Dance Jathre 2009 
- Ashish Mohan Khokar, Bangalore  
Photos: Arvind Shenoy 

December 28, 2009 

Vyjayanthi Kashi, the dusky beauty of Kuchipudi, her handsome husband Vijay and charming daughter Prateeksha, were the trio that teamed up with several scores of volunteers to bring to dance-interested Bangaloreans, a two-day feast of dance delight in the form of many workshops, dance competitions and evening dance performances, by a wide variety of visitors and stars of the form.  
Freedom Park, Banglore's best outdoor venue for all kinds of activity; first time Kashi has used for dance
The dancers' wall
Kashi went a step further and changed last year’s limiting venue of Chitra Kala Parishad, to Bangalore’s best outdoor facilities called Freedom Park (former Central Jail), the bright colours and expanse of which were pleasing to all and the open spaces, excellently created by the architects Ghoshs, provided a perfect setting in perfect weather for a near-perfect dance festival. 

Kashi is a multi-tasker. She also does all this with a smile. Pleasant, poised and pleasingly inclusive, she did all she could to make the two-day festival, memorable. Though the stalls were fewer and not many local dancers made use of the opportunity, still the idea, in its second year now, is great. Where else in India can you see a stall for a nutritionist selling ideas for healthy bodies for dancers and next to it are costumes from Gujarat done by Tripti Bhupen (Guru Rajamani of Udaipur’s student)? Some stalls selling journals and paintings also looked colourful, while more would help, certainly. 

The two days were choc-a-full with activities from ten am to ten pm! There were 8 workshops each day by visiting artistes and the first day kicked off with legendary Kelubabu’s son Ratikant’s workshop and show. Ratikant babu did one item – Jatayu Moksha, but in that epic piece from the Ramayana, when Jatayu intercedes with Ravana to get Sita released from his clutches, but in doing so has his wings clipped and dies in Rama’s arms but not before telling Rama who has abducted his wife Sita, Ratikant  showed he is truly Kelubabu’s son, artistically. Perhaps, no other student of Kelubabu has absorbed or imbibed the dance ability for exceptional, even if lokadharmi abhinaya, as Ratikant has. His generous frame may not be an inspiration for size-zero dancers but his lightness of being, and foot; his quick-silver expressions and his exceptional sense of timing, proved why genes help. Ratikant babu can emerge as the best male dancer of the form in India, were he to control his frame, although like Bala amma, (or many a heavily set dancer like Swapnasundari today), the size of body was no limitation to depth of art. Ratikant was simply the outstanding dancer and delight of not only the festival but the season. 

Ratikant Mohapatra in Jatayu Moksha, the highlight of the fest
Sandhya Purecha and group
Next, an over-stated, self-praiseful Dr. Sandhya Purecha and team, took to the stage. Sandhya is a dance theorist at best and perhaps that is more suited to her. Her students seem to have a filmy attitude, approach and mannerisms, because in typical film fashion, they kept announcing, “Weren’t we great?!”; “That item was simply marvelous!” They talked down to the audiences, like it was some school level dance competition. Taking coals to Newcastle (bringing Bharatanatyam to Bangalore) and forcing the audience, nay, scolding them not to take videos of their great art - copyrighted no less – meant, even Bharatamuni would have to take their permission for using his/their own Natyashastra! A fellow critic joked: What’s there to copy?! What’s new about bramharis, charis and gati? The items were flimsy, filmy and downright frugal in content. The moot point is: Why use a classical form, when your overall appeal is to look contemporary? Why have fig leaf of Bharatanatyam for excuse and attires? Sandhya Purecha was the weakest dancer/group in the two day festival.  

Arunima Gupta from Hyderabad was the Barbie-doll component of the festival, appealing to teenagers with fairy, fluffy, bridal whites and attempts at some dancing. Dancers coming to this festival ought to be careful what they bring because reputations are hard to build and easy to lose. The two boys and the girl, who joined later in the proceedings tried hard to impress. Arunima is an acolyte of Manjushri Chaki and Ranjabati Sircar, both no more. The theme was good but its execution far too long. Dancers need editors. They don’t know when to stop and how much the audiences can take. Especially when lights went out due to overload, while the audiences politely clapped hinting thank you, we have seen enough, Arunima did not take the hint and when the lights came back, carried on.  

Arunima Gupta
Chintaka Bandara
The Kandyan drummer-dancer Chintaka Bandara and Devika Rao from UK showcased their prowess and both coalesced into a fine mesh. While he did not have much variation and his art shows he is more a teacher than a dancer, Devika delighted with her perfect control and fine abhinaya in her rendition. Both ended the day on a high note. All through, Vyjayanthi Kashi and team worked tirelessly and artistically conducted the day, showing no signs of fatigue. They presented each artiste with fine tussar angavastrams, embroidered elegantly with the festival logo - Dance Jathre - tastefully. 

Day two started with Arunima’s workshop after which Vyjayanthi Kashi conducted a Kuchipudi workshop which had many a people participating. Bangalore being the most cosmo city of India today, IT geeks, biocon folks, ordinary people – all assembled to move a leg and learnt basics of each form. Ashim Bandhu from Kolkata also interested them in basic Kathak while all this cut into the last speaker’s Prakriti Bhaskar’s time for presenting Mathematics in Dance, a paper with live demo that showcased how rhythmic units, adavus and all aspects of a classical dance like Bharatanatyam consists of maths. Her personality is warm and gentle and the monograph brought out on her guru is tasteful and aesthetic. 

Kuchipudi workshop by Vyjayanthi Kashi
Kathak workshop by Ashim Bandhu
Odissi workshop by Ratikant Mohapatra
Canada based dancer Lata Pada hosted a grand lunch which got nearly most of Bangalore dance fraternity out at a central hotel. It was nice to see nearly all dancers and many gurus - Maya Rao, Lalitha Srinivasan, Radha Sridhar, Pulakesi, and younger lot of dancers Satya, Madhu, Nandini, Anuradha Vikranth, BP Sweekruth, Praveen Kumar, among the lunching lot. NRIs Lata Pada and hubby Harish played perfect hosts and senior dancers Padmaja Suresh, Malathi Iyengar, inspirational role-model woman and dancer who lost her husband in  Kashmir “war”, Subhashini Vasanth, with smiling kids in tow, all enjoyed an afternoon of catching up. Bangalore’s climate and genial people make even the dancers less nasty and a lot nicer to each other! All assembled to have a nice afternoon.  

The day-two evening at Kashi Yatra (that’s what Dance Jathre is!) saw the exuberant folk dancers of Tripti Bhupen doing fine folk dances from Gujarat. They were spirited and involved.  Kandyan dancer Chintaka duplicated as drummer as an opening offering followed by Sunanda Nair’s wholesome Mohinittam. It is amazing how much like her guru - Dr. Kanak Rele - she now looks on stage! Her dance has perfection of positions; a neat execution of stances and perfect Mohiniattam glances. The entire group proved to be a winsome addition. 

Tripti Bhupen's exuberant folk dancers from Gujarat
Vyjayanthi Kashi
Vyjayanthi Kashi next, with her group  of well-trained dancers (except an over-enthu and ever-smiling foreigner, whose basic positions are faulty) showcased the universe and panchabhutam, bringing the stars from the sky, to earth. As it is, the setting was so heavenly; out in the open, with a crescent moon and stars sprinkled across the sky, her dance had an inner joy that can come only when one is truly involved. Fire, water, air, earth merged beautifully by use of appropriate coloured chunnis and Kashi had created a fulsome offering. Group works work better for such open air stages as it means more students and dancers get a chance to show their dance. Kashi is not only an able organizer but a good guru and dancer. Need more be said? 

Vasundhara Doraiswami, Karnataka’s senior-most active Bharatanatyam dancer now, and its best yoga-dance rep now, showed beauty of form in her group work which was an ode to the sun. Having also trained in Yoga under no less than Pattabhi Jois, Vasundhara has worked hard to create this exceptional piece. All her students were well trained and each sequence won claps from the audiences. Unfolding like a majestic flower of an orange sun, the hues of her choreography were detailed and had depth. The sun chariot rolling was an exceptional piece, as was the whole production.  Vasundhara is a deep artiste. 

Vasundhara Doraiswami and group 
Ashim Bandhu and troupe
The festival concluded with Kathak of Ram Gopal Mishra variety by Ashim Bandhu and troupe. All rather round, they acquitted well and showed good foundation and grounding, although classical dance being the art of suggestivity, there was little need to have silly props (swords, paper, lamp). In chamber theatre, an intimate ambience can be created but in the open, vast stage, it is lost. 

The two day Dance Jathre was a handsome feast and Kashi & Co stand feted for it. Congrats! 

Reputed critic-scholar-historian-editor, Ashish Mohan Khokar takes time off from travels and writing books, to pen special events which he attends