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March 1, 2011

Back home after a month of travels makes for an exhausted and grateful woman. My mindscreen rewinds the past weeks in a blur of green rooms, new streets, new faces, old friends, same makeup, new mirrors, new chairs, new lights in new spaces, new colours (mostly black with the metro western monotone) and the same dancing body sharing the vulnerability and power of movement arts.

After two days of oil massages and some good sleep to rejuvenate and feel almost whole again, I can look back at February and declare that the multitasking of single parenting and performing were both successful. From enjoying my son's first award for his student film in New York City to the laughter of old and new dance friends in a London restaurant after the showing of HER AND BLISS, there is much to smile about.

London is a delight… a city that offers much even in its grey and rotten weatherscape. The dance lovers who are used to seeing strong dancing were more interested and engaged with ANDAL and TARA than with the new abstract work on SITA that was developed by Hari Krishnan and myself this past winter. Always trying to discover the new in the old, my Neo Bharatam aesthetic navigates nritta and abhinaya while carefully abstracting and retelling dance in a non linear way. The post performance questioning moderated by the brilliant Morag Deyes of Dancespace, Scotland, reminded me of the maturity of the British audiences and South Asian dancers in the UK and their lesser exposure to abhinaya that is "less mannered" than the classical norm (the comment was made by Shobana Jeyasingh in conversation after the performance). While most found it refreshing and more universal, some others found it less grounded in the old world resonance of the female characters I used as inspirational springboards.

As always, the costume designs of Rex and Sandhya helped cross illuminate the dancing with its stylish minimalism. Putting the entire evening together was the indefatigable dancer Anusha Subrahmanyam of BEEJA DANCE in London who convinced me to perform at Asia House last year when the Volcano E 15 blew up in Iceland, paralyzed all air traffic and forced a whole year of delay. Anusha and her team of dedicated dancers worked tirelessly to communicate and organize the evening including running lights and sound for the show.

ALCHEMY, the annual South Asia festival is scheduled for April in London's South Bank and the fabulous MAXIMUM INDIA kicks off from March 1 in Washington DC. From Chennai we have Mandolin U Srinivas, Bharatanatyam divas Malavika, Valli and Priyadarsini as well as a host of actors, gymnasts, singers, drummers, DJs, folk musicians, Kathakali artistes and yes...Bollywood groups. It is time to put all our doubts aside and wish all our artistes the very best for the biggest festival of India held in the West for over a decade.

With so many artistes being sent on the government's purse, it would have been wise to send some writers and cultural observers to send reports to our dailies. In the US, except for opening night, there will hardly be any local reporting about the festival in the papers. What a waste of such talent and nobody to send us blogs or photos. This is an open call to anyone who is in DC for the festival. If you have something to share about a particular performance, please send it to us at narthakionline@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, enjoy yourselves and welcome Spring, Sivaratri, and all the energies that the earth unleashes during this special time of solstice.

Dr. Anita R Ratnam
Chennai