south asian music and dance
AUTUMN 2017 - #138
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I N S I DE Yo u n g P u l s e Ne w v o i c e s t a ke o v e r Re v i e w s • Bring on the B ol l y w o o d • Ta j E x p re s s • Un t o u c h a bl e • Alam Khan • Sigma • T h e Ro s e a n d the Bulbul • Slut
sound in print
The impact of the digital revolution on music and dance
An interview with Akram Khan
connecting asian dance and music communities
9 - 12 Nov
Darbar Festival 2017
A celebration of classical Indian dance and music
Dance curated by Akram Khan
Sadlerâ€™s Wells Theatre sadlerswells.com 020 7863 8000 Angel
Pulse Autumn 2017 — Issue 138
ISSN 1476-6019 Published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music c/o The Carnival Centre 3 St Mary’s Road, Luton LU1 3JA +44 7905 268887 Editorial Team Commissioning Editor Sanjeevini Dutta Guest Editor Seetal Kaur
Assistant Editor Gopa Roy Editorial and Marketing Assistant Parbati Jill Chaudhury Design Art Director Pritpal Ajimal Photography Director Simon Richardson Subscriptions, Advertising & Info email@example.com Contacts firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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Searching for Sangeet – On the musicality of kathak in the UK Dancers need musical training, and live music in performance, argues Seetal Kaur.
Dance at Darbar – Akram Khan in Conversation with Seetal Kaur.
Young Pulse An Inner Voice – Mithila Sarma talked to Carnatic musicians Yarlinie Thanabalasingham and Kobini Ananth about the creation of their innovative work.
The Future of Dance in an Uncertain Landscape – What do millenials do in the face of adversity? Kavya Kaushik takes a look.
Old Stories for New Generations – Gemma Connell profiles engaging and eclectic artist Ishita Mili.
Tarang Talks – Raam Jeganathan and Jasprit Kaur.
connecting asian dance and music communities
Pulse serves the arts sector by recording, critiquing, profiling and archiving South Asian dance and music in the UK through Pulse magazine and the website: www.pulseconnects.com.
On Ragas and Retweets – Kavya Rajagopalan considers classical arts in the digital world.
Kadam forms part of the SADA Alliance
Navadal Voices – Participants in Akademi’s youth dance competition talk about competing.
Dance India 2017 – Shivaangee Agrawal recounts her experiences of this year’s Dance India.
Young Pulse Reviews Music Performance Taj Express (Shruti Merchant & Vaibhavi Merchant) Bring on the Bollywood (Phizzical)
Dance Performance The Rose and the Bulbul (Kadam) Slut (Amina Khayyam Dance Company) Sigma (Gandini Juggling & Seeta Patel)
Theatre Performance Untouchable (RADA)
Reviews CD Review Vignettes EP (Alam Khan)
Contents Page Photo Credits FC Illustration: Pritpal Ajimal 3 Photo: Courtesy Korzo India Dance Festival 6 Raga Room Performance | Photo: Courtesy Raga Room 10 Saberi Misra | Photo: Courtesy Artist 12 Akram Khan | Photo: Lisa Stonehouse for The Times 14 Yarlinie and Kobini | Photo: Courtesy zeroclassikal 18 Ishita Mili | Photo: Radhika Kshirsagar 22 Shivaangee Agrawal | Photo: Courtesy Milapfest 28 Untouchable | Photo: Helen Murray RADA FESTIVAL This page background image: Jaswant Bhachu
Letter from the Guest Editor
as I do! Whether you’ve got the print copy or are reading on an iPad, laptop or phone, I hope this issue brings you some new ideas, fresh insights and a warm, fuzzy feeling that the future of South Asian music and dance is bright.
Dear Readers I’m absolutely honoured and thrilled to have been invited to guest-edit this issue of Pulse magazine. I’ve always admired and commended the presence that the publication has in the sector and the passion, commitment and love with which Sanjeevini Dutta, Gopa Roy and the associated team work on the content and stories for each issue year upon year. When they asked me to be Guest Editor for this issue my brain immediately started buzzing with ideas of how to make the most of this opportunity. One particular feeling that kept arising was how ‘young people’s’ voices were not heard at the South Asian Dance Sector’s Navadisha Conference last year. In line with my experience as a 26-yearold growing up with Indian classical arts in the UK, I wanted to highlight the views of my generation in this issue and bring a fresh perspective. I’m particularly excited to share Kavya Rajagopalan’s piece on the impact of the digital age on Indian classical arts as we’re both social media nerds! I also loved coming across Ishita Mili (you’ve got to check out her SLUM STORIES video on YouTube) – thank you to Gemma Connell for writing such a brilliant interview. These pages are filled with voices from students and artists themselves, speaking of their own experience and the challenges, ambitions and ideas that they have today. I really hope that you’ll enjoy reading the range and diversity of backgrounds and disciplines that they come from too. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m so grateful to have been able to interview one of my greatest inspirations, Akram Khan, about his involvement in the Darbar Festival this year. My obsession with kathak came through too in the end as I share my thoughts on the importance of musicality in kathak dance with snippets of the conversations I’ve had with fellow dancers too. As autumn closes in, I hope you savour the feeling of cosying up with a good read and a mug of something hot just as much 2
Until the next time x Seetal Kaur Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram @seetal_
Looking Forward Pink Sari Revolution Pink Sari Revolution tells the real-life story of Sampat Pal, the formidable and fearless leader of the Gulabi Gang. The movement began in Uttar Pradesh, where violence against women is rife. Now more than 400,000 women
fight for their rights in a uniform of blazing pink saris. Director Suba Das says: “Sampat is a real force of nature… who has created one of the world’s greatest and most vibrant feminist movements. Incredibly, she has enabled semi-literate women in rural India to take a real stand against corruption and violence where so many others fail to act. This, however, is more than just a show about terrible things that happen far away; we know that they take place all around the world and that’s why this story is so important and urgent to tell. Sampat was leading thousands of women and men marching
Ulrika Krishnamurti | Photo: Pamela Raith
in pink a decade before the Women’s Marches in Washington and across the world this year.” Pink Sari Revolution fuses drama, music and movement. It has been adapted for the stage by Purva Naresh from the book by Amana FontanellaKhan. Aakash Odedra is Movement Director and Naren Chandavarkar Music Director. Following the première at Curve, Leicester (27 Sept–7 Oct), the production will travel to Belgrade Theatre, Coventry (11–22 Oct), Northern Stage (31 Oct–4 Nov) and West Yorkshire Playhouse (7‒11 Nov). www.ett.org.uk/whats-on/pinksari-revolution
Birmingham Weekender This three-day arts festival promises a packed weekend of free outdoor theatre, music, art installations and performance across the city centre. Look out for Daksha Seth Company’s Sari; follow Rangeeli: The Colours of Birmingham Parade, which culminates at Victoria Square with a crescendo of sound including dhol and Brazilian beats, with dance styles of kathakali, Bollywood, bhangra, bharatanatyam, yagkshagana and African and contemporary moves; Square Dance features leading international and regional artists including Sonia Sabri Company, Nachda Sansaar, Chitraleka Dance Company and more. You can also catch Seeta Patel’s Something Then, Something Now and Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans. 22–24 September 2017 www.birminghamweekender.com
It’s Happening in The Hague Tradition and innovation go hand-in-hand at the Korzo India Dance Festival, with the premières this year of three works by artists based in The Netherlands and India: Dutch hip-hop innovator Shailesh Bahoran will present Aghori; from Bangalore comes Mala, the new bharatanatyam work by Rukmini Vijayakumar, who inspires with her contemporary, athletic technique; kathak artist Sanjukta Sinha will perform her triple bill, Kin, with solos created for her by news
Sanjukta Sinha | Photo: Devansh Jhaveri
Miriam Peretz, Aakash Odedra and Kumudini Lakhia. Singers and musicians will be accompanied by contemporary Indian dancers in Philip Glass’s opera inspired by Gandhi, Satyagraha. 13–29 October 2017 www.indiadansfestival.nl
The Shape-Shifter Awakens The Magic Fish, ATMA Dance’s retelling of a classic Indian tale through dance, storytelling and beatboxing, is touring this autumn. Vishnu, one of India’s shape-shifting supergods, wakes up after sleeping for thousands of years to find a greedy demon called No-Knowledge has taken earth’s most precious treasures for himself. In this interactive performance, boys and girls are invited to join the adventure in a production to enchant all children aged 5+. Choreographer: Mayuri Boonham. Composer: Jason Singh. Performers: Mayuri Boonham, Kamala Devam and Marv Radio. October: 14: Leicester / 15: London 22: Nottingham / 24: Bradford 25: Leeds / 26: Newcastle 29: Bournemouth November: 4: Swindon / 11: Sale www.atmadance.com/work/themagic-fish
Pyar Actually Rifco Studio (Miss Meena & the Masala Queens and The Deranged Marriage) present their sparkling new comedy Pyar Actually (‘Love Actually’),
written by Sukh Ojla. Polly has a reliable husband, two bright children, a well-paid job at the council and a detached house with a double garage. She’s got it all. But has she? Pyar Actually is touring this autumn until 18 October. 29 Sept–1 Oct: The Woodville, Gravesend 5–7 Oct: The Curve, Slough 13–14 Nov: Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry 15–17 Nov: Watford Palace Theatre, Watford 18 Nov: Theatre Royal Stratford East, London rifcoarts.com/latest-news/rifcoannounce-pyar-actually
Bakewell, 22 November (Wayne McGregor Studio). www.danceumbrella.co.uk/ mydancedna
Glancing Back Confluence of artists: Bedford Odissi Festival 2017 Small, disconnected pockets of odissi dancers can be found all over the world seeking the guidance of a guru; unlike kathak and bharatanatyam, odissi has fewer teachers living and working outside India. In an
Temple Dancer Retold Shobana Jeyasingh Dance’s Bayadère – The Ninth Life (first performed in 2015) will be performed at Sadler’s Wells this month, with a bold new design by Tom Piper (co-creator of the poppies installation at the Tower of London). The work radically re-imagines Marius Petipa’s legendary orientalist ballet La Bayadère. The words of the celebrated French writer Théophile Gautier, who recorded his ambiguous impressions of Indian temple dancers in 1838, add to Gabriel Prokofiev’s speciallycommissioned score to form a compelling and unsettling work.
Yatra to Stornoway The Purvai 2017 Festival and Collector Extraordinaire exhibition is Scotland’s first-ever festival of South Asian Art and Culture in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides. The main festival events took place in August but the overall programme will run from August through to November 2017. Collector Extraordinaire is also the first-ever exhibition of Colin Mackenzie’s India Collections. Mackenzie, one of Scotland’s most famous nineteenth-century explorers, was born in Stornoway in 1754. He went on to lead a life of travel, discovery and exploration in India as a soldier, engineer, cartographer, polymath and collector. He produced some of the first cartographic maps of the country and towards the end of a long career and life in India he became the first Surveyor General of India. Now, thanks to funding from HLF Sharing Heritage, this exhibition has opened in the town of his birth 234 years after he left it for India.
Photo: Nishorini Somasundaram
attempt to address this, a twoweek-long festival dedicated to odissi was recently conducted in Bedford by the independent charity 21st Century Education 16 & 17 October Trust led by Bipinchandra Shah Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London and Parvati Rajamani. www.sadlerswells.com Featuring odissi artist Madhavi Mudgal, accompanied ‘My Dance DNA’ by her senior student Shalakha Rai, the festival included a weekDance Umbrella has been long summer school as well as producing a series of interviews, an exhibition on odissi at the filmed in front of a live audience Higgins Art Gallery and Museum and live-streamed, with five by Nisha Somasundaram, plus leading UK choreographers talks, lectures and performances. about the inspirations behind Madhaviji offered her and influences on their work. The guidance with grace and poise to artists discuss the moments of the passionate and trained group dance and movement on film that of dancers who came from all over have transfixed and transformed the world: Austria, Spain, Italy, them, as well as defining pieces America, India and France as well from their own back catalogues. as the UK. When she started out, Akram Khan was talking to Madhaviji observed that there Kathryn Hunter on 17 September. were barely any odissi teachers Still to come are Siobhan and certainly no events such as Davies and Maria Balshaw on these, but the current batch of 22 September (The Whitworth, students and teachers are forming University of Manchester); a strong, growing network. Shobana Jeyasingh and Nikki Bedi, 6 November (Dance East); Sarika Shah and Wayne McGregor and Joan
Photo: Seetal Kaur
Mackenzie’s collection provides the context and inspiration for creative collaborations between artists performing and engaging with Purvai 2017. This year the festival’s arts programme included some exceptional work from many wonderful artistic collaborations, drawing from both Gaelic and South Asian traditions. One of these was the speciallycommissioned score, Yatra (‘Journey’), inspired by the journey of Colin Mackenzie from the Isle of Lewis to India in 1783. Composer Dalbir Singh Rattan led a diverse collective of musicians to create and perform the score. The music and visuals depicted and charted Mackenzie’s journey through traditional Gaelic vocal songs of islanders’ travel and seafaring, through to the traditional Indian raga and folk music that Mackenzie would have experienced and encountered during his life of
exploration in India. It also tells the wider story, a historical journey made alive and present through artists working now, representing traditions in a progressive and innovative way. The festival received wonderful audience support – the opening concert of sitar and tabla by Roopa Panesar and Dalbir Singh Rattan was met with a rapturous response. Stornoway enjoyed an Indian classical santoor concert with Kaviraj Singh Dhadyalla. Yatra was a sell-out show and the Saturday children’s concerts saw an An Lanntair Arts Centre packed to the rafters with every generation of families to celebrate the closing of the festival. Still to come in October is Copan Chai, a visual and audio arts installation. ‘Copan’ is the Gaelic word for a cup. Copan Chai is a fully-operational Chai stall, telling personal family stories and histories through the medium of tea – both an integral part of Hebridean and Asian culture and everyday life. In November there will be the critically-acclaimed theatre production Child of the Divide. The projects have been supported by HLF and Event Scotland Year of History Heritage and Archaeology. January 2018 will see the Purvai Project travel to India, supported by funding from the British Council and Creative Scotland. Catherine Maclean (Festival and Exhibition Curator), An Lanntair Arts Centre, Stornoway.
A Howl of Protest in Physical Form Aakash Odedra has been working with dancers from Turkey who have inspired him in the creation
Photo: Sean Goldthorpe
of a dance theatre work, #JeSuis. Presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August, it was chosen by Amnesty International for its 2017 Freedom of Expression 3
Award as “a powerful wake-up call to everyone on the climate of violence and oppression that people in Turkey, including our Amnesty International colleagues, are currently enduring” (Naomi McAuliffe, Scotland Programme Director, Amnesty International). “It is a howl of protest against state censorship, expressed in purest physical form” (Kate Maltby, judge). Look out for more on this work in our December issue. Meanwhile, there are further previews of #JeSuis in Manchester (10–12 October) and Portsmouth (21 October) as part of Journeys Festival International. www.aakashodedra.co.uk
A Summer of Learning Summer is a time when things change pace for many of us. Kids are off school and into their summer activities and we’ll often take a week or two off work to pursue our passions. Summer schools and camps for Indian classical music are becoming more and more popular with the SAA-uk Music Summer School in Leeds, Sitar Music Society Summer School in Leicester, vocal intensives organised by the Dhrupad Music Society and private retreats and camps hosted by teachers for their students. The model has been hugely successful for students to immerse themselves in practice and switch off from everyday
Krishna: The Mythological Hero An exciting day of Seminar, Workshops and performance exploring philosophies of Lord Krishna as a symbol of love and devotion as portrayed in Indian classical dance and music Saturday, 4th November 2017 3 sixty, Reading University Student’s Union
Seminar: 10am to 12pm
Kathak Aayam – A Classical Dance Showcase More and more teachers and lovers of Indian classical dance are taking it upon themselves to create opportunities for performances across the UK, with all the challenges involved in creating a show involving people with different skills and levels and from different cities. Kathak Aayam was presented at the Nehru Centre on 30 June 2017 by Chester-based kathak dancer and teacher Kajal Sharma and her students, with live musical accompaniment by Saleel Tambe and Ustad Surjit Singh. Kajal has not compromised with her kathak practice: “I want to represent the pure and traditional form, the way I learned from the maestro... with my individual touch and improvisation on live music, something not usually seen by the audience.” She is very appreciative of the contribution made by her students, both in organisation and hard work and passion in
Dr Ann David
Reader in Dance Studies University of Roehampton
Dr Mark James Hamilton Senior Lecturer Regent’s University London
Photo: Courtesy of Sitar Music Society
Dr Shalini Sinha
distractions. If you went along to one this year, we hope that you had a fantastic experience. Be sure to keep practising to build on what you learned!
Lecturer in Non-Western Philosophy, University of Reading
Workshops and Performance: 2pm to 6pm
Anusha Subramanyam Bharatanatyam Dance Artist
Are you a young dancer of an Indian Classical style?
Kuchipudi Dance Artist
After the recent successes of BBC Young Dancer and NAVADAL, ISTD is proud to be able to offer young dancers yet another opportunity to compete, perform and impress. The ISTD Bursary Awards is a prestigious dance platform where talented young dancers perform for and receive feedback from leading members of the dance profession. Winners of this event will receive a significant financial bursary towards the cost of their future training and the teachers of the winners will also receive bursaries to support their continued professional development.
Ranjana Ghatak Singer & Composer
Application form is found at goo.gl/forms/ov3ziQL4oE5nr9Jq1 For more information, please email email@example.com
Photo: Courtesy Kajal Sharma
performance, and “we were blessed to have our dear and respected Sukanya Shankarji as a chief guest.” 4
25 September (23:59) Application Deadline
19 October Audition Day 21 January 2018 Bursary Awards Show
TO SUBMIT A NEWS STORY OR EVENT LISTINGS PLEASE EMAIL/TWEET/ FACEBOOK US WITH ALL THE DETAILS news
Listings Till 7 Oct
Exhibition Indian Treasures Getty Images Gallery, London www.gettyimagesgallery.com
Till 8 Oct
Exhibition Virtual pilgrimage: Reimagining India’s Great Shrine Of Amaravati British Museum, London www.britishmuseum.org
Exhibition Splendours Of The Subcontinent New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, Leicester www.visitleicester.info
Music Woojae Park with Shogo Yoshii & Soumik Datta Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Music KhyalFest: Imagination :: Samrat Pandit – Patiala Nehru Centre, London www.sama.co.uk
Till 29 Oct
Till 5 Nov
Exhibition/Music Khyal: Music and Imagination :: Martin Clayton and Laura Leante New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, Leicester www.visitleicester.info
Till Music 30 Nov Bangla Music Festival Various Venues, London www.saudha.org Till Dec
Film India On Film BFI, London whatson.bfi.org.uk
Dance An Evening Of Indian Classical Dance :: Chhau, Kathakali and Gotipua Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net Dance Outlands :: 2Faced Dance Company / Hemabharathy Palani, Roonita Mookerji, Emma Jayne Park The Place, London www.theplace.org.uk
Music Arun Ghosh Album Launch The Roundhouse, London www.roundhouse.org.uk
Dance Dance Umbrella Various Venues, London www.danceumbrella.co.uk
Music Sacred Sounds Ilkley Playhouse, Ilkley www.saa-uk.org/whatson
Exhibitions/Events Illuminating India Science Museum, London www.sciencemuseum.org.uk
Dance/Theatre Akshayambara :: Dramanon Bangalore Blue Room, Southbank Centre, London www.southbankcentre.co.uk Lecture Incredible India: Southern India :: Michael Wood Nehru Centre, London www.nehrucentre.org.uk
Symposium India’s place in photography’s world Science Museum, London www.sciencemuseum.org.uk
Music Undone :: Tarang Beck Theatre, Hayes www.becktheatre.org.uk Music Riverside Ragas :: Roopa Panesar & Bhupinder Chaggar Sage, Gateshead www.sagegateshead.com
Dance Nritya-Upahaar Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net
Music Diwali Delights :: Roopa Panesar Bramham Village Hall, Bramham www.saa-uk.org
Dance Inter-rupted :: Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company Tramway, Glasgow www.indiaatuk2017.com
20Lecture Course 24 Nov Indian Textiles & Dress :: Jasleen Kandhari Rewley House, Oxford www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses 21
Dance Viplav: Bharatanatyam & Mohiniattam :: Upahaar Dance & Natyasri Dance Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Music KhayalFest: Imagination :: Madhumita Ray - Rampur Sahaswan / Gwalior Nehru Centre, London www.sama.co.uk
Music Riverside Ragas: Sarod & Tabla :: Debasmita Bhattacharya and Gurdain Rayatt Sage, Gateshead www.sagegateshead.com
Conference South Asia and its Diaspora:Musical Performances in the Cultures of Decolonisation Horniman Museum, London www.horniman.ac.uk
Theatre Season Of Bangla Drama Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Dance/Workshop Bharatanatyam Workshop :: Padma Subrahmanyam Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net
Music/Workshop Vina Workshop/Performance :: Kannan Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net
Music Michael Messer’s Mitra The Jazz Café, Newcastle www.gemarts.org
Music Law & Nationhood: India at 70 :: Legal background of Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar and Krishna Varma LSE, London www.lse.ac.uk
Music Bollywood Jazz :: Manasamitra National Centre for Early Music, York www.manasamitra.com
Music Darbar: Kaushiki Chakraborty Barbican, London www.darbar.org
Dance/Music Darbar Festival Barbican/Sadlers Wells, London www.darbar.org
Dance Darbar: Akram Khan, Raga & Tala Experience :: Akram Khan, Patri Satish Kumar and Pravin Godkhindi Sadlers Wells, London www.darbar.org
Dance/Music Darbar: Ragas, Sarod and Fiery Dance :: Mythili Prakash, Debasmita Bhattacharya & Dheerendra Tiwari Sadlers Wells, London www.darbar.org
Dance/Music Darbar: Indian Adventures of Sitar and Dance :: Aditi Mangaldas, Mavin Khoo and Shahana Banerjee Sadlers Wells, London www.darbar.org
Music Darbar: Nishat Khan and the soul of Khayal :: Ustad Nishat Khan and Pandit Kaivalyakumar Gaurav Sadlers Wells, London www.darbar.org
Dance Manasaa :: Bharatanatyam Ganesh Vasudeva Nehru Centre, London www.nehrucentre.org.uk
Dance/Storytelling The Magic Fish Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds www.carriageworkstheatre.co.uk
Music zerOclassikal Basement Sessions :: Sowmyah Anandanadesan & Dhruv Sarma Karamel, Wood Green www.karamelrestaurant.com
Theatre Bitched, Kali Theatre Tristan Bates Theatre, London www.kalitheatre.co.uk
Dance/Music Kahaani (Story) :: Mohinder Singh (Mendi), Daz Dolczech, Jaya Khazaei, Manuela Benini, Prem Rai Foyle Studio, mac, Birmingham macbirmingham.co.uk Film Slumdog Millionaire & Q & A :: Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy Science Museum, London www.sciencemuseum.org.uk
Dance Bayadère – The Ninth Life :: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Sadler’s Wells, London www.sadlerswells.com
Spoken Word Women And Revolution In The Black Arts Movement :: SAWCC Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Dance Inter-rupted :: Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company Hippodrome, Birmingham www.indiaatuk2017.com
Dance Bharatanatyam Recital :: Mahima & Shivangi Chandrashekar Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net
Music Sarod :: Debasmita Bhattacharya Seven Arts, Leeds www.saa-uk.org.uk
Festival London International Arts Fesival 2017 :: Trilok Gurtu, Yorkston/ Thorne/Khan, Prince Rama Varma, Padmashri Prof Dr Yella Venkateshwara Rao, Cleveland Watkiss, Mangala Anand, Ashnaa Sasikaran, Quest Collective, Raga Garage, Kefaya Trio Various Venues, London www.liaf.co.uk
Music Shiraz :: With Anoushka Shankar BFI, London whatson.bfi.org.uk 15
Music Bollywood Jazz :: Manasamitra Musicport, Whitby www.manasamitra.com
Dance Samagam – A Confluence in Odissi :: Madhulita Mohapatra, Gairika Mathur and Pallavi Basak Vijay Nehru Centre, London www.nehrucentre.org.uk 14
Music Music For The Mind And Soul: Piano & Tabla :: Anil Srinivasan and Kousic Sen Bridgewater Hall, Manchester www.bridgewater-hall.co.uk
Talk Indian Responses to British Women’s Social Activism in the Interwar Period :: Sumita Mukherjee LSE, London www.lse.ac.uk
Music Sarod :: Debasmita Bhattacharya St George’s, Bristol www.asianartsagency.co.uk
Dance #JeSuis :: Aakash Odedra Company, Journeys Festival International Contact Theatre, Manchester www.aakashodedra.co.uk
Dance Independence Gala RFH, Southbank Centre, London www.southbankcentre.co.uk Film BFI London Film Festival :: Incl. Beyond The Clouds, The Brawler, Om Dar-B-Dar & Shiraz (Score by Anoushka Shankar) Various Venues, London whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff
Dance/Music An evening of South Asian Music and Dance :: Divya Kasturi Trestle Theatre, St Albans www.trestle.org.uk
Music British Carnatic Choir Dancing Notes Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net
Music Kaushiki Chakraborty :: Darbar Festival Barbican Centre, London www.barbican.org.uk
Music Music For The Mind And Soul: The Great British Gharana :: Nilanjana De, Kousic Sen, Rekesh Chauhan, Ramya Tangirala, Prashanthini Jeyarajan,Thasan Kangaivernian Capstone Theatre, Liverpool www.milapfest.com
Music Dhrupad Workshop & Performance :: The Gundecha Brothers Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net
Dance Yatra & Q & A :: Jaivant Patel Dance Dance4, Nottingham facebook: JaivantPatelDance
Dance Anubhooti – A Solo Kathak Recital :: Shila Mehta Nehru Centre, London www.nehrucentre.org.uk
Music Amar Bansi Nehru Centre, London www.nehrucentre.org.uk
On Ra a Retwe
illustration: dilrani kaur
By Kavya Rajagopalan
Ashanti Omkar with Kitha Nadarajah (Raga Room) Photo: Courtesy RAGA ROOM
Once upon a time around fifteen years ago, we didn’t have the world at our fingertips. The thing with technology is that it creeps its way into your life without you noticing. Fast forward to the present and it’s impossible to go a day without being digitally connected.
agas a n d ets bbc.in/2jZS9ps
or creatives, there’s nothing quite like the joy of being able to share your art. Artists can set up their own pages, build a following and share with fans all across the world. Take Ashanti Omkar, for example, a BBC broadcaster for whom social platforms act as a great way to discover talent: “Musicians across the globe reach out to me, be they a rapper in Madurai or a Carnatic musician from Bristol,” she says. “I discover music in many places ‒ Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook and, more recently, Instagram.”
“...with so many avenues of connectivity, where does one even begin?” A snap to share a clip of your amazing concert experience, a boomerang of those ghungroo-adorned legs tapping away, a Twitter conversation with your favourite artist – the opportunities are endless. Yet with so many avenues of connectivity, where does one even begin? The saturation of content is what has driven many platforms to implement algorithms. Gone are the days of chronological timelines. Instead, social networks show you things that are popular, things that your friends have liked, or things that the algorithm thinks you might like. As an artist, sharing your creation online only to have it lost in the crowd of “Check out my…” posts can be disheartening. Carnatic singer Adesh Sundaresan says: “It’s easy to get sucked into the performing bandwagon, or feel as though we aren’t getting as much exposure as others.” 7
Pt Uday Bhawalkar at New Walk Museum, Leicester hosted by Sitar Music SocietY Photo: Sitar Music Society Raga Room live stream Carnatic concert series | Photo: COURTESY RAGA ROOM
Raga Room live stream Carnatic concert series | Photo: COURTESY RAGA ROOM
“...sometimes it’s not about “One has to reaching the consider issues maximum number of lag and of people online.” sound quality.” the world through Skype lessons, giving passionate rasikas (enthusiasts) the chance to learn from true stalwarts.
Kitha Nadarajah, musician and founder of live-streamed concert series Raga Room agrees that there’s a risk of content being lost, but that there’s also more to it: “It’s important to know what purpose content serves and to stay true to that ‒ sometimes it’s not about reaching the maximum number of people online.” Ashanti has to take this into consideration when connecting with talent. “One can record in a bedroom or in a plush studio, then auto-tune and edit it to perfection,” she says. “These are not the musicians I tend to seek out, even if they are massively popular online. I always do due diligence, and get my team at the BBC to vet the music too. I seek what is credible talent, and that they are an authentic musician.”
Adesh has been learning from his guru through Skype for years, and while it’s a great way to keep in touch, he can’t deny that regular face-to-face is an absolute must during one’s training. “It does test your belief in yourself when all you have is an audio call. Human beings feed off reactions from others,” he says. “One has to consider issues of lag and sound quality. Beginners need face-to-face guidance over rhythmical aspects. Once the concept of tāla (rhythm) is somewhat understood, it gets that bit easier to learn online.” Some say that online learning is simply a shortcut and there are many aspects such as posture, rhythm and articulation that are much harder to pick up and correct through a screen. Whether it’s music or dance, there’s a physicality to the art that needs as much attention as the sounds and movements themselves.
“...social media is helping make “...for dancers... classical music n u a n c e s . . . a r e more accessible much harder to a g a i n . . . ” convey through a screen.” The social media age has heralded new ways to build and nurture relationships. For time-poor, curiosity-rich individuals, it provides the opportunity to learn on your own terms, in your own time, in your own way. Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan even spoke about how social media is helping to make classical music more accessible again, allowing upcoming musicians to refine their skills through the available resources. Apps such as Sangeethapriya allow students like Adesh to rack up hundreds of hours listening to multiple versions of a song to get a near-360 understanding of a composition. Esteemed classical artists are growing networks of students across
“Some knowledge and understanding is imbibed through the experience of a face-to-face class and through unspoken actions,” says Kitha. This rings especially true for dancers, where nuances such as abhinaya (expressive dance) and even the exact positioning of arms to get those perfect lines are much harder to convey through a screen. Yet so many are taking to online classes as a way to refresh or improve their skills, and if the ability to connect has given creatives the chance to pursue their passion,
is there much reason to deter them? “My husband has taken up the bass,” continues Ashanti. “And due to the way social media now works, he talks to everyone from Nathan East, to Mohini Dey and Guitar Prasanna to aid his learning.” The thought of being able to strike up a conversation with eminent classical artists would never have crossed our minds previously, but today performers across the subcontinent and beyond are understanding the value of being active online. “By being on social media, the performer does open themselves up to the risk of facing expectations they cannot meet,” says Kitha. “But the positive impacts far outweigh the negative effects of opening engagement between performer and rasika.”
“The relationship b e t w e e n performer and viewer – or guru and student – is no longer one of deference.” There’s traditionally been a perception that classical performers and gurus are to be seen and experienced on stage only; approaching them ‘outside hours’ wasn’t the norm. The relationship between performer and viewer ‒ or guru and student ‒ is no longer one of deference. While that shift predominantly comes from changing attitudes in the world as a whole, there’s a case to be made for the fact that social media has provided an opportunity to change these perceptions, opening doors for two-way conversations. Once upon a time around fifteen years ago, we didn’t have the world at our fingertips. Now that we do, can we find a way to create a world in which digital platforms and classical arts can live happily ever after? It certainly seems so.
At both the level of training and performance, there is a gap between Indian classical music and dance in the UK. It is not to say that they are disconnected but simply that they could work more closely together. Due to a number of reasons, many dance students are not so confident about the nuances of Indian classical music and recordings are increasingly used for performances. There is also a rising trend towards emphasis on choreography and contemporary experimentation rather than a strong musical ensemble and live interaction with musicians. One could conduct a nationwide research survey to dissect this issue but I’ve taken a more personal route by speaking to a few young dancers who are carrying a musical proficiency into their work in kathak. At both the levels of training and performance, we tried to find ways that kathak dance can have a closer relationship with live music in the UK. Saberi Misra comes from a lineage of the Jaipur gharana of kathak. She grew up surrounded by music in London and Calcutta learning kathak from her grandmother, Smt Susmita Misra, tabla from her father Pandit Rajkumar Misra and vocal music from her mother Smt Chandrima Misra. She loves playing with rhythm and clips of her practising syncopated patterns have had more than 4,000 hits on Facebook. At such
a young age, she carries musicality confidently into her performances but she is admittedly unique. Saberi is in an ideal environment for musical training but others are not so lucky.
“…your laya cannot be strong if you do not have musicality.” For those that are not from musical families, what are the options? “Go to music concerts, listen to recordings,” Saberi recommends. “It should also be compulsory for all kathak dancers to learn the basic foundations of tabla because the most important thing for a kathak dancer is laya (tempo) and your laya cannot be strong if you do not have musicality.” Students can also learn the basics of vocal music and an instrument to help them to communicate with musicians in their language. “There needs to be more collaboration between dance and music teachers to enable their students to have practice sessions together,” says
kathak dancer Archita Kumar. “Introduce the idea of work experience for music students to gradually learn the specific skills involved in performing with dance.” Incorporating music within dance training is possible too as one doesn’t need to search far to stumble across YouTube videos of young American girls executing chakkars with accurate force and energetic footwork while keeping the time cycle through singing a melodic lehra. This vigorous training scheme introduced by Pandit Chitresh Das is now being carried forward passionately by his students across the world. But for young students, parental support is key and that’s where understanding comes in. In order for parents to understand that kathak is a multidisciplinary art form, they must be exposed to such presentations.
“…a kathak performance is like a live music ensemble.”
Search for Sang On
By Seetal Kaur
“Live music enriches a performance and in the case of kathak it is vital in enabling the dancer to improvise – a fundamental aspect of the form,” says Archita. Perhaps dancers could take it upon themselves to explain to promoters that a kathak performance is like a live music ensemble. Saberi has found that there is a market for it too: “We underestimate audiences, thinking that they won’t understand if I start improvising in a seven-and-a-half-beat time cycle, but they really engage with it,” she says.
the music world about playing with dance. To address the core of the issue that will affect the next generation, there needs to be more collaboration among music and dance organisations at an infrastructural level with holistic training schemes and conversations across the sectors, both in training and performance. We have briefly highlighted this concern but I invite more voices to contribute to the discussion so that we can collectively ensure that kathak retains its soulful, live musicality and dancers become more confident to collaborate with musicians in the UK and beyond.
“I cannot overstate the importance of live music, especially for classical Indian dance.” – Sooraj Subramaniam ( d a n c e r )
“…perhaps…still an underlying s t i g m a … about playing with dance.”
TOP Photo: SIMON RICHARDONSON
ing ngeet UK
MIDDLE AND BOTTOM Photo: SABERI MISHRA
Attempts have been made by dancers to incorporate live music into their work but sometimes budgets are constrained or perhaps there is still an underlying stigma in
Photo: Lisa Stonehouse for The Times
Dance at Darbar In Akram
By Seetal Kaur
ADITI MANGALDAS | Photo: SIMON RICHARDSON MYTHILI PRAKASH | Photo: Courtesy Artist DHEERENDRA TIWARI | Photo: Courtesy Artist MAVIN KHOO | PHOTO: SIMON RICHARDSON SEETA PATEL | PHOTO: SIMON RICHARDSON
f there’s one thing that Darbar is known for, apart from the calibre of the artists it features, it is its ability to keep people on their toes. This year, for the first time, Darbar collaborated with none other than Akram Khan to fill Sadler’s Wells with the finest Indian classical music and dance in November. The line-up includes Aditi Mangaldas (kathak), Mythili Prakash (bharatanatyam), Dheerendra Tiwari (kathak), Mavin Khoo (bharatanatyam) and Seeta Patel (bharatanatyam). The programme speaks loudly about Darbar’s ambitious attitude towards risk, with celebrated younger artists featured alongside established maestros, back-toback performances of music and dance, and lengthy concerts that continue into the night as well as morning recitals that allow ragas to be presented at their prescribed time of day. It’s risky because it may be asking too much of audiences that might not be so accustomed to engaging with the sheer volume of this particular genre of art that is incredibly immersive. Will people be able to absorb these artists at their absolute best for hours on end? I had to get the inside story directly from the man who was brought in to take this new step and bring dance to Darbar. “My home is in the contemporary world but my roots are in the classical world,” Akram begins when I ask him how the collaboration first came about. Sandeep Virdee, Darbar’s Artistic Director, approached Akram in the hope that he could be a bridge between the two worlds of Indian classical music and dance and find a way that they could co-exist within a particular vision. That vision was about the aesthetics of the presentation and creating a transformative experience rather than a standard recital. It was about theatre. “Like Sandeep, I’m interested in the artists that haven’t come from grand lineages because an art should belong to anyone. We were looking for artists that work hard and are devoted to their art form.” Darbar has always been a platform to present excellent artists, even if they’re relatively unfamiliar to audiences in the UK. In a way, Akram wanted to ensure that these voices were also being brought forward in dance, with performances from Dheerendra Tiwari and Mythili Prakash. “I want the younger generation to not only be inspired but to experience
the immense amount of hard work and dedication that it takes to achieve such a level. When these artists perform, this is what it looks like to dive into it and lose yourself in it, bleed for it and become obsessed with it. Not for fame, but where it’s not about the result, it’s about the process.” Akram spoke a lot about devotion and commitment to craft but also recognised how problematic such a career path can be in today’s world. “There should be more opportunities for young people who want to devote themselves to a classical Indian dance form. I sympathise with them; I feel the pressure that young people are under. Nowadays you have to be so many things for so many people. I have a lot of respect for young people who are trying to get through, it’s very hard. Many things have to be ‘contemporary’ now,” Akram acknowledged. He didn’t want to oversimplify the issue but would rather open up the question about support for Indian classical artists for debate. Wealthy patrons and Indian philanthropists were mentioned as well as bursaries for ongoing development for artists but Akram is adamant that he doesn’t have all the answers. “How many times a year can you perform Indian classical dance around the world? Which venues are going to take you? Indian classical dance asks the core, fundamental questions about human beings and their relationship with the world. There needs to be more of a balance against commercial work,” Akram adds. He sees Darbar as a way of restoring this balance. When I ask him how he feels about featuring in the festival he shies away and says that he would rather give the space to others. But with pressing requests from Alistair Spalding and Sandeep Virdee, he agreed to present a short solo on the opening evening. “It’s nice to test myself in the context of this festival, and it gives me a purpose of a space where I can explore the boundaries of kathak,” Akram says. Indeed, Akram has always pushed himself, as well as the art form. It’s certainly exciting to see what impact Darbar and Akram’s collaboration will have on audiences this year. Hopefully they will continue to use their power and influence to address the issues about support for Indian classical musicians and dancers in the UK, and as well as open doors, keep them open for others to enter too.
An Inne By Mithila Sarma
arlinie and Kobini have already individually gained recognition for their talents; now they are also well-recognised across the Carnatic community and the current generation of artists as a duo to be reckoned with. As they reflect on their journey together, learning veena from Yarlinie’s mother, performing together in many community concerts and eventually coming together to join Tarang, the national ensemble for Indian classical music, it is obvious that they share a close bond. Speaking and reflecting on the process of creating An Inner Voice, Kobini talks about their “Western and Eastern musical influences and understanding of how the various styles might work together” being a key catalyst to thinking about harmonies within Carnatic music. As I approached them back in 2014 to develop
this idea further within a zerOclassikal commission, both were keen to explore new possibilities in an initial work-inprogress. Looking back, Yarlinie says: “Our ideas initially stemmed from developing harmonies within pieces we already knew, from slokas (Sanskrit verses) to thillanas (rhythmic pieces) and
“…[explore] new possibilities… developing harmonies…” inner
exploring the different types of harmonies within them.” Their first work-inprogress performance showcased something special, yet the challenge came now when they were asked to create a full commission of original music. An Inner Voice developed with the need to find match-funding for zerOclassikal’s commissioned project. Yarlinie and Kobini had something unique to offer as two females with their own British outlook and story to tell within Carnatic music, fighting for a place within an arts sector focused predominantly on promoting artists from India and lacking in professional pathways for British artists. They gained funding from both the PRS Foundation and Help Musicians UK, which enabled mentorship, research and development so they were able to delve deeper into their understanding of
An Inner Voice by Yarlinie Thanabalasingham and Kobini Ananth is the result of a three-year journey of experimenting, creating, learning and evolving organically. This unique fortyminute vocal Carnatic piece focusing on harmonies has recently been touring across the UK with audiences left thrilled by this innovative music. It is something I have had the privilege of seeing develop from the beginning.
Yarlinie and Kobini | PHOTO: courtesy zeroclassikal
er Voice bit.ly/2wR7IWG
harmonies and hone their compositional skills, something rarely taught within Carnatic training. This funding, along with Arts Council support and grants from the Fenton Art Trust mean that for the first time, two young British Carnatic vocalists have been able to create something that is new, unique, paving a future for their careers to blossom and allowing new audiences to access their music. Though initially Yarlinie and Kobini saw composition as a hurdle, once they had settled in it seemed as if they had unlocked a whole new avenue within their musical creativity, developing contemporary ideas within Carnatic music while sustaining its core. And as I ask what An Inner Voice looks like now, Kobini explains it as “split into two movements – our first movement explores three ragas where we’ve experimented with
“Our tanpura is used as a ‘third melodic harmony’…” different types of harmonies based on the different gamakams (ornaments) in each ragam (or alapana, a slow improvisation without rhythm). Our second movement is based primarily in one raga, exploring the various styles of composition focusing on the melodic and rhythmic intricacies of Carnatic music. Our tanpura is used as a ‘third melodic harmony’ – this has been
quite interesting in creating tension and confusion within the piece!” These two artists have showcased how an idea, determination and a thirst to explore can reveal something astonishing and lead to a piece with the clear stamp of British identity. This I believe is the beginning of contemporary South Asian classical music and I look forward to the future development of these two artists. An Inner Voice was commissioned by the zerOclassikal project and supported by the Fenton Arts Trust, PRS Foundation and HMUK. Mithila Sarma is Artistic Director of the zerOclassikal project.
The Future for Dance in an Uncertain Landscape BRING ON THE BOLLYWOOD | PHOTO: Nicola Young
Kavya Kaushik is a former politician and kathak dancer who is currently working as a digital producer. How does she envisage a future for classical dance?
he creative sector has been on a journey over the last few years with ever-shifting funding goalposts and political changes. While Arts Council funding has been renewed this year for major South Asian players, a steep decline year on year in creative funding is apparent and the pot of money for the Arts is ever shrinking.1 Combined with our dual citizenship of ‘diverse’ or ‘ethnic’ art, the declining pot of money seems ever further out of our reach.
“ I n t e r generational inequality…a hot topic…” “What do milennials do in the face of adversity?” as ‘upcoming’, even in their mid-50s. Numerous articles are regularly written about how our generation doesn’t do any riyaaz (practice), or that we exclusively train at workshops, or that we don’t respect our elders or gurus.
Intergenerational inequality has been a hot topic within the media for some time now, with avocadogorging millennials being blamed for everything, be it decreasing diamond sales or the increasingly out-of-reach housing market. Within Indian dance it is no different; artists are still defined an
Pairing our reputation for laziness with the lack of funding (and with that the lack of opportunity), we seem to be losing
e e n n e bit.ly/2fvomn8
out in every direction. Dance generations before us were fortunate enough to have access to more funding during the Blair economic boom years, and lower housing and living costs. We are a generation of austerity, unaffordable rent, and don’t even have the support of our own mentors and gurus. What do millennials do in the face of adversity? We innovate. We diversify. We download apps to get our avocado toast delivered to our doorsteps.
rooted within classical technique.” (Samir Bhamra, Artistic Director, Phizzical) Within any product life-cycle there is a point when the product begins to decline, mostly due to factors unrelated to quality. This can be due to a variety of components such as declining market demand, higher supplier costs or market changes. That is when the producer must innovate the product and revolutionise the market.
“... high-quality “…our primary [ B o l l y w o o d ] objective should d a n c e be focused performances… on audience a c c e s s ib l e d e v e l o p m e n t . ” and engaging.” Some artists have diversified through accepting commercial viability, sniffing what sells, and appealing to non-classical environments such as Bollywood. The industry shuns the diversifiers as sell-outs. The commercial viability of Bollywood dance has accelerated the quality of Bollywood dance. Some of the biggest names in the UK commercial Indian dance scene are producing profitable, highquality dance performances. Phizzical’s Bring On The Bollywood, touring this year, has seen regularly high audience turnout. Audiences unlikely to engage with a varnam (an item in bharatanatyam that moves between abstract and narrative dance) find the art accessible and engaging.
Within Indian classical dance we lack producers, leaving innovation on the shoulders of artists, for whom content should be key. Stagnation of the classical sector has led to an already tiny audience growing weary. What’s the unique selling-point for classical dance when you know you’ll see the same varnam, the same tukras (short compositions in kathak dance), the same outfits, presented in a performance that wowed you the first time you saw it ten years ago? The dancer may be different each time, but presenting a piece in the same format grows repetitive when the audience is made up of the same people. What’s the solution? There are a few. Firstly, our primary objective should be focused on audience development. The audience at most classical dance shows tends to be the same thirty people, who are all dancers or ex-dancers themselves and will meet later to dissect the show. Audiences show interest in commercial performances and instead of shunning Bollywood dance, we should learn from these companies to see how they engage audiences.
“...when the product begins to decline…the should producer must “…we i n n o v a t e … ” all function as producers…” “For Bring On The Bollywood, we approached the creative journey differently. It wasn’t just about innovation, it was about providing the right tools to market the show. We were close to full capacity at a 1,000-seater in Cornwall, and had 80 per cent capacity in Ipswich. Audiences engaged with our show, with dance movements deeply
Secondly, we should look at innovation in all its respects. If we have a deficit of producers, we should all function as producers and sniff out the gap in the market. This is not limited to creative and artistic decisions, but can also operate within the dance community. Jaivant Patel identified a lack
of opportunities for dancers to perform and resolved this by curating a successful festival, Samarpan, in Wolverhampton this year. This brought a much-needed platform for classical Indian dance within a new community, while also creating a new dance community and building some much-needed camaraderie. “Samarpan sought to create an opportunity for a next generation of artists working in the UK to present work. There is a need to push this agenda because of the identified lack of opportunities.” (Jaivant Patel) The stand-out moment at the Navadisha conference for me last year was Suba Subramaniam’s speech on bharatanatyam and climate change. Sadhana Dance secured funding by looking outside traditional arts funding streams, and tapping into the politicallyrelevant topic of climate change. There was no compromise in quality, with the effects of climate change painting a vivid backdrop for Suba’s bharatanatyam. Subverting the tropes and norms of traditional classical structures comes naturally to millennials. Raised on the internet, we have had access to the creative world from a young age. We don’t need to conform to the same varnams and tukras; we don’t need to follow every step of the ladder taken by our gurus before us. The art form can remain pure and classical while changing a small component of its structure to allow innovation, be that a change within its administration, curation or its funding stream. As a generation we are adept at identifying problems and building creative solutions. We need to apply the same agility to classical dance.
“…we need to plan for contingencies with agile innovation.” With an uncertain political future ahead of us and an increasingly hostile government attitude towards diversity and inclusivity, we need to plan for contingencies with agile innovation. Be it digital innovation, artistic innovation or simply a renovation of our classical structures, our life-cycle needs to be revived. This isn’t the responsibility of one producer or one dancer, but the responsibility of everyone involved in the sector. If we don’t have an audience, we simply won’t survive. 1 A timeline for cuts to arts funding 2009–2015 can be found at www.museumsassociation.org/ campaigns/museum-funding/19122012-cutstimeline
PHOTO: Arindam Banerjee
Ishita Mili is a dancer, choreographer and film-maker whose engaging and refreshing work can draw on bharatanatyam, hip-hop and her Bengali and wider Indian culture â€“ and for whom YouTube videos can be both a means and an end.
bit.ly/2fvftd5 18 /
PHOTO: Radhika Kshirsagar
By Gemma Connell
PHOTO: Steven Chen
PHOTO: Radhika Kshirsagar
y history in dance is very complicated...” Ishita Mili laughs as we begin to delve into her Urban Indian choreography that has been making waves over the past year. Born and raised in New Jersey, Ishita became aware of Indian Fusion from a very young age through her choreographer uncle. A trained bharatanatyam dancer, she discovered hip-hop towards the end of her high school career and joined UFP Dance Company. She tells me this as we sit halfway across the world from each other but even with five time zones between us, I immediately feel we’re connecting. Ishita is clearly worldly-wise and deeply engaged in humanity. The more stories she tells me, the more I’m sure that it’s this engagement with people that has led to her development of Urban Indian.
“Urban Indian… allows Ishita to tell her own versions of s t o r i e s from India.” that I have in Indian culture, which are bharatanatyam and my Bengali culture, to uncover whatever I can and see why it’s relevant or make it relevant.” This desire for relevance is rooted in Ishita’s frustrations with the Indian subcontinent and particularly with the popularity of Bollywood: “There’s nothing innately wrong with Bollywood, but it’s not everything in India. I feel like, as a culture, we’re sitting on goldmines of so much art and so much talent and so many stories that we’re not doing anything to share it.”
“She connected wi t h bharatanatyam and hiphop through “If we can change r h y t h m . . . ” the conversation through art… that’s very powerful.”
Urban Indian draws on Ishita’s wide dance experience, but primarily on the genres of bharatanatyam and hip-hop. In the past she has dabbled with other dance forms, such as ballet and contemporary dance, but never felt like they fit. She connected with bharatanatyam and hiphop through rhythm; for her, it’s about the heavy beats that come with the music of both forms and how choreography is created in relation to them. She compares the sound of the ghungroos in bharatanatyam to the lessons that hiphop has taught her in musicality: “[In bharatanatyam] we’re a part of the music. In hip-hop you can differentiate between layers in the music that have already been created; you can pick and choose the sounds you want to hit.” Ishita’s Urban Indian work combines these two ideas to create, as she describes it, “a unity that I think is really cool.” This blending of styles to create Urban Indian wasn’t necessarily intentional: “It was kinda like a voice that came from inside of me. Of course I love dancing, but I felt like I wasn’t being myself. I was a reflection of other people and what other people wanted of me.” The new medium allows Ishita to tell her own versions of stories from India. “Through Urban Indian, I try to use the few routes
Ishita is passionate about sharing these stories, but in a way that is accessible to as many people as possible. Commenting on her videos, she claims that “you can understand the story, no matter who you are.” You only have to take a look at Ishita’s YouTube channel to confirm this. Her most recent video, SLUM STORIES, features children from the slums of Kolkata who have taught themselves hip-hop moves by watching YouTube clips on the one smart phone in the neighbourhood. Ishita’s desire for telling stories through dance extends to questioning traditional tales: “We have so much information, but in mythology there are thousands of really strong male gods, but there’s only really one really strong female. Why is the conversation like that? If we can change the conversation through art, I feel like that’s very powerful.” With her drive, technical skill and creative mind, I have no doubt that Ishita Mili will be the person to do just that. 19
Tarang “…enjoyment out of confronting a challenge… spurs me on…”
Other than these stimulating sessions, performing with Tarang, Anil Srinivasan (Anilji) and Pandit Rajendra Gangani (Rajendraji) were probably my highlights of the week. Having known Anilji for a long time, been a fan of his work and grown up watching so many artists I look up to performing with him; performing with him myself provided the most amazing learning curve and opportunity. The week in general also made me realise I’ve been part of Tarang for almost two how much enjoyment music gives me. and a half years, having been invited to Sitting in the most relaxed yet challenging join after serving as Orchestra Leader of sessions trying rhythmic improvisations Samyo [the youth orchestra]. Alongside with some of my closest friends was just playing a key role in the development of pure fun. It’s definitely this enjoyment out our new groundbreaking sound, a major of confronting a challenge that spurs me benefit of the ensemble is the week-long on as a young aspiring musician. summer residency (Music India) that we Looking ahead, I’m still thinking attend, where we meet some of the finest about what my future in music looks like. young talent in the UK, as well as worldI’m still at university and really enjoy renowned names in Indian classical music. what I study. Ideally I want to make This year’s Music India really taught a mark in Chennai, perform widely, me the importance of understanding a especially in the West and, if I’m lucky gamaka (an ornamentation); to apply it enough, play with some of the current correctly, choosing the right combinations Indian classical and contemporary and deciding when to blur them are things household names and legends. But first that require significant understanding. and foremost, being good enough to Sitting with H.N. Bhaskarji and then in deliver solid and consistently highthe studio with Girishh (Gopalakrishnan) quality concerts is the most crucial step. Anna really helped me digest this. So plenty of practice to be done!
PHOTO: COURTESY MILAPFEST
PHOTO: COURTESY MILAPFEST
Two young musicians share their experience of taking part in Music India and playing in Milapfest’s senior ensemble, Tarang.
Raam Jeganathan – Veena
I have been a member of Tarang for just over two years, joining as part of the new long-term project directed at cultivating a fresh and innovative ‘Tarang sound’.
One of the things I look forward to most during Music India is the time I am able to spend with Kousicji. One of the most valuable things I gained from him was the refinement of my technique in practice and the focus on maturity of my tone. The members of Tarang were also learning a lot from our endeavours as a collective. We are currently working on creating the soundtrack for a new Tamil film and this project has given us the opportunity to learn about the production and development of film music first-hand through the creative process.
monotony of daily life and studying. The fact that music is a never-ending source of inspiration, challenge, and ultimately joy, is what I appreciate the most. Music is not like a book that you read and finish, or a painting that you create and complete; the learning process is endless. Development, creative and refinement goals that you set yourself during riyaaz constantly move. This welcomes selfimmersion in the art form.
“Music is not like “…were also a book that you learning a lot read and finish…” from our endeavours as a collective.” An important musical moment for me was having the chance to sit one-to-one with and accompany santoor maestro Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya. Through this time together, I was able to gain invaluable knowledge, not just in music, but in performance and conviction. To me, music is more than just expressing yourself: it is a way of connecting not only with others, but with our inner self and with God. Tabla has given me grounding and discipline, while also providing a break from the
It is my ambition to master the tabla – my goal is to learn and keep learning and developing in this art for the rest of my life. To become a professional and respected musician performing pure classical concerts internationally and especially in India would be an honour, but first and most important are practising and perfecting the skill. I also hope to be able to teach in the future with the same dedication and passion as my Gurus and Dada Gurus.
Joanne Thomas Photo: Simon Richardson
PHOTO: COURTESY MILAPFEST
Navadal Vo i c e s
kademi’s national South Asian youth dance competition, Navadal (‘new shoots’), took place at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 15 July 2017, with fourteen solo dancers and four groups taking part. The judges were Andrew Hurst, Piali Ray, Pali Chandra, Archita Kumar and Kamala Devam. We congratulate the winners: Joanne Rose Thomas (solo 11‒16, student of Priya Sundar, bharatanatyam); Jaina Modasia (solo 17‒25, student of Sujata Banerjee, kathak); Sanskriti: Neha Sabbineni, Shaayiini Ravichandren, Rachana Sureshkumar, Keerthana Krishnamurthy, Brinda Anantharaju, Pritika Jothimurugan, Keshika Manivannan and Srihita Gunda (students of Pushkala Gopal, bharatanatyam). “The atmosphere backstage was thrilling, with each individual bringing…complete positive energy for one another… [It provided] an opportunity to present a small solo performance and work towards a target. The competition structure enhances your growth as a dancer and broadens your understanding.” Jaina Modasia “Navadal has set high standards for the participants and it is a tough competition. I met many talented dancers from various forms (kathak, bharatanatyam & kuchipudi).” Joanne Thomas Sanskriti “…a huge confidence boost for the whole team.” (Keerthana) “…[helps one to] enjoy…and understand different dance styles…and helps dancers pursue their dance career.” (Shayini) “…various dancers from various cultures and backgrounds [are brought] together.” (Prithika) “…[a] workshop with an inspiring [dancer]…is as important and exciting as competing.” (Keshika) “…a heart-opening competition where your soul can be released.” (Srihitha)
The winners will be performing in 2018 at the Southbank Centre’s Alchemy Festival. 21
I Shivaangee Agrawal with Rama Vaidyanathan at Dance India - Liverpool | PHOTO: COURTESY MILAPFEST
Bharatanatyam dancer Shivaangee Agarwal discovered a depth of riches in the immersive training of Dance India 2017.
Dance India 2 0 1 7 22 /
t is one thing being able to learn from the innovators and legends of dance, but it is completely another to be able to learn from them in the day, discuss their choreographic approaches with them in the afternoon, and watch them perform live on stage in the evening. Followed by a post-show discussion over breakfast the next day. For seven days! This intensity of contact time allowed a rare 360-degree intimacy with these artists, revealing more about their creative processes, personalities, approaches and journeys than I had imagined I could know.
“...an engagement with the present...” I had the privilege of being tutored by Rama Vaidyanathan and Bragha Bessel and the delightful opportunity to pick the brains of Dakshina Vaidyanathan. The Vaidyanathan duo performed at the Indika Festival on Sunday, 23 July to an audience that leapt up for a standing ovation. The show was named Dhwita, featuring choreographies that all spoke of duality; in the opening piece the mother and daughter expressed the interdependence of Lakshmi and Saraswati and their double act was a neat fit. But this was just the beginning – the audacious interpretations and innovative compositions that one has begun to expect from Rama Vaidyanathan were delivered one after another with bold precision. Most of all, I was struck once again by her achievement of a contemporary bharatanatyam practice. Although the word ‘contemporary’ elicits a cold response in traditional bharatanatyam circles, not least from Ramaji herself, to me ‘contemporary’ refers to an engagement with the present; an engagement that is intelligent, rigorously created, and demonstrates the beautiful capacity of a classical form to adapt to new matter.
“...felt closer to lived experience than to abhinaya.” One manifestation of this is in Vaidyanathan-choreographed characters, who I find to be more human than any other I see on stage. While most audience members and perhaps every bharatanatyam dancer is familiar with the story of Krishna revealing the universe
Blurring the traditional boundaries of performer and protagonist in the final piece, Rama Vaidyanathan expressed the journey of motherhood, while Dakshina featured in dreamlike apparitions, growing cinematically with each sequence from a toddler to a child, teenager and young woman. Lacking any culture-specific or era-specific context, the Vaidyanathans accomplished a universality in bharatanatyam that is claimed too often and demonstrated too infrequently. The piece was performed beautifully and the powerful synchronisation between both dancers evidenced their connection of blood and training. The culmination of this piece became the highlight of the evening, when mother and daughter engaged in a semi-metaphorical ball game, bouncing adavu sequences off one another with spontaneous and playful energy. Itching to join in, I watched eagerly from my seat. Absorbed in their joy, I felt suddenly aware of how inseparable these dancers were from their dance vocabulary. They weren’t dancing bharatanatyam on stage, they were just… expressing. Bharatanatyam seemed embedded into their being; a vital organ like skin. I
“…I felt my practice growing in breadth...” heartache when she said to us: “Dance needs to be your partner. You need to have a passionate love affair with it. An intimate and regular dialogue with it is the only way to really understand.” This was my first time at Dance India and I was surprised by the insistence on a multidisciplinary education – dance sessions would be followed by lecture demonstrations by other members of the faculty, covering music, poetry, abhinaya, composition, rhythm and other dance genres. This initially felt like a missed opportunity to have more time with our dance tutors but gradually the conversations across these sessions began to interweave and I felt my practice growing in breadth; Anil Srinivasan’s session on poetry brought home to me how much I had not even begun to explore in the canon of classical Indian literature, and mridangist R.N. Prakash’s lessons in talam made me determined to incorporate rhythmic training in my personal schedule. I can only imagine that in eras gone by the guru-shishya tradition centred on this kind of holistic learning experience, and I left Dance India with a pang of regret at not having access to such an environment; I gained insights that week that I felt could only come from being in the constant company of experienced performers and artists and I wondered how different things would be if I had grown up with that. I have no respect for regret though; I’m continuing to stitch whatever I can from wherever I can into the patchwork quilt that is my dance training, but I do so with a renewed appreciation for the necessity of immersion.
A r a n g e t r a m Bharatanatyam arangetram of Ashwini Ganguly, daughter and disciple of Nina Rajarani MBE. 12 November 2017 | 5pm Watersmeet Theatre, High Street Rickmansworth WD3 1EH By invitation only. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTO: VIPUL SANGOI
“…Ramaakka unintentionally addressed my heartache...”
shrank back into my seat, overcome with a desire to become just as intimate with bharatanatyam. Later that week, Ramaakka unintentionally addressed my
PHOTO: RICHA KASHELKAR
to his mother, Dakshina Vaidyanathan’s Yashoda in Momuja Pura felt painfully real. Her bewilderment, anxiety and awe all leaked into each other and her authority faded and reappeared in subtle shades in a way that felt closer to lived experience than to abhinaya. To move beyond the archetypal significance of such familiar mythological figures and portray their humanity feels like a contemporary innovation that has become a Vaidyanathan trademark.
a semi-classical choreography that also borrowed from the karanas (the 108 key units of dance as described in the Natya Shastra). The female lead, Tanvi Patil, performed this and most of the other dance sequences he established with the same grace and panache Merchant family that you would expect from returns to London’s a principal performer. Kudos Peacock Theatre this should also go to the eighteenyear with another kaleidoscopic member ensemble who vibrantly Bollywood-inspired production, dance their way through Taj Express. twenty-three scenes and myriad From the start the tone is set, costume changes. Overall, the with a warning to the audience that choreography is structured very the story consists of ‘unbelievable similarly to what is seen in many storylines, melodramatic acting Indian film awards: high-energy and terrible jokes’. dancing with constant variations In essence it is a show within in styles, tempo, spatial patterns, a show, with a deliberately and of course a large helping of thin plot that allows its vast props. There are moments of choreographies to take centre great skill also provided by the stage. This is a story of Shankar male lead Shah. The leading duo (Mikhail Sen), a budding stands out majestically in terms composer obsessed by the of their movement range and famous Indian composer A.R. individual energies. Their duets Rahman. Desperately hoping deserve a special mention and to follow in his idol’s footsteps, include a stunning rendition of Shankar lands his dream job the famous Gujarati folk song to write the music for a new Mor Bani Thanghat Kare. romantic Bollywood blockbuster One sequence that attempts Taj Express, a quintessential to represent a journey from love story of an actress Katrina north to south India through Kaboom (Tanvi Patil) and a very a multitude of dance forms, handsome underdog Arjun however, is a medley that (Hiten Shah). Shankar and his ultimately disappoints if your small group of reluctant but knowledge of Indian folk immensely talented musicians and classical dance is great. take us through the film plot that Intermingling styles such as is woven into his own creative manipuri, Rajasthani chirmi, processes to create his first kathakali and the karaga folk Bollywood musical. dance from Karnataka with a Bollywood twist was perhaps the low point of the entire evening due to its loose interpretations of each style. Despite this, the soundtrack is a mixed bag of familiar favourites of Bollywood’s greatest hits, particularly those by Rahman. However, the real art lies in the live music by Chandan Raina (guitarist), Prathamesh Kandalkar (percussionist) and the favourite, The back projections on semi- Avadooth Phadke (flautist), transparent mesh were a striking which elevates the overall combination of authentic and soundscape and mood of the abstract imagery. This brought evening. It is a pleasure to listen relevance to the narrative and to them showcase their talents scene changes without the need individually and together. Raina for a set, so producer Shruti also occasionally anchors the show Merchant and choreographer through direct conversation, yoga Vaibhavi Merchant were able and current affairs to engage a to make intelligent use of the friendly unity between audience stage. An example of this is how and performer. Shankar’s music studio was set For the most part this is a behind the mesh, giving a literal people-pleaser; a commercial feel of being ‘behind the scenes’. show that will entice audiences It was a pleasant surprise to from all backgrounds to visit the have the opening dance scene as theatre. It is certainly an evening an ode to goddess Saraswati in of unapologetic cheese and
18 June 2017 Directed by Shruti Merchant, Choreography by Vaibhavi Merchant Peacock Theatre, London Reviewed by Kesha Raithatha
very well written. The script has some wonderful comic moments, the actors hit each punch line with ease and everyone looked comfortable on stage, even though they constantly slipped in and out of their accent choices, Bring on the Bollywood which unfortunately distracted 6 July 2017 from some well-developed Phizzical character dynamics. Arts Depot, Finchley Sakuntala Ramanee as Lalita Reviewed by Saloni Sharaf Pawar dominates the show. Her grip over the script and dedication ring on the Bollywood to her character allow her to shine is two and a half hours above the rest. The relationship of phenomenal dancing, between Ronny Kapoor and a witty script, beautiful Katrina Pawar, played by Robby choreography, and average Khela and Nisha Aaliya, felt a little singing and lyrics that let down unconvincing but Nisha portrays what could have been a powerful her character’s rather endearing soundtrack. Nevertheless, it’s obsession with Bollywood great fun to watch. beautifully and is a pleasure to The show started with the watch. It’s always comforting to title track and its painfully clichéd hear a well-trained voice, and lyrics. All that song really has going that’s what Robby gave us with for it is that it’s incredibly catchy his rendition of Rabba, which he and people may find themselves sang effortlessly. singing it the next day, even if they Anthony Sahota as Lucky don’t want to. However, what Pawar was as charming as stood out in both the first song, his bicep flashing and pelvic and pretty much throughout the thrusting. He played his entire show, was the ensemble. character of a spoilt brat with Each dancer shone in technical confidence and commitment, brilliance. I found myself constantly and yet somehow remained one looking forward to each song, of the most likeable characters in just so I could watch them dance. the show. Yanick Ghanty played Their performances in Prem Leela, Amit Kapoor and was great fun to choreographed by Subhash Viman, watch on stage; his relationship and Satyam Shivam Sundaram, with Rekha, who was played by choreographed by Sonia Sabri, Sophie Kandola, was as sweet as stood out and they did full justice ever and only a reminder of the to the choreography. The dancers quintessential ‘Bollywood’ style looked a little stiff in Daru, but that of the show: how if you open whole song just felt a little awkward your mind and allow the actors to watch, mainly due to the song to be as cheesy as the show wants itself, which was average at best. to be, you’ll only enjoy each and Kesha Raithatha and Subhash love the story more. Viman are as usual unstoppable; two class performers with impressive stage presence. Mention must be given to ‘Shahrukh the servant’ played by Subhash, as his character and execution was comical genius. Raheem Mir’s natural flair made him a delight to watch, and Mithun Gill, Emiko Ishii and Jo Bispham’s unbeatable energy Rohit Gokani and Nisha Aaliya and strength reflect their years of Photo: Nicola Young classical training and experience. To indulge a little further, their Even though, like every little fillers between each scene quintessential Bollywood movie, added some absolute gold to the play lasted a little too long, the show. In particular Emiko, I thoroughly enjoyed every bit. Raheem and Subhash as servants From Shahrukh the servant making fun of the colonel and following Lucky with bells, to his wife, and Kesha and Raheem Katrina Pawar getting tipsy on as bitchy aunties at a wedding, the plane, the gorgeous set and giggling to ‘whiskey aur pooch costumes made it an evening well pooch’ remain my favourite spent, and I found myself and moments of the show. everyone else walking out smiling The story is gripping and and satisfied. glamour with likeable characters in a light-hearted, high-energy set-up. As mentioned by a colleague, more than a musical, this really is a ‘dance-ical’.
CD Review Vignettes EP
19 May2017 Alam Khan alamkhan.bandcamp.com Reviewed by John Ball
t would be difficult to think of a more apt title for this brief but engaging collection of musical sketches. Vignettes features six potent miniatures of varying moods and atmospheres composed and sensitively led by sarod maestro Alam Khan. The pieces, the longest running at 5.15 minutes, refreshingly resist the temptation to fall back on some of the more prevalent fusion devices like the
simply breathtaking. I have to admit that my heart sank a little on first hearing; a four-chord vamp on the piano for the introductory bars of the first track ‘Becoming’ led me to fearfully assume that some hackneyed heavy-handed Western instrumentation might follow. This feeling was wholly transformed from the first emphatic stroke of the sarod, which not only opens up the listener to the sonic and textural possibilities of the instrument but provides an instructive insight into how a traditional Indian stringed instrument can work both elegantly and intelligently with a more contemporary backing. The sarod sits effortlessly on the canvas set up by the composer and
Though harmonic changes are prominent in tracks like ‘Open’, the adjoining melodic content doesn’t feel compromised or lacking. ‘Through the Dark’ is essentially an elaboration of a traditional vilambit gat in Raga Charukeshi played over a precise sixteen-beat rhythm cycle (teentaal) with only occasional flurries of improvisation; the cello sensitively dances around the sarod, easing us into the first beat of each rhythmic cycle. The playing gains in intensity over its brief duration, demonstrating that a raga can be genuinely and evocatively conveyed in a matter of minutes. Our last Vignette is the introspective ‘Closing’, a minimal and delicate sarod melody layered across a simple sarod arpeggio. Though at times risking suggestion of over sentimentality, it is articulated with both genuine beauty and grace.
Dance Performance The Rose and the Bulbul 20 July 2017 Kadam Geffrye Museum, London Reviewed by Lise Smith
here are many worse ways to spend a summer’s evening than wandering the lovely gardens of Hoxton’s Geffrye Museum following a band of itinerant dancers, actors and glorious musicians, and this restaging of The Rose and the Bulbul (originally created in 2016) allows us to do just that. The processional production was created by a collaborative team including musician Arieb
obligatory extended percussion solo often used to pad out such projects (nothing against mindblowing percussionists by the way!). Instead, the sarod gently leads the listener through a series of evocative landscapes made up of a rich mix of layers and textures; pieces that sometimes prematurely fade away leaving the listener fascinated and intrigued. Despite the use of a wide range of instrumentation including strings, kit, piano and vocals, the arrangements don’t feel at all cluttered. For a project led by an Indian music instrumental maestro the album feels unorthodox with its emphasis on texture and compositional fluency rather than individual virtuosity, though some of the sarod-playing featured here is /
its meends (slides) and resonances don’t feel compromised. The harmonic progressions featured in the second track ‘Passages’ carry echoes of the idiosyncratic twists you might find in Radiohead’s back catalogue. Khan delves into broader musical palettes than most fusion ventures, with greater sensitivity too; the sarod sounds wholly comfortable with its musical colleagues and forms a particularly potent relationship with the cello throughout. ‘Zilla Kafi’, a favourite raga of his father Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, references more familiar classical repertoire drawing on the romantic thumri raga made distinctive through the curious accompaniment of an almost subliminal winding bass line. cd
meant the entire audience was well past the first flush of youth. To my ears, the script (with its deliberate archaisms) is also rather wordy for very young children. Actor Tony Hasnath gives an appealingly physical performance as the Bulbul, hopping around the garden setting and swinging daintily from trees and gateways. As Rose, a winsome Aryana Ramkhalawon suffers from a script stitched largely together from complaints, leaving her with little to do other than emote earnestly for forty minutes until the final celebration provides an opportunity to lighten up. Among the trio of dancers that animate the series of gardens we walk through on our processional journey, kathak dancer Manuela Benini is a particular pleasure to watch with her assured and expressive grace. Fluid and flexible contemporary dancer Lola Maury commits herself to the moment so fully that she briefly falls into a lavender bush at one point, which is one of the special joys of outdoor performance (and one swiftly recovered from at that). Generally the dance material responds well to its lovely outdoor setting, the audience led by the cast to nooks and crannies of the very interesting historic gardens at the Geffrye. That said, parts of the performance were sometimes attractively glimpsed through parts of the natural scenery but sometimes simply not visible. A small group of student dancers pops up at various points throughout the show, but are disappointingly not well integrated into the performance as a whole, functioning more as a series of tableaux vivant
The Rose and the Bulbul | Photo: Melissa Lane Porter
Azhar, choreographer Kali Chandrasegaram and director Sita Thomas. The piece brings together the titular Tudor Rose, who inspires poets as a symbol of love, and the Persian Bulbul who helps her to mend her own heart again. The show is billed as familyfriendly but is not specifically created for young children; indeed, a post-bedtime performance time
than part of the story or main choreography. This is a bit of a missed opportunity; community performances require a lot of rehearsal and ideally include creative contributions from the participants, however young. With that slight misgiving aside, there’s a lot to enjoy about The Rose and the Bulbul, in particular the enchanting music 25
that successfully brings together Tudor themes played by baroque violinist May Robertson and South Asian melodies from composer and contemporary Pakistani folk singer Arieb Azhar. The mesmerising soundtrack would be a delightful thing to enjoy in a garden on a summer’s evening quite by itself.
The Rose and the Bulbul 30 July 2017 Kadam Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park, Highgate Reviewed by Nicholas Minns
“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” - Jo Cox, MP
t school, a dry tally of dates and facts told from a singular imperial perspective constituted my early knowledge of history. The idea of weaving comparative history through dance, music and spoken word was inconceivable, let alone the notion of studying history in an environment of landscape gardening. Yet this is exactly what Sanjeevini Dutta and Kali Chandrasegaram dreamed up, along with writer Kamal Kaan, director Sita Thomas and
The seed of the idea came from the gardens in Stockwood Park near Luton where many styles ‒ from mediaeval to Elizabethan to Victorian ‒ are laid out. Stockwood Park also has an Asian garden planned along the landscape principles ‒ scaled down significantly ‒ of India’s Mughal empire, which ran parallel to our own Tudor period and continued into the Victorian era. The creative team behind The Rose and the Bulbul has drawn together these two parallel influences by mingling Tudor music, Indian chanting and song, bharatanatyam, kathak and contemporary dance, and what Kaan has done in the scripting is to weave the history of these gardens into a modern allegory of social integration. The history is implicit in the architectural parallels and in the cross-fertilisation of literature, dance and music. The Earl of Lauderdale inherited the house around the same time that the Taj Mahal, the apotheosis of Mughal architecture and landscape gardening, was being completed in Agra; the Persian word for a walled garden (a feature of Mughal gardens) came into the English language as ‘paradise’; the nightingale (bulbul) and the rose can be found in Sufi poetry as an expression of longing and
the story’s axiomatic philosophy (much of it based on the Sufi poet Rumi) is released like a scent by the musicians, actors and dancers as they enact one of the many tableaux before setting off ‒ adults, children and baby carriages in tow ‒ on a path to the next one. The Rose and the Bulbul is thus a fable of cultural synergies experienced live through poetry, music and dance, but it is also a visual allegory told in colour and form projected against the history of house and garden. In a story of ‘love and acceptance of the outsider’ between two people ‘who come truly to understand their present only through a journey into each other’s past’, the intermingling of cultural expressions is an intoxicating immersion into the value of social and political unity.
5 August 2017 Amina Khayyam Dance Company Summerhall Edinburgh Fringe Festival Reviewed by Gopa Roy
‘Kathak is fundamentally a storytelling form’ (programme notes for Slut). ‘Sexual abuse is happening in every community…by its nature it is hidden’ (Jon Brown, NSPCC).
The Rose and the Bulbul | Photo: Melissa Lane Porter
producer Kadam, for The Rose and the Bulbul. It is at once a celebration of gardens, a moral tale about love and acceptance, a history of two cultures and an exuberant, fête-like procession of flowing silks, finely delineated steps and musical rhythms that bring the paths, trees and water features of Waterlow Park alive to a new reality. 26 /
creativity, and classical and contemporary dance has always embodied current attitudes to social and political discourse. We can join in the pleasure of seeing the gardens around Lauderdale House at each stage of this promenade performance against the darkening skies and rising breezes of an English summer’s day. At the same time /
his compelling production draws on kathak and physical theatre to tell a story that is far from familiar kathak repertoire. There has been much coverage in the media of abuse of vulnerable children in institutions and by groups of perpetrators; not so much attention has been given to abuse within families, although this, or a trusted circle, is where the vast majority of abuse takes place. The context for Slut is a South Asian one, where silence about such issues is the norm, misogyny remains a powerful agent and where patriarchal attitudes mean that expressions of female sexuality are troubling and troublesome. Slut takes the audience from birth to death, with the all-female cast of four adopting different roles as the story proceeds. It is by turns playful, serious and – appropriately – vulgar. Jane Chan’s portrayal of a child is engaging and convincing and we are drawn into her world; however, the future waits on
either side of her on the stage, in the form of two pairs of high heels; both an anticipation of the fun the girls will have in trying out short skirts, heels and make-up and the reproof they will experience for doing so; yet the child suffers abuse, with the perpetrator unrebuked. There are visually potent elements: the smaller cast members don hoodies to become the swaggering men who hold sway over the taller women – it is simply their gender that gives them power; and when death enters the story, the actors are clothed in white (associated with purity or death), one falls at a time, two others catch her (she is not unsupported). She is lovingly washed. There is also an urn – so all religions seem to be encompassed. The impact of the closing rendition of Hey Joe is, somewhat surprisingly, quite up-beat. As with Parbati Chaudhury’s taking up a piece of chalk to produce a drawing of a penis on a blackboard (the kind of graffito usually found in boys’ toilets), the story told here is also one that the women and girls can – and must – tell. The term ‘consciousnessraising’ may seem rather oldfashioned, but it still has to be the starting-point and this kathak and theatre piece is an effective contribution to the issue.
8 August 2017 Amina Khayyam Dance Company Summerhall Edinburgh Fringe Festival Reviewed by Ian Abbott
“But who can remember pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow, not in the mind even, in the flesh. Pain marks you, but too deep to see. Out of sight, out of mind.” - Margaret Atwood
lut is the new work by Amina Khayyam Dance Company (AKDC), which premièred at the Edinburgh Fringe and responds to a personal encounter experienced by Khayyam when she was growing up. AKDC is concerned with issues that affect marginalised women and Slut follows on from A Thousand Faces which was made in response to the growing frequency of acid attacks on women. With a cast of Jane Chan, Parbati Chaudhury,
Slut | Photo: Simon Richardson
Nasia Kelepeshi and Khayyam herself, the work (developed in association with women’s groups in Woking, Birmingham and East London) was also triggered by the death of a close friend who shared a similar story. After seeing their playfully phallic water-pistol image dotted around Edinburgh and a descriptive text from their website identifying the work as ‘exploring issues of sexual grooming across culture and race while challenging labels given to women who do not conform to expectation’, I entered the theatre with a set of expectations that Slut might offer an alternative perspective on sexual violence, a portrait of non-conforming contemporary womanhood or challenge the dominant patriarchy through kathak and other dramaturgical means. There is a rich vein of strong solo and ensemble work at The Fringe that is exploring similar themes and executing them with finesse and originality including No Show by Ellie Dubois, Mouthpiece by Quote Unquote Collective and This Really Is Too Much by Gracefool Collective. Slut, however, adds little to the debate; instead it offers a dated one-dimensional portrait with scenes quickly growing stale, and an uneven quality of cast. “It doesn’t matter to me what your position is. You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain.” Toni Morrison Set over fifty-five minutes, Slut consists of five scenes
charting the childhood years of the central female character – from birth, to teddy bear attachment, to curious adolescence and finishing at age 17, stepping into adulthood. Each scene is established early and clearly ‒ we understand the role each performer is playing but it is the lack of nuance, complexity and ideas outstaying their welcome that is most grinding. When we see Chan hugging her teddy and playing with it in a childlike manner, rolling on the floor and goofing around, there’s little narrative development on show, her emotional palette is one-dimensional and the choreography is restricted. Instead of six or seven minutes, the scene could have played out in one or two minutes and the effect would have been the same. Similar choices are on display again in the adolescence and birth scenes when Khayyam wafts a cheap string of fairy lights in an attempt to convey childhood magic and the siblings’ physical mirroring scene adds little comedy or empathy to the characters. Hardial S. Rai is named as the dramaturg on the performance and I struggle to see the input and impact he has had. Khayyam is a brooding physical presence in Slut and her all-too-rare kathak interjections are a genuine highlight of the work; as we arrive in the theatre we see her perched on a stool knitting with a muted ferocity that established her physical tone. When her classical training is revealed her arms are reminiscent of the knitting needles, binding and weaving the air around her, demonstrating the quality of her movement; however, this also illustrates the
partnership with Seeta Patel) that explores choreographic architectures, visual patterning and the rhythmic crossover between bharatanatyam and juggling. Featuring Gandini’s Kati Ylä-Hokkala and Kim Huynh alongside bharatanatyam dancers Seeta Patel and Indu Patel, Sigma presents four supremely-skilled female performers who deliver an exceptionally sharp feast for the eyes. Divided into twelve independent vignettes, Sigma opens with a deadpan introductory line-up whereby each performer introduces themselves and a roll-call of wishes for what the show might contain: “a big Bollywood gulf in training and performance number”, “feminist statements” skills as the rest of the cast are and “sexy men to do the dancing.” unable to match the energy and As a conceptual and visual presence of the choreographer. proposition, the marriage of After the curtain call there is juggling and bharatanatyam is rich a short epilogue in which the with possibilities; from the vertical empty water-pistols from the trajectories and arcs of the balls poster are revealed from under changing speed in the air sharing a school desk and the cast play the stage with the horizontal on stage, pretend to shoot each air cuts of Seeta and Indu. If you other and the audience, run collected the data patterns from about and rub the water-pistols the movement of both bodies and on their crotch. The tone and balls it would provide something implications of the scene are akin to the complex sculptures of completely out of character and Nathalie Miebach. it leaves an odd set of images “Speed is simply the rite with the audience as they leave. that initiates us into emptiness: It is admirable that Slut was a nostalgic desire for forms to developed with the voices of the revert to immobility, concealed women’s groups and that AKDC beneath the very intensification chooses to work with issues that of their mobility.” affect marginalised women across - Jean Baudrillard their whole output. However, With a pair of mirrored in the context of The Fringe and panels and digital projections performing in a competitive adding depth and some international arena of 3,500+ perceptual trickeryto a number other performances, Slut adds of the scenes, we see asamyukta little to the issues it’s exploring, hastas (single-hand gestures) the wider debate and the festival and samyukta hastas (twoas a whole. hand gestures) mixed with kaleidoscopic hand shadows that mutate into Rorschach Sigma inkblots. Comparing the range 8 August 2017 of movement of the performers Gandini Juggling & Seeta Patel it’s fascinating to see the limited Assembly Hall, Edinburgh radius and restricted quality of Reviewed by Ian Abbott the jugglers; with biceps and triceps contracted and elbows “Geometry has two great glued to the torso, the radius treasures: one is the Theorem of and range of their movement is Pythagoras; the other, the division limited to about 20 centimetres. of a line into extreme and mean The rotation of the wrist and ratio. The first we may compare dexterity of Teflon fingers to a measure of gold; the second ensures a constant smooth we may name a precious jewel.” procession of balls out of the Johannes Kepler hand and into the air. There are vignettes igma is a new forty(including a surprising five-minute work appearance of Anna Meredith’s developed by Gandini rousing, throbbing horn fanfare Juggling (developed in piece Nautilus) that are more
Sigma | Photo: Ash Photography
successful than others; an onomatopoeic word-play of poly-syllabic London place names like Wal-tham-stow and East-Bromp-ton that are accented by bharatanatyam footwork cleverly demonstrates the seamless integration of the two forms. Sat in the middle of the work was a laboured and unnecessary slow-motion duet (with over-emotional piano soundtrack) in which the performers held onto the balls and enacted a contemporary choreography in invisible golden syrup which dragged the pace and rhythm of the show out of kilter. “There are only patterns, patterns on top of patterns, patterns that affect other patterns. Patterns hidden by patterns. Patterns within patterns. If you watch close, history does nothing but repeat itself. What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can’t decipher.” Chuck Palahniuk It is hard to fault Sigma with the quality, polish and detail on show; however, at forty-five minutes there isn’t enough time for it to engage emotionally or burrow under the skin and it felt like it has been designed for an Edinburgh/festival audience. In order for a show to stand out in this context it needs to be doing something a little different and Sigma achieves that, but the lack of abhinaya and emotional neutrality of YläHokkala and Huynh prevents it from connecting. It has not yet established an artistic identity and appeal for audiences who wish to encounter a little more rigour and emotional depth 28 /
and although it remains full of classical Indian fireworks and parabolic velocity, I found its decorative façade hard to love.
garlanding Ambedkar’s statues quasi-deity fashion. Untouchable wholly sidestepped the failings of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. As if aping Bollywood, Jabbar Patel’s feature film went on and on. Oswald told Ambedkar’s life tersely through a series of rapid-fire narrative vignettes or scenelets, many under three minutes long. Some manipulated temporal space as flashbacks, sometimes with a wink to the audience. As 1927 followed 1931, “It happens in stories” was the audience aside. Historically accurate though the narrative was, the playwright drew on mythology and mood-lightening allusions. The Mahabharata has the ‘knowyour-place’ tale of Eklavya,
Although Kali Chandrasegaram – the play’s Lord Buddha – was the choreographer and primary dancer, Untouchable’s most memorable dance sequence was the dance-off symbolising the struggle between Ambedkar (Adam Karim) and Gandhi (Gavi Singh Chera). Every actor played multiple roles, if only in crowd ‘appearances’. Allow a personal indulgence. Deaf Theatre interests me greatly. Nadarajah’s ‘voice’ in British Sign Language added another dimension, like Shirley Childress Johnson signing freedom and resistance songs with Sweet Honey In The Rock in American Sign Language. Watching Nadarajah’s re-composed face for different characters was eye-opening.
Theatre Review Untouchable
3 July 2017 GBS Theatre, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), London Reviewed by Ken Hunt
ntouchable is a work of remarkable power. Written by Peter Oswald and directed by Kathryn Hunter, it debuted in RADA’s [R]Evolution In Theatre season. The play is unflinchingly political. It addresses the plight of Untouchables or Dalits, those whom Gandhi tactlessly degraded/uplifted to Harijan (‘Children of God’). Its hero is India’s civil rights champion Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891–1956), visionary architect of India’s constitution. A Dalit who transcended. Combining drama, music and dance, Untouchable began, fittingly, with a tanpura drone. Mrityunjoy, composer-musician Jataneel Banerjee’s nom de scène (sorry, it was RADA), added musical flourishes. The first, Vande Mataram (I praise/bow to thee, Mother, in which Durga Maa represents Mother India), became self-rule India’s national song in 1947. Subsequently, Untouchable had pre-recorded instrumentation while sound designer Candice Weaver wove in ‘atmos’ like water, for instance. The opening exchanges were contentious in good ways; yet, I believe, wholly appropriate in their condemnation of slavishly dance
Untouchable | Photo: Helen Murray RADA FESTIVAL
the top-notch archer. His guru eventually demands his right thumb in payment for imparting esoteric knowledge. Perhaps with a nod to tales of the French mutilating captured English or Welsh bowmen during the Hundred Years’ War, Oswald has the V-sign fingers of the Bowman (Nadia Nadarajah) cut off. Keeping the British flavour, with a nice touch of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’s Windsor Davies, at one point the sergeant (Julia Tarnoky) sprinkled panto dust, post-Oh, What a Lovely War! with end-of-pier banter in the style of ‘He’s behind you’ or ‘Oh, yes, he is/Oh, no he isn’t’. Brace yourselves! Despite his portrayal in Richard Attenborough’s receivedtruth film, Gandhi wasn’t Ben Kingsley. His threatened starvation-unto-death blackmail ploy was bought with Dalit rights – out of fear of backlash and reprisals, in the event of his death, against Untouchables. theatre
Mrityunjoy artfully slipped in a song from Kabir the Unifier, the Builder of Bridges, the Unpicker of Walls. This last song sang, ‘Bhram ka tala laga mahal re/Prem ki kunji laga…’ Rabindranath Tagore repoeticised it: ‘The lock of error shuts the gate/Open it with the key of love…’ in One Hundred Poems of Kabir (1915). A dovetail. Choosing Untouchable as the title is masterly. It is a word freighted with perniciousness and perdition. Dalitphobic caste discrimination carries the further blow of being religiously sanctioned. Let’s face it, few people of South Asian bloodlines don’t know their descent origins or what caste, if converts to Buddhism, Christianity, Islam or Sikhism, their ancestors once were. Untouchable is a significant play. Plus Ambedkar should be spoken in the same breath as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Untouchable returns in 2018. Go.
UNITING HEARTS THROUGH ARTS
Lalgudi GJR Krishnan & Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi with Patri Satish Kumar & Kousic Sen “an exemplification of perfection, the hallmark of the Lalgudi bani” - The Hindu
THE NEW ALBUM OUT NOW
Saturday 18 November 2017 / 1pm The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester Thursday 23 November 2017 / 7:30pm The Bhavan, London
Available now on CD Baby Coming Soon to iTunes, Amazon & Google Play www.tarang-uk.com
Saturday 25 November 2017 / 1pm The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
Choreography and Direction Gary Clarke
Music Shri Sriram
Film Josh Hawkins
Lighting Charles Webber
TOURING UK / INDIA 2018 Akademi is marking the centenaries of World War I, Indian cinema and the first Hindi short story, with The Troth / Usne Kaha Tha: a project that reveals the contribution, sacrifice and human cost of Indian soldiers to the allied war effort.
Photo Simon Richardson | Location Tara Arts | Design Rohanne Udall
UK Premiere Curve 20 & 21 Feb Leicester 7.45pm Directed and choreographed by awardwinning Gary Clarke, with a diverse cast of multilingual dancers, The Troth is a live theatre production which unfolds the poignant narrative through interplay between image, music and dance.
A contemporary interpretation of an Indian classsic
A story of love, loss and sacrifice in World War I
Published on Sep 29, 2017
Published on Sep 29, 2017
This issue of Pulse is guest edited by young writer and arts curator Seetal Kaur. As to be expected, in A Fresh Perspective, the next genera...