ramaniranjan Jena, and then in Cuttack, Orissa with Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. She continued training with him during periodic visits. She studied Kuchipudi initially with Guru C.R. Acharyalu of Ahmedabad, and later with Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam.
She was an established dancer and dance teacher when she moved to Canada in 1972. Soon after arriving in Toronto, she started Nrtyakala Academy of Dance, which would train generations of young Indo-Canadians. Its graduates formed the core of her professional Menaka Thakkar Dance Company. Performing all over Canada, Menaka helped introduce classical Indian dance to the Canadian arts scene. She also choreographed a large number of original works. Many of these productions, often in collaboration with some of Canada's finest dancers, provided opportunities for the cross-pollination of Indian and Western dance.
Menaka's accomplishments were recognized by many honours over the years, including an honorary DLitt from York University, the Canada Council's Walter Carsen Prize, the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for lifetime achievement in dance, and induction in the DCD Dance Hall of Fame.
A cheerful and positive person, her smile said it all. She was inclusive and helpful to visiting Indian artists. She was loved by her students and will be fondly remembered by them and by her dance colleagues.

Siblings helped classical Indian dance flourish in Canada
- Aparita Bhandari
Throughout their lives, siblings Menaka and Rasesh Thakkar lived up to their names.

Koodiyattam and Chakyar Koothu artiste MANI DAMODARA CHAKYAR, a nephew and disciple of legendary guru Mani Madhava Chakyar, passed away in early February 2022 aged 76. He was a member of Mani Madhava Chakyar's troupe that performed Koodiyattam all over India. He was the first Koodiyattam student to receive scholarship from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, New Delhi. Kerala Sangeet Natak Academy awarded him for his contributions to Chakyar Koothu and Koodiyattam (2000). He received the Kerala Kalamandalam V S Sharma Endowment Award for 2007. In 2017, he was honoured with Kalamandalam Award for Koodiyattam.

The nayaka of Koodiyattam
- Sreevalsan Thiyyadi
Mani Damodara Chakyar kept the family legacy alive through his performances.

Born in Kozhikode, Kerala in 1923, dancer and theatre artiste BHANUMATHI RAO, mother of dancer/theatre artiste Maya Krishna Rao, passed away on February 12, 2022 aged 98. Bhanumathi first trained in Kathakali and later in Bharatanatyam. She has performed with Ram Gopal's troupe and Bhaskar Roy Chowdury in the UK and US. Filmmaker RV Ramani has made a documentary on Bhanumathi titled 'Oh That's Bhanu.'

Ahead of her time
- Gayathri Iyer
The evergreen dancer and theatre artiste passed away aged 98.

SANTHA BHASKAR, one of the leading torch bearers of Indian classical dance in Singapore and co-founder of Bhaskar's Arts Academy, passed away on February 26, 2022 in Singapore, aged 82.
She was the chief choreographer and artistic director at Bhaskar's Arts Academy, which was founded by her husband K.P. Bhaskar in 1952 and which she first joined as an instructor. In 1968, she even modelled for and was featured on a Singapore stamp. She was also advisor to Nrityalaya Aesthetics Society. Watching Chinese dance, Malay dance, and other international dance forms influenced her choreography. She was in the midst of directing the events at Stamford Arts Centre for the second evening of Sangeetha Sapthathi, the show celebrating Bhaskar's Arts Academy's 70th anniversary when she was suddenly taken ill and breathed her last in the hospital.
She was awarded the prestigious Cultural Medallion in 1990, the Public Service Star in 2016, the Meritorious Service Medal and inducted into the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame in 2021. Santha received the Natya Rani Award in 1975 by the Singapore Indian Film and Dramatic Society and the Kala Ratna Award by the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Association.

Dance doyenne Santha Bhaskar, 82, was multicultural pioneer
- Ong Sor Fern

Pandit Birju Maharaj
Reflections on the imaginative genius of Pandit Birju Maharaj
- Laurie Eisler
Maharaji is acclaimed for his talents not only as a dancer and teacher, but as a choreographer, vocalist, percussionist, instrumentalist, composer, painter, and poet.

Notes to Myself - Dhananjayans
Notes to Myself is one of MOPA's flagship projects - Episode 1, Season 2

Devaradiyaar in Sadir - The Life and Art of Muthukannammal
This film revolves around the life and art of the Devadasi alias Devaradiyaar, who is still striving to keep her tradition of Sadir dance alive. Viralimalai Muthukannammal's only remnant of the glorious past of the Devadasi art form Sadir.

Maya Angelou's Phenomenal Woman
Sandhya Raju / Modern Kuchipudi / Performance Poetry

Riverdance on Ice
Jason Brown / Free Skate / US / Figure Skating Championships 2014
Brown's exhilarating "Riverdance" free skate went viral in a way few skating programs do, garnering millions of views.

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