World Dance Day at Bangalore
Photos: Ravi Shankar

May 8, 2013

On World Dance Day (April 29), several dancers took to stage in different cities. In Bangalore, on its eve, to use full day holiday on a Sunday, Alliance Francaise (AF) became the centre point for over 108 dancers who danced nonstop from 10am-10pm. To get audiences in large numbers on any day is a challenge, but to get them in halls to dance at 10am and attend a full day is unique. Habitart and Karnataka SNA supported the event.

The process was set in place by Ashish Khokar, reputed critic, editor- attendance and Chairman of Dance History Society (DHS), who with two other panel members, auditioned and curated the whole event. Anuradha Narayan, the cultural head of AF, announced, “We maintain German punctuality, French attitude and Indian content!” Three arenas were used: an outdoor inaugural ceremony was performed by over 30 child dancers of  the city belonging to four principal styles: Bharatanatyam by Venkatesh Natya Mandir of Guru Radha Shridhar; Odissi by students of Nrityantar of Madhulita Mohapatra ; Kathak by Nadam of Muralimohan Kalva and Nandini Mehta and Kuchipudi by Shivanjali, under Dr Sanjay Shantaram’s baton. All were a delight.  Gurus Maya Rao, Vani Ganapathy, Radha Shridhar and Vyjayanthi Kashi lit the inaugural lamp, amidst leaves, ferns and trees that Bangalore abounds in.
The veteran critic Shanta Serbjeet Singh, Vice Chairman of Sangeet Natak Akademi and Chairman of Kathak Kendra had come especially after 7 years from Delhi to Bangalore, to see this assembly and line-up of Bangalore talents, who were joined by one talent each from Mumbai (Subhashini Giridhar); Odisha (Bishwabhushan), Kolkata (Samir Paul), Hyderabad   (Kiranmayee) and Chennai (Kavitha Ramu). Many diplomats and expats, including the French Consul General and the Japanese Consul were in attendance.

The outdoor inaugural ceremony over, all signed the massive Wall of Fame, which was a banner kept blank for signage. Three generations of dancers, gurus, teachers, parents and dancers from 8-80 were present. All moved indoors after witnessing snippets of history displayed through frames from the Mohan Khokar Dance Collection in the foyer, where all participants had also put up their publicity materials. Once inside the hall, the film compiled from Khokar Archives was shown. It was a feast for buffs of dance history. From Tanjore Nautch dancers circa 1890 to modern dancers of today, press clippings from 1920s to 2010s of the Khokar Archives, photos, rare materials, film within films, Ted Shawn, Uday Shankar, Ram Gopal, Shambhu Maharaj, Sitara Devi, Chandralekha, Yamini Krishnamurti, Sonal Mansingh, and current crop of dancers, all were part of this tightly knit 20 minute offering made by Ashish Khokar.

Veteran Kathak guru Dr. Maya Rao blessed all. Gurus Lalitha Srinivasan and Radha Shridhar represented the elder generation. Vani Ganpathy, Vyjayanthi Kashi and Padmaja Suresh were among seniors. Madhu Nataraj and Praveen Kumar represented the younger lot of professionals in the seminar on Classical Dance in Modern Times. Attendance issue which focuses on this, now in its 15th year, was released on this occasion by former Ambassador to UNESCO and President of AF, Shri Chiranjiv Singh and the first copy given to Dr. Maya Rao.  This issue has been guest edited by Ahmedabad based arts writer Dr. Suresh Desai.

Immediately after the film, the seminar inaugurated by ringing a bell by guru Maya Rao, started with senior most culture critic Shanta Serbjeet Singh, who shared the deeper meaning of art. Her keynote address was most meaningful and heartfelt. After her, guru Lalitha Srinivasan spoke on  her work in pioneering dance festivals in Bangalore, way back in mid eighties. Guru Radha Shridhar spoke of the past and Vani Ganpathy condensed concerns pithily. Vyjayanthi Kashi always sounds positive and that raises spirits. Critic Surya Prasad never minces his words and always stands out for his independent quest. Madhu Nataraj and Praveen Kumar shared their thoughts which verged from sponsorship to dance training. Ashish Khokar concluded with three concerns: standardization in dance teaching, who can be called a Guru and the role of a critic. 

Slide show

The long day ahead, had a run-through of three generations of dancers. The honour for starting the day’s dance marathon was reserved for attendance awardee Dr. Sanjay Shantaram, who despite a broken toe, commenced with disciple SV Gopal, whose hairdo and make-up made him comical though he danced admirably. Next Radhika Prabhu, a budding poet and charming dancer, brought her elfin charm to stage. Prateeksha Kashi was picture perfect.  Sujoy Shanbhag from Hubli but trained in Mysore by Dr. Vasundhara Doraiswami, was among the brightest talents of the day, with the most flexible body while dancing. He shows much potential. Devraju BV controlled his excessive enlarged eye movements and danced with aplomb. Meghna Das is a good dancer in the making but needs a little more involvement in her art. Meghna Venkat danced well despite a mishap the previous day. Medha Dixit wore the most understated costume of the day but her dancing was dynamic. Shivani Shivkumar proved to be a typical Kuchipudi artiste   dancing with elan. Anjali Urs-Sonalika Padhi were a twosome, both complimenting each other well.  Raksha Manohar was able and well finished while Remya Sreedevi suffered from over mannerisms which is besetting Mohiniattam of late. Sindhuja Sudarshan’s stooped body is not Bharatanatyam or needs expert eyed correction; she could learn Kathak, where angularity is not an issue. N Gururaj did his guru Kashi proud and danced with depth. Shubhudo Prabhakar made no visible impact, while Kruthika Jayakumar danced with joy.  Manjari Chandrasekhar danced with grace and so did Kiranmayee from Hyderabad. Subhasini Giridhar tried hard to measure up to the day’s gathering but neither her form nor her weak foundation, helped.
Prashanth Shastry was a delight to watch, masculine and soft at the same time. He is a star of the small screen in Chennai and Bangalore. Manasa Joshi got much claps because her dance deserves it, but her costume was unremarkable.  A good dancer, she is also a natural artiste. Haripadman from Chennai proved that short height is no hindrance to tall dancing. While his Bharatanatyam does get dominated by Kathakali, a normal Kalakshetra affliction, he gave a splendid account of his art. Mithun Shyam needs more stamina and less jumping across the stage. Janani Murali Jayanth proved to be a pleasant dancer. Charles Ma has a smiling Buddha like face but his heaviness of foot does not help his delivery. Siddharth and his co-dancer presented an Odissi item which made no impact and Navami Arun’s Mohinattam was too decked up. Sarita Mishra is an upcoming Odissi dancer and acquitted well, although she smiles too much on stage. Dancers should get involved with meaning of dance song, not try and look pretty on stage. Kavitha Ramu from Chennai showed why Chennai dancers are thorough professionals and so good in their art of Bharatanatyam. She was first-rate, even if her nritta portions were few. If anyone, in the whole day of 100 plus dancers, she deserved a standing ovation. All loved her dance which was beautiful, meaningful and had depth.
Nadam ensemble gave the audience the maximum opportunity to clap, so good were they in their well polished Kathak. Hitaishy Dhanan tried hard to win appreciation.  Madhulita Mohapatra, who in four years of being in Bangalore has established herself as Odissi dancer of note, teamed with Bishwabhushan and they undertook interesting cameos. The boys of Natya STEM Dance Kampni are well trained and on the whole their pieces reflect energy. Mythili Anoop’s aharya encumbered her and there was too much bhibhasta instead of veera in her depiction. Durga is benevolent and Omkarakarini is a beautiful song. Mohiniattam dancers need to watch out for looking like stree vesham of Kathakali, in reverse. Increasingly, the soft grace is gone, replaced by quasi-Bharatanatyam strength. Guru KRV Pulakeshi next showed the beauty of royal Mysore Bharatanatyam style with student. Samir Paul brought in a whiff of Bengal by undertaking dance loosely termed Rabindra Natyam and one could see how repetitive it was. Dr. Padmaja Suresh is an academic who also dances and her dance showed academic content and peace. The last dancers of the day, 108th dancer, were the mother and daughter duo Padmini Ravi and Lakshmi. Both are natural dancers who bring out the joy of dance effortlessly.

Sudhakar Rao, the former Chief Secretary of Karnataka, gave certificates to all participants, Mons. Eric Luverta, Consul General of France, gave dance books and Mons. Phillipe Jasparini, director of Alliance Francaise, gave the flowers. In the end, a standing ovation was given to the curator-organizer, Ashish Khokar.