It's a stage, an arena, a crucible, a cauldron, a theatre, a temple..."
Words in a documentary describing Wimbledon's Centre Court.
As I spend most of my precious free time watching my favourite sport, memories of a recent holiday in Greece cling to me. For years – no, five decades - I have longed to visit. Raised on the twin mythologies of India and Greece by my grandmother who would tell these fabulous bedtime stories of the Gods and Goddesses, the soaring pillars of the Parthenon, the magical acoustics of the Acropolis and the glistening waters of the islands were never far from my mind. When a dance conference beckoned, I answered. Although ticket booking snafus ensured that I was only able to attend the event for a few hours, the country seemed like a coming home for my spirit. Everything about Greece seemed familiar. The chaos of Athens, the view of the Acropolis from almost every hotel restaurant in the city, the abandoned theatres of Dionysus, the splendour of history and battle speaking through the vast ruins and magnificent museums, the creativity of design in textile and jewellery, the amazing food (oh that yogurt with honey, olive oil, black salt and fresh bread!), the smile of the Greek people, their pride holding amidst the crumbling economy and grim future - it all seemed so familiar and comfortable. I conducted a parallel narrative to the tour guide's description of the heroics and follies of the male Gods with our own stories of antics and mishaps from Indian lore. My family was repeatedly embarrassed with my continued enthusiasm and poked fun with my impromptu singing inside the Acropolis and dancing in the vast theatre at Delphi. It was MY moment. Unapologetic. Unforgettable. I am returning.
My only disappointment was that not a single handsome Greek man appeared before me. Except for marble statues of Zeus, Poseidon and Hercules in their six-pack nude splendour, all I saw were tired, listless, pot bellied Greeks. Perhaps the good ones were all away attending the HOT BOD GREEK GOD CONFERENCE!
However, the reason for my visit was the dance conference conducted jointly by CORD and SDHS. As expected, the presentations were uneven in content and quality. Most noticeable for those of us from India and the USA was the problematic approach of Indian scholars from the UK. A film showing a classical dancer walking on Kolkata's Howrah Bridge with the voice-over asking, "Look at me!", "Are you looking at me?" threw up dated questions of "the gaze" and a recurring skewed optic. Why is the bedecked Indian dancer continuing to be the site of such 20th century negotiations and that too, by budding South Asian scholars? Is there a chasm dividing dance and performance scholarship in UK universities like Roehampton and the US universities? Why are some points poorly argued? Is there less rigour in mentoring and shepherding students? These were the post presentation arguments that many had.
Collage presents Anita Ratnam in A MILLION SITAS (excerpts)
July 9, 2015
Mayadhar Raut (Odissi): July 6
Narthaki Nataraj (BN): July 6
Kalamandalam Venkitt (Kathakali): July 7
Lynne Fernandez: July 10
O.S. Arun (vocalist): July 12
Astad Deboo (modern): July 13
Yog Sunder (Kathakali & Manipuri): July 16
D Keshava (BN): July 18
Sharon Lowen (Odissi): July 23
Sunayana Hazarilal (Kathak): July 28
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- Elbert Hubbard
Narthaki has such a good readership and contributes to the strength of audiences/students as well.
- Dr. Padmaja Suresh, Bharatanatyam dancer, Bangalore
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