Hello November from the crisp air of New York City.
An intense week spent watching so much dance and theatre in my former home town that I have a sensorial overload. Contemporary ballet (Ballet Memphis) exploring many themes including Gospel music; the magical Misty Copeland (the first black prima ballerina with American Ballet Theatre); SANKAI JUKU in contemporary Butoh, modern dance (John Kinzel), Egyptian tombs, Picasso, Philippine Gold treasures (Asia Society), dancers with robots (Wendy Whelan) and brilliant contemporary music ensembles (Macarthur genius grantee Claire Chase). This is what the fabulous NYC offers on a daily basis to its residents and visitors. And, and, and....THIS is the annually perfect personal RESET AND REBOOT button for yours truly.
However, the more interesting encounters have been with dance writers and dance passionistas. Robert Johnson and Elizabeth Zimmer shared their despair about the vanishing space for honest criticism (we have heard this before right?) and the impatience of today's American youth who don't care about dance. Newspaper surveys conducted in the NYC metropolitan area revealed that less than 2% of the readers care about dance. Meanwhile, there are more and more dance studios and rehearsal spaces opening up in the city. Dancers seem to be everywhere, stretching, flexing, moving… and yet… there is less and less money in the NYC area for independent artistes. New York dance audiences, however, are among the most sophisticated in the USA, guarded with their praise and watching with enthusiasm and not awe. Young dancers are eager to watch as much as they can (and can afford) and that is a welcome change from what I see in India. Major theatres have a policy $29 seats for those under 29 years of age. But what about those in their 30s? When tastes mature and bank accounts wither? Many Big Apple dance lovers are asking questions about how they can continue to support dance if the ticket prices soar each year.
No talk of tickets back home in Madras for the most coveted invitation of the year. The much anticipated Zubin Mehta concert, conducting the Australian Symphony Orchestra on their India tour. I have never been more popular as long lost acquaintances and friends called me for an invite. News of the Music Academy Hall being packed with kanjivaram silk saris and swishing pallus - walking sticks and wheelchairs galore! Zubin thrilled Madras and was reportedly delighted to be in the city whose music knowledge he deeply respects.
Audience demographics make for interesting studies. Mehta crowds were older and noticeably the city’s social elite. A marked changed from the youthful electricity at Akram Khan's TOROBAKA tour last month. Having the opportunity to watch the performance in Chennai and Kolkata, I preferred the latter show solely due to the magical presence of B.C. Manjunath! Watching and listening to his impeccable polyrhythms for TOROBAKA was a performance in itself! At times playing unobtrusively in the dark, then stepping into the circular "bull ring" pool of light to dazzle uttering his "konnakkol" pneumonics with the flair and panache of an actor; suddenly breaking into Spanish counting with Uno, Dos, Tres, Quatro, Cinco for Flamenco soloist Israel Galvan - playing mridangam, ghatam, ganjira with aplomb and uttering the Kathak bols for Akram Khan's dizzying spins.. MANJUNATH IS SIMPLY WONDERFUL! Why have Chennai sabhas not featured him more often? What makes this brilliant talent, who has already collaborated with L. Subramaniam, George Maquona and now Akram Khan still relatively unknown to my city? Could it be that he is NOT TAMIL? Could our sabhas still be so parochial with musicians? Dancers will now be making a bee line for his door but may be tripped up with his phenomenal sense of 'laya' and world rhythms..
Jayarama Rao (Kuchipudi): Nov 4
Kishore Mosalikanti (Kuchipudi): Nov 5
Lata Pada (BN): Nov 7
Rajashree Shirke (Kathak): Nov 15
Ileana Citaristi (Odissi): Nov 16
Nandini Ramani (BN): Nov 18
Uma Sharma (Kathak): Nov 20
Melattur S Natarajan (Bhagavatamela): Nov 30
The physical language of the body is so much more powerful than words.
- Bill Irwin
I am a big fan of Narthaki website and I learn many good things about classical dance.
- Sree Sista, USA
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