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Merging tradition with innovation
- Nikhil Ravi Parmar
Pics: Kaustubh Atre

June 20, 2019

The Madame Menaka Choreography Movement 2019, staged in Pune on 25th and 26th May, 2019 opened its second year with a vision to create a database of choreographies and teaching youngsters what 'Choreography' means in its very essence.

Preceded by a set of eminent panelists - Sharvari Jamenis (dance), Ajay Joshi (critic), Chaitanya Adkar (music), Pradeep Vaidya (theatre), Vaibhav Arekar (dance), Maulik Shah & Ishira Parikh (dance) and Shama Bhate (dance) - the platform provides young dancers a medium to explore, experiment and experience the process of choreography. Initiated by Guru Shama Bhate, the primary focus of this platform is in its curation- "A proverb based concept choreogrpahy" dedicated to the pioneer of yester years... the illustrious Madame Menaka!

This year's festival saw performances by Avani Gadre ('The more you see, the less you know for sure!'); Pavithra Bhat ('Ogatti Nalli Balavide - Unity in strength'); Amruta Gogte ('Even if you come out of one cage, aren't you in just another one?'); Swati Sinha ('The cloak doesn't make a monk'); Swarada Bhave ('Appearances can be deceptive').

Avani Gadre

Pavithra Bhat

Avani Gadre opened the first day of the festival with a visual spectacle of shadow play in Kathak! Highlights of the choreography were in the adaption of tihais and bols through strong rhythmic sensibilities which is a signature style of Guru Shama Bhate creating moments occasionally. Repetitions in visuals and ideas could be reworked with better clarity and execution. All in all, it was a successful attempt and showed great potential in her vision. Next up, Pavithra Bhat, a seasoned soloist and performer played through and through the traditional idiom of Bharatanatyam in all his capability. The performance was a good work of Bharatanatyam, but did not keep up to the guidelines of choreography - a fair play of the form but needed more than just craft and skill. Lastly, Amruta Gogte an excellent dancer herself, showcased great command over laya and taal. A clean and clear execution of her ideas in demarking the cages played with the subtext of the chosen proverb - which layered her choreography interestingly. Apart from a visual experience, Amruta's music clearly made way for such clarity in choreography!

Amruta Gogte

Swarada Bhave and Eesha Pinglay

Swati Sinha opened the second day of the festival. Going by her proverb, Swati tried to explore too many layers which took away the essence of the proverb. Apart from that, the music on track was also off rhythm and taal. The choreography needs to be reflected at different levels of concept, execution and design. The curtains were brought down by Swarada Bhave and Eesha Pinglay, who presented the last proverb of this year. Wonderfully conceptualized by Swarada, the choreography was complete in every sense and excellent music by Satish Krishnamurthy complemented the entire performance. Both, Eesha Pinglay and Swarada Bhave kept the audience spellbound through the entire presentation. The main drawback of the performance was being a mythological theme, which as per the guidelines was not considered. Otherwise, their performance was a clever merger of traditionalism and innovation. The day came to an end with Maulik Shah and Ishira Parikh sharing their journey of dance and choreography in an interactive session that engaged the audiences thoughtfully.

All the choreographies were a fine balance of thought, execution and training that echoed in each of the dancer's background. Reflections and inputs by the panelists were of great insight considering the varied backgrounds each of them came from which paved way for a healthy exchange of dialogue. Gauri Swakul showed great poise and command as the Sutradhar on both days of the festival. Rahul Joglekar, the technical director for the festival, must be complemented for his execution in design and innovation to each of the choreographies. The ambience, very well thought out by Ameera Patankar was most skillfully and artistically executed by Girish Manohar and team Nadroop.

The festival is a pioneering platform for many aspiring dancers and the entire credit goes to Guru Shama Bhate and Nadroop in association with the Maharashtra Cultural Centre and Praj Foundation. A profound thought for all of us - as dancers, performers, technicians, critics and choreographers - would be best quoted by Madame Menaka to whom the movement is dedicated.

"I cannot lay too much importance on the fact that one must master all the traditional techniques. We must strenuously discourage all attempts to bluff the public by senseless posturing and posing on stage. We do not want our dance to become an exotic-erotic presentation for the delectation of the West. It must express the life and emotions of our nation and not be mere ethnographic posturing." - Madame Menaka.

Nikhil Ravi Parmar is a dancer and choreographer. A disciple of Guru Maya Rao, he has worked as a principal dancer of the Natya STEM Dance Kampni. He is currently under the guidance of Guru Shama Bhate.

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