Kolkata diary
- Dr. Sunil Kothari
e-mail: sunilkothari1933@gmail.com

July 3, 2011

By a happy coincidence during my recent visit to Kolkata, I saw two productions quite different in character, one a classical presentation sponsored by The Peerless in Odissi, Sthapatya Satya by Aloka Kanungo in collaboration with four Gotipua dancers at Rabindra Sadan on 21st June 2011 and next day on 22nd June, a contemporary work of Sapphire Creations Dance Workshop as part of their Patton Quarterly Arts Series 2011, supported by Antiquity and adopted by Sanjay Dudhia and Patton, on exquisite wooden floor of the Palladian Lounge at the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The contemporary presentation premiered ‘Incompleteness’ (25 minutes) and ‘Fuel’(15 minutes), two challenging choreographic works conceived and choreographed by Dibyendu Nath featuring Koushik Das, Ankita Duttagupta, Jhilik Paul, Sagarika Dey, Nikita Bhattacharya and Dibyendu Nath, mentored by Sudarshan Chakravorty with music live and from diverse sources.

From the start, with Koushik Das exploring ginati, counting in Kathak executing tatakar, footwork, drumming his own body with clenched fists, the sense of incompleteness, physical and psychological was conveyed suggestively. The program note reads: ‘It is the incompleteness within me which makes me run… move though life…. what is that makes one complete is always a relative (feeling).” The female dancer with her vanity bag prepares herself to win over the man, who continues to reject her, another woman enters in anger, and a sense of frustration is evoked. In their explorations, four female dancers dressed in black move around. A sense of search for completeness is reflected through movements. There was a nice cameo by Dibyendu Nath in the beginning showing magic tricks. Quite an absorbing piece.

Dibyendu Nath is a multi-talented artist. Performer, trained athlete and martial art expert, well versed in music, chalk sculpture, caricature and magic, a professional photographer, graphic designer and an actor, he has studied contemporary dance, learning jazz from Nana Gleason, body narrative from Christopher Lechner, has specialized in rope malkhamb, studied Thang-Ta, martial art of Manipur from Ranjeet Chiingtham and is adept in improvisatory technique. He is a principal dancer of the Sapphire Company and has been performing since 1999 for Sapphire’s major national and international tours. He has also started training young students in dance improvisations at a centre at his village Burdwan.

‘Fuel‘ by renowned theatre actor guest artist Anashua Majumdar (known for her role in ‘Tahder Katha’ and work with Buddhadev Das Gupta) extended frontiers of dance theatre conceived, choreographed and performed by Paramita Saha with text by Margaret Atwood, and the two performers with Sudarshan Chakravarty’s inputs, to the music by Madonna and Natasha Bedingfield, focused on sense of injustice, indignation, passivity, despair, seeking answer to what is completeness for a woman, self realization, family, children, work, balance et al. Paramita carrying a tray with cake, delivering dialogues, Anashua with her rendering of soliloquy both interacting, Paramita’s dance movements, Anashua’s miming of Indian classical dance gestures, decorating herself - juxtaposed in contrast to Paramita’s clothes and body language - the tensions were well maintained.

Their coming together, motherhood, feeling of liberation and celebration in the end inviting female members of the audience to share the cake, was quite engrossing. Experimenting with the celebrated stage actor Anashua Majumder, the work acquires an added feature of dance theatre and the willingness on part of the theatre actor augurs well for such workshop productions.

Dibyendu Nath

Paramita Saha

Sudarshan Chakravorty

Paramita Saha is a versatile dancer. With an academic background (Ist class post graduate in English literature), she received training in contemporary dance under Sudarshan Chakravorty at Sapphire and further studies under Nana Gleason in France and at Laban Centre, London, Movement Therapy. In Switzerland, she attended improvisation work residences of Michel Casanova and in Germany under Christopher Lechner. As a lead performer in Sapphire Creations from 1999, she has been leading the company as co-director since 2002. Her role in group includes handling, conceptualization, improvisation training and body mind conditioning for school and repertory dancers. Multi-tasking, she undertakes several chores: documentation, management, copy writing, costume designing, and most important, Public Relations. She runs India’s only arts management company Arts Forward, promoting novel arts ideas and concepts. For her achievements, she received Bharat Nirman Award for Dance in 2007.
Every two years, Sudarshan Chakravorty arranges InterFace at Kolkata, inviting international dance companies, organizes workshops, seminars, discussions, performances and honors artists in memory of his parents. Last year in September, I attended InterFace and was able to see the scope of his activities. He has succeeded in receiving positive support from various quarters and is extending the horizons of dance activities. I have suggested to him to equip Sapphire artistes with physical traditions like Yoga and Kalaripayattu (martial arts of Kerala), which shall enhance their movement with energy, vitality and strength, providing strong Indian character.

Aloka Kanungo is one of the earliest dancers who studied under direct supervision of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra from a very young age and continued attending guruji’s several workshops over the years with a formidable repertoire of Guruji’s compositions.

She has branched out in recent years studying Bandha Nritya of Orissa. Performed by Gotipua dancers, the form involves acrobatic movements and formation of several body units, pyramid like, evoking marvel at the pliability of body to fall into innumerable shapes. With sound research of various texts like Pundarika Vittala’s Nartana Nirnaya, texts of Oriya authors viz., Sangeet Makarand, Sangeet Chintamani, Abhinaya Darpana Prakasha, Abhinay Chandrika and others, study of sculptural motifs, pata paintings, and living traditions of Gotipua dancers and guidance of traditional teachers specializing in Banda Nritya, she has choreographed this unique work with the help of four Gotipua dancers and young disciples of her Shinjan Nrityalaya she has been running for past 15 years in Kolkata.

With an opening sequence in which dancers form a base and in vertical dimension, on top is seen Lord Krishna - the impact is stunning and wins over instant round of applause. Aloka supplements the presentation with slides showing how in pata painting, formations of animals are made, in Bandha Kavya with a graphic design in which poems are written, in sculpture how these acrobatic postures are depicted and with live arrangements, she creates various breathtaking bandha formations like a painting on a canvas with several dancers.

Aloka Kanungo
The sequences follow with familiar Bandhas like Sagadia, Chira, Nahunia, Hansa, Chakri and Padmasana and with quicksilver movements, Gotipua dancers and her well trained dancers in Odissi, execute these formations in a trice, winning admiration of the audience. Acrobatic part of the dance when endowed with aesthetic appeal pleases the eye. Being also brief, the flow is unhampered. With acute observation, Aloka brings to life the Bandhas in painterly and sculpturesque fashion. Sometimes on the front floor level, dancers make formations and behind on a higher level, a dancer appears filling in the space creating excellent images.

In a traditional composition dwelling upon the theme of Dashavatara, Aloka has imaginatively used each incarnation using Gotipua dancers taking various positions of appropriate Bandhas. The dedication and hard work speaks for itself. In the beginning Aloka presented her young tiny tot disciples in Odissi exercises. They stole the show as it was obvious that Aloka has been training them in a sound manner with the result that the Odissi movements are seen as perfect. Thus the transmission of technique is flawless.

I recall knowing Aloka when she was ten years old and was featured by Mrinal Sen in ‘Matira Manisha,’ a film produced by Babulal Doshi, who established Kala Vikash Kendra in Cuttack for Odissi dance. I happened to be in Cuttack when the shooting was under way and had seen its progress. Aloka later on grew up studying under Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and has made a name for herself in Odissi. Moving to Kolkata, she did not rest on her laurels but continued performing and teaching, expanding her repertoire, adding new dimensions like Bandha Nritya in an imaginative manner. She deserves all support, more so when classical dances face a challenge in face of other entertainment alternatives. One admires her single-minded devotion to preserving the classical dance heritage of Orissa.

Dr. Sunil Kothari is dance historian, scholar, author, and a renowned dance critic. A regular contributor to www.narthaki.com, Dr Kothari received the Senior Critic award last year from Dance Critics Association, NYC. 

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