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Pulse asian music and dance

Autumn 2012 - Issue 118

ツ」7.50 | $15 | 竄ャ9.50

INSIDE In the Frame The Avatara Project Reviews Bamboo Blues, Utsト」, Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company, Kareeb, Raghu Dixit, Open Souls, Dr Balamuralikrishna, Jyotsna Srikanth Project

The Man Who Loves to Listen

The Brains Behind Darbar 2012 The Cultural Olympiad in the Eyes of the Critics


sound in print


connecting asian dance and music communities

Featuring Michael Nyman’s acclaimed String Quartet No. 2 played live on stage. ‘energy with intelligence...a classic’ - The LoNdoN eveNiNg STANdArd

‘fierce modern energy...pure pleasure’ - The guArdiAN autumn 2012 tour wed 26 sep tewkesbury The roses Sun Street, Tewkesbury, gL20 5NX 01684 295074 fri 28 sep falmouth The Performance Centre university College Tremough Campus, Penryn, Cornwall Tr10 9LX 01326 255885 thu 4 oct london Laban Theatre Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and dance Creekside, London Se8 3dZ 020 8469 9500 tue 9 oct watford Watford Palace Theatre 20 Clarendon rd, Watford, herts Wd17 1JZ 01923 225671 thu 11 & fri 12 oct exeter Northcott Theatre Stocker rd, exeter eX4 4QB 01392 493493 thu 25 oct leeds Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre Northern Ballet, Quarry hill, Leeds LS2 7PA 0113 220 8008

for more details and how to book visit: Classic Cut has been co-commissioned by ROH2 at the Royal Opera House and The Point Eastleigh. Co-production with ROH2. The music commission by Niraj Chag is supported with funds from PRS for Music Foundation. The tour is supported by The Leche Trust.


An intriguing show from choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh – revisiting the past and boldly stepping into the new.

a double bill

Pulse Autumn 2012 — Issue 118 ISSN 1476-6019 Published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music c/o The Hat Factory, 65-67 Bute Street, Luton LU1 2EY +44 (0) 1582 876 038 Editorial Team Commissioning Editor Sanjeevini Dutta


118/Contents 3


Assistant Editor Lucinda Al-Zoghbi

2 3 5

Editorial News Listings


The Man Who Loves to Listen London-based multi-discipline artist, Ansuman Biswas, shares his passion for all things sound with a written reflection of his musical discoveries.


Sandeep Virdee Heavyweight Champion of Classical Music In the run-up to Darbar Festival 2012, Jahnavi Harrison asks Sandeep Virdee about the trials and tribulations of programming a niche music festival for London audiences.

Assistants Jahnavi Harrison, Katie Ryan Design Art Director Pritpal Ajimal Photography Director Simon Richardson Subscriptions & Advertising



Contacts Disclaimer Pulse is published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music. Kadam are a part of SADA (South Asian Dance Alliance). No part of the magazine may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. Copyright of the text is shared with its authors. Copyright of the photographs/images reside with contributing photographers/ artists. All other rights reserved. The views/opinions expressed in Pulse are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the editor or publisher. While reasonable effort has been made to avoid errors, no liability will be accepted for any that may have inadvertently occurred. Annual subscription £30 with free delivery Cheques payable to Kadam, c/o The Hat Factory, 65-67 Bute Street, Luton LU1 2EY. For online subscriptions and payments please visit



In The Frame: Avatara A unique collaboration between Veena Basavarajaiah, Simon Richardson and Riffat Bahar brings ancient Indian temple sculptures to life.


The Cultural Olympiad Through the Eyes of the Critics Three cultural commentators, Donald Hutera, Sanjeevini Dutta and Nicholas Minns, reflect on the South Asian flavours that arose from London 2012.




connecting asian dance and music communities

Pulse serves the art’s sector by recording, critiquing, profiling and archiving South Asian dance and music in the UK through Pulse magazine and the website: The magazine relies solely on income from subscriptions, advertising and donations. All donations welcome through our website Kadam forms part of the SADA Alliance

Contents Page Photo Credits

FC Ansuman Biswas / Photo: Simon Richardson 3 6 9 12 14 22

Akademi’s Maaya | Photo: Catherine Bebbington Copyright- UK Parliament Ansuman Biswas / Photo: Simon Richardson Sandeep Virdee / Photo: Kanwal Ahluwalia Avatara / Photo: Simon Richardson Wah! Wah! Girls / Photo: Steve Tanner Timeless | Photo: Harkiran Singh Bhasin/NCPA

Dance in the Community: Nritya Uphaar: The Gift of Dance Bharatanatyam artiste-teacher, Nandini Krishna, shares her experiences from a trio of community-based workshops run in Mumbai which concluded in 2010.


Choreographic Collision Bharatanatyam performing artist, teacher and choreographer, Elena Jacinta, shares her experience of a two-and-a-halfweek training course with choreographic masterminds in Venice.


Dance Performances Bamboo Blues (Pina Bausch World Cities)


Utsāv (Sujata Banerjee Dance Company)


Kareeb (Pritika Agarwal) Uncharted Seas/Timeless (Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company)


Music Performance Raghu Dixit Project Open Souls


Dr Balamuralikrishna Jyotsna Srikanth Project

Published by


Young Pulse: Swati Youth Dance at U.Dance 2012 Swati Youth Dance member, Vaidehi Raut, shares her experience of performing at the U.Dance 2012 national platform at the Southbank Centre, London.



Letter from the Editor

Shane Shambhu Company In High Demand

Dear Reader

Bharatanatyam-trained physical theatre artist Shane Shambhu has had a busy few months this summer. It began in July when he and collaborators Two Thirds Sky performed at the Big Dance festivities in Luton and worked with the CAT students at DanceXchange in Birmingham during their summer school programme. Further afield, Shane travelled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August for the Danse à Lille/Festival Les Repérages where he worked as the UK choreographer/director for a week-long experimental lab/ performance project. Earlier this month (September), Shane was interviewed by New Art Club for the final episode of Come Dance with Me, plus a special commission with Kurdistani writer/poet Choman Hardi and Iraqi filmmaker/photographer Gaylan

It has been a summer to remember – the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games where Team GB’s medal haul has held the nation’s focus. At the back of the event, artists and entertainers have enjoyed unprecedented audiences – potentially 20 million watched Akram Khan’s Abide with Me at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. But while that puts a tick in the funder’s box, will it lead to any long-term change? That is a question being asked right now on many levels. However, before we plunge into the post-Olympic legacy debate, let’s record the achievements of our artists in the Cultural Olympiad. They have created works of breathtaking originality: kathak has partnered synchronised swimming; the pews of a 500-year-old church have provided the central inspiration for a miniature masterpiece; and a Mozart aria has been choreographed to odissi movements. When it comes to ideas, South Asian artists have not fallen short. So now that the Olympic euphoria is over, it’s back to business for the rest of us, but with what and how will we sustain the spirit? Perhaps with riyaz, the practice; whether that of an artist, sportsman or office worker. The practice in the larger sense is that of listening to the voice within, says Ansuman Biswas. Indian classical music, he feels, encourages deep listening. Approached through the ear (traditionally taught without notation), the notes then become the voice, as the listener responds to the music by singing themselves, even if done silently. This creates a ‘listening loop’: sounds from the outside world are absorbed within, arise through the breath and throat to be released back again. This leads us nicely to the forthcoming Darbar festival of Hindustani and Carnatic music at London’s Southbank Centre. Now in its sixth year, Darbar invites some prominent names, but each year uncovers new stars. Saswati Mandal Pal (2008) who sings tappa, a classical folk genre, was a revelation, as was vocalist Venkatesh Kumar, whom festival director Sandeep Virdee had only seen on YouTube. His thunderous performance at Kings Place brought down the concert roof. How refreshing to programme on the strength of one’s belief in an artist, rather than on reputation alone. Pulse anticipates Darbar with pleasure. Hope to see some of you there. Warm wishes Sanjeevini


Akademi’s Maaya | Photo: Catherine Bebbington | Copyright- UK Parliament

Olympic-Inspired Creativity Over the last few months, the UK has been buzzing with cultural events to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Young and old Britons and tourists have been spoilt for choice with many free performances, talks, exhibitions and participation events through a variety of creative workshops. The South Asian arts scene has certainly had its fair share of successes this season from Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company’s TooMortal, specially commissioned for the London 2012 Festival; Balbir Singh’s aqua kathak exploration, Synchronised; and Akademi’s Maaya which saw classical Indian dancers take over Westminster Hall. But the pièce de résistance was Akram Khan’s choreographic masterpiece at the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday 27 July. Set to the Christian hymn Abide with Me which was sung by Scottish singer Emeli Sandé, Khan paid tribute to the victims of the 7/7 London bombings with this piece of visual poetry.

Shane Shambhu | Photo: Courtesy of the Artist

Nazhad for the World Events Young Artists (WEYA) season in Nottingham. With performances scheduled for London, Birmingham and a newlyassigned work base at the Jerwood DanceHouse in Ipswich, Shane Shambhu Company is going from strength to strength. Watch out for more exciting developments to follow in the coming months.

Misrana 2012

Performers at the Indika Festival | Photo: Courtesy of Milapfest

Indika 2012 The UK’s biggest festival of Indian music and dance, Indika, took place at the Capstone Theatre in Liverpool last month from 13–23 August to coincide with Milapfest’s longrunning summer schools Dance India and Music India. The fourteen-day festival began with a launch concert on Monday 13 August featuring Samyo and Tarang, Milapfest’s in-house orchestras and, on the days that followed, further music and dance performances, workshops and lectures. Over 200 international artists took part across the three events – the festival and subsequent summer schools – as students, performers, gurus and tutors; a memorable fortnight for all who were involved.

On Sunday 4 November 2012, the ISTD South Asian Dance Faculty in association with Milapfest will host its biennial showcase for student talent at the Quays Theatre, The Lowry in Salford. Presentations will be made by the best of dance students following ISTD’s kathak or bharatanatyam syllabus and Ankh and Devika Rao will be the guest artists. Deepa Ganesh’s students will participate as the invited group from the region, in addition to the students of Sujata Banerjee, Chitraleka Bolar, Padmashri Guru Pratap Pawar, Nina Rajarani MBE, Swati Raut, Kajal Sharma and Anusha Subramanyam who were


selected by audition. For further information and to book, please see misrana-2012

Gait to the Spirit Festival 2012 Mandala Arts presents its third annual classical Indian dance festival, Gait to the Spirit 2012, at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver, Canada from 26–29 October. The programme, which has been curated by Managing Artistic Director Jai Govinda, includes bharatanatyam dancer Savitha Sastry, odissi dancer Shalini Patnaik and British-based contemporary kathak artist, Aakash Odedra. Vancouverbased bharatanatyam artist Malavika Santhosh will premiere a new work.

The Art of Critical Writing Continues to Enthuse Critics of Tomorrow Kadam and Pulse are pleased to announce a further date for the Art of Critical Writing (AOCW), 15 November 2012 at The Hat Factory in Luton. Led by dance critic for the Guardian, Sanjoy Roy, the AOCW is a short course which aims to equip aspiring arts writers with the tools to critically reflect and comment on the work of performing artists. Following its launch in April earlier this year at the Southbank Centre’s Alchemy Festival and subsequent sessions at the International

of ATMA, starts her two-year appointment as the Royal Ballet Choreographic Interchange Programme Artist. The scheme has been set up to provide emerging choreographers with access to the wide range of work and opportunities being developed across the Royal Opera

Mayuri Boonham | Photo: Chris Nash

House. The creative hothouse will undoubtedly influence the piece that Boonham will choreograph for a platform as the culmination of her residency. The host organisation too will receive some of the artist’s own bharatanatyam-inspired vision.

Avatara Goes Global Independent dance artist Veena Basavarajaiah presented her Avatara project as part of Stoff 2012, the Stockholm Fringe Festival, last month (22–25 August). As one of 400 specially

Veena Basavarajaiah | Photo: Simon Richardson

Jameela Saddiqi and Sanjoy Roy | Photo: Yasmin Khan

Festival, Leicester and DanceXchange in Birmingham, this latest instalment will give participants the opportunity to review a performance from the Shane Shambhu Company.

Royal Opera House appoints Mayuri Boonham In September 2012, Mayuri Boonham, dancer and director

selected artists from forty countries, Veena presented a piece of work which was a collaboration between UK-based photographer Simon Richardson and British-Pakistani make-up artist Riffat Bahar. The result was a stunning recreation of temple sculptures on a dancing body and the images are further incorporated into a performance; an installation that facilitates audience interaction with the images in a photo booth. The installation is a collaboration with artist Shreekanth Rao (India) and was supported by

Pulse (UK) and the photographer, Simon Richardson. This is a unique project that brings Indian dance to Sweden’s backyard.

The Godfather of Bhangra Receives OBE As part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations earlier this year, a new list of Honours has been compiled by Her Majesty. The Order of the British Empire (OBE) is one of the highest civilian awards, recognising distinguished service to the arts and sciences, public services outside the Civil Service and work with charitable and welfare organisations of all kinds. Among the recipients for this year’s prestigious awards was Harcharanjit Singh (Channi Singh) Rapal, founder, lead singer, producer and director of Alaap, a music group based in London. Channi Singh was selected for his services to bhangra music, charity and to the community of Hounslow, West London.

BT River of Music London was bursting to the brim with world music on the weekend of Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 July as part of the BT River of Music festival. The event took place a week ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, providing the perfect curtain-raiser for the sporting celebrations that were to follow and featured artists representing all participating Olympic and Paralympic nations. The Asia Stage, which was hosted by Hardeep Singh Kohli and Nikki Bedi in Battersea Park, saw the likes of Pakistani Qawwali musician Asif Ali Khan collaborate with London-based Bangladeshi singer Sanchita Farruque; Arun Ghosh the Bengali jazz clarinettist presented a piece created with students of Morpeth

Zakir Hussain: Pulse of the World | Photo: Emile Holba

school in Tower Hamlets; Oud player Khyam Allami and the Alif Ensemble representing the

Middle East; and Chinese singing sensation Gong Linna. The big finale came from acclaimed tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, who combined South Indian music traditions with Scottish and Irish folk. The diversity and creativity on offer that weekend prompted reactions from some great musicians who attended the event like Soumik Datta, acclaimed British sarod musician, who tweeted: “Elated after hearing the KING @ZakirHtabla under the scorching London sun.”

Leicester Dance Group to Represent East Midlands at National Big Dance Launch Festival In this Olympic year, the nation has been glistening with a colourful array of arts events like Big Dance, the UK’s biggest biannual dance festival which took place from 18 May to 15 July. As part of the London 2012 Festival, the finale of the Cultural Olympiad, Big Dance 2012 gave the opportunity for hundreds and thousands of people, young and old, dance novice and expert alike, to get involved in lots and lots of dancing. Representing the East Midlands, the Nupur Arts Dance Academy were specially chosen to launch Big Dance Week at St Pancras International on 5 July, following a nomination from Dance4 to acknowledge Nupur Arts’ performance at Mass Movement earlier this year. The dance piece, which was choreographed by Dimple Chauhan, combines bharatanatyam and Bollywood.

ISTD Seeks Kathak Examiner The South Asian Dance Faculty at the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) would like to invite kathak practitioners to apply for the position of examiner for the Faculty. Applications will be considered only from those who are already an ISTD member and have taught up to at least Grade 6 of ISTD’s kathak syllabi and presented students at this level in examinations. Those interested should contact the Customer Services and Quality Assurance Department of the ISTD on AUTUMN 2012 PULSE 3

UPFRONT — NEWS for an examiner application form. All applications should be sent to the Faculty Secretary, Nina Rajarani MBE, on istdsouthasianfaculty@ to be received no later than 5 November 2012.

Bharatanatyam Takes Over from the Netherlands to Malaysia Earlier this year, independent bharatanatyam artist, Kalpana Raghuraman, was invited by Sutra Dance Theatre in Malaysia to create a piece for seven of their dancers. Raghuraman, who was born and raised in the Netherlands, went to Kuala Lumpur in August to work with

She Ra | Photo: Magendran Subramanian

the dancers and premiered the new work, entitled She Ra, at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre on 29 August as part of a five-night run for the Tarikan Festival. She Ra explores the qualities of superheroes whilst drawing upon Indian mythology but Raghuraman is clear to highlight that power and vulnerability, the underlying themes of the piece, are represented through performance energy rather than a prescribed narrative. She says: “In this collaboration with Sutra, I have pushed the dancers to find themselves in new ways and, during this process, they connected with the superhero inside of themselves.” Raghuraman has been artist-inresidence at the Korzo Theater at The Hague since 2010 and was one of the guest tutors at Kadam’s choreography course, UC5, which took place at The Hat Factory in Luton earlier this year.

High Court has the Final Say It’s been a turbulent few months for Leela Samson, the former Director at Kalakshetra, who was forced to resign from her position back in April which was 4 PULSE AUTUMN 2012

quickly followed by campaigns to reinstate her. On 9 August, however, The Hindu announced that the Madras High Court had challenged Samson’s re-entry to Kalakshetra and, as a result, she is now unable to resume her position as Director. The decision was made on the grounds that a person who had resigned from the post of Director could only be re-appointed, but the resignation could not be withdrawn as it was not permissible in law.

Mandala A dazzling outdoor performance spectacle named Mandala drew in huge crowds this summer to celebrate international and British Asian dance and music as part of the London 2012 Festival. Produced by sampad, a dynamic development agency for South Asian arts based in Birmingham, the event took place across one weekend in September which saw the Birmingham Town Hall transformed into a creative hothouse for the performance extravaganza on Friday 7, combining stunning digital projections and visual effects with live dance, music and audience interaction. The Nottingham Council House was brought to life in a similar way on Sunday 9 September as the show was reprised in the heart of the city centre. Mandala, which derives from the Sanksrit for circle, brought together some of the very best in British-Asian dance talent, including the likes of kathak dance artist Aakash Odedra and bharatanatyam/kathakali practitioner Devika Rao. The pair performed alongside BBOY’S ATTIC which brought an edgy, urban vibe to the classical Indian dance forms. These stunning visuals were enhanced by a stunning soundtrack from worldclass musicians Anoushka Shankar and Zakir Hussain. There was also a live appearance from British tabla maestro Talvin Singh. Mandala was the result of a collaboration between sampad South Asian arts and leading arts & technology company, seeper. The production was directed by Kully Thiarai, with choreography from Aakash Odedra and artistic direction from Piali Ray. To submit a news story or an event listing, please email

Mandala | Photo: Simon Richardson







Dance/Music/Theatre Wah! Wah! Girls: Various Theatre Royal Stratford East, Stratford, London Dance Kalpavriksha: Odissi Ensemble, Akademi King’s Place, London Dance Bharatanatyam with Srishti: Srishti – Nina Rajarani Dance Creations, Akademi King’s Place, London Music Music for The Mind and Soul: Manjiri Asnare Kelkar The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester performance/20390.aspx Music Darbar Festival - Indian Vibes Series: Manjari Asnare-Kelkar The Curve, Leicester


Music Murad Ali The Sage, Gateshead


Dance Double Bill: Classic Cut: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company The Roses, Tewkesbury

26-28 Dance DESH: Akram Khan Company Teatro Argentina (Romaeuropa Festival), Rome, Italy 27-30



Music Darbar Festival: Various Southbank Centre, London








Music Swati Natekar presents ‘A rare treat’ An evening of Ghazal, Thumri, Bhajan & Indian Classical: Swati Natekar Museum of Asian Music, London Music Mid-Day Mantra - Afternoon Raga Unveiled: Prattyush Banerjee and Surdarshan Singh Symphony Hall Cafe Bar, Birmingham


Dance Akasha: Mavin Khoo Dance Teatru Manoel, Malta


Dance DESH: Akram Khan Company Sadler’s Wells, London


Dance Double Bill: Classic Cut: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company Bonnie Bird Theatre, Laban, London




Music Bollywood Brass Band : Bollywood Brass Band and Rafaqat Ali Khan Rich Mix, Shoreditch, London 14



Music Bollywood Brass Band: Bollywood Brass Band and Rafaqat Ali Khan Mill Arts Centre, Banbury Music Music for the Mind and Soul: Tarang Bridgewater Hall, Manchester performance/20391.aspx Music Mid-Day Mantra: Rekesh Chauhan Symphony Hall Cafe Bar, Birmingham


Music An Audience With Chirag Pehchan Birmingham Town Hall, Birmingham

Dance ONE: Amina Khayyam Dance Company Seven Arts , Leeds

Dance/Theatre Leaving Only A Trace: Shane Shambhu Company mac, Birmingham 26

Dance/Music Samarpanam: An Offering: Ananya Chatterjee, Kalakunj South Street Arts Centre, Reading Arts+Crafts / Dance/ Music Divali: Luton Culture Wardown Park Museum, Luton Arts+Crafts / Dance/ Music Festivals of Light: Luton Culture Luton Libraries, Luton Music Rajan and Sajan Misra Kings Hall, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne 11

Music Indian Vibes Series: Milun The Curve, Leicester Music Jon Sterckx / Ricky Romain New Brewery Arts Centre, Cirencester

26-29 Dance Gait to the Spirit Festival: Various presented by Mandala Arts Scotiabank Dance Centre, Vancouver, Canada past-events/ 27



Music Bollywood Brass Band: Bollywood Brass Band and Rafaqat Ali Khan Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich

Music Soulful Sounds: Mehboob Nadeem & Hanif Khan Museum of Asian Music, London


Dance/Theatre Henna: Peter and Gorg Chand Tara Theatre, Earlsfield, London 17

Dance Misrana 2012: ISTD & Milapfest The Lowry, Salford Quays misrana-2012

Dance/Music/Theatre Diwali Hangama: Various Including Signature The Curve, Leicester Dance/Music Diwali Celebrations Gateshead Civic Centre, Gateshead

Dance Daredevas: Akademi Rich Mix, London Dance South Asian Dance Celebration: Various artists Dance City, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Critical Writing The Art of Critical Writing: Pulse The Hat Factory, Luton ArtCriticalWriting2 Dance/Theatre Leaving Only A Trace: Shane Shambhu Company The Hat Factory, Luton


Dance DESH: Akram Khan Company Grand Théâtre, Luxembourg Music Global Sounds: Ranjana Ghatak, Jason Singh Rich Mix, London event/global-sounds

Music Britten Sinfonia 20th Birthday: Various including Andy Sheppard, Seb Rochford, Kuljit Bhamra Barbican Hall, London 31

Music London Jazz Festival: John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension + Arun Ghosh Group Barbican Hall, London Dance DESH: Akram Khan Company Rabozaal, Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, The Netherlands

26-28 Dance Gnosis (as part of Timeless): Akram Khan Company National Theatre Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan

Music Bollywood Brass Band: Bollywood Brass Band and Rafaqat Ali Khan Warwick Arts Centre, Warwick Music Sanjeev Abhyankar The Sage, Gateshead

Music Circle of Sound: Soumik Datta and Bernhard Schimpelsberger Parramasala Festival, Parramatta City, Australia

Dance Double Bill: Classic Cut: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre Northern Ballet, Leeds

Dance/Physical Theatre Work in Progress: Power Games: Shane Shambhu Company The Jerwood Dance House, Ipswich

Dance Shades of Love: Odissi Ensemble Colchester Arts Centre, Colchester, Essex


Music The Adventures of Prince Achmed: Arun Ghosh The Albany, London

Dance Double Bill: Classic Cut: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company Watford Palace Theatre, Watford

Dance Ekalya: Sonia Sabri Company Steiner Academy Birch Hall, Much Dewchurch

Music Circle of Sound: Soumik Datta and Bernhard Schimpelsberger Melbourne, Australia

Dance Akasha: Mavin Khoo Dance SOTA, Singapore

Music Bollywood Brass Band : Bollywood Brass Band and Rafaqat Ali Khan Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes

Dance Double Bill: Classic Cut: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company Northcott Theatre, Exeter

Dance/Theatre Be Like Water Hetain Patel The Curve, Leicester Dance Ekalya: Sonia Sabri Company Wem Town Hall, Shropshire

Dance ONE: Amina Khayyam Dance Company The Cockpit Theatre, London

Dance Shades of Love: Odissi Ensemble mac, Birmingham

Music Shujaat Khan The Sage, Gateshead 29

Music An evening of Ghazal, Thumri, Bhajan & Indian Classical: Swati Natekar Museum of Asian Music, London

Music Bollywood Brass Band: Bollywood Brass Band and Rafaqat Ali Khan Exeter Phoenix, Exeter

Dance Ekalya : Sonia Sabri Company Cawley Hall, Eye

Dance Double Bill: Classic Cut: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company The Performance Centre, University College, Falmouth Dance/Theatre Leaving Only A Trace: Shane Shambhu Company Rich Mix, Shoreditch, London

Music Romantic Music of Varanasi: Pandit Rajendra Prasanna (Flute/ Shennai) accompanied by Shubh Maharaj (Tabla) Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford Upon Avon

Dance Kaavish: Sonia Sabri Company The Capstone Theatre , Liverpool 23-24

Dance Kaavish: Sonia Sabri Company mac, Birmingham


how to listen

How to Ansuman Biswas | Photos : Simon Richardson

Having led an incredibly successful few sessions for Pulse at Alchemy Festival earlier this year, multi-disciplinary artist Ansuman Biswas shares his passion for listening – something he has dedicated his life’s work towards.

I  “what is really important about it [Indian music] how it teaches us to listen.”


f a classic is eternally and universally relevant, then the Indian approach to music is truly classical. Beyond the particularities of the human accidents of culture and history is an understanding of listening as a direct relationship between consciousness and the vibrating matter of the world. Though Indian classical music may be identifiable by certain superficial features of instrumentation or technique, what is really important about it – the speciality which makes it universally relevant – is how it teaches us to listen. Listening is the most subtly active of the senses. Photons percuss against the retina, and molecules sink into the olfactory nerves. Moisture saturates the taste buds and waves of air lap against the eardrums. The spectrum of touch includes within it the soft touch of the air, but listening does not begin and end in the ears. Listening wades, ear-first, into a

huge Ganges of vibration until the whole body is immersed. Then the body/mind is suffused with a sense of somatic presence, a feeling. Through deep listening we tune ourselves and begin to understand music not simply as the noises things make but as the movement of everything that happens. Consciousness of all that happens is rooted here in the body. Deep listening reveals music as emerging not from some mystical faraway source but right here in the self. The awareness of the relationship between the individual life force and the whole cosmos is what is at the heart of Indian classical music. This is why its royal path is through the voice. It is in the voice that the mind manifests and the body resonates. From the breath may arise countless languages, instruments, and forms to revel in and wonder at, but they are dangerous distractions if they lead us to forget the primacy of the ear and the voice. Indian classical


music constantly leads us back to this body where listening happens, back to this heart. Caught in that powerful current, the heart of any careful listener of Indian classical music must be moved, whether only silently or through every action, to sing.

Listening for Sa I have three tanpuras going. ‘Squeak’ on the laptop, iTanpura on the iPhone and a real one rising from my lap. It’s a choppy sea. I am drowning. Trying to keep my head above the water. It is MY head. I am stuck inside it. Against the world. Me against the world. I switch one off. Put another down. Now I sing, and immediately am astonished to hear the ringing rainbow overtones spring out. As I listen they move across the ridges in my throat and I feel

Words by Ansuman Biswas

and hear the movement simultaneously. It is like swallowing a stream of soft jewels, a river of crystal water perhaps, ringed by my throat. There seem to be tiny bands of muscle I never knew about. Now that I notice them I find that I can play with them, squeezing and releasing the flow in different places, feeling them move and the sound colours change. The tanpura is no longer around and outside, but permeates me. It buoys me up. I swim in it. There is no surface. As I release my body into the ocean I begin to notice my own breath within its currents. It becomes apparent that my breath is the centre of my influence on this vast, rippling field. Suddenly I remember the yoga asanas I was practising last night, when I discovered a whole new way to breathe, hitting a spot with the stream of air somewhere deep in the back and centre of my chest. Now breath, throat, tongue are finding a new AUTUMN 2012 PULSE 7

how to listen Ranjana Ghatak | Photo : Mellisa Lane Porter

uniqueness. The sound of traffic shudders through me. Engines and minds are filtered through my voice. I am a filter against the world. I hear many sounds in this mechanical urbis that are beyond me, outside the frequencies of my body. So I wait, listening more closely inside each sound for what is common to me and it, what vibration we share. I listen to my own voice setting my body into motion and allow myself to be surprised by the relationships I find, the rhythms and counterpoints.

Rasa – the taste of a moment

“...the pain of suspension before the desired resolution.”

centre which is not even simply inside the body. Looking for Sa, I find it is a sea. A field of ripples and reflections. I gasp and stumble on through births and deaths, fighting to prolong my sound. But the more I simply listen, accepting the discontinuities, the more smooth and fluid the variation becomes. At another level there is the disturbance of my heartbeat, adding a quavering to my voice; a stumbling, nervous, fumbling constriction, a fearful quality. But the longer I listen the quieter this dancing rhythm becomes and the voice begins to glide, full and deep, without obstruction. It rides like a bird on thermals that lift it far above the undulating ground. And in this mental moment, with an eagle’s eye or a dog’s nose, I become curious about the source of the sound, the root impulse from which the breath rises. There is something that shakes through, ringing me like a gong. My whole body vibrates. But the question remains. Where is the centre? Is it in the belly, or the heart, or out somewhere in the sky? It seems to rise everywhere at once. Where is the mind? I breathe again.

Omnibus Standing at a bus stop I begin to try to find my Sa. Where is it today? Where do my breath and my heart and the muscles of my throat meet? Then, climbing the stairs to the top deck I stumble upon a continuous practice that is uninterpretable; a practice that is available wherever there is hearing. The engine of the bus throbs through me. The babble of voices quickens my curiosity. I breathe in the ambience of Dalston Kingsland. I watch the urge to resolve the noise into consonance. And as my voice channels my hearing I observe the tension created by attempting to imitate what is inhuman. In my imperfection is my 8 PULSE AUTUMN 2012

And if I resist the fidgety fear of discord, accepting, even savouring, the phasing vibrations, I suddenly understand meend. The slide from point to point, which I might have heard before as the ‘Indian-ness’ of classical music, is revealed as a practice of deep listening. By braking and slowing any tendency to fall into the gravitational well of simple relationship I am able to microscopically explore the emotional tensions that constitute the noise of the world. This exploration, conducted by resisting the urge to hurry towards the conclusion of consonance, this minute examination of the pain of suspension before the desired resolution, is the point at which deep listening transforms the mere physical vibrations of sound into the eroticism of music. On another day I find that if I allow my jaw to relax right from where my head joins my neck – literally open my ears, then the root of my tongue drops down and the sound wells into my cheeks, filling them as a breeze gently rounds the sails of a boat. Then the inside of my mouth feels like an audible sphere. I hold the apple of the note within it and the ripples and reflections are a coruscating mouthful. It has a flavour.


“...there is a subtler taste which.... will remain a teaching relevant through the ages.”

Watching a musical performance may be a mere entertainment, a distraction from the tribulations of my daily life, or it may be a spur to practice listening in my own life. There is a strong element of showmanship and competition in Indian music but, while that may serve to draw excited crowds, there is a subtler taste which compels only a few to remain, and which ensures that Indian classical music will remain a teaching relevant through the ages. A performer plays to demonstrate skill or superiority but a guru plays as an enaction of his or her listening. By demonstrating to us how to listen, an artist unites the environment, the breath and the mind, and invites us bystanders also to be open to our whole selves. Then, in breathing together, we share a common inspiration. To listen only with admiration or respect is to only half listen. To fully absorb the teachings of a great performer one must enter wholeheartedly into the activity of listening, until there is no creator of the ocean of vibrations, no great prodigy and no humble audience, but simply a selfsustaining music ringing through all apparent forms. Listening is the key to tuning our individual mind and body to the system in which it finds itself. Instead of holding oneself rigidly against the world, separate from it, wrestling with it, the ardent listener releases him or herself into the current, dissolving all boundaries. This particular moment is then freed to awake to the expression of its own particular properties as a raga. The great listener, as Tagore sings in Baajaao, aamaare, baajaao, hears oneself as an instrument in the hands of a cosmic musician.

SANDEEP VIRDEE Sandeep Virdee | Photo: Kanwal Ahluwalia

Sandeep Virdee Heavyweight Champion of Classical Music The Darbar Festival celebrates its sixth year with a landmark series of concerts at London’s Southbank Centre. Festival Director Sandeep Virdee makes a convincing case to Jahnavi Harrison on why this genre of music deserves a place within the classical music programme of a national concert hall.



andeep Virdee is a man on a mission. He is a ubiquitous presence in London’s South Asian arts scene usually to be spotted by a trademark black turban, moving purposefully through the crowd. We meet at London Bridge, not far from where the seventh annual Darbar Festival will be holding a much sought-after place at the Southbank Centre. It’s a coup for Indian classical music and a triumph for Sandeep, its unruffled champion. But after founding and hosting the acclaimed Darbar Festival for six years, he wants the world’s attention – or at least the Sunday papers, for now. “For the first time, we’ve involved a PR company for Darbar and I was having a grumble saying that this Festival has been going for so long – why don’t we ever get a mention in the Sunday papers? She [Darbar’s PR representative] said,

‘What do you expect? They don’t know anything about the art form – if they don’t know, they can’t report on it.’” So why, after so much praise from within the South Asian arts world, has Darbar pretty much missed the radar of the mainstream media? “It’s about education,” says Sandeep. “We don’t educate people enough on the genre.” Despite this, the Festival has truly gone from strength to strength since its inception. From its humble beginnings in Leicester in 2006, it will, this year, form part of the Southbank Centre’s classical music programming. This marks perhaps one of the most tremendous shifts for Indian classical music ever seen in England. “I’ve been going to the Southbank Centre for twenty-five years and I used to think ‘Where’s all our stuff?’ Credit goes to Jude Kelly for making such a strong decision, because now they’ll be AUTUMN 2012 PULSE 9


“... pigeonholed as world music...”

inundated with all the other classical genres who say that they want to go in there.” It is marked also that the Southbank Centre has agreed to differentiate between Darbar and its glitzy cousin – the Alchemy Festival. While Sandeep was also involved in creating Alchemy, he was always keen for there to be a clear divide between the two events – something like making sure the classical Proms and the Royal Variety Show aren’t happening on the same night. “I really do believe Indian classical music is one of the best art forms in the world. Period. It has always been pigeonholed as world music, and I bitterly oppose that. For me, it is a classical genre and needs to be recognised at the top with any other classical genre.” Smart choices have been made by the Darbar team. Early involvement with Sky Arts and BBC

tradition. If you were to cut out a map of India you could literally pick it up and put it over Europe. After partition, it really should’ve been turned into the United States of India – then we could really comprehend its diversity, scale and size.” More than just the usual scapegoats, Sandeep admits that “we haven’t been very good advocates”. When I ask which Indian musicians have had an influence in the broader music world in the last decade, he has to think for a minute. “Classically, no-one. Perhaps Anoushka Shankar, but if you discard the natural backing she gets it would be a different story. Contemporary – a few. I don’t want to sound negative, but Indian classical music is at a really difficult point. You have about a dozen maestros from the North and South who have been known for about the last forty years.

Ustad Shujaat Khan


They have made a tremendous contribution but the next generation hasn’t been allowed to come up in their own right, so there haven’t been any ambassadors of Indian classical music for the next generation. I think the younger artists have developed Indian classical music further but not got the same recognition for it, and that is a huge challenge for us. How do you get the halls filled up with those people who are not known as names?” Of UK talent he says the difficulty is that there are “only a handful of them at the same level”. Hari Sivanesan, Roopa Panesar and Soumik Datta have all performed in recent years. “We have to do it in a certain way though – we used to get them to open the Festival but it was too much pressure and artists buckled under the nerves.” It’s something that Darbar is trying to change – inviting unknown artists and holding a strict no-repeat policy that allows fresh talent to be sourced each year. “I start every year with a blank sheet – you think every year that it will get easier, but it doesn’t!” This year six musicians will come to the UK for the first time, and for a festival organiser it’s a big risk. “Promoters are only interested in

Chitravina Ravikiren

Pandit Arvind Parikh & Ustad Vilayat Khan

Manjiri Asnare-Kelkar

Photos courtesy of darbar

“... Sky Arts and BBC Radio 3 has raised its credentials.”

Radio 3 has raised its credentials and breadth of exposure. Sandeep admits that Darbar’s average age audience base is much younger than any of the other South Asian arts organisations. “It could be because of marketing – clean, Western-style. Production quality – it comes down to what colour microphone cables you use, where they run to, lighting, everything. In this day and age, presentation is critical. Our marketing strategy is not targeted at a South Asian audience at all – we are really out for the multicultural population of Britain.” So why has it taken so long for Indian classical music to be recognised as the incredibly rich art form that it is? With Indian food, yoga and Bollywood becoming more and more integrated into mainstream British culture, there still seems to be a disconnect when it comes to classical arts. Like others, Sandeep brings up Ravi Shankar. “Through his involvement with George Harrison people got blitzed by it, but unfortunately if you go to a Western newspaper these days they are only interested in Ravi-ji and nothing else – and that’s unfortunate. We have failed to actually get out there and tell people more about our classical

“...I should focus on quality, irrespective of lack of reputation.”

how many seats will sell. One year we brought a guy called Venkatesh Kumar, and I had only heard him on YouTube – I was very nervous, but two minutes into his concert the first few rows were absolutely floored by his abilities. I decided that, as a curator, I should focus on quality, irrespective of their lack of reputation.” It is fitting that Sandeep credits his father as the source of this aspiration, as the Festival was started in his honour. “As a child he would say to me: ‘You think you know just these musicians. In India there are literally hundreds who are never going to be given the space and time.’ He was incredibly open.” Sandeep hopes to capture new audiences this year through increasing opportunities to make first contact with Indian classical music. “It’s not enough to say that there’s a great

Festival Highlights

Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri

Aruna Sairam

Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri

Pirashanna Thevarajah

Shruti Sadolikar-Katkar

mysore brothers

Chitrangana Agle-Reshwai

concert happening. We’re trying to get it out of the concert hall and into people’s homes. The programmes made for Sky are literally the same scale and amount of work as the Festival project itself. We hope it carries on and we’re able to do more educational work.” Perfect timing, then, for the launch of the new website later this year, which aims to be an educational resource for both newbies and seasoned listeners. Documentaries and workshops are also on the cards. “Beyond just being moved by something, I want people to understand the framework, how it’s constructed. I’ve gone into HMV’s Western classical section and thought right, let me try to understand something about this, and you just see aisles and aisles and think ‘Oh my God! Where do I start?!’ I know others feel daunted by Indian classical music in the same way.” It seems that with such a multifaceted approach, and with Darbar-affiliated concerts taking place elsewhere in the country throughout the year, it could become an arts organisation to rival big players Milapfest or Akademi. However grand his master plan is though, Sandeep is sure

that being primarily a yearly festival is vital right now. “We get a larger marketing exposure because it’s a one-hit wonder, and secondly it allows us to take a huge risk with artists.” With its attention to detail and stellar artists, Darbar is a festival not to be missed. Concerts are scheduled from as early as 9.30am over three days. “People thought I was absolutely nuts to request concerts in the morning. When it happened, they were absolutely gobsmacked that people were running from their trains at 9.30 on a Sunday morning to get there!” The performers are also requested to play appropriate ragas for the time of day, as well as to stay for each other’s concerts – for ‘peer pressure’, Sandeep adds. The Festival also boasts the more rarely-heard dhrupad, Sandeep’s personal favourite. “I think it is the only form of

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma

Pandit Kushal Das

Ganesh and Kumaresh

music that has endless combinations – the most versatile interesting musicians are the Dhrupadiyas and we always make sure to have at least two.” Whatever the measure of success, this Festival is definitely making headway with virgin audiences. “Last year an Englishman came to hear Harjinderpal on santoor – afterwards he said it was one of the most moving concerts he’d ever been to. Two guys also just came along for a Thursday concert – they found they couldn’t leave and stayed the whole weekend!” And what about lassoing-in the press? The man with a mission is on the case. “This year we are sending a number of mainstream journalists back to India to immerse themselves in the genre right before coming back to report on the Festival!” Watch this space.

Ashwini Bhide



Avatara PHOTOGRAPHY BY simon richardson



ndependent dance artist Veena Basavarajaiah presented Avatara as part of Stoff 2012, the Stockholm Fringe Festival, held 22–25 August. As one of 400 artists selected from forty countries, Veena teamed up with UK-based photographer Simon Richardson and British-Pakistani make-up artist Riffat Bahar. The result is a stunning recreation of temple sculptures on the dancing body, which we are delighted to bring to Pulse readers on these very pages. We often comment that dancers make sculptures come to life; here the dancer makes the opposite journey from life to a ‘bronze’. At Stoff the images were incorporated into a performance installation which enabled members of the public to interact with the visuals in a photo-booth setting. This live installation was facilitated by collaborating artist Shreekanth Rao.

Watch and read the background behind Avatara.

This unique project was supported by Pulse (UK).



Abide With Me, Akram Khan Company, London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony Through the eyes of Sanjeevini Dutta

The London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony will go down in the annals of history as the defining moment when the nation found out what it stood for. No longer the wringing of hands over ‘what is Britishness’. Danny Boyle stated in his vision that as a nation we are funny, irreverent, creative and welcoming of diversity. Both the medal haul and the artistic outpouring over the Olympics was strengthened hugely by the contribution of Britain’s diverse communities. The choice of Akram Khan to choreograph a key moment in the Olympic ceremony (following the remembrance of the victims of 7/7, and just before the march of the athletes), was undoubtedly for the right reason: the best man to do the job. Khan’s three-minute creation with a cast of fifty dancers filled the three football-pitch-sized stadium with a thunderbolt of restrained power and fortitude. In a haze of smoke, a ball of blazing energy expanded as limbs thrust

outwards in an expression of reaching out against all odds. Against the regular beat of the everpopular Christian hymn Abide With Me, sung by British singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé, the dancers used spaces within the beats to hurl out complex and beguiling rhythmic patterns. As their bodies lunged, rolled and thrashed, the reassuring melody of the hymn was oil on troubled waters. The small figure of Khan could be discerned in the distance, from the extraordinary magnetism of his movements. The amoeba at the centre broke into various patterns: four pieces sometimes lining up on the two sides, once in a big circle. Things happened: struggle, despair, reaching out to make connections, pleading for forgiveness and beseeching the Almighty. An exciting moment came as the scythe passed over the wheatfield of bodies that were mowed down and rose up again like a Mexican wave; breathtaking in delivery, sharp and perfectly timed. At the heart of the piece: a small boy and Khan as his mentor, playing, teasing, coaxing and finally passing on the baton to him. As the child is held aloft in the final image, Khan issues a message of hope and renewal. The confidence and clarity with which

Abide With Me was conceived is a measure of Khan’s stature as a choreographer. There is no point in discussing how Akram Khan may have developed his choreographic motifs. Three minutes was what he was given and he used it to make dance that will remain imprinted on the memories of the millions that watched the event live or on television. The dance was big, bold and charged but also delicate, tender and meaningful

TooMortal, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, St Mary’s Old Church, Stoke Newington Through the eyes of Donald Hutera

There were, of course, dance-related projects popping up in the months before the official launch of the Games. Consider TooMortal, an arresting female sextet which is quite possibly one of the most unusual pieces of choreography that Shobana Jeyasingh has made yet. Designed to be performed in churches, it might also prove to be one of the most resonant dances she has produced in the quarter-century since forming her own company. Presented in the UK as part of London 2012, TooMortal was jointly commissioned by Dance Umbrella, La Biennale di Venezia

It’s been a busy few months filled with Olympic-inspired performance spectaculars and, as the sun goes down on London 2012, now a period of reflection to mull over the highs and lows: did it Inspire a Generation? And how will we, as a sector, continue to keep the flame alive and the legacy flowing? We asked some cultural commentators to share their thoughts on the South Asianflavoured events; here’s what they had to say. 14 PULSE AUTUMN 2012

TooMortal, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company at St George’s Church, Venice. | Photo: Yaron Abulafia

Abide by Me, Akram Khan | Photo: Vicky Annand

The Cultural Olympiad Through the Eyes of Cultural Commentators

(where it premiered) and Dansens Hus, Stockholm (where it was later to be presented); all are members of ENPARTS, the European Network of Performing Arts. Lasting only twenty minutes, the dance was performed several times daily at both of its London locations: St Mary’s Old Church in Stoke Newington, where I saw it, and St Pancras Parish Church on Euston Road, with further performances scheduled for St Swithun’s Church, Worcester. As a bonus, all showings were free but admittance potentially hard to come by due to limited audience capacity. Nestled amidst an overgrown graveyard, St Mary’s Old Church is a small gem of a structure. Inside there was more than a hint of incense. Positioned with our backs to the altar, the public faced the main body of the space. Rays of light issued both through a back window and, thanks to Yaron Abulafia’s starkly simple lighting, down the main aisle. Even on a sunny late afternoon the air of hallowed decay was palpable. Set to a sound score (by Cassiel) of chimes, voice and perfectlypitched electronic reverberations, the performance combined admirable rigour with a satisfying particularity. The cast

remained inside the church’s high, oldfashioned and box-like pews, three on each side of the nave. The chasm-like central aisle yawned before us from our place in the chancel. Young, sober-faced yet also varyingly expressive, the women popped up suddenly almost as if gulping first breaths or being spat out of the earth. Whether or not you chose to regard what they enacted as a journey from cradle to grave, this brief abstract drama was packed with metaphorical resonance. The dancers’ physical confinement must’ve set special challenges for Jeyasingh, who propelled them through sharp canonic patterns and jolting motions. Limbs slid along the rims of the pews, swift or slow, while occasionally whole bodies lunged over the top. There was something both creepily sensual and seductive about these young women as they peered and then dove or sank down. Contact between them rarely occurred, yet they shared more than just the same costuming (bare-armed red tops and purple half-tights, colours associated with priestly vestments and sacramental wine). This work, with its vital yet deathconscious spirit, impressed the eye and lingered in the mind.

Wah! Wah! Girls, Sadler’s Wells, London Through the eyes of Donald Hutera

Wah! Wah! Girls operated in a much more commercial vein. The director, Emma Rice, joint head of the much-loved Cornish company Kneehigh, brought an assured populist touch to this self-designated ‘Britain meets Bollywood’ musical with book and lyrics by Tanika Gupta. In truth, it seemed more like a play liberally sprinkled with serviceable song and dance numbers than an out-and-out musical. However you peg it, this co-production between Sadler’s Wells, Theatre Royal Stratford East (where the show runs until 29 September) and Kneehigh was a splashy, flashy and colourful crowd-pleaser that threw a light on contemporary British cultural identity without entirely ignoring darker, meatier thematic material. Presented as part of the current World Stages season, the show grabbed our attention from the get-go via broad comedy. The framework of Gupta’s script rested upon the ample shoulders of a London housewife named Bindi, embodied with uproariously sassy, brassy spirit by Rina Fatania. Bindi is an avid Wah! Wah! Girls | Photo: Steve Tanner AUTUMN 2012 PULSE 15


consumer of Bollywood films who also keeps a close watch on what’s happening in her East End neighbourhood. In the show her two worlds – cinematic and local – met and bled together. The title (pronounced ‘Vah! Vah!’) refers to the appreciative shouts performers receive from audiences on the Indian subcontinent in lieu of applause. Gupta’s plot revolved around a dance club, commonly known in Britain’s metropolises as a Mujra club (a name derived from the courtesans who danced for men’s pleasure in sixteenth-century Mughal India). The one near Bindi’s home is run by Soraya, an articulately temperamental woman with a secret and damaged past back in her homeland. Played handsomely by Sophiya Haque, Soraya represents tradition. Modernity enters in the form of Sita (Natasha Jayetileke on press night), a young aspiring dancer on the lam from a dangerously hide-bound family in Leeds. The show appropriated the staple ingredients of Bollywood cinema – what Bindi characterises as “long-lost fathers, Synchronised, Balbir Singh Dance Company | Photo:Simon Richardson 16 PULSE AUTUMN 2012

Synchronised, Balbir Singh Dance Company, Forge End, Sheffield Through the eyes of Sanjeevini Dutta

murder, villains and all…and romance!” The club setting was a cue for bouncy, hip-shaking dances (choreographed by Javed Sanadi and Gauri Sharma Tripathi) that neatly blended Bollywood and classical kathak styles. Original songs by Gupta and the composer Niraj Chag, all adequately delivered (although too many vocals were drowned out by blaring background instrumentation), were supplemented by a few tracks from well-known films. Keith Khan’s clever designs, meanwhile, provided plenty of eye candy. Shallow? Perhaps. Still, there was more going on here than just feel-good fun. The show set up a symbolic conflict between two women, and at least some recognition of female oppression and empowerment. With nods to sextrafficking and honour killings, this friendly, brash and reasonably enjoyable entertainment turned into a timely kick in the teeth for tyrannical male cruelty.

Balbir Singh Dance Company has been making waves in the North, forging a movement language based on contemporary, filtered through the choreographer’s training in kathak. Synchronised, a three-year exploration and exchange between dance and synchronised swimming, was one of the more unusual projects under the London 2012 banner. Developed with a group of contemporary and kathak dancers and two of the region’s synchronised swimming clubs, but also with volunteer dancers from the community, the slow build-up allowed an organic process to influence movement at a deeper level. The performance at Ponds Forge in Sheffield on 14 June 2012 was an hour and a half display which instilled the grace and subtlety of kathak dance into the regimented showmanship of synchronised swimming. The performance strikes a fine balance between the displays of dance, both in

the water and by the pool’s edge. The full length is well utilised when a line of dancers perform a sequence in black and red costumes, striking in their simplicity, so that the patterns of the body shapes are in the foreground. The swimmers create some of the well-known formations such as wheel and star shapes, double circles and spirals. With their kathak training there is an edge to their display: heads turn sharply, wrists flick, arms trace semi-circles in the air. An upside-down can-can dance is performed with the thrusts of legs scissor-like, perfectly timed to the music. The kathakness creates the calligraphic strokes to movement, lifting it from the pedestrian to filigreed elegance. The performance is supported by the excellent scoring of Jesse Bannister whose own mellow tones of saxophone create an effective mood. Credit also goes to the supporting musicians, community choir and samba band. Without effective lighting, Synchronised could not have had the same impact. The conclusion combines kathak and aqua dance seamlessly as the sawaaljavaab (question-answer) between the percussion and the dancer is played on

the clappers and the thaap-thaap on the surface of the water. The swirls of water become the dancers’ skirts in the chakaars (pirouettes) as an extended tihai concludes a fascinating exposition of kathak and synchronised swimming. Balbir Singh sets a new canon of aesthetics to the sport-art of synchronised swimming. Will he be invited to advise Team GB when bound for Rio?

Dance Holland Park: Emerging Choreographers’ Showcase, Holland Park, London Through the eyes of Nicholas Minns

Dance Holland Park is a joint project between English National Ballet and Opera Holland Park as part of Big Dance 2012. The mandate for each of the choreographers is to create a dance work on an opera theme. The setting is the same for each: a broad expanse of stage with Holland House as a natural backdrop and its dramatic porch as the principal entrance and exit.

I had never thought of crossing classical Indian dance with Fiordiligi’s aria, Per Pieta, from Mozart’s Così fan tutte, but Katie Ryan’s This Wicked Desire, a playful duet between Kali Chandrasegaram and Khavita Kaur, brought out the delicious spirit of the music as if they belonged together. The two dancers are a study in complementary opposites that is clear as soon as they make their entrance through the Holland House doorway; the voluptuous Kaur leading the way in her black-bodiced, high-waisted costume and the imposing Chandrasegaram a step behind in lyrical support. The programme notes say the dance is a playful struggle between the opposing forces of desire and virtue, but it is difficult to know if Kaur is overflowing with desire or virtue, and Chandrasegaram, a dancer of strength and delicacy in equal measure, has a mischievous joy in all he does that is as irresistible as the music. Their duet is thus rightly ambiguous: desire and virtue are not such opposing forces after all. What Ryan does so well, and the two dancers embody, is to show the constant interplay between the two in a way that Mozart clearly understood. This Wicked Desire, Katie RyanBig Dance 2012 | Photo: James O Jenkins AUTUMN 2012 PULSE 17

Swati Youth Dance

Swati Youth Dance at U.Dance 2012 Sharing experience! Left: Swati Youth Dance At the Queen Elizabeth Hall / Right: Swati Youth Dance with Arlene Philips | Photos: Courtesy Swati Youth Dance

Words by Vaidehi Raut


fter having the chance to perform at The Lowry for the U.Dance regional platform, finding out that we had been selected to represent the North-West at U.Dance England truly was the cherry on top of an already glorious cake! Around a month after the initial performance we received an email congratulating us and inviting us to perform at the festival and, given the high standard of youth dance work happening in the NorthWest, we were all extremely excited to be given this opportunity. In the final rehearsals we worked tremendously hard practising the piece. Reading National Youth Dance Ambassador Aleksandra Svalova’s review of Kinkini and seeing that one of the reasons our piece was chosen was because of the intricate movement signature of bharatanatyam made us all the more determined to make sure that our technique was spot-on. The festival weekend itself couldn’t have come fast enough; we had worked together on the piece for months, waiting excitedly for our moment to perform. For me the weekend will always be doubly memorable as my university graduation was on the opening day. Running from my graduation ceremony to rehearsals on the other side of London in a pair of heels and pencil skirt made the first day of the festival pretty chaotic, and the 18 PULSE AUTUMN 2012

rain certainly didn’t help! However, once we arrived at the Southbank Centre the next day, we saw the early morning sun glistening over the river – a fitting image that set the tone for the day – a moment I shall never forget. The chaos was over, the running around was over, today was our day and nothing else seemed to matter any more. Dancing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall was a wonderful experience. From the lighting that had been designed so wonderfully for our piece, enhancing each movement and formation that we created on stage, to the thought of all the magnificent dancers who had previously performed where we were now standing. I was extremely fortunate to have the chance to address the audience on the opening night of the festival alongside Arlene Phillips. Waiting backstage in the green room, practising the few lines that I had written to say, butterflies started to creep into my stomach, a feeling that no amount of breathing exercises seemed to get rid of. However, after walking on stage with the lights right on me, all that fear went away and more than anything I felt an overwhelming sense of pride. I had been given the chance to be an ambassador of fire – of Swati Youth Dance, of bharatanatyam and of Indian Classical Dance. Dancing on stage as part of a youth

group was a totally different experience to performing a solo. As much as I love dancing on my own, the feeling of togetherness and achievement that I had when our group danced together is totally unparalleled. Watching the other girls perform their sections of the piece so beautifully as I waited for my parts made me feel like applauding right there. I could see how much everyone had grown through the experience, from the first rehearsal to this wonderful climax. How each dancer had improved thoroughly and how we had evolved as a group. During the rest of the festival we were able to experience a number of different dance styles through technique and choreography workshops. I took part in a Ghanaian dance workshop on the Saturday morning, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The artist leading the workshop, Kwashie Kuwor, gave a fabulous insight into the movement vocabulary and the background and traditions from which the dance form was conceived. After training so hard to keep my hips square I don’t think I’ll ever be able to move in the way necessary for Ghanaian dance and so will be sticking with bharatanatyam! In another one of the workshops, we explored choreography with a contemporary artist. One of the main goals of the workshop was to explore movements evoking feelings without using our faces at all, something that I found particularly difficult as an expressive face is so important when delivering abhinaya. The workshop was enlightening as it made everyone think about other ways in which expression can be created and how we can potentially enhance our abhinaya through the body. Participating in the U.Dance 2012 festival has been an amazing experience. It gave our group the opportunity to showcase our work and see what other youth dance work happens across the country. We all had a fantastic time and hope we get the chance to go back very soon.

Watch Swati Youth Dance at U.Dance.


Nritya Uphaar The Gift of Dance Words by Nandini Krishna

Photo: Courtesy of the Artist


s it possible to experience classical dance in one’s lifetime? This was a lament often echoed by the parents of my students. Parents in their late 30s, perhaps, who wondered if this unfulfilled dream was only possible in another lifetime. It rankled with me no end that the beautiful art of classical dancing seemed like a faraway world, nay planet. Was it not possible to build a bridge, or create a chink space in the door? These parents did not ask to don glorious costumes, they did not ask for a performance platform, nor did they seek applause; they only wanted to experience moving in the classical dance way. Nritya Uphaar – The Gift of Dance, was born as a via media, a workshop first tried out in 1999. In making possible a way to fulfil this desire to let them experience classical dance and thus bring closer this hallowed world, I approached my colleagues, the late Bireshwar Gautam in kathak and Shubhada in odissi. Together, we let the kite fly in the open sky, the age barrier was surmounted – anyone from 10 to 60 could enrol – and a local college was kind enough to donate its tiny hall space for next to nothing, for this was a test-run of sorts. To our amazement, men and women of all ages (children as young as 10, right up to adults in their 50s) came from all corners of the city to attend the workshop. The test-run was an eye-opener. Three dance styles in

three weeks – an incredible task when one considers how it takes a lifetime to learn (master) one single style, let alone three. The workshop continues to receive this mixed response as, on the one hand, people are ecstatic when given the rare chance to experience each classical style in a short time. On the other, there is doubt in their minds – is this possible? Since its inception in 1999, Nritya Uphaar has been repeated in 2002 and then again in 2010, after a hiatus. Each time, the students are ecstatic on the last day when they present the three dance styles before an audience. Modern dance pioneer Astad Deboo, culture columnist Shanta Gokhale, and Terence D’Souza, ex-director of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in Mumbai, have all witnessed this encouraging effort. In these times of fast use and throw, media comes as a necessity and boon. Not all learners are interested in performing classical dance and not all have the time needed to master the form. This marginalised section comprises a future audience, to say the least; connoisseurs need this via media. Today the support from corporate entities keeps this mission going, as well as the enthusiasm of the students themselves and the continued support of my esteemed colleagues Keka Sinha for kathak and Shubhada for odissi,

who themselves are busy in their own spheres as performer-teachers. As the internet revolution swept in in the eighties, mindsets towards classical dance began to close up. Western dance, especially Shiamak, took over cities like Mumbai and quickly became a trend of the hip and happening; classical dance training appeared long and arduous in comparison. If a student wanted to only barely begin to understand it, like simply getting a dip into a swimming pool, there was just no scope to do that; it had to be all or nothing, it seemed. For the regular classical dance class dealt with hard basics at the outset, which often made the student scamper away. Dance-related cultural contexts needed to be spelled out to this new breed of students, who seemed to be aligned and living an alien culture on home turf. The cultural shift brought a gap in the student-teacher equation: the student was armed with modern language, technology and global outlook, while the teacher seemed to have been caught in a time warp. Of course, there were questions that could not be answered and attitudes that could not be understood, which Westernisation, as a panacea, swept under the carpet. Classical dancers and teachers alike were caught in the dilemma: to hold on to the hand-me-down ideals, or to shake off the shackles of authority through the use of modern technology? Some ideas suddenly seemed warped and outdated but one question remained: how do we make a traditional movement language relevant today? In this mire of confusion, the audience seemed to have drifted further and classical dance continued to be pushed into the background. Audience allegiance shifted rapidly and soon the lament of ‘no audience’ could be heard. Nritya Uphaar seemed like manna for the uninitiated. Recently, a student who completed the workshop wrote in to say that she enjoyed a classical dance performance, despite initially feeling alienated by the concept. She managed to follow some of the hand gestural interpretations quite easily; thus a new door had opened for those who completed the workshop. They felt better informed with a new classical dance perspective which, with technology and the like at hand, they could further explore in their own way, enjoying the process in their own time. AUTUMN 2012 PULSE 19


Dance Performances Bamboo Blues 21 June 2012 Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch Barbican Centre, London Reviewed by Sanjoy Roy

Choreographic O  Collision

ne of the highlights of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad was a month-long season of works by the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. Bausch, who began choreographing in the 1970s, is a figure of colossal importance in modern dance and, although she died suddenly in 2009, her company has been

Elena Jacinta divides her time between her native Latvia and the UK where she is not only a trained bharatanatyam dancer (she trained with some of the great in Riga, New Delhi and London), she is a successful performing artist (her most recent credits include Sadhana Dance Company’s Elixir), teacher (she has led dance intensives in both her dance homes) and choreographer (her short solo piece, Mirror Me, proved a success at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival).


eing one of the eleven choreographers (or to be more precise – one of the three nonItalian choreographers) selected through an application process to take part in Choreographic Collision, I arrived in bustling Venice right in the peak of its high season, unprepared for what was awaiting me. The programme of the course was as busy as the city itself: our days were packed with activities ranging from practical workshops, conferences, lectures, class observation to dress rehearsals and of course performances of Dance Biennale. Seeing the works of such outstanding artists as Virgilio Sieni (Italy), Shobana Jeyasingh (UK), William Forsythe (Germany), Erna Omarsdottir (Iceland) and Wim Vandekeybus (Belgium) to name but a few and hearing them talk about their choreographic process was a real treat. Our practical workshops were led by the four choreographers, each one with a very different personality and approach to movement and dancemaking. In those two to three days that we spent with each one of them, we could have a glimpse into a separate world created by these artists’ charisma and


vision: a world of body-conscious subtlety of Virgilio Sieni; raw and explosive spontaneity of Ismael Ivo; rhythm-driven ritualistic energy of Koffi Kôkô; and complexity and precision of Shobana Jeyasingh. Ismael Ivo (the artistic director of Choreographic Collision and the director of Dance Biennale) and Shobana Jeyasingh were the two artists who were supposed to devise a short choreography on us to be presented at an open sharing. While Ivo’s focus was purely on improvisation that pushed our physical limits and encouraged the letting-go of the known and familiar in order to surprise ourselves and the audience, Jeyasingh’s attention was drawn to phrasing and composition using bharatanatyam vocabulary as a starting point. It was fascinating to see how the movement sequences created by us have been moulded and reshaped to acquire a very distinct aesthetic that Jeyasingh developed over the two and a half decades of making dance, something that can be easily recognised by those familiar with her work. Bharatanatyam postures and hand gestures, sharpness and urgency of movement, lifts and elements of contact have been weaved into phrases that she layered and transformed into short duets, trios and group formations. Working with both choreographers demanded a high degree of concentration, be it mental or physical. A similar amount of concentration and commitment, however, was required for the entire course. Looking back at the time we spent in Venice, the whole experience now seems unreal: our daily boat-commuting, dancing in the historical buildings right in the heart of the stunningly beautiful city and meeting some of the most brilliant choreographers of today – all of this seems to belong to another world. In these few weeks I often felt challenged, inspired, frustrated, excited, overwhelmed – sometimes all of it at the same time. Bizarrely, even the tornado that swept through Venice on the very first week of our stay, and which we could observe from the outside of our dance studio, fitted perfectly into the whole mood of this collision of ideas, opinions and cultures that we had to face every day. For often it is a problem or a conflict that leads to creativity.

Shantala Shivalingappa | Photo: Jong-Duk Woo

fiercely committed to keeping her repertory alive. The London season encompassed ten of Bausch’s ‘world cities’ works – pieces created through residencies in various far-flung locations such as Hong Kong, Rome, Los Angeles, Istanbul or Santiago. Bamboo Blues is her Kolkata piece, created in 2007. As with the others, it is not a portrait of the city in which it was made; rather, it gives glimpses of the locality refracted through Bausch’s characteristic look – fabulous frocks and formal suits, here supplemented by sari- and lungilength swathes of cloth – and her characteristic feel, with its focus on archetypes and inner lives, its attention always more directly on the performers than on the place. Bausch’s works often seem like Rorschach patterns into which you project your own meanings, or sundry icons scattered like tarot cards for you to divine significance from – and therefore produce wildly different reactions from audiences. So I might as well lay my own cards on the table now: of the nine pieces that I have seen in the series (seven this time round, two from earlier viewings), I found Bamboo Blues the slightest. No doubt, it is one of the most beautiful. Peter Pabst, Bausch’s regular designer, sets the first half against a backdrop of wafting gossamer curtains, and Marion


Cito, Bausch’s regular costume designer, has excelled herself with the women’s gowns – sumptuous silken creations in saturated colours of fuchsia, poppy and marigold that, no matter how the dancers leap or spin, always drape into a beguiling pose. And whoever did the hair deserves a medal. Bausch has always enjoyed long hair on her women, for its look of femininity and the way it chases motion like an afterthought. In Bamboo Blues, hair is finessed to a level never before achieved, tresses caressed by breezes, fanning into glossy deltas or trailing in the air like swirls of gorgeousness. Now, it is true that hair care is a very big deal in India, with much effort expended on combing, conditioning and finishing – but here, with the curtains and the costumes, with the mildly exotic Indo-jazz that ripples through the piece like a balmy current, the overall effect is like an advert for luxury shampoo or an artistically air-brushed fashion shoot from Vogue. Everything is given a whiff of the cosmetic. So what actually happens? The piece, as usual with Bausch, is a collage of snapshots and cameos. Stretches of fabric, steam, washing and ironing are recurrent features, whether the dancers unravel lengths of lungi or wrap themselves up in them. One man soaps himself in his wrap, like a street bather at a pipe; a woman hides behind translucent muslin as the air is sprayed with mist – you certainly get the feel of humidity, heat, and constant showering. A bearded man walks in a slow diagonal, balancing dry branches on his arms and shoulders like a saddhu bearing his own funeral kindling. People lie down to sleep on carts, there’s a bit of yogic contortionism (two women conjuring the illusion of a single, super-supple being), and a bevy of women, in all their finery, herding languorously together like peacock-hued, cud-chewing water buffalo – or bejewelled, betel-chewing hijras. In the second half there are more specific references to local colour – a giant movie poster, a person sporting a Ganesh head, film of chhau dancers, a snapshot of a call centre. There is also some Indian dance, with Shanta Shivalingappa performing kuchipudi – yet I found her far more arresting in Nefes (the Istanbul piece), where the kuchipudi was presented with complications and counterpoints that wrong-footed the viewer.

In Bamboo Blues, Shivalingappa appears like a self-contained jewel, a feathersome presence whose hair follows her every move like an adoring fan. There are moments of edginess – which only made me hanker for the Bausch that I love, the Bausch that unsettles and unmasks. The moment where a woman dreams of flying while doing the housework; where a panic-stricken woman is clamped to a man’s back like an abducted child clinging to her captor; where a woman (Bausch always channelled her fiercest feelings through women) races in circles and throws herself headlong into the air, to be caught – just – by the man who keeps racing after her. But such moments are few, and their edges are in any case smoothed away by the silken designs and music. Bamboo Blues is Bausch with conditioner: attractive, glossy, frizz-free.

Utsāv: On the Auspicious Occasion of Guru Purnima Sujata Banerjee Dance Company The Nehru Centre, London 3 July 2012 Reviewed by Lucinda Al-Zoghbi

A Guru is more than just a teacher of an art form, they guide you through the path of life” – that was the resounding message from the outset of Utsāv, a celebration of the annual Guru Purnima Day held at the Nehru Centre in Green Park. Over the course of two consecutive July evenings, Tuesday the 3rd and Wednesday the 4th, the Sujata Banerjee Dance Company presented students of eminent London-based kathak teachers (Gurus), to offer respect and admiration of Gurus of the form across the world. To open the show, a malefemale duet from students of Urja Desai Thakore: Parbati Chaudhry and Sanjay Shetty. The piece was a tribute to Kumudini Lakhia, or Kumiben as she is known to her disciples, one of the most highlyacclaimed Gurus of the kathak form, with music composed by Alap Desai. Although nameless, it was an extremely detailed piece which required strong technical skill from its dancers. Together, Chaudhry and Shetty were vibrant, powerful, dynamic; showing both their speed and strength in the fast tatkar footwork and

chakkadar spins. Having said that, Shetty was almost bouncing off the walls with his energy which occasionally affected his adherence to the taal. In a similar way, there was an abundance of energy in the following item, Shamaa Dance Company founded by Sushma Mehta, which included Marcina Arnold, Maria Scialdone, Ruby Nyear and Souraya Amin. The colourful quartet performed a ghazal, Mojae Gul, to a recorded accompaniment, like the piece before it, sung by Chandra Chakraborthy with tabla from Debashish Mukherjee, sitar from Baluji Shivastava, and bols by choreographer and Artistic Director of the Company, Sushma Mehta. Notably, the detailing in the abhinaya was exquisite, for all dancers invested their mind and body, heart and soul in the performance, in the poetry; and Mehta’s arrangement of the bodies in space in simple, yet effective formations was stunning. The final item of the evening was a solo presentation from 17-year-old Jaina Modasia, a student of Sujata Banerjeee, who made her debut last summer at the Watersmeet Theatre in Rickmansworth. Tonight’s performance was Modasia’s first solo presentation in a year, with live musical accompaniment from Aniruddha Mukherjee on tabla, Anirban Bhattacharya on vocals and Chandrachur Bhattacharya on sitar. Her performance was bright, beaming and beautiful with technical accuracy and charisma, but it was her abhinaya that stole the show. Krishna Katha, a composition which was specially created by Sujataji for Modasia’s Manch Pravesh, is a story from Krishna’s childhood when he used to steal the makhun, or ghee, until he saves his friend Dropadi from being disrobed. Modasia’s abhinaya was not only believable but relatable: at one moment a greedy child gobbling up as much food as she can manage; the next, propping herself up, regrettably full. A captivating performance from this young dancer. 4 July 2012 Reviewed by Veena Basavarajaiah


tsāv part two was a solo presentation from a newcomer to the British South Asian dance scene: Natalia Hildner, an America-born Peruvian who embraced kathak at a young age under Guru Mekhala Natvar.

Hildner furthered her training with Pandit Birju Maharaj when she moved to India aged 18. She currently works as a facilitator for Sujata Banerjee Dance Company, UK while pursuing an MA in South Asian dance studies at the University of Roehampton. She enters the stage like a draught of fresh breeze transforming the dull-lit theatre space of the Nehru Centre into a canvas portraying multiple shades of kathak. The movement of her wrist resembles a falling petal, as she collects flowers to offer her obeisance to her teachers. Natalia Hildner commences the performance with a simple that, a small movement sequence with a short narrative element. Arching her back with a lazy sensuality with arms encircling the body like vines, the nasha, intoxication, in her gaze draws in the audience; even those who walk in late enter into her world. A melancholic ghazal, ‘Mohabbat karne wale kam na honge…’, is her next piece, which interplays earthly

Natalia Hildner | Photo: Simon Richardson

romance and mysticism in this love poem composed by the late Mehdi Hassan. As Anirban Bhattacharya sings beautifully to Chandrachur Bhattacharjee’s sitar accompaniment, Hildner takes a very contemporary approach to the choreography by journeying through different facets of love: conflict, romance, affection and empathy. Inspired by mystic poets of different religions, she enunciates the meaning of love beyond cultural differences. Hildner continues the performance with a series of complex patterns of footwork, improvising eloquently on a lay, or speed, to Aniruddha Mukherjee’s tabla. She improvises on different taals, rhythm cycles, with flexible articulation of the wrists, precise pirouettes and seemingly effortless footwork. Kathak performers orally narrate and execute technique consecutively and, with an accurate pronunciation of rhythmic syllables, or bols, and elaborate translation of the poems and their AUTUMN 2012 PULSE 21


contexts, Hildner’s words flowed as seamlessly as her dance itself. The uniqueness of this damsel, and her Hispanic influence, surfaces during her presentation, for Hildner’s gaze speaks the language of a seductress of ‘La Marinera’, a dance form of South America, and her footwork has the oozing confidence of a flamenco dancer. She enunciates with ease, translating the stories of a different space and time through her body and movement. As Sujata Banerjee, the organiser of the evening commented, Natalia Hildner has all the right ingredients in the making of a perfect kathak dancer: khoobsoorat (beauty), nazakhat (grace), and tayyarri (perseverance).

Kareeb 24 July 2012 Pritika Agarwal Bonnie Bird Theatre, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance Reviewed by Lucinda Al-Zoghbi


very year Laban produces highachieving graduates from its undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes and this year were no exception, for a range of artistic disciplines were presented to audiences throughout the evening

Photo: Courtesy of the Artist

of Tuesday 24 July at Laban’s base in South-East London. In this creative backdrop, new approaches are inspired and nurtured and there’s no better example of this than Pritika Agarwal’s Kareeb. This solo performance from odissi-trained Agarwal abstracts the classicism from the body and frames it in a contemporary aesthetic. Two projectors show the dancer’s feet (minus the ghungroo bells), mudras hand gestures and limbs in full focus, even before Agarwal enters the stage. When she finally does enter, Agarwal is almost ghost-like, solemnly walking until she locates herself centre stage. She acknowledges her audience with a sequence of tatkar footwork, 22 PULSE AUTUMN 2012

accentuating the arch of the foot in demi-pointe and the pronounced stamp of the full foot on the floor. It’s as if she is stamping out her connection to the body, divorcing herself from this sensory shell. Cold and vacant, Agarwal extracts the narrative element, too; instead following an alternative line of enquiry for contemporary odissi. She recites a passage of text, a poem perhaps, but it is so isolated, or rather abstracted from its context, that it reads as text. Without context it becomes lost on an audience with seemingly no prior knowledge of the classical Indian arts. Perhaps this was Agarwal’s intention all along, as it adheres to the abstractive approach she is taking. Her sheer white, looselydraped costume reveals the shoulders, legs, neck – strippeddown odissi, if you like – yet the garment is arranged in such a way that it follows the points of interest, the diagonal lines and angles which are so intrinsic to the odissi form. Agarwal vacates the stage, leaving us with the projected images of the body. Close-ups of carefully-placed limbs, the slow, sustained panning across the body; this is a multi-sensory vision and the slow speed of the shot makes it all the more visceral. The title, Kareeb, means closer, and there is an undeniable closeness between the body and the camera, the screen and the audience. Agarwal appears again once more, but only to make her exit. Spectre-like she walks the breadth of the stage, as solemn as before, her ghungroos now visible, tied like chains around her wrists behind the back, and audible too, for with every step that she takes they let out a timely tinkle. She continues to walk through the auditorium seats and out of the emergency exit doors. A powerful, unexpected resolution to the piece.

Uncharted Seas/ Timeless 18 August 2012 Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh Reviewed by Donald Hutera


rying to find a way to resolve the potential conflict between past and present, tradition and contemporaneity remains a concern of so many South Asian dance artists that it’s practically become a cliché. And yet, as her two-part

performance in the Edinburgh International Festival amply demonstrated, the kathak expert Aditi Mangaldas is an extremely astute negotiator of this familiar borderline aesthetic territory. Mangaldas is too smart and keen of mind to fall into creative traps. As she said in a recent interview, “It’s interesting and challenging for me to explain the unknown.” The works her Delhi-based company brought to Scotland were edited down from their full-length versions. Yet even in the form of extended extracts, the probing intelligence behind both of them shone through brightly. Uncharted Seas is a polished, highly kinetic ensemble piece anchored in ‘the search for the intangible’. This could have turned out to be vague had Mangaldas and her eight dancers not seemed to inhabit an abstract theme from the inside out. All the hallmarks of kathak were excitingly present: the slap of bare feet on a hard floor, the whirlwind pirouettes

Timeless | Photo: Harkiran Singh Bhasin/NCPA

and the upper limbs flickering like a flame in front of each dancer’s sometimes tilted head. With its textured gold backdrop and costumes (designed by Mangaldas) that looked rich in cut and hue, Uncharted Seas proved to be an uncommonly handsome dance. The lighting was both glowing and tenebrous, effects partly produced by the use of small, hand-held candles; such a simple device, those wax objects, but they helped to make it seem as if Mangaldas and her dancers were royal beings from some other realm diligently but elegantly pursuing an ancient quest. The live music of tabla player Yogesh Gangani, the vocalist Samiullah Khan on harmonium and sarangi, and Ashish Gangari on pakhawaj added just the right aural layer to the cast’s tacit mission. The first musician was especially, visibly joyful in his playing; imbuing that kind of feeling to that level of playing could only enhance rather than distract from our appreciation of

Mangaldas’ choreography. The various elements in the equally ambitious Timeless added up to something only slightly less satisfying and cohesive, and yet in some ways it was the more conceptually ambitious piece. Here Mangaldas and company are questioning the nature of time – what it means, how it’s perceived and measured. This is no simple task. Clad in more streamlined and contemporary costumes of glossy silver and grey, and placed against a backdrop of large yellow dots on a black wall, she and six dancers attempted to plumb time’s mysteries accompanied by a soundtrack that was both recorded and live. Timeless was possessed by a sometimes fragmentary, stop-start nature. Two men appeared to hold a conversation via fast, percolating downstage footwork rather than speech. The other woman in the piece called out rapid-fire rhythms as Gangani sat near her with his trusty tabla – another dialogue. Four males sat on a diagonal, across centre stage, each with one arm raised like a row of human clocks. Mangaldas herself sat down and spoke, telling us a bit about her family background (business and academics) and how she was encouraged to read the classic Indian epics in which the various deities each had a particular relationship with time, or so it now seems to her. This pause in the dancing was quietly daring, and as if issuing from not just the head but the heart. Again, as in Uncharted Seas, there was a sense that Mangaldas and company were on the hunt for something elusive but worth investigating. As a performer Mangaldas exudes a strong presence but laces this power with a delicacy and a sense of detail that makes her appealing to observe. Into the group activities of both works she folded, with an admirable lack of fuss, a pair of short but classy and contrasting dances for herself. The solo in Uncharted Seas was marked by speed and spins. Mangaldas, in a costume with a sash across the front, looked positively regal as she quivered and stamped downstage to the sound of her own ankle bells. Her footwork appeared to catch fire thanks to a subtle red light positioned there. The solo in Timeless was softer, slower and mainly floor-bound, her hands fluttering like moths near head and torso and fingertips touching one after another like the tiny hands of a timepiece.


Music Performance The Raghu Dixit Project 29 July 2012 Raghu Dixit Campbell Park, as part of Milton Keynes International Festival 2012 Reviewed by Khan & Kemlo


ilton Keynes’ International Festival is a ten-day riot of rice and peas, guest ales and Transylvanian jugglers which offers an eloquent expression of the new town’s growing maturity on the artistic scene. Appropriately enough, the city was graced with the presence of Raghu Dixit, a rising star in contemporary Indian folk music, for the final part of the Festival. Tucked in the corner of Campbell Park was the Stables Victorian Spiegeltent, a magnificent Belgian travelling dance hall which is one of seven of the Festival’s locations. This ornate construction of wood, stained glass and mirrors provided the stage for the musicians, and a roof to gird against the drumming rain. The evening began with a virtuoso performance by solo guitarist Byron Johnston, who offered Spanish and Latin rhythms which served as an appropriate introduction to the Raghu Dixit Project, considering the Indian origins of Flamenco. ‘Folk rock’ has started to dominate the alternative music scene, not just in India but the whole of South Asia, though Raghu is quickly becoming the poster boy of the form. Although the term ‘folk’ can sometimes ghettoise a musician into a pre-modern stereotype, for Raghu, a personable goateed guitarist from Karnataka,

Raghu Dixit Project | Photo: Mubsta

South India, the label refers to a state of mind. His music is imaginatively entwined with South Asian poetry, Sufi or otherwise, rocking up the old ghazals and kalams with their dialectic of complexity and simplicity, philosophy and a quirky humour. What’s more, this style of music is

clearly taking the world by storm: in 2008 the Raghu Dixit Project’s Antaragni: The Fire Within became the biggest-selling album in India, outside of the Bollywood film genre, that is. The British public first caught wind of Raghu Dixit when he performed on the Jools Holland show in 2010. The singersongwriter jokingly complained that he’d flown all the way from India for just four minutes, performing his No Man Will Ever Love You, Like I Do. However, his popularity quickly grew and the band soon found themselves playing at Glastonbury in 2011, which Raghu jokingly described as “the worst slum we have ever played at”. Back at the Spiegeltent, Raghu’s band adorned the stage with their colourful lungis and kurtas, featuring Brynden Lewis on guitar, Parth Chandiramani on flute, Wilfred Demoz on drums, Kartik Raghunathan on violin and lovable bass guitarist Gaurav Vaz, who proved to be a bit of a stand-up comedian as well. On the Olympics, Vaz commented: “Hey man, we probably make most of those medals for you in India.” Raghu sang in his native Kannada language and many of the songs were inspired by his hero, Shanti Shishunala Sharif, a nineteenth-century poet saint from north Karnataka. Other songs were sung in Hindi, as well as a Qawwali in Punjabi composed by Maulana Raghu himself. Raghu’s charming addresses between songs invited audience interaction, made jokes, and offered prayers for our wellbeing. It’s difficult to resist the man’s infectiously positive spirit. Raghu’s lyrics are life-affirming, acknowledging the significance of the individual against the system. Existential angst, filtered through the East eye, was transmitted through the Oriental flute and Irish fiddle sounds alongside reggae, blues and blatant rock-inspired tunes (head-banging included on Mr Vaz’s part). The wisdom was clearly well-received. Always the entertainer, Raghu demanded that everyone get up and start moving. “This isn’t a picnic,” he shouted, before performing Masti ki basti, even forcing the pad-writing journalists to get up and dance for the Qawwali. Some bands struggle to create a party atmosphere. This seemed to come naturally to Raghu, who was aided by wild fans from Karnataka as well as Raghunathan, the sleepy-eyed

violinist and the boyish flautist Chandiramani, adding haunting solo melodies married to the wild, Hendrix-like guitar excesses of Lewis. By this point the audience was standing, singing and dancing on command from Raghu. Besides poetry and philosophy, Raghu’s songs put nostalgia and past experience to music. In Nasik, Raghu remembers his childhood memories in his home town, while I’m in Mumbai Waiting for a Miracle describes the years he spent in the city of dreams, playing in seedy bars before he finally got his break. His hope and enthusiasm are irrepressible, expressed beautifully in his music. As we filtered out into the balmy Milton Keynes night, many of us found that the Raghu Dixit Project had changed our mood to pure happiness; we felt positive for the future.

knows. The denizens of the United Church, lining the balcony, kept their counsel. Open Souls was that kind of show. A lot of polite “Excuse me, can I get by?” No strong opinions, or displays of public opinion. On stage, Singh and Ghatak combined with the spectacularlycoiffured Rochford to create a soundscape of improvised rhythms and electronic effects of both classical and contemporary music traditions, breakbeats and chill-out fare. Rochford’s drumming was calm and cool, rarely rising to fortissimo. The percussionist has performed with the likes of Yoko Ono, Patti Smith and Paolo Nutini, and also leads the jazz band Polar Bears, whose atonal madness partly informs

Open Souls 4 August 2012 Ranjana Ghatak, Seb Rochford and Jason Singh As part of the Exhibition Road Show Reviewed by Khan & Kemlo


n Saturday 4 August in the heart of South Kensington’s museum district, the Exhibition Road Show, a threeweek arts festival of theatre, music, dance and fashion, was in full swing. On this particular night sporting history was made as Team GB achieved a gold medal hat-trick, while on stage Open Souls, an innovative experimental group that mixes beat-boxing, ambient sounds and rhyming, had their own reason to celebrate: merging Indian classical and contemporary vibes. A Noah’s Ark of humanity seemed to have gathered to see what the Exhibition Road Show had to offer and it didn’t disappoint. North of the V&A, in the shadow of the United Church of the Kingdom of God and the stylish facade of Imperial College, we found Sound Stage 3: a 25-metre flatbed truck, an open-air stage for Open Souls. A giant LCD to the rear, projected fractals and abstract visuals, while drummer Seb Rochford, beat-boxer Jason Singh and classical vocalist Ranjana Ghatak took up station to the fore. What the Christians would have made of Open Souls, amplifying their range of drums, chants and funky stuff into the night sky, presumably God only

The Open Souls | Photo: Anjla Thakur

Open Souls’ performance. An intimate crowd of a hundred or so backpackers, pleasure-trippers and culturalists huddled around the open-sided trailer as the band worked their instruments. A percussive romance developed in the exchange between Singh’s human-beatbox/ synthesiser voice and Rochford’s complementary jazz drumming; adding an element of humour that beautifully contrasted with Ghatak’s vocals, dominated by taans, notation movements between raags. The minor key and lack of chordal progression which is synonymous with Indian classical adds a haunting melody and hypnotic experience. It is left to the audience to introduce the animation. A 50-something lager-drinker (Foster’s Export) gives it up large in front of the stage. A twofooted shuffle, middle-distance gaze. Presently he is joined by a barefoot woman, with a couple of bells. Together they dance a slow, separate fandango. On-stage Singh responds: “Bring it back!” We bring it back. Way back. Wh-whee-whoo-ah! On the decks. Eee-ee-eah. Whooh! That’s what Singh said. Sang. Beatboxed. Those words exactly. On stage his body-popping manoeuvres were starting to feature the AUTUMN 2012 PULSE 23


imaginary scratched record, the dancing robot. Rochford remained unmoved, gazing some 10 miles off, while Ranjana held her hands in her pockets: their nonchalant, disinterested stance says “take it or leave it” to the gathered onlookers. The final item is announced, to a polite chorus of disappointed groans and light applause, and the sitar presages what is Open Souls’ most memorable number. Ghatak’s haunting vocals, and Singh’s skatting to a twelve-beat cycle, galvanise the audience. Bespectacled Bez dancing at the front is joined by a middle-aged woman with a dog, in a flamenco trance. Even as the sounds gently fade away, some street performers springing on Oscar Pistorius-type blades start attention-seeking to the right of the stage. The children are immediately drawn; cameras come out. The Exhibition Road Show moves on.

Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna 11 August 2012 Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna Redbridge Town Hall, Ilford Reviewed by Ken Hunt


ever to see Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna perform live must be one of the cruellest injustices life can mete out. Naturally, we shall get back to the music, but BMK has to have one of the sunniest dispositions of any performer imaginable. That is not meant in any comedic or condescending way. At his London International Arts Festival recital, he beamed out good vibes to the audience and the musicians accompanying him on stage. His facial encouragements were patently unaffected and natural. BMK smiled with the mouth, the eyes and hard-to-fake body language. His smiles could have been smiles of surprise, a ‘whoops’ moment or a tickled “got you there!” look. Maybe that was why the results he got from his musicians were pure sunny delight. Before you ask, his accompanists were Jyotsna Srikanth on violin, Arjun Kumar on mridangam, R.N. Prakesh on ghatam and Sithamparanathan on morsing. Into the concert, during ‘Ee Pariya Sobagu’ in ‘Hamsanandi’ – a composition from Hindu saintcomposer Purandaradasa – he impishly threw in a bass-register 24 PULSE AUTUMN 2012

note that might be called a Tibetan monk chest note. It cracked up Jyotsna Srikanth, responding to his vocalisations on violin. And the forgive-everything, adorable look on his face said he knew it would. Never in my experience has a Carnatic recital – weigh the classical weight of the word recital – had such a playful quality to its seriousness. And seldom have I experienced a concert with the magic of no guessing where the voice was going next. He opened with one of his own compositions, ‘Sri Sakalaganadhipa’ in ‘Arabhi’ – a joyous triple deity-themed composition, incidentally already taken up by a number of other performers, among them the Saralaya Sisters, Sanjay Subrahmanyan and Dwaram V.K.G. Thyagaraj; seeing a composition’s new life or lives is surely a fillip any writercomposer yearns for. Modernity came in another form. The delivery of saintcomposer Thyagaraja’s ‘Nada Tanumanisham’ in ‘Chittaranjani’ at times had – and I freely apologise if the contemporaneous response in my notes is found wanting – well, Azeri mughamlike qualities, both vocally and instrumentally. Jyotsna Srikanth’s violinistic inflections reminded me of the terseness of Azerbaijan’s kemancheh (spike-fiddle). As to highlights, his ‘Omkara Karini’ in ‘Lavangi’ – a raga that explores the possibilities of a melodic template using only four notes – definitely was one. He threw in a dramatic pause here, a theatrical silence there, and a couple of gleeful ‘Tibetan monk’ detonations. During this particular piece, donning his figurative

Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna | Photo: Chris Christoforou

ringmaster or conductor hat, he cued the percussionists. A nudge alerted him to the fact that mridangam and ghatam was good but that mridangam and ghatam and morsing was better. His percussionist cues took on a goodhumour man theatricality. Despite the witlessly embarrassing attempt to

interview him on stage – the very thing any musician needs, let alone one of senior years, after two hours’ performing – with questions about sightseeing and the Olympics, BMK’s was one of the concerts of my life.

by his percussion effects, notably bowed waterphone – an instrument that looks like a sonic birdcage. Solomon’s electric piano sound on the latter piece also contributed mightily to the composition’s reshaping.

Jyotsna Srikanth Project 11 August 2012 Jyotsna Srikanth Redbridge Town Hall, Ilford Reviewed by Ken Hunt


ast London’s London International Arts Festival, under Jyotsna Srikanth’s curatorship and organised by Dhruv Arts, took place between 10 and 12 August, parallel to a local sporting event. Smack dab in the middle of LIAF, Jyotsna Srikanth, a violinist to be depended upon to come up with surprises on stage, unveiled her current ‘Indo-jazz project’ – as she back-announced it in a short interview with DJ Ritu after the octet’s performance. This particular Jyotsna Srikanth Project fielded her and Chris Haigh on violin, playing complementary styles, several times varied within a single composition, something made manifest in the second piece performed called Haunting Thoughts during which she slipped between Carnatic and Western bowing and techniques. The other musicians in this relatively new line-up were keyboardist Shadrach Solomon, Victor Obsust on double-bass, Eleazar on electric guitar, kit drummer Karthik Mani, Nish on electronic percussion and Ansuman Biswas who made his way through an array of world percussion to obtain sonifications from Hang, tabla, shakers, rattles and berimbau. The JSP that is currently performing bears scant resemblance to Jyotsna Srikanth’s Carnatic Jazz CD (reviewed in Pulse, summer 2011). While they played Haunting Thoughts, a piece using ragam ‘Sallapam’ as its launch pad, and Insight, a composition of hers, similarly using ‘Chakravaka’, the pieces revealed advancing stages of development. Just as the opening fast-tempo Sprint (set in raga ‘Sindhu Bhairavi’) was coloured by Ansuman Biswas’ judicious deployment of Hang, Haunting Thoughts was likewise greatly enhanced

Jyotsna Srikanth Project | Photo: Chris Christoforou

Of the new pieces, Irish Folk Dance proved a yes-no-perhaps experience. Although the witty bodhrán-like frame drum and borderline-ska pap-a-tup keyboards assisted on the plus side, overall passages felt too much like a jig pastiche, at one point melodically perilously close to Lord of the Dance- or Riverdance-isms – filthier words in many Irish circles than much of Ireland’s rich and varied cussing repertoire. Canter, aside from its Solomon-triggered horse neigh samples, Nish’s coconut-shell clip-clops and Biswas’ tabla, had a delightful non-musical aspect. Whether intentional or serendipitous, for much of Canter, the stage-mounted rotational lights bathed the performers in My Little Pony soft pinks and magentas. (Keep that in, Jyotsna, no matter what the rough boys say.) One thing that the evening’s ideas and performances continually prompted was ideas. Insight took on new hues. Solomon’s santoor-effect, later space-age keyboard and closing fuzz-tone sounds, the occasional Hindustani violin feel, kit drum, drum pad and world percussion filigrees in particular planted hybrid-mutant R.D. Burman seeds. Imagine if the JSP went kitchen-sink and composed and arranged Indo-jazz in the multiple styles of ‘Yunhi Gate Raho’(‘Keep singing’), as delivered by Kishore Kumar, S.P. Balasubrahmanyan and Burman’s crack crew. But not the CD version. It would have to be the version from G.P. Sippy’s Saagar...

undiscovered india Pravin Godkhindi Thursday 4 October / 7:45pm Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Tarang Saturday 3 November / 7:45pm Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Kaavish - National Premiere Saturday 17 November / 7pm The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool

The Great British Gharana Friday 23 November / 7:30pm Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Alif Laila Thursday 29 November / 7:45pm Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Patri Satish Kumar Friday 30 November / 7:45pm Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Tarun Bhattacharya Saturday 1 December / 7:45pm Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Vidhya Subramaniam Friday 7 December / 7:30pm Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London

A unique season of rarely seen artists and performances Manchester . Liverpool . London Full concert listings available at Produced by


Critical Writing Workshops

Following the success of Critical Viewing and Writing workshops at London’s Southbank Centre, Leicester International Dance Festival and Birmingham Dance Xchange, Pulse brings the event to Luton and Liverpool in partnership with the Hat Factory and Milapfest. The workshop is both for dance enthusiasts who want to probe more deeply into the viewing experience and for budding writers and critics who want to sharpen their writing skills. Sanjoy Roy, dance writer and critic for the Guardian, will analyse the different levels at which a performance works by drawing parallels between the act of 'creating a choreography' and 'writing a critique'. He will also share some ground rules for review writing. Finally, the participants will be shown some dance clips to which they will respond verbally and through a written critique, time allowing. Expect to have some fun battling the pros and cons of Michael Jackson’s Beat It.


connecting asian dance and music communities


Pulse Thursday 15 November 2012 The Hat Factory, Luton 5–7pm £5 or £8 with ticket to performance Bookings: The workshop will be followed by a performance of Breeze and Power Games from Hat Factory Associate Artists Julia Cheng and Shane Shambhu. Cheng's Breeze is a duet inspired by Chinese philosophy and in Power Games, Shambhu questions whether democracy really gives people power to make changes. Both pieces are works in progress. Saturday 17 November 2012 Capstone Theatre, Liverpool Hope University 5–6.30pm Bookings: The workshop will be followed by Sonia Sabri Company's Tenth Anniversary performance. Kaavish features highlights from Sabri's wellknown works, followed by a new commission with guest artist Ash Mukherjee. The charismatic duo create an encounter between their respective styles of kathak and bharatanatyam and their take on modernity.



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