Thursday, 30 June 2016

Chitravina Narasimhan anointed Pallavi Chakravarthy

By Sukanya Sankar

The five-day Pallavi Darbar festival, organised by Carnatica in association with Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha was inaugurated on 29 June 2016 at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai. The festival this year is dedicated to the centenary celebrations of Alathur Brothers. The programme commenced with a listening session of rare pallavis of the duo. Following this was an insightful lecture demonstration by Dr T.S. Sathyavathi on the 'Art of tanam singing'. 

It was heart-warming to see a packed hall for an award ceremony. This shows the respect and admiration the students and well wishers have for Chitravina N. Narasimhan, recipient of the Pallavi Chakravarthy title this year. It is indeed a fitting recognition for the Gottuvadyam guru, who also turns 75 next month. Sangita Kalanidhi Umayalpuram K Sivaraman, chief guest for the evening, honoured Narasimhan and presented the award. N. Gopalaswami, (Chairman, Kalakshetra Foundation), Tadepalli Dr. Lokanadha Sarma (musician and scholar), T.K. Ramachandran (IAS, principal secretary, Information Technology Department), were the other guests of honour.

Chitravina Ravikiran had specially composed a kriti for the occasion – Narasimham Upasmahe –  in Darbar highlighting his father's achievements. The kriti was ably sung by his students Anahita and Apoorva and supported by baby Akshara (daughter of Kiranavali).

Credit must be given to K.N. Shashikiran for successfully conceptualising and partnering many events like the Pallavi Darbar. This year’s festival has a promising line up for the next four days (30 June to 3 July), which also includes a guided listening session of pallavis from the Carnatica archives, a pallavi competition and a pallavi jam session with young musicians.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Musical Mist

It was a cloudy evening where Coimbatore witnessed a gush of excitement amongst the Carnatic Music rasikas. Well, an evening with a rhythm ensemble was something that was surprising for the audience. Coimbatore Music Academy in association with Sri Krishna Sweets presented an assortment of Percussion instruments led by Ghatam Sri Karthick on the theme “Heartbeat Ensemble” at Sarojini Nataraj Auditorium, Kikani School. The evening’s programme started with a Vocal concert by upcoming artist Master Hari Adharsh, disciple of Sri CB Neelakandan Raja. The melodious “Pranavaakaram Sidhi Vinayakam” in ragam Arabhi was followed by Adharsh’s rendition of Annamacharya’s “Deva Devam Bhaje” in ragam Hindolam. His voice revealed peaceful approach towards krithis as it drew sangathis step by step strictly adhering to his Guru’s padantharam. This artist tuned an element of surprise with Thyagaraja’s “Atukaaradani” in ragam Manoranjani. A short essay of ragam Purvikalyani for the krithi “Marachitivemo Nannu” showed Adharsh’s attempt to successfully venture into the traditional concert arena. Though the Upper Shadjam note was reached with a bit of effort, the raga alapana had crisp moves. Soon did the audience realize that he gained additional energy through “Karpaga Manohara” in ragam Malayamarutham where the 10 year old boy did justice to Manodharma singing with his karpana swaras in Khanda Chapu thalam. A quick neelambari ragam occupied the artist’s list followed by a detailed presentation of Purandaradasa’s “Enna Rakshitho” in ragam Subhapantuvarali. Adharsh concluded his concert with a composition in ragam Sindubhairavi composed by his Father-Guru Sri Neelakandan. Smt Sriranjani Ramkumar and Vadasithur Sri Ramachandran gave encouraging support to the budding artist. 

Heartbeat Ensemble

Ghatam Sri Karthick and his team opened up the evening’s main concert with a traditional Mallari set to Khanda Jathi Triputa thalam. This Gambheera Nattai piece is presented in various speeds giving the audience a varied flavour of expectations. Violinist Sri M R Gopinath then led the Bowli ragam based “Sriman Narayana” stirring the Bhakthi emotions in the hearts of the audience. A totally unexpected blend of the krithis in Sri Ragam paying a tribute to the Musical Trinity was presented by the team featuring Saint Thyagaraja’s “Endaro Mahanubhavulu”, Muthuswami Deekshitar’s “Sri Varalakshmi” and Syama Sastri’s “Karuna Joodavama” under the common theme – Kamalalayam signifying the place Thiruvarur where the Trinity were born. The Sri Ragam mélange is composed by Karthick himself was followed by a unique Thillana in the ragam “Sallabham”. Coimbatoreans were delighted when the artists drove them to the 1960’s “Marudamalai Maamaniye”. Dhandamu Pettedanura in ragam Balahamsa was then craved by the artists in a fusion form. 

The central piece of the concert was in Ragam “Ragavardhini” on goddess Mookambika covering innumerable aspects of laya combinations, percussion combos and musical touches. The tani avarthanam was exquisite as it catered to the interest of the audience with Karthick’s Konakkol. Mandolin U P Raju and Violin Gopinath shared beautiful essays of the raga alapana which added to the excellence of the concert on a whole. 

Prapancham Sri Ravindran on the Mridangam played complicated phrases in the tani avartanam giving Ghatam Karthick ways to bring out challenging rhythm patterns. Sri Sundar and Sri Raman beautifully connected the other lead percussionists with their Tabla and Morsing support. 

The concert then saw many favourites “Bho Shambho”, “Chinnanchiru Pen Pole”, “Katrinile Varum geetham” and the crew concluded the evening’s programme with a patriotic “Jayathi Jayathi Bharathi Mata”. 

The Academy also conducted a two hour long interactive workshop for the young students of Music and dance on “Appreciating the Laya” by Ghatam Sri Karthick covering various aspects of practicing laya and approaching laya. This shows the keen efforts of the Coimbatore Music Academy to develop the young musicians in the city thereby providing them opportunities to explore their talents and grow.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Remembering T. Sankaran

By William Jackson
“Saw a shooting star tonight and I thought of you...”
(from “Shooting Star,” by Bob Dylan)

I remember my uncertainties in the darkness after many cramped hours in flight on the plane to Madras in September 1980. I had been to India for several months in 1970, and again briefly in 1977, but this time I had a specific academic task and a long-range goal—to conduct research for my Harvard University Ph.D. thesis. The topic was to be the life and works of Tyagaraja, the great singer-saint who composed hundreds of memorable songs, raising Karnataka music to new heights of artistic achievement and devotional power.

Would I meet the right guides? Would they look kindly upon me and agree to give me the help I would require to enter into the culture? Did I have enough language training to be accepted and get started in this very tradition-conscious region of the earth? I felt at the mercy of a different social world and had no idea how my first large-scale research project would turn out. So far from home with only new acquaintances to call on I tried to stop worrying and to hope for the best.

I need not have worried that night. The few names and addresses I had received from knowledgable Madrasis I’d met in America would start up and propel my 18-month long research project. One of those names was T. Sankaran, given to me by Jon Higgins when I visited Wesleyan University. “Your view of Tyagaraja will be very different from mine,” Jon Higgins had said. “Because you study religion and I’m a musicologist. But Sankaran will help you.” Higgins, who was already well known in Madras, where he was sometimes called “Higgins Bhagavatar” for being able to sing Tyagaraja songs in the traditional manner, took me to Professor T. Viswanathan, also at Wesleyan, and he gave me helpful information about Tyagaraja, and told me to contact his cousin, T. Sankaran, in Madras.

In Madras, after finding a place to stay (thanks to contacts provided by C.V. Narasimhan with whom I spoke both at Harvard and at the United Nations where he was Undersecretary General) my wife Marcia and I went to look up Sankaran. It was a blindingly bright sunny day and we were wandering on the wildly busy streets of Madras still feeling jetlagged. We marvelled at the humid atmosphere, overwhelmed by all the colours and sounds and different rhythms of India. We went into an impressive antique building, into an office with high ceilings and lazily turning ceiling fans and found the office of T. Sankaran, who was the director of Tamil Isai Sangam, a Tamil music academy and sabha, or music lovers’ society.

He was a small man, less than five feet tall, and he had gray hair, but he was very friendly, with a large heart and a youthful spirit. He was dressed in crisp white clothes with a scarf flung over his shoulder which gave him an artistic flair. He asked an assistant to bring us tea, and we relaxed. He talked about his work, his years as a producer with All India Radio, and his family. Sankaran was the grandson of Vina Dhannammal, one of the most highly regarded musicians of her time. He generously took us to a nearby music performance, and provided us with food, assuring us it was safe to eat. It was also delicious.

He asked me: “What do you want?” and patiently listened when I tried to explain my hopes and plans. He was always ready to give suggestions on accomplishing the goals of my project. He took me directly to T.S. Parthasarathy when I told him I wanted to work on translating Tyagaraja’s lyrics. That was the beginning of a series of introductions he gave me which were very helpful in learning about South Indian culture. More than once he asked, “What do you want?“ and then opened doors to the worlds of Karnataka music, giving me ideas and providing personal guidance without ever asking for anything in return.

At a Sampradaya concert (Sampradaya literally means “the faithful transmission of tradition,” and it is the name of a music society in Madras) in an elegant old building in Fort Saint George, Sankaran introduced his cousins, Brinda and Mukta who were singing Kshetrayya padams. Sampradaya was just then forming. Michael Nixon and Ludwig Pesch, with the help of the Max Mueller Bhavan of Madras were the founders of this society dedicated to record and promote the music of South Indian music masters, and to value their experiences of training, performing and teaching. Sankaran spoke warmly of the new organization which was devoted to promoting and preserving the great South Indian musical traditions. “This group prizes the greatness of the past. In the past, singers did not rely on microphones, but filled the rooms with their voices. The only ‘mike’ you’ll find here is that Mike over there!” He pointed to Michael Nixon—a student from South Africa who was studying with the celebrated vina player Savitri Rajan.

After the concert Sankaran showed me a book which was the text of Oriental Music in Staff Notation, by Chinnaswami Mudaliar. He told me: “Jon Higgins was going to try to take the original pages of the rest of this great book published so long ago, with all the music to many of Tyagaraja’s songs, back to America to have them copied, but in the end they were a massive pile and were disintegrating too much and he had to abandon the idea. At least you can take a copy of the introduction.” I thanked him and later found that Harvard had a copy of the rare book.

Sankaran told us he was going to be travelling to Chidambaram for a conference, and invited us to travel with him, and then visit Tyagaraja’s home village, Tiruvaiyaru. We were to meet him at the train leaving Egmore Station at night. “That way we may sleep in comfort and arrive in style, well-rested and ready for the day,” Sankaran said. He would send someone to purchase our tickets, so all we had to do was meet him there. At the depot we looked for information about the trains and asked directions. The Madras train stations are amazing beehives of activity even at night. Red turbanned porters running around seeking to be loaded up with luggage, travellers sleeping on the floor, arrivers getting down and departers searching for their trains. We boarded a train after we were told it was the correct one and searched for Sankaran but could not find him.

When the engine started up and we all lurched someone told us we were on the wrong train and I tried to persuade Marcia to jump with me from the slow-moving sleeper car to the platform, but she sensibly refused. We were stuck on the milk train with no tickets, stopping throughout the night at each village, but at least it was going in the right direction, we hoped. At a main railroad junction some hours south of Madras we met up with Sankaran. “What happened? I waited for you
you missed the train and took this one?!” We tried to explain our mishaps and he laughed. “You may not have slept in comfort or travelled in style or arrived well-rested, but at least you have arrived!”

We got down at Chidambaram and had breakfast, and Sankaran took us for darshan at the great Siva temple of Tillai Nataraja,
 to see the lingam of ether. He said “Here it will not suffice to remove your shoes. Custom dictates that men must also remove their shirts, only then can we enter and worship to our hearts’ content.” I remember removing my shirt before entering the sanctuary; it felt unusual to enter a holy site that way, but it was memorable. We were two skinny men, one short and one tall, humbly worshipping in the ancient temple where the invisible form of Siva is revealed.

After the conference, where Dr. Seetha and other luminaries of the music world presented papers, Sankaran took us by bus to Tiruvaiyaru. We saw the countryside while riding with farmers and bazaar merchants and other people of the lush green Kaveri delta land. When it rained we rolled down the canvas window shades. Those country buses are cosy and cheerful, even if the shock absorbers seem to be nonexistent. Seated in the very back of the bus, our heads hit the ceiling at each rut in the road. Sankaran didn’t seem to notice as he kept up a steady stream of conversation.

At Thiruvaiyaru we went right through the village to the Tyagaraja Samadhi, a white marble building in a pleasant clearing. Sankaran spoke with the pujari, a Smartha brahman who lived in a hut on the site there with his family. The priest unlocked the Samadhi and Sankaran joyfully sang Tyagaraja songs, including Paramatmudu. “This was Tyagaraja’s ‘swansong,’” he explained afterwards. The priest offered Tyagaraja Sanskrit prayers and flowers and other offerings in the Samadhi, while Sankaran’s Tyagaraja songs in Telugu echoed in the cool marble hall.

When we left, Sankaran said: “It is my opinion that if you heard Tyagaraja sing it would surprise you
the kind of voice he had was probably not like the voices of the most popular singers today.” He also said that according to an oral tradition he had heard, just before dying, Tyagaraja requested a large amount of salt be put in the grave in which his body was to be buried. The request for such a quantity surprised his disciples.

At Tiruvaiyaru we stayed with a friend of Sankaran’s family. She was a kindly widow who lived with her son in a comfortable home in the village. In the morning Sankaran took me to the Kaveri river, and we walked down stone stairs to bathe, with little fish tickling our ankles and calves as they nibbled at our skin. There in the dusk with spindly cheerful Sankaran it seemed easy to imagine Tyagaraja wading into the river at dawn and dusk, repeating the gayatri. Thinking of the saint saying the prayer for light in the twilight, I had pleasant reveries standing in the river renowned for giving people there clarity. Spending time in the village I absorbed the atmosphere and flavour of the villagers’ lives and the local places of note. We visited the old temple there, dedicated to Panchanadiswara, known for the incense pit at its main gate of entrance. Alkondar Paradesi, a holy man who lived around Tyagaraja’s time, was known to go down into the incense pit, which was famous for always having fragrant smoke rising from it. It is said that in one hall of the temple Tyagaraja used to spend afternoons reciting his Rama mantra.

We visited the house where Tyagaraja lived, which is kept as a memorial to him. I was struck by its narrowness—shaped like some linked boxcars. “See, the division of the household really happened—Tyagaraja’s brother got the other half!” At the back of the house was a typical courtyard with a well and a grinding stone. I made a sketch and pictured Tyagaraja and his disciples playing their music there. As I took in the mood of the rooms I had the idea that someday I would like to write a historical novel based loosely on the life of Tyagaraja and his contemporaries in the region that is now known as Tanjavur District.

By spending time in Tiruvaiyaru with Sankaran I familiarized myself with the place and the people, and imagined the life there during Tyagaraja’s time more than a century and a half ago. Later, on return trips when I attended the annual Tyagaraja festival, the place would be familiar to me; at those times parts of it would be decked out for festivities and crowds of people would throng the narrow streets and lanes, of course.

While we were in Tiruvaiyaru Sankaran told the moving story of Bangalore Nagaratnammal. He was very dedicated and devoted to her memory and her ideals and aspirations. He remembered her fondly from his youth, how she faced her family sorrows, became a great artist and devotee, how she travelled in trains with her portable vina to the places where she performed. She was spiritually inspired, dreaming of Tyagaraja, accepting the mission of making his rundown gravesite worthy of the saint’s memory. She was the one who bought the land surrounding the Tyagaraja Samadhi and helped the factionalized followers of Tyagaraja’s music join together to honour him at an annual festival. (Later, he asked another family friend, Sulochana Govardhana, with whom my wife Marcia studied Tamil, to translate some Bangalore Nagaratnammal biographical material so I could use it in my Tyagaraja research.)

I recall that when we left Tiruvaiyaru Sankaran had with him a dhoti which he had washed. Because it was still not dry he dangled it out the bus window for a long way, letting it flap freely in the sunny breeze like a festival banner as the bus sped over winding roads. Little children stopped washing clothes in streams and waved and waved at the waving cloth. To this day my wife and I refer to that image of whimsical practicality when we talk about Sankaran. On the way back he regaled us with more stories of his family, including his cousin Balasaraswati, who was a great dancer. And he told us humorous tales about well-known people from other South Indian communities as well. Sometimes his comparisons were very vivid, such as his comparison of a skilful overweight VIP to an elephant riding a bicycle.

Throughout the eighteen months I was living in India Sankaran often appeared, at concerts and conferences, and at the home of “Rosie Auntie,” where C.V. Narasimhan had invited me to listen to many great South Indian musicians, including the renowned singers M.S. Subbulakshmi and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. Sankaran was a tireless man, keeping active into his ripe old age. Even though he was older than some of the already retired great musicologists whom I visited he somehow seemed more youthful than they. He was a good old boy.

Sankaran’s Thoughts on Tyagaraja

Back in the United States, working on my thesis at Harvard in 1983, I wrote to Sankaran to ask him to write something I might include in a spectrum of voices of Madrasis on Tyagaraja. Sankaran responded by writing a letter conveying his appreciation of Tyagaraja’s contributions. Though Tyagaraja was a brahman and some Tamil people in recent generations have turned against the Sanskrit and Brahmanic strand of their cultural heritage, championing Tamil more exclusively instead, T. Sankaran was broadminded and deep-hearted enough to appreciate the greatness of both. He stressed the ways Tyagaraja was a composer-saint who transcended many boundaries and stereotypes. His views were grounded in historical and sociological events and evidence, and on his own wide experience.

Sankaran pointed out that during the period of history in which World War II, Indian Independence, and the linguistic division of India occurred, there were many changes and re-adjustments to be made by the people of India. He noted, for example, that one of the chief original planks of the annual Tyagaraja Aradhana festival was mass feeding of brahmans. But wartime rationing caused a cutback of this practice, and with the attainment of national independence and the consequent democratization of society and values, the feeding became “cosmopolitan” – multi-caste. With the raising of linguistic consciousness, the dominance of Telugu lyrics in song and dance performances in Tamil Nadu was resented, and the Dravidian movement increased affection for and pride in the Tamil language. Yet Sankaran also noted that “governments may come and go, but Tyagaraja goes on forever.” He pointed out that Tyagaraja’s “empire” of songs has spread to other countries as well, where his works are performed and his life is celebrated. Thus, Tyagaraja, unlike many other regional composers, has become a state- and nation-transcending figure.

Sankaran said he believed that much gratitude is owed to Tyagaraja for proliferating and promoting the greatness of Tamil music, and that the Tamil people affectionately feel indebted to him. Tyagaraja never received any “royalty” for the public performance of his songs, and no one can claim payment on his behalf; so, it is a gift, according to Sankaran, a legacy free and accessible to all who wish to claim it. The music of Tyagaraja, he said, “has simplicity as a shining point. Everyone sings it for its aesthetic appeal and for its moral values.”

Noting that Tyagaraja is very popular as a composer in our era, Sankaran pointed out the extent to which the saint’s music has “even invaded the dance repertoire. Tyagaraja is a money-spinner” in the music industry of the modern world, because of his sterling reputation and his great popularity and the demand this creates; in every linguistic area, including North Indian ones, promoters attempt to make capital out of Tyagaraja’s appeal. The law of supply and demand holds sway, and articles, books, films, and other media programs are produced by both the learned culture makers and the business-minded entrepreneurs. Sankaran noted that the “Wireless Service” (e.g., All India Radio) serves as a great patron of music, and Tyagaraja’s songs enjoy a wide patronage through radio programs. In this format and others Tyagaraja is the favoured composer of classical South Indian music in the modern age.

Writing in 1983, Sankaran said that provincial attitudes and old limitations which constrict many viewpoints do not hold true when it comes to people’s views of Tyagaraja. Though Tyagaraja was a brahman with Sanskritic learning, even those who agitate to promote their own respective mother tongues do not condemn Tyagaraja. He illustrated his argument by noting that no proponent of the Tamil language had led crusades against Tyagaraja’s Telugu lyrics, though such proponents may clamour for Tamil in all spheres, including music. Non-Hindus, such as Jon Higgins of the United States, and KJ Yesudas, a Christian from Kerala, have been able to sing Tyagaraja’s songs and enjoy popularity. The social restrictions which used to prohibit women (other than those of the traditional professional musician class) to make music and to dance are no longer valid. The dance profession and the nagaswaram-playing profession are presently in the hands of performers who would not defy or neglect Tyagaraja, but honour him. Sankaran noted that in the late 1950s a brahman playing a nagaswaram would have been unthinkable. Today “even sensitive young girls” play that instrument, and dancers may come from the highest castes. With all the changes occurring in the 20th century, Sankaran asserted, the fortunes of Tyagaraja have only risen, and his religious vitality has increased.

Sankaran found it significant that Bangalore Nagaratnammal, whom he knew personally, was a non-brahman woman of the courtesan class, whose mother tongue was Kannada, yet she it was who built a shrine for Tyagaraja, a Telugu brahman of Tamil Nadu. No one else could accomplish what she did, bringing together diverse factions. He saw this as an exemplary transcendence of regional boundaries and personal limits
a necessity in our age of diversity and new challenges. He considered Nagaratnammal’s work in relation to Tyagaraja and his legacy an amazing social mixture and an astounding and admirable bhakti accomplishment.

On the personal level, T. Sankaran said he considered himself a devotee of Tyagaraja, revering him as a guru, receiving from the great composer’s songs religious inspiration. When he sang Tyagaraja’s songs and they echoed in the Tyagaraja Samadhi, Sankaran seemed spiritually at one with the feelings and ideas in the lyrics and melodies, as if he were at home.

It was a privilege to know T. Sankaran and to gain access to the heritage of South Indian music through his family’s auspices. It was a privilege to travel with him and spend time with such a generous man. When I last saw him in Madras in December 1999 he was frail, lying in bed and not responding much when his daughter-in-law and I spoke to him. I was in Madras to interview musicians about improvisation. For a long time I tried to remind him who I was, realizing all the while that he was drifting away, and that in his long life he had encountered and helped many people such as myself.

After a long time he sat bolt upright and exclaimed “Jackson!” It was as if he had come from far far away and knew that we had been waiting for him to return. I knew from his voice that I had gotten as much of his attention as he could summon. Then he said loud and clear: “What do you want?” Everyone in the room laughed. It was the old Sankaran again for a moment, asking one last time what he could do for someone seeking to learn about South Indian culture. For many years whatever a sincere seeker of knowledge about the world of music wanted to find, Sankaran generously helped him or her find it. There are many of us who are very thankful for that willingness to help which we found so far from home.

When I knew him in 1980-82 Sankaran was a fully engaged man-about-town, a mature administrator with a wisdom about life and people. He knew how systems worked and he was able to work with them productively. He was one of those people whose health and attitude make them enviable examples of how vital old age can be. I’ll always smile to think of him laughing as the little fish nibbled our ankles as we stood in the gracefully rippling Kaveri river, or merrily trailing his drying dhoti out the bus window like a child, or singing so soulfully in the cool echoing Samadhi, Tyagaraja’s “swan song,” Paramatmudu:

Paramatma is brightly shining
may this dawn upon you
    in all its beauty

Named as Vishnu, named as Shiva,
    said to be in people
    and heavenly beings
throughout the entire universe
the Supreme Being gloriously glows
may this dawn upon you
    in all its beauty

Being in all that’s made of sky,
    wind, fire, and water
in beasts and birds
    and hills and trees
by the tens of millions,
always in the lifeless and the lively
the Lord whom Tyagaraja adores in this world
that Supreme Being pervades like light!
Have a joyful subtle insight into that
    in all its beauty.

The author is Professor Emeritus
Department of Religious Studies
Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Dance India Asia Pacific 2016

Day 6

Tamil folk dance and  Kumudini Lakhia’s journey

As the camp drew to its last few days, it was pleasant to see students interact freely with faculty exchanging ideas and clearing their doubts.

The folk dance module was a refreshing addition to Dance India.

V Balasubramaniam from Tiruchi took the participants through folk ‘adavus’ or the basics of ritual folk dance, martial arts form and community dance. He explained the origins of the Tamil folk arts.

Kumudini Lakhia was her effervescent self and her passion for her art was evident as she spoke of her journey in dance. She said, “At one point, I was so full of technique, chakkars and pirouettes that I realized I had lost my dance.”  Her advent into choreography was a venture undertaken to fulfil her restless and questioning mind.

50 years after establishing Kadamb (her Kathak academy), Lakhia is still creating and innovating. True to her free spirit, she said “I tell my students that they are ready when they can be completely independent of me. That means that they fly from the nest with only knowledge and not the crutches of a guru’s name or constant mollycoddlying.”

The evening came to a close with an evening of Kathak at the Esplanade entitled “Reflections” featuring Sanjukta Sinha and Kadamb dancers presenting Kumudini Lakhia’s choreography. The dancers stunned the audience with their virtuosity and elegance.

Day 7

Time for selfies and tears!

The last day of the classes saw an abundance of tears, selfies and autographs.

The book reading in the afternoon showcased the life and work of K. P Bhaskar – one of the pioneers of the arts in Singapore. A Kathakali artiste who introduced this art form in Singapore, he and his wife Santa have established their school Bhaskar Arts Academy where many Indian classical dance forms and music are taught.

Prof. C.V Chandrasekhar’s presentation on Anga Suddham in Dance threw up many interesting ideas. He said that the first step to anga suddham was understanding your body and its limitations, as there was no golden rule applicable to all dancers. Applying the nuances of movement requires keen observation and experimentation. He told the audience, “You are your best teacher.”

Ratikanth Mohapatra spoke about Kelucharan Mohapatra – his late father and guru. He traced his life which began as a worker in the betel fields and culminated with the second highest honour for an artiste in India – the Padma Bhushan. A consummate artiste who was a musician and dancer, Kelucharan Mohapatra used all his life experience in his art. He was one of the main gurus of Odissi who came together in the 1950s and codified the repertoire. An extraordinary artiste and human being, his legacy is carried on around the world by his disciples and followers.

The evening ended with a talk by Professor Chandrasekhar at the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society on poetry, dance and music.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Dance India Asia Pacific 2016

By Anjana Anand

Day 5: Awards for veterans

The day began with an air of tension and anticipation. The students were getting ready for their performance at Esplanade.The evening at Esplanade began with the DIAP 2016 Annual Awards.

This year the ‘Lifetime Achievemant Award’ went to Kamakshi Jayaraman for her contribution to arts in Singapore for over four decades. Affectionately called ‘maami’ by her students, Kamakshi Jayaraman was hailed as a child prodigy under the tutelage of Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai. Invited to teach in the Temple of Fine Arts, Singapore, she readily came forward and thus began her years of service. Maami received her award in the same unassuming way she has led her life.

The ‘Bharata Kala Mani’ Dance Achievement Award was given to Roshni Pillay for her contribution to the Bharatanatyam scene in Singapore despite her schedule as a medical doctor. A performing artiste, she continues to hone her skills with different gurus.

The Dance India Award was conferred on Kumudini Lakhia and Priyadarsini Govind for the longest association of 14 years since the inception of Milapfest. Kumudini Lakhia spoke about her years of interaction with students and peers and watching the movement grow. Priyadarsini Govind spoke about the joy of returning to the Milapfest family year after year and watch participants maturing and growing over the years.

This year, the shawls presented to the participants and awardees were an aesthetic delight. Ordered specially for the occasion from Kalakshetra Foundation, they received many an admiring eye!

The performance showcased Dance India Asia Pacific alumni featuring the choreography of Priyadasini Govind, Sheejith Krishna and Mythili Prakash and was built into the theme ‘Tanjore- The Golden Age of Bharatanatyam’ led by sutradhar Lakshmi Viswanathan. It was conceived by Aravinth Kumarasamy and scripted by Lakshmi Vishwanathan. What was expected to be an alumni show turned into a visual treat with music by Chitra  Poornima, V. Balakrishnan, Ramanan and Bombay Anand and story telling by Lakshmi Vishwanathan stealing the show. Lakshmi Viswanathan as the Maratha queen Kamakshi Bai, captivated the audience through the history of Bharatanatyam with her tongue in cheek narrations and entertaining story telling. The haunting Marathi song Jaya jaya Durge which was her signature entry was greeted with delight, Hats off to all the participants who made the evening an enjoyable one. 

Speaking about the production, Aravinth Kumarasamy said, "Apsara Arts has been producing many works over the past few years. This production of Tanjore was special because for the first time, we had alumni of Dance India performing. I have always been interested in the history of Tanjore and I wanted to find an interesting way of presenting the story to the audience. I have found over the years that choosing the right artiste takes the production to a different level and I am happy to say that this year each and every dancer and musician rose to the occasion."

Friday, 17 June 2016

Yuva Rasika Launch




from 8.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.



Monday, 13 June 2016

Dance India Asia Pacific - Day 4

By Anjana Anand

8th June 2016

A schedule in a camp like DIAP is misleading because each day evolves in its own way, throwing up unexpected moments which make the camp what it is.

Day 4 was one such day. After the classes in the morning the students met for the lunch cum book reading session. Mohanapriyan Thavarajah – resident teacher and performer at Apsara Arts spoke about his book yet to be published – A Temple of Dance: A dancer’s view of Angkor - based on his experience of working on the Apsara’s production – Angkor Wat in 2014 and his subsequent visits to the temple. Art lovers will enjoy the range of sculptures and the remarkable cultural and religious exchange between the India and Cambodia which will be showcased in his book.

The afternoon lecture demonstration by Lakshmi Vishwanathan on ‘Sancahari Bhavas in Bharatanatyam’ gave the students a glimpse of the the manodharma aspects of abhinaya rarely in practice today. She stressed on the need to absorb the world around to open the imagination to possibilities. The participants were rapt with attention as they saw music and dance coming together as Lakshmi Vishwanathan slipped effortlessly into the role of various nayikas.

Professor C.V Chandrasekhar shared his memories of his days with his mentor Rukmini Devi. A student who was caught between pursuing academics or dance, he said with a laugh “Athai tricked me into becoming a dancer! That was the power of persuasion she had. The picture of a visionary artiste, strict yet warm and loving emerged as he spoke about this legend.

The last event for the evening was a talk organized at the Temple of Fine Arts – one of the oldest institutions teaching dance and music in Singapore. The presentation was ‘Bhakthi Bhava in Dance by Lakshmi Vishwanathan, Bragha bessel and Priyadarsini Govind. It was an evening to remember. Each of the artistes drew the cosy gathering into the world of devotion. It was lovely to see their individual approach and language of abhinaya. They cajoled, praised and laughed at the Lord as they brought out the devotee’s oneness with God. There was plenty of warm humour which broke the stereotyped emotions of bhakti being only painful pleading.

The informal setting and ambience of the venue gave rasikas an experience of the intimacy of enjoying abhinaya much like in the courts and temples centuries ago. The dinner which followed at the Annalakshmi restaurant run by the temple of Fine Arts was a fitting finale after the feast for the eyes.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Ajit Ashok's mridangam debut

By S. Janaki

On 29 May 2016, during his mridangam debut, 13-year old Ajit Ashok proved he is a chip off the old block –  following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. For the past six years he has been a diligent sishya of his grandfather-guru K.S. Kalidas who has been faithfully propagating the Palani Subramania Pillai bani. Ajit's father Dr. K. Ashok is an A-grade  mridangam artist with All India Radio and also plays for music concerts; his mother Radhika is a student of Western classical music and his elder brother Rohit is an up-and-coming mridangist.

As part of the accompanying team of R. Raghul (violin) and B.S. Purushothaman (khanjira) for Carnatic vocalist Brindha Manickavasakan, Ajit displayed his percussion skills with poise and precision. Though his wrist and fingers seemed slender, his mridangam playing was marked by power, punch and clarity. The intelligent choice of compositions for the concert gave the youngster a chance to showcase his skill in handling different talas -- from the impressive start for the Ata tala varnam Nera nammiti  in  Kanada, followed by Misra Chapu for Sree Mahaganapati (Gaula), Roopakam for Ananda Natesa (Todi), Khanda Chapu for Amma ravamma (Kalyani), and Adi tala for Nenarunchinanu (Malavi). Brinda took up Kambhoji for elaboration and sang Muthuswami Dikshitar's grand kriti Sree Subramanyaya namaste (Roopakam 2 kalai/ Tisra Eka tala) . Ajit put up a spirited display with B.S. Purushotham during the tani avartanam, eliciting appreciation from several vidwans in the audience.

The debutant was fortunate to receive the blessings of three Sangita Kalanidhis -- vidwan M. Chandrasekharan, and vidushis  Saroja and Lalitha (Bombay Sisters) who were the chief guests. They applauded the lad for his mature approach, as well as for the suddham and melodious stroke-play. His guru K.S. Kalidas, known for his frank and forthright comments, said that this grandson of his had an adventurous streak and revelled in experimenting. Under the watchful eyes and mentorship of his grandfather, this talented youngster should blossom into a full fledged mridangam artist. Or may be transform into an ace creative percussionist experimenting with different genres! 

Friday, 10 June 2016

Dance India Asia Pacific - Day 3

By Anjana Anand

7th June 2016

Day three saw a book reading by Lakshmi Vishwanathan. She took the listeners into the world of the devadasis where art was a part of their everyday life. These women of pride were educated, cultured and lived a life of patronage. Bharatanatyam has these women to thank for preserving and enriching the art form.

It was another day of learning with Dr. Chitra Madhavan’s talk on dance sculptures in Indian temples. The sculptures ranged from ornate figures to delicate movements captured in soft stone. It was amazing to notice that these great works of art are largely anonymous. Who were these artistic and scientific minds behind this awe inspiring work?

Professor C.V. Chandrasekhar took the students on a nostalgic journey of his choreography over the past 40 years. He spoke about his move away from story telling to subjects of nature through poetry.  Creating a production is about passion and creativity – the two qualities which helped him in the early years when arts funding was not an option.

The evening ended with a talk by Lakshmi Viswanathan on Rasa at the Singapore Indian Association. As someone said at the end of the lecture ‘We understood ‘rasa’ in our appreciation of her eloquent speaking!”

DIAP (Dance India Asia Pacific) has been receiving a lot of support over the past few years. This year it was heartening to see representation from all the main dance schools in Singapore. The CEO of the National Arts Council, Ms. Kathy Lai sent a warm message of appreciation. “DIAP has offered dancers the chance to learn from gurus in the field since 2012. Today, it is embraced by the community as one of the largest and most intensive training programmes for Indian dance practitioners at all levels”There was an evident comraderie which the students were sharing. As the Milapfest motto says. Uniting hearts through arts!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Arvind Parikh: A guru in the best Vilayatkhani tradition

By Meena Banerjee

Guru Pandit Arvind Parikh
Guru Poornima, which falls on the full moon day in the month of Ashadh, is widely celebrated by students of the Indian classical arts even in this era of drastically changed value systems. In the oral tradition of Indian arts, the guru who personifies wisdom, plays a pivotal role in the transformation of the sishya. It is he who transmits the knowledge handed down to him across generations by unravelling the mystery behind the scriptures and certain rituals or practices associated with the art. 

Pandit Arvind Parikh, a committed researcher and guru, has infused new life into this age-old Indian tradition. The auspicious occasion of Guru Poornima  stands for a special reunion for the ‘Parikh Parivar’ formed by his disciples. (Guru Poornima falls on 19 July in 2016). The celebration in August last year,  for instance, showcased the music by thirty of his disciples including two young talents representing the group of his grand-disciples at Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda.

After attending three such annual reunions in Nagpur (2013), Mumbai (2014) and at Baroda last year, I know that the disciples come from all over the world to meet at a chosen venue not only to offer their music, but also to get acquainted with other members of their extended musical family, to exchange melodic ideas and notes with all (more than seventy and growing), and to receive guidance from their guru in an unalloyed musical environment. As the seniormost disciple of the late Ustad Vilayat Khan and as the head of this family, Parikh takes forward the legacy of the Etawah Imdadkhani gharana through his disciples.

But this is not his sole occupation. He is the head of a very successful Mumbai-based business house. In the world of music apart from holding the positions as the President of the Indian Musicological Society, the coordinator of UNESCO’s International Music Council for the Indian subcontinent, the founder of Music Forum (Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi), the beacon of the All India Musicians Group (AIMG), the Chairman of the ITC-SRA Western Zone and a  trustee of SRA, he is a reputed musicologist and wonderful orator. The multifarious persona of this octogenarian sitarist reflects is reflected in his melodic thought-process and its practical application in life. His logic-based teaching methodology attracted even a legend like the late Begum Akhtar who insisted on becoming his gandabandh shagird (initiated disciple).

According to his disciples, all his days culminate  in music, despite his hectic schedules. Some of his students are established musicians in sitar, surbahar, shehnai and vocal music, some are striving hard to have a professional standing as musicians while some are pursuing music as a hobby. He encourages all of them to handle a parallel career, other than music, to be able to pursue their creative passion without monetary constraints. He has helped find suitable occupations for several of his proteges; but demands total dedication to music in return. For this he encourages his talented disciples to guide fellow learners independently.   
To make learning easy for all advanced students of instrumental music, Parikh has recorded more than 400 compositions that lay the foundation of the ragas they are set in. Different compositions show different angles of the raga with diverse rhythmic gaits. A comprehensive catalogue contains all the details. Moreover, some rare gat compositions played by Parikh, recorded and released as a CD album by IGNCA, Delhi, are meant for connoisseurs.

To inspire hard working students of this demanding art, he organises periodic close-knit warm sit-ins at his plush Mumbai residence. These help them get under the skin of stagecraft and the art of presentation.

The annual Guru Poornima event, organised by his disciples, arrives as the zenith of all this every year. During these two-day long soirees, I saw him sitting through the entire sessions of recitals – taking extensive notes. When asked why, he explained, "I am more of a bhakti-margi (seeker of divine bliss) than a gnan-margi (seeker of knowledge). I believe there are two main aspects of performance: baawat (content) and tareeqa (method of expression or skill). Since the latter rules the world now and lack of substantial content has reduced music to sheer excitement, I try to analyse each of my disciples to learn whether they are following the proper format."

Meena Banerjee with Arvind Parikh and a group of his disciples during Guru Purnima 2015 in Baroda
A presentation during Guru Poornima by Parikh at the end of the opening day was based on the ‘Musical Journey of  Ustad Vilayat Khan’. This summed up the corporal features of the Vilayatkhani baaj and its intrinsic spirit. That the natural exuberance of  youth mellows with the increasing load of experience is an accepted fact of life; but not at the cost of the raga’s inherent nature. Virtuosity is important as long as it beautifies the raga, no more no less; the raga is supreme. And this remained the core of the analysis of his disciples’ recitals.

"Gharana is nothing but specialisation", he summed up in his characteristic one-liner, "and this is mastered through deep familiarity with the instrument one plays. Many wonder  Tumba meetha ya haath meetha? (Is a good instrument the cause  of a good show or is it the artist’s mastery?). I would say, both. A good quality instrument with proper sitting posture, correct placement of both hands and fingers, appropriate understanding of acoustics and high standards of virtuosity – lay the foundation of a melodic storyline or content. A music presentation is like telling a story that unfolds gradually phrase by phrase before reaching the climax. This journey must evoke taseer (soulful emotion) which results out of introspection or meditation. To inculcate this is easier said than done. Music follows the traits of one’s inherent character. A lot of pruning and perming goes behind tapering an aggressive musician and a considerable push is needed to help an introvert to open up. After careful evaluation I often tell one student to become a little more of a sanyasi  or ascetic; and another to become a little more interactive, vociferous, even playful!" he added laughingly.

"All of this is but an instrument to divine bliss," he conceded, "but corporate sponsorships have converted our music into a commodity. The target consumer is of average taste and highly paid artists are catering to their tastes to justify their role as star entertainers! In my small way I am striving to stall this downward trend by passing on good values to my disciples – as handed down by our legendary maestros", confessed the guru with a sigh of contentment.
Parikh has good reasons to be contented because during the Guru Poornima soiree most of his disciples followed a delightful trend of playing longish introspective alap replete with lingering notes and loving meends. Having etched the features of the ragas so emotively, the jod and jhala segments, based on skill-show, remained very short. Varied taan patterns are this gharana’s forte. At this juncture, many resorted to aggressive showmanship – a natural bent of youthful exuberance; and then, the concluding  jhala that reverted to the soulful alap. This format does contain the delightful combination of both – soul-stirring emotion and titillating virtuosity.
After the Guru Poornima soiree the most important ritual is ‘Prasad’ in the form of a general analysis of all the participants by the guru. It is commendable, how efficiently Parikh handles all his disciples – with wit and humour-coated wise suggestions! Such open analytical assessment helps all his students, who enjoy the permission of their guru, to follow their role models but by absorbing and digesting the impact completely and ‘churning it into a perfect blend’. A perfect way to innovate fresh melodic appeal.

Let us journey back to where we belong

By Arvind Brahmakal

Can each of us think of the last time we went into a trance after listening to a Bharatiya Sangeeta concert? A state of mind so meditative? A longing to go back to the same artist's concert even if the same songs or ragas were to be rendered again. Such instances have become few and far between - for me.

Are there too many concerts these days? Yes – but, with our lifestyle and competing demands for our mind-space, the number of concerts per person might have reduced. Has the attention span reduced? Certainly. But, the concert duration has also reduced from several hours to two hours these days. Quality of concerts? There is much variety being offered these days. Meticulous concert planning – no repeat songs, variety of composers, rare and new ragas, range of talas, multiple composition types, massive emphasis on mathematical acumen... the list goes on.

So, what is the challenge?

We have heard learned people, of present and past, unequivocally say that Bharatiya Sangeeta is not mere entertainment. It is meant to elevate the consciousness – of the artist and the audience alike. It is about attaining oneness with the form and the formless. It is meditation. Saint composer Tyagaraja has elucidated this is in several of his compositions about nadopasana. He questions sharply in the Dhanyasi raga masterpiece Sangeeta gnanamu, "Can music knowledge bereft of bhakti lead one on to the right path?" If the learned people have said this consistently over time, could there be some truth in this?

What is bhakti and how does this manifest itself in a performance? Bhakti can be loosely translated as an intense longing or love for the divine. All concerts have songs that have been composed by great saints and which have lived through time. Think of this too – songs of the latest movie last only till the next catchy tune comes our way. Songs composed by Tyagaraja, Purandaradasa, Bhadrachala Ramadas, Sadasiva Brahmendra, Tulsidas, Kabir, Meerabai and many others are still the most sought after even after many centuries. These saints looked at music beyond simple entertainment. There was, at the core, a fondness, a deep love for the divine. This love manifested itself through words that were sung. Yes, there was lyrical and musical brilliance – but both these emanated from intense bhakti. The outcome was a melodious outpouring of nectar, very similar to water gushing out of a fountain or a flower opening its petals. The fullness of the devotion manifested into something beautiful and timeless. This can be amply seen in songs where these saints talk freely with their 'ishta devata'. The various emotions of this bhakti are there for all to see and experience. A simple lifestyle, a yearning for the divine, excellence in poetry and music and single minded life pursuit were key attributes of the life they led – nada aikya.

A performer is duty-bound to do justice to the songs composed by such greats. Effort has to be made by the artist to get a deep understanding of the mood of the composer,  the expression of this through words, and how these words flowed musically. It is only with such a visualisation that a good artist would succeed in providing a "lift" to his performance – to a level beyond entertainment. In the type of songs we are discussing, the focal point has been the Hindu gods. So, an artist needs to have this connect with the God principle to appreciate the mood. What is essential for the artist is a spiritual connect with a Higher Entity – which may or may not have form, something that fills the heart with love towards all. A good understanding of poetry, and not just meaning of the words, is key to the artist's expression. Proficiency has to be achieved in music and finally, the performer has to develop the ability to comprehend the linkage between bhava, sahitya and sangeeta. A perfect combination of all of these significantly enhances the melody – remember Bharata Ratna M.S.  Subbulakshmi.

Lately, we keep hearing our music is secular. It is interesting to watch this trend and observe certain patterns of intent. I think this concept is raising questions in the minds of young artists whether rendering songs in praise of Hindu Gods is secular. There appears to be an orientation towards more of raga and swara rendition and usage of symbolic words to make our music perceivably appealable to people of various faiths – and worse still, to convince Hindus. Like yoga and ayurveda, this music is there for humankind to take benefit from. Without the deep connect and love for the divine, how can an artist appreciate the bhava of the composition? Secularism is not a synonym for being an atheist or for being irreligious. It should not constrain one from following his faith in private and more importantly, as a social group, in public. This trend has been initiated by certain artists because they are either non-believers or they feel this is the way to take music to the masses; and by companies who do not consider Bharatiya Sangeeta as secular and hence, do not sponsor programmes. Atheist artists might introspect and decide to offer "art music" concerts where songs can probably be about social issues and the like – else, simply render raga and swaras with no compositions at all. Bhakti is without boundaries of caste – hence, an artist probably needs to dive deeper into bhakti if he wants to propagate this art form to the masses and not the other way around. We need to establish think tanks and pressure groups to impress upon companies that preserving and promoting culture in the land where they earn profits is equally important as supporting education, healthcare, etc. It is time for us to move away from this hypocrisy and embrace the true essence of our music.

There is an argument that this music form has to be more about kalpana (creativity) than kalpita (pre-written). It is important to note that kalpana has been hugely enhanced only because of kalpita – that is, compositions of the great saints. When there are so many rich compositions, let us take this discussion to the other side. Reverse the trend! In a concert, pack more number of such compositions and limit the kalpana element. The role of kalpana should be viewed as primarily to embellish the compositions and not for it to stand out as a solo piece. Is it not true that an artist  gets maximum applause when he renders the 'lighter' songs towards the end of the concert. For those kalpana fans, have 'art music' concerts! "Popular music" is what our music was and along the way, we appear to have lost the direction. This principle was adequately demonstrated by these great saints who took this musical form to the masses and did not restrict it as a 'fine art' to be enjoyed by a limited elite.

Another trend today is the call for expanded repertoire with songs that are not in that higher league and in ragas that are not jana-ranjaka. As an audience, we should demand largely popular songs in often heard ragas to be performed. Liken this to 'hit songs' in a live show. These songs and ragas have become popular for a reason – that great saints composed them and there is an inherent power in them. Such songs and ragas have had a natural connect with the artists and the listeners, over time. This, however, should not be viewed as an attempt to constrain innovation or new compositions. A very strict filter needs to be applied by the artist to bring on only compositions that truly are in that league. This will help raise the quality bar on the new age composers. As for exposition of rare ragas, yes, but in a limited measure. If a rare raga gets accepted by the audience over a period of time, it can then be brought to the mainstream. Quality over quantity should be the mantra.

Music organisations have a key and active role to play in protecting and preserving this tradition. Create an aesthetic temple-like ambience for concerts. Encourage the artists to render popular compositions largely of great saints. Nudge the artists to stick to core set of jana-ranjaka ragas for the most part. Have programmes linked to Hindu festivals to enhance the devotional fervour. Develop 'outreach' programmes to take this form to the people than passively waiting for people to show up at concerts. Take music to the masses. Encourage members/ audiences to be more vocal about these topics in different media. Develop and innovate formats to connect the GenNext to this art form. Convert passive listening to active participation by the audience –  example, the last two songs in the performance could have the audience repeat the lines in the song or permit claps through the song.

Government has been supporting artists and music organisations in promotion of arts and culture. The parameters for approving grants needs to be relooked. The aim has to be to fulfill Mahatma Gandhi's dream of our society becoming a "Rama Rajya". The Government can orient maximum funds towards an ecosystem that promotes movement in this direction.

In conclusion, there is a need for something that helps us understand the larger purpose of life. Learned people have said our music is the easiest vehicle available for such attainment. To sustain and perpetuate this medium is our collective responsibility. We need to view Bharatiya Sangeeta as a means towards a purposeful end and not an end in itself. Let us move back to where we really belong – to the source, that is "bhakti".

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Dance India Asia Pacific - Day 2

By Anjana Anand

6th June 2016

The day started with a buzz as participants entered their respective classes with enthusiasm and trepidation. For many, it involved months of planning as they had to take time off from work and make arrangements at home to immerse themselves for a week in a world of arts. The first session focussed on the basics with adavu practice after which the participants met their individual teachers to start work on core technique and repertoire.

A working lunch saw Dr. Gauri Krishnan speak about her book ‘The power of the female: Devangana sculptures on the Indian Temple architecture’. Book readings are organised in between to expose young students to the documentation of work on Indian dance history and culture – many of them authored by local artists and researchers.

The afternoon session with Bragha Bessel was a hit with the students. She took them on an emotional journey through the hearts of the ashtanayikas. This was followed by an awe inspiring lecture by Dr. Chithra Madhavan on temples in India. Soon after the lecture, many students were found discussing plans to visit India to see some of the wonders she had described.

The evening performance by Chitra Poornima and Sushma Somasekharan titled Nrithya Geetham, curated by Aravinth Kumarasamy, was a refreshing surprise. The duo brought energy and enthusiasm to the well-researched presentation. They effortlessly straddled dialogue and music to illustrate how Carnatic music sung in a Bharatanatyam performance differs from a music kutcheri. 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Dance India Asia Pacific - Day 1

By Anjana Anand

5th June 2016

Dance India – a flagship project of the core artistic output of Milapfest (UK) has brought its unique dance camp to Singapore in partnership with Apsara Arts. Dance India Asia Pacific celebrated its fifth year and inaugurated the seven-day camp at the beautiful Goodman Arts Centre.

The faculty this year has artists from three different classical forms: Bragha Bessel, Priyadarsini Govind and Anjana Anand for Bharatanatyam, Ratikant Mohapatra for Odissi) and Sanjukta Sinha for Kathak. Other allied workshop presenters include Lakshmi Vishwanathan and Dr. Chithra Madhavan. An interesting addition this year is a folk core workshop by V. Balasubramaniam from Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu.

Dance India Asia Pacific has done a commendable job of attracting students from all the dance schools in Singapore. This year has a representation from many countries as far as Kazhakastan and Ireland. It was heartwarming to meet an eight-student delegation from Sri Lanka. The enthusiastic delegates spoke about how art has been a healing force in a country recovering from strife.

The inauguration was attended by the Apsara Arts board members and the chief guest Gopinath Pillai. The Kathakali programme by Bhaskars Arts Academy gave a colourful flying start to the camp. With the untiring efforts of the Apsara Arts team headed by Aravinth Kumarasamy and mentor Neila Sathyalingam and the Milapfest flag bearers Alok and Archana, Dance India is in for another successful year!