Dancethon on World Dance Day
Photos: Hemanth Shriyan & Saroj Mishra

April 30, 2015

In the last decade, the UN designated International Day for Dance (April 29th), has become Indianised, like all good things Indian! It is rechristened World Dance Day and is not necessarily celebrated on 29th of April, the designated day but any day before or after. Some do a two day event like Geeta Chandran in Delhi and some a 10 day festival like A.V. Satyanarayana in Bangalore. Ashish Khokar and Alliance Francaise de Bangalore have created a "dancethon,” a non-stop 12 hour daylong dance event featuring over 108 dancers in a single day. This event is an eclectic and democratic platform where nearly all, with some auditioned talent, can dance. While everyone has a right to dance, only some with professional training and standards can be put on this stage. In 5 years, this platform has grown to feature at least 108 dancers each year and many new enhancements like dance photo exhibition and sculpture court have been added.

On 26th April this year, being a Sunday, Bangalore art lovers enjoyed the green and sylvan setting of centrally located Alliance Francaise. The day began with auspicious sounds of nagaswaram arranged by dancer P. Praveen Kumar.

Slide show

Next, a ten year old talent Kiran Kamath delighted all with Dashavatara. Then the pride of Karnataka - Yakshagana - was danced vigorously by Devanahalli village talent Varshini Hebbar who performed Mahisasuramardini. Ganesha vandana in Mysore bani was next by Padmini Shreedhar’s students. Sampada Pillai's Kathak student showcased art of Rohini Bhate after which Deepa Shashindran's all male ensemble of 4 presented joyous Kuchipudi. Bharatanatyam by students of Shridhar Jain from Mysore showcased the symmetric beauty of the form and Odissi by 5 year old sensation was a delight to watch followed by Madhulita Mohapatra’s students. To be inclusive, even Bollywood dance was showcased through a medley by Pragati. The open air inaugural ceremony concluded with freestyle dance by Alliance Francaise’s in-house teacher, M.S. Shreedar.  

Dance diva Vani Ganpathy did the honours of inaugurating the day long celebrations with patron-scholar, former Chief Secretary Chiranjiv Singh who is also the President of Alliance Francaise de Bangalore and Bangalore School of Music’s Aruna Sunderlal, Opera House’s Ramakrishnan and dancer Padmini Ravi. After this hour long ceremony in the green environs of Alliance Francaise centre, all moved indoors for witnessing a specially mounted exhibition of photographs of dance taken by three city based photographers - Saroj Mishra, Ravi Shankar and Hemanth Shriyan. A sculpture court on hastas by Bhagya Jaikumar was an enhancement to the occasion.

A rare film on a ‘Century of Indian Dance’ was shown from Khokar Archives and it was trip down the memory lane. So many dancers could be seen who are no more - Ram Gopal, Uday Shankar, Balasaraswati, Sitara Devi, Shambhu Maharaj, Vempati Chinna Sathyam.. long list of all greats and new stars of each form. A seminar followed where each speaker stuck to point under strict time management by the organisers. Vani Ganapathy gave the opening address followed by senior guru Lalitha Srinivasan. Teachers' teacher and star dancer Padmini Ravi spoke from the heart when she said dance is not for the weak! Marry rich! Mayuri Upadhya spoke sensibly on challenges of running a dance company, Praveen Kumar on how dance matters, and Utkal Mohanty on sponsorship. Ananda Shankar Jayant from Hyderabad said "Get Real." Rest of the speakers made no real statements worth remembering. One speaker from Chennai, a TV producer and dancer-researcher Aparna Pillai made an important point on internet and the media.

The daylong dancethon of solo and duets then started in indoor hall with Agnika Ajaikumar depicting yogic poses learnt in Mysore from Shridhar Jain. She has a winsome stage personality. Next, Sarita Mishra's student Radika Makaram did passable Odissi, with no impact. Sandhya Murlidharan and Mrudula Basker were lead footed. Students like Sneha Narain show their teacher’s standards and she did just that - excellent foundation by P. Praveen Kumar. Next, the twin sisters Bianca-Nithash Radhakrishna did their guru Radha Shridhar proud. Swapna Rajendrakumar’s Mohiniattam is lyrical but laboured. Constant smiling looks predictable after a point. Dancers must understand that smile does not go with all themes under depiction. Manjula Amaresh's ‘Akka Mahadevi’ was not apt for the occasion. It is more drama than dance. A stuck cd did not help and she had to restart, much to audience’s impatience. Aneesh Raghavan from Pondicherry did excellent Odissi even if his forever smiling face distracted from overall beauty of his angashudhi. Uttara Rao showcased her teacher Kanaka Srinivasan’s style as taught by vidwan Ramaiah Pillai. Gururaj was floating on stage not dancing Kuchipudi, such effortless dance full of beauty and joy and depth. Meghna Das is a dancer of beauty and depth. Ameera Patankar from Pune brought Shama Bhate style and Aranyani Bhargav danced like a Leela Samson mould indeed, since Samson is her teacher.

attendance 2015 issue was launched by doyenne of dance, guru M.K. Saroja, on whom a short film was shown to contextualise her lifetime in dance. Ananda Shankar Jayant received the first copy.

The evening concluded with mother-daughter Uma Anantani and Shivanagee from Ahmedabad showcasing fine Bharatanatyam. Shankaracharya's Soundaryalahiri became the bedrock. Jigyasa Giri's Kathak group Devaniya from Chennai ended the day long Dance Day with spectacular Kathak done with finesse and finish. Excellent costumes and music were the highlights. All in all, it was truly a people’s and dancers’ dance festival, with no support from govt. or corporate India. It shows where there is a will, there is always a way.