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Kala Bharati's Fourth Avatara
Natyaangan: Kala Bharati's dance foyer in cyberspace
- Michel Laverdière, Montreal

August 5, 2010

Kala Bharati, Montreal over the last three decades has lived through three avataras. The first was the Kala Bharati dance school which imparted training in traditional Bharata Natya. Through several memorable Ranga Praveshes of its students, and the outstanding performances of members of la Troupe, Kala Bharati was successful in establishing its impressive presence on the dance scene in Montreal and abroad. The second avatara brought to the fore the innovations in group-choreography that established its reputation internationally as a centre of excellence in Bharata Natya. The third avatara was the research and work done by Harbans and Mamata Nakra in making dance child friendly and age appropriate, leading to the path breaking work on dance for children, the highly acclaimed book and DVD Shishu Sadhana by Mamata.

As the work at Kala Bharati and its contribution to the art of Bharata Natya, gained widespread recognition, interest grew for reaching out to others in the dance community, and the efforts began to be directed on how best this could be done. With the growing availability of the new technology of video conferencing and web 2.0, the solution to sharing the Kala Bharati legacy began to emerge. Thus was born Natyaangan: Kala Bharati's dance foyer in cyberspace, heralding the arrival of its fourth avatara.

Since 2008, after initial hiccups, Kala Bharati has been involved in developing the site with an intention to share and continue the rich legacy of Gurus U.S Krishna Rao and Chandrabhaga Devi, of which Kala Bharati is a proud flag bearer. A brainchild of Mamata Niyogi-Nakra, President and Founder of Kala Bharati, Natyaangan will provide online facilities with live video, audio and text messaging for typically up to ten participants and fifty persons as observers, who may also intervene at the discretion of the moderator. More than one room will be made available, typically two or three, concurrently. It will provide for recording of any chosen session and replay parts of it and also provide access to archived resource material. Adequate security will be assured against abusive use of the facilities.

These features will be made available through four chat rooms as described below. It is noteworthy that access to the site is open to the public, free of cost, as observers or browsers. Registration for membership, which is also free of cost, is a requirement to participate in the activities available on the site.

webINAR is designated to host seminars, conferences and colloques, in which participants can listen, intervene or discuss with the panelists or individual speakers on interesting and important subjects related to dance, particularly Bharata Natya.

webCAST is the venue where workshops, instructions, master classes, lecture-demonstrations etc. in Bharata Natya will be conducted using video streaming, white board and other available tools.

webPOST is the blogosphere where members can keep each other posted about their latest news and views.

webCHAT is the log-in centre where one could have an unplanned chat or meeting for spontaneous exchanges.

To keep Natyaangan users meaningfully engaged, informed and entertained, Kala Bharati has undertaken to produce interactive cultural content under four categories: Dance matters, The Young matters, Wellness matters and Grey matters.

(1). Under "DANCE MATTERS" Natyaangan addresses mainly the needs of dancers, dance students and scholars. The focus in this group is the dance community. Through the use of videos and telecasting, many of the activities will be designed to help train students interested in learning Indian dance as well as learning about Indian dance for comparative study or just to explore possibilities in collaboration. The live interactive panel discussions, forums, seminars etc. will enable the dance community along with others interested to obtain information and expert advice.

Mamata Niyogi-Nakra, well known for her contribution to Indian dance and in particular Bharata Natya, is going to lead the team in DANCE MATTERS for development and production of interactive cultural content. She will be using her long and multi-dimensional experience of teaching, choreographing and scholarship, to come up with interesting and meaningful applications.

Mamata has been able to garner collaboration with some dance persons, notably two Montreal based artists, Vincent Warren and Marie Brodeur. Vincent Warren, a name to be reckoned with in Canadian and international dance scenes, is contributing to a ten-part series entitled "Crafting the Art of Dance: Two Voices" in which he is in discussion with Mamata Niyogi-Nakra, she on Bharata Natya and he on ballet.

Marie Brodeur, a film maker, who has several dance films to her credit including the award winning “Dance of the Warrior" and "Danser à tous prix", has offered to film the ten- part series. She is also presently working on a film based on the creative process of Mamata Niyogi-Nakra's choreography of "Aanchal", a piece in memory of Mamata's mother. It is therefore likely that a lot of the audio visual material used as content in this section will be based on this collaboration between Marie and Mamata.

(2). The activities in "THE YOUNG MATTERS" target children of all ages. Dance and the Child is an area in which Kala Bharati has done remarkable work for which it is well recognized. A strong advocate of age appropriate material for teaching dance to students below the age of 14 years, Kala Bharati is acknowledged as a pioneer in producing dance teaching material, carrying out research and studies in dance pedagogy and initiating approaches to making dance child friendly. Natyaanagan offers the possibility of using the interactive content from our site as teaching material in a real class room setting as well as in a virtual one. These activities target all children, not only schools in Montreal but throughout Canada.

Sylvi Belleau of Théâtre de la Source, is the coordinator of this group. She uses Indian dance Kathakali, for story telling in her presentations to Montreal school children and in her highly acclaimed productions for children. Based on her varied work with children she will help develop interactive activities, some of which will be in the form of quizzes and games. Once these activities are available on the Natyaangan site, the children who attend her presentations at schools can have follow up activities.

Sylvi will be assisted by Elias Vidaurre, a trained contemporary dancer originally from Chili, who is presently learning Bharata Natya from Mamata Niyogi-Nakra at Kala Bharati. He will develop some applications using animal movements targeted for groups of children of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district in Montreal, which will be made available to children visiting Natyaangan.

(3).The section "WELLNESS MATTERS" will target persons who find dance a way to keep fit and well. Material based on mind-body movements, will generate activities for the Wellness matters group, by which those seeking dance therapy can benefit.

Kyra Lober of Body, Being & Heart, has worked extensively in the field of somatic dance movement. Trained as a dancer she has produced material to help her clients, based on her research and studies with master teachers in the field of Dance Therapy. She regularly gives workshops and lec-dems at various centres of North America. She plans to develop more applications for use on the Natyaangan website to help people heal and maintain well being.

(4). "GREY MATTERS" concerns people of a certain age, who will be kept informed and engaged in an interactive mode. Many, after retirement, take particular interest in things and events related to their culture, particularly if they have been uprooted. Through the blogs and chats this group can stay updated and informed. Grey Matters is not only for the seniors but all adult users who are interested in Indo-Canadian culture.

Michel Laverdière has taken on the responsibility of developing material for this section. A firm believer in the power of the internet, Michel has created an online community for a chat room and since the nineteen nineties, he has been taking active part in a few chat rooms. S. Sundararajan, who is an avid rasika of music and dance and B.S. Rao, Vice-President of Kala Bharati, another senior, will be advising and helping Michel by sharing their expertise and material collections.

Serge Cloutier of in Montreal has been working on the development of the site in close collaboration with a Kala Bharati team since 2008. The overall responsibility for the Natyaangan site will be with the Kala Bharati Board of Directors, represented by the Secretary Harbans Nakra. Other members of the team, L'équipe Natyaangan, are Jitendra Desai and Kanwal Sharma as Manager and Supervisor of the project respectively, with IT specialists Rokaya Mahgoub and Prasenjit Niyogi helping out with the different facets of the project so that the development is in keeping with the expected result.

Kala Bharati has been inspired by the declaration of UNESCO of 2010 as the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures and we hope Kala Bharati's fourth Avatara will be yet another successful and satisfying manifestation of its slogan Par la Danse Rapprochement et Ouverture.

Michel Laverdière of Octave Musique, is a well known presence in the cultural scene of Quebec. He has been associated with Kala Bharati since its inception. An outstanding music producer, Michel has played an important role as the Stage Manager of all the Kala Bharati productions. He has also contributed in various capacities to the growth and development of Kala Bharati for three decades.