Friday, July 15, 2011

Guest Writer: Pandita Uma Dogra (Kathak Guru)


Through Dance only I can connect with my True Self

“Being three dimensional, dance is perhaps the only art, which has the capacity to incorporate the essential elements of all the other sister arts and to become a complete, integrated and a unified experience.”
Learning classical dance is like learning a language. You not only hone yourself with the theoretical aspects but also have to master the equally important practical side. To truly master a language, you need to devote all your energies to it and make it an integral part of your life. The same goes for Indian classical dance. Some people think that learning for years is enough to say that: “I am a classical dancer”. But it takes more than just a handful of lessons to teach an art that dates back to hundreds of years.
Unlike other dances, Indian classical dance is governed by rules and regulations, which a practitioner abides by because they help him to understand and perform the art better. It’s this pre-existing structure which sets Indian classical dance apart from folk dance. The lexicon of Indian classical dance is rooted in sage Bharat’s Natyashastra, a historical text which dates back to 5,000 years, which has listed various guidelines when to perform.

But change, a constant feature in our life, is inevitable. Even the ancient performing art of dance cannot escape it. From costume and music to physical vocabulary, performers across generations have brought flourishes which have modified the existing repertoire. One can say that the social, the political and the economic factors of different periods have played an instrumental role in the kind of changes dance has seen. For instance, during the Mughal rule, a faction of kathak dancers did take their art to courts, and Bharatanatyam and Odissi saw their foundation in the temples, where women and girls performed these dances only for the Gods. During the British raj, dancing was banned in the temples with the Devdasi Prohibition Act of 1934. As a result, dancers had no alternative but to bring their art out in the open so that they could survive.

Even today, classical dance is considered a specialized art; it always catered to a niche audience, who were presumed to have an understanding of and eloquent taste in art forms. That’s why many dances received patronage from kings and rulers across country. The transition of dance from the private to the public domain has helped dance come a long way.

Change shouldn’t always be viewed with skepticism. The greatness of a dancer lies in his/her ability to add new elements in the existing vocabulary. You can’t just accept what’s given to you on the platter; you have to bring your ideas which help you to communicate better with the viewers who are constantly evolving. If you’re a good artist, you know that you have to adapt yourself to the changing times. While he may like to mould new compositions, he can do so only when he has aced the basics. Much like our life, which has border lines that guide us to become better individuals, even Indian classical dance has some which cannot be broken.

A wide range of changes in turn have widened the repertoire of dance and given audiences an opportunity to enjoy diverse styles. One of the biggest examples of change is the amount of choreographic work we see today. Initially, dancers performed the age-old compositions but today they are not afraid to take on different themes. This was not even considered 60 years ago, when all dance styles began to gain recognition as a separate entity. The contribution of dancers such as the Maharaj brothers , Rukmini Devi Arundale, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra,Guru Balasaraswati, Smt. Yamini Krishnamurthy,Smt. Sitara Devi, Pt. Durgalal and Dr. Kanak Rele has been enormous in making these dances credible. They have striven to pursue dance in an era when it was considered unacceptable and rarely encouraged. Their efforts have single-handedly popularized the dances and made them respectable arts forms.

In our fascination with everything western, Indian classical dance is also a great way to stay grounded to our rich, variant culture. Simultaneously, since Indian classical dance is so rooted in tradition it helps you to respect your culture, enhances your spiritual growth, brings a whole new grace to your personality and enables you to express yourself better. That moment when I am on stage with the musicians, it gives me tremendous happiness. I am at peace when I dance.

However, many people believe that classical dances have an effeminate nature. I choose to disagree. Most of the legendary teachers have all been male including mine (Pt Durga Lal) and without them the dance would have never reached to the women. Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra gave Odissi a new spurt of life, Birju Maharaj and my Guru Durgalal ji have given Kathak international recognition with his pyro-techniques. Manipuri  has a male-friendly repertoire which has various physically-demanding and acrobatic compositions and almost all the stalwarts of Kathakali have been males. This narrow-minded perception lies in the eye of the beholder - for classical dance is for everybody.

Despite the progress dance has made, the true glory of dance is withering as we become more concerned with external factors such as costume, light and sound. In the scuttle to make everything appear snazzy, the purity and essence of dance is losing ground. The internal expressions i.e. what comes from within is lacking in dancers altogether. It’s almost become a mechanized process. Now more effort is made to ensure that you look better on stage than to work on your dance. The visual is the norm of the day. It is here where classical dance is suffering.

Dance was once a means to connect with God. It was an offering to God in temples; the performers selected for this purpose were lucky to reach out to him. The present day demands more emphasis on all factors which were once secondary. The sacred nature of the performing art has taken a backseat and that’s one of the reasons why many people are not even attracted to it as they once were.

As we continue to battle against social evils, save the earth from environmental disasters and join hands to make this world a better and safer place to live, it’s equally important that we protect Indian classical dance from extinction. The responsibility lies not only in the hands of the gurus but also the parents who need to extend their full support when their kids choose to become classical dancers. We need to awaken our senses to guarantee that we don’t lose this beautiful art which our ancestors have passed on to us. We need to value it and continue its legacy. After all, the show must go on.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ballet Afsaneh - Afghani Dance

Today's video features Ballet Afsaneh performs Afghan dance at Festival of the Silk Road - 2009.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Check Out this Event in Bay Area ,CA

General admission tickets are $10 each. 

Sunanda Nair
Sunanda Nair, is a name to reckon with in the field of Indian classical dance. She is an internationally recognized dancer in Mohini Attam, Bharata Natyam and Kathakali and is the disciple of the noted Mohiniattam exponent Padmashree Dr.(Smt)Kanak Rele. She has prepared for her vocation both as a professional dancer and a teacher of dance, through rich and multifaceted experiences in higher academics, stage performances, classroom instruction and choreography.
Sunanda Nair has been a part of many very reputed national and international festivals, and has won high acclaim from critics and connoisseurs of dance for her impressive dancing skills and recently had the privilege of dancing at the world famous Carnegie Hall , New York. She is trained in Bharata Natyam under distinguished gurus, Kalaimamani Kadirvelu, Kalaimamani Mahalingam Pillai, Guru T.V.Sounderajan, Shri Deepak Majumdar, Smt.Tejiswini Rao and lately “The Dhananjayans“, and Guru C.V Chandrashekhar, Chennai. She had her initial training in Kathakali under Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Warrier.
Sunanda, is an empanelled artiste of the Cultural wing of the Govt of India, Indian Council for Cultural Relations and an outstanding artiste of Indian National television.
Sunanda is also the recipient of innumerable awards the "Singar Mani", "Natya Mayuri", "Kalsagar" , "Abhinaya Shiromani" to name a few.
Arun Gopinath : Vocal
Arun started his basic lessons in music from Shri. Sreedharan Namboodiri at a very young age. He continued his education in music from Bhagavathar Shri. Parameswaran Nair for 10 years. Then he attained further education in music from Bhagavathar Shri. Parameswaran Menon for 3 years. Presently he continues his music lessons from Mr. V.R. Dileep Kumar, and has obtained Ganabhushanam in Violin from Chembai Music College. He passed his M.A. in Music with 2nd rank from Kannur University and has performed for more than 500 reputed stages for Classical Concerts and Abhinaya Sangeetha for Bharathanatyam and Mohiniyattam.
Kiran Gopinath : Mridangam
Kiran started his Basic lessons in Mridangam from his Father, Shri.Kalamandalam Gopinathan at the age of 9. Then he started his Academic education in Mridangam from Kerala Kalamandalam and B.A. and M A in Mridangam with (1st Rank) from Chembai Music Collage, and R.L.V. Music Collage,Tripunithura .Apart from Mridangam he is an exponent in other rhythm instruments like, Edakka, Maddalam, Tabla, Ghatom, Ghanjira ,etc. He has performed more than 500 reputed stages for Classical Concerts and accompanying for Classical dance forms.
Mohan Rangan Govindraj : Flute
Mohan Govindaraj is a well known musician who was inspired to learn playing the flute from his father Sri H. D. Govindaraj. At an early age, in 1979, he started his flute career under the tutelage of Vidwan S.A. Sashidhar at Vijaya College of Music, Bangalore. He continued his advanced music education under the guidance of Late Sangeetha Kalarathna Prof. H.V. Krishnamurthy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ethnic Dance Festival 2011

Here is a glimpse of the Ethnic Dance Festival i attended in San Fransisco. This video was taken by my sister as we were watching the impromptu dance session by the participating groups in the foyer. The most exciting thing about the festival for me was the flawless way in which these dance group took the audience around the world, each telling a story about the culture and traditions and history of their country and region. The fact that they had live music along with the dance rather then recorded as i have seen in many festivals, made a huge difference in creating the appropriate ambience for the audience. Also  the encore performance by all the groups together was not only well choreographed but also gave out the message that no matter which country or ethnicity we belong to, music and dance transcends all the barrier and makes all of us world citizens.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dasavatar-Winners of India's Got Talent [DUS AVTAAR]

Loved this modern take on traditional story telling style of Indian dance forms. The story told here is that of Dasavatar or the ten reincarnations of lord Vishnu. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vikas Yendluri - "Didi"

It is always refreshing to come across young talent in the field of Indian Classical music and dance. Today we feature Shri Vikas Yendluri, a young and upcoming artist from Northern California. Vikas has been a disciple of renowned tabla master, Ustad Arshad Syed for the last fourteen years. Vikas is currently a sophomore at Stanford. I had an opportunity to see him play live and was astonished at his riyaz and tayari. Definitely an artist to watch out in the future. Its the young generation like Vikas that carry, on their capable shoulders this long and ancient tradition, giving it a modern perspective and global appeal. Do you know any such young talents let us know and we will feature them on Kathakars.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kathak and Flamenco- fusion

I came across this video on YouTube and had to share it with my readers. What is Unique about this video is that both the dancers have maintained the authenticity of their respective dance styles. They have managed to beautifully bring this both distinct styles of dancing together. The julgalbandhi piece in the end is amazing.The styles compliment each other well. Love to see more of such work.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mahesh Kale - Deva Gharache - Natyageet

Shri Mahesh Kale is a young and very talented Hindustani Classical Singer. I personally had the fortune of hearing him sing live. He introduced me to the wonderful world of Marathi Natyasangeet. He i currently based in Sunnyvale , Northen California. For more information on this artist you visit his website

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The style of dance performed in this Video is Kathak an Indian Classical Dance Style. The dance originated from Kathakars or Storytellers. This dance style has had along journey from temples of northern India to the Royal Courts to its present form. This dance form has evolved and reinvented itself with changing times. I like the use of formations in this choregraphed piece. Also the use of lighting which gives it a dramatic effect.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi

The next artist featured in this series on women pioneers in the field of dance and music is late Smt M.S. Subbulakshmi. Born on 16th September 1916 M.S.Subbulakshmiji was a renowned Carnatic vocalist. She received training in carnatic music from great gurus like Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. She also went on to train in Hindustani music under Pt Narayanrao Vyas. She performed in different Indian languages like Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Sanskrit and Kannada. She was the first musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor. She was also the first musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia's highest civilian award.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Padma Vibhushan Smt Balasaraswati


The first artist featured today in this series of 'Inspirational Women in Field of Dance and Music' is Late Smt  Balasaraswati. The reason i wanted to feature her  was because though not having the good fortune of seeing her perform,i have always been told about her inspiring dance and abhinaya by my guru Smt Uma Dogra. I did try to look up on web for videos of her dance however was unsuccessful in finding any. However if any of my readers do come across a good quality video, please share it with all of us.

About the Artist: Balasaraswatiji was a celebrated Bharatnatyam artist,  whose rendering of the  style of dance made it famous not only in India but also in many parts of the world.Balasaraswatiji came from traditional lineage of dancers and musicians from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu,India. She began her training at a young age of four under KK Kandappan Pillai. She was the first performer of her traditional style outside of South India, performing first in Calcutta in 1934. Balasaraswatiji has been awarded with "The President's Award" from Sangeet Natak Academy,Padma Vibhushan from Government of India and Sangeet Kalanidhi by Madras Music Academy.She was the only non-western dancer included in a compilation of the Dance Heritage Coalition, "America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: The First 100.

To know more about the life and work of this great artist you can also visit

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

We at Kathakars would like to wish all the ladies around the world Happy Women's Day. While i was  browsing around i came across this music video by Shakti Album for Women's Empowerment by Gurumaa Ashram.  It shows how multi tasked the modern woman has become yet she has her traditional responsibility. Having had the opportunity to interact with women from all walks of life and from all over the world here at Stanford, i have realised no matter which part of world we women come from there is a common thread of compassion that binds us all together. We are daughters, sisters,friends,wife,grandmothers,girlfriends playing multiple roles at the same time in our life.
  This Sanskrit Sholka describes the roles a woman has to play as a wife;

Karyeshu Dasi, Karaneshu Manthri;

Bhojeshu Mata, Shayaneshu Rambha;
Roopeshu lakshmi, Kshamayeshu Dharitri;
Satkarma Nari, Kuladharma Patni.

 The gist of this sholka is that  married woman plays different roles in her husbands life. She is the caretaker,adviser,nymph,she brings prosperity in his life, she feeds him like a mother and is all forgiving. I guess that's why the woman is called the better half. Today's woman is all the above and much more. She is achieving her goals and dreams. On  the occasion of International Women's Day we will be featuring women who have been pioneers and inspirations in the field of dance and music. So stay tuned for the next blog tomorrow. Till then A big shout out to Women Empowerment all over the world.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thiruvathira - Folk dance of Kerala

In this video of the day , we see the ladies celebrating the Thiruvathira festival in Kerala. This festival falls in the Malayalum month of Dhanu (December-January). Tradition has it that Thiruvathira festival is celebrated in commemoration of the death of Kamadeva, the mythological God of love. According to another version Thiruvathira is the birth day of Lord Siva.Thiruvathira is a day of fasting and the women don not eat rice on this day, but only take preparations of chama (panicum milicceum) or wheat. Other items of their food include plantain fruits, tender coconuts, etc. They also chew betel and redden their lips. At night the women keep vigil for Siva and perform Thiruvathira kali or Kaikottikali. They stand in a circle around lighted brass lamp, and dance each step at the rhythm of the songs they sing, clapping their hands. Grace and simplicity of the dance movements is what caught makes this dance so beautiful. This video again stresses how dance and music are integral part of worship in India.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mahashivaratri Dance Celebration in Palo Alto

Hi everyone, Do check out this amazing  dance celebration in Palo  Alto on the occasion of Mahashivratri. Am going to be there for sure ,hope to see all of you there too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The Video of the day showcases the very popular dance of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao. This dance is performed during celebrations and festivities. Singkil takes its name from the Darangen epic story.Its known as the courtship dance.The performers gracefully step in and out of the bamboo poles arranged in the criss cross fashion. We can see the skill of the dancer in this video as she tries to navigate through the bamboo poles while gracefully dancing with the fans in her hand. What i noticed here is that the dancers are creating their own beat and music with the help of the bamboo poles and the tickling of the bells worn by the principal dancer. I was amazed by the perfect co-ordination between the bamboo pole holders, for it may look an easy job to do but without perfect synchronization between them it would not be possible to create the perfect best on which this dance is based.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hindustani Vocal Concert with Discourse-Demo on Jaipur Gharana.

Pt. Arun Dravid is a highly accomplished vocalist of the Jaipur- Atrauli gharana. His early training was under the tutelage of late Ustad Abdul Majid Khan Sahib, a direct disciple of late Ustad Alladiya Khan, the doyen of Jaipur Gharana. Arunji's advanced training was under Padmavibhushan Ganasaraswati Smt. Kishori Amonkar, with occasional guidance from Kishoriji's mother and Guru, late Padmabhushan Smt. Mogubai Kurdikar.Arunji has performed in concerts under the auspices of many prestigious music conferences in Mumbai, Pune and other cities in India. He has also presented almost 50 concerts all over the U.S. over the past eight years, while continuing concert engagements in India during his frequent visits.

Time and Date: Sunday 20th Feb 2011,4pm
Venue:Ektaa Center, 2691 Richter Ave. Ste 104, Irvine CA 92606
Tickets: Advance Purchase $12 and $8 (Seniors). Children under 12 are free. At the Door: $15 and $10 (Seniors)
CALL: (949) 300-8912 or EMAIL:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bharatanatyam and Kathak Dance Recitals in Palo Alto

February 13, 2011, 4:00 PM 
*** Free for all ***
Cubberly Theater, 4000 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303-4762

Anwesha Das
A student of Urmila Sathyanarayanan, Anwesha has been learning the art of Bharatanatyam for over 15 years. She has been performing since her Arangetram in March 2000. Critically acclaimed, Anwesha has been credited with several prestigious awards from leading Indian cultural organizations including the "Yuva Kala Bharati" from Bharat Kalachar and "Natya Chudar" from Kartik Fine Arts. In the recently held Cleveland Aradhana Thyagaraja, she was adjudged best dancer in the senior category and also awarded for the best performance across 40 dancers.
A graded artiste of the Doordarshan, India's national television channel, following are some of the important organizations and festivals where she has performed:
  • Cleveland Aradhana Thyagaraja, USA
  • Natya Kalakshetra, Wembley, London, UK
  • Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai
  • Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai
  • Triveni Chamber Theatre, New Delhi
  • Bharat Kalachar, Chennai
  • Kartik Fine Arts, Chennai
  • Mahabalipuram Dance Festival
  • Natyanjali Festival, Chidambaram
  • Mylapore Fine Arts, Chennai
  • Indian Fine Arts, Chennai
  • Spirit of Youth festival, Music Academy
Anwesha is passionate about pursuing her dance career. Her goal is to share the richness of Indian culture and heritage through her love for Bharatanatyam. Always a Chennai-ite, Anwesha moved to the US in 2007 for her Masters in Marketing followed by her MBA (both from Univ. of Rochester, NY). She is now settled in Seattle and is actively pursuing Bharatanatyam.

Sayali Goswami
Initiated into classical dance at a very early age, Sayali first started her training in Bharatnatyam at the Nalanda Dance Research Center, completing her seven year "Kovid" diploma in the year 2000.
Captivated by the forcefulness of Kathak's pure dance form and the intricacies in even the minutest form of Abhinaya, she devoted herself completely to her training in Kathak. Sayali is a 'Gandabandh Shagirdh' of Guru Smt. Uma Dogra, the renowned Kathak exponent of the Jaipur Gharana.
She has a Masters degree in Dance (Kathak) from Samved School of Kathak and Society for Performing Arts. In the year 2006 she was recipient of the title 'Singar Mani' by Sur Singar Sansad.
She has been performing both as a senior dancer for Samved School of Kathak, and as a solo artist for past six years. Some of her notable solo performances include 52nd Swami Haridas Sangeet Sammelan, Mumbai and Raindrops Festival, Mumbai. She has had an opportunity to be a part of musical production "Romeo-Juliet" by Kalashram under Padmavibhushan Guru Birju Maharaji. Sayali also was a part of Kathak-Odissi dance collaboration for "Laadli Awards for Gender Sensitivity". Along with her Guru Smt Uma Dogra, Sayali has been part of prestigious festivals like Kala-Ghoda festival, Konark festival, Khajurahoo festival and Pt Durgalal festival. She has also toured Japan as part of Samved School of Kathak for ICCR in 2007 and Min-non Concert Association in 2008.
She recently founded Kathakārs School of Dance in Palo Alto, CA. More information on Sayali is available at and

Nadhi Thekkek
Nadhi Thekkek has been learning Bharatanatyam for over 19 years and performed her arangetram in 2001 under the tutelage of Sundara Swaminathan in San Jose, CA.
She joined Padmini Chari and the Nritya School of Dance in 2006 and since then has performed and taught through the school. She has performed extensively in various productions including:
  • Tales of Temple Dance (2003)
  • Bharatam Amudham (2007)
  • Maata Parashakti (2009)
  • Kala Vandana's 20th Anniversary Celebration (2009)
Her recent solo performance in Houston, Bhakthi Margham, has been held to critical acclaim. She performed in Chennai during the 2009 December Music and Dance Season where she also had the opportunity to undergo advanced training from Gurus Adyar K. Lakshman and Bragha G. Bessell.
Nadhi currently lives in Houston with her husband, Roy and her baby girl, Diya, where she is obtaining her graduate degree in Bioengineering at Rice University.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dance: Eka-Tatva promo.wmv

An amazing production featuring three of my most loved dancers. Three individuals with their very distinct style of dancing yet when they come together in this production we see oneness in their dance. The promo is so touching and amazing that i can't wait to see the whole show. Hope to see them perform in USA soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pt. Bhimsen Joshi - February 4, 1922 - January 24, 2011

We pay tribute to the great legend of Indian Classical Music Pt Bhimsen Joshiji. He passed away on the 24Th of Jan 2011 in Pune.Pandit Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi , belonged to the Kirana gharan of Hindustani classical music tradition. His music has been enthralling audience all around the world. He was conferred with the highest civilian honor by the Government Of India , "The Bharat Ratna". Over the decades Panditji had developed his own style after assimilating various elements from different musical style. He will continue to live in the hearts of his fans through his music.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Prathamesh Laghate - He surranno chandra....

The young artist singing in this video is Prathamesh Laghate. I am amazed at the talent of this boy. This is a difficult composition by Pt Jitendra Abhishekhiji. Prathamesh does amazing job of singing this composition. Its warms my heart to see this dedication towards classical singing at such young age. Even though his voice is gods gift he has taken lot of effort to polish this talent and its clearly seen when he sings. I wish more and more children and parents take efforts to pursue our rich dance and music tradition.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Importance of Decoration (Natya Shastra)

All   women around the world would agree with Bharat Muni over the importance of   wearing right accessories with the right outfit for the right occasion. The pointers giving in Natya Shastra for use of decoration or accessories in a production are very much reflection of what accessories people used in real life based on their social status and region. The Decorations as they are called in Natya Shastra are categorized in three parts:
1.        Garlands
2.        Ornaments
3.        Drapery

The Garlands: The Garlands are further categorized in to five kinds, encircling or vestita, spread up or vitata, grouped or sambhatya, knotted or granthima and hung down or pralambita. Even today on festive occasions we can see women adorning  their hair with garlands  in fact no Indian bridal make-up is complete without a Gajara (knotted or hung down garland) or Veni (grouped type of garland).

Ornaments: Ornaments play a very important role in completing the look of a character a performer is representing. For example if the performer is portraying a noble character, his or her ornaments will be more elaborate and  made to look like gold or precious jewels while if the character played is that of an ascetic then the ornaments will be toned down like a simple necklace of  prayer  beads. Ornaments are categorized into to four types
1.        Piercing ornaments (avedhya) include ear ornaments such as ear-ring (kundala), ear pendant (mocaka), and ear top.
2.        Tied-up ornaments (bandhaniya) consist of girdles (sroni-sutra) and arm-band (angada).
3.        Ornaments to be worn (praksepya) consist of ornaments like anklets and apparels.
4.        Ornaments to be put around (aropya) consist of ornaments like neck chain, necklaces and waist ornaments.

Natya Shastra has further elaboration on what ornaments should be worn by men and women. The ornaments categorized for men  consists of head gear like a crown or crest-jewel, ear ornaments, neck ornaments, finger ornaments like kataka , ornaments for forearm like valaya, wrist ornament like bracelet, ornaments to be worn above the elbow like armlet, breast ornaments like three stringed necklace, waist ornaments like sutra. For ornaments categorized for women are  pearl net for head ornaments,tilaka for forehead, karnika or the sikhipatra which is the lotus shaped ornament worn in the braid, pearl or gold necklace for the neck, arm and finger, ornaments like bangles and armband and hip ornament like the Kalapa, anklets and toe rings. Natya Shastra however warns against the over use of ornaments on a performer which could lead to fatigue while making prolonged movements. Thus the use of lac instead of pure gold to make ornaments for production is encouraged.

Drapery: Costumes help to distinguish between the characters in the production example Yaksa or apsarasas are to be dressed with more elaborate and bright costumes and jeweled ornaments while performer who plays the role of women whose lover has gone abroad should be in white and they should not have many ornaments. Thus the dresses of women or man should be according to their habitation and condition.

Though these rules might sound too difficult to follow we see wide adherence to these rules of decoration in modern productions and plays even today. Like in a Russian Ballet the dancer playing the darker character will always be dressed in black while white is worn to show the purity and good character played by the dancer. If we look at afro dances we see that they use costumes made of more earthy tones and animal print, draped in such a way that it would allow the dancers more freedom for their vigorous movements. Stay tuned tomorrow for the next chapter in this series on importance of make-up and costumes as stated in Natya Shastra.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Importance of Model Work (Natya Shastra)

In Natya Shastra we see great emphasis laid on the rules of the costumes and make-up (nepathya). The performers and dancers use costume and makeup along with gestures to complete their representation of the characters they portray. Though Indian dance and dance drama productions laid greater importance on expressional and gestural acting by the performers to convey the situations within the productions. For example ‘ Lord Ram hunting for the golden deer’ in the epic Ramayan was indicated by the dancer or actor portraying lord Ram using hand gestures and body stances to convey the hunting . Though the limitation of realism was realized by the ancient Indian theater, use of Model work was not completely rules out. Today we will take look at the first kind of costume and makeup as indicated by Bharat Muni ‘Model Work’ (pusta).

Model Work (pusta) is further divided into three types -

1. The Joined Object (sandhima): These consist of cutouts made up of mat, cloth, skin and the like. We see the use of the joined object even in today’s modern production. In fact we see extensive use of sets in larger than life productions of Indian classical dance in modern era. As seen in the clip below, the use of Sandhima in the production of ‘Maya Ravana’ by Kalarpana.

2. The Indicating Object (Vyuima): These consist of model work which is made by means of mechanical device. In today’s modern time, the use of projection screens as a backdrop can be classified under the indicating object. Often the screens are used to project colors and pictures for dramatic effect during a dance production. I saw beautiful use of this being made in the dance production ‘Dawn of Indian’ by Kathak guru Smt Uma Dogra.

3. The Moving Object (cestima): These consist of the model work which can be made to move. It can consist of wrappings on a framework.

We thus see how developed the Ancient dance and drama theater productions were. We even find this rules still widely used in today’s productions. In fact we see this rule of ‘Model Work’ universally applied in many dance productions around the world in some form or other. Stay tuned for the next chapter in this series based on Decorations.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Importance of Costume and Makeup

Costume and makeup form a very important aspect of any form of dance and dance dramas. The performers often use costumes and makeup as a way to make their characters clear to the audience, for example Kathakali dancers use elaborate makeup to intensify their different characters. There are three types of “Tadi” or beards used by the Kathakali dancers. The ‘Red Tadi’ is used to portray fierce characters and demons, the ‘White Tadi’ portrays good characters and the ‘Black Tadi’ portrays huntsmen and forest dwellers. While portraying a female character the dancer paints his face in pinkish-yellow paint and the lips are painted red. The eyelashes and eyebrows are also painted black so that they look enlarged. This is known as ‘Minuku’ makeup. In each classical and folk dance style in India the costumes are elaborate and made in a manner to make the dance movements look graceful. Infact in ‘Natya Shastra, the encyclopedia of Indian dance and theater, Bharat Muni has given pointers as to how the costumes and makeup should be for a production. He elaborates further by stating that there are four kinds of costumes and makeup; model work, decoration, painting of limbs and living creatures. Due to the expansive nature of this topic we will be going over the pointers given by Bharat Muni in series format. So check back tomorrow as we explore the concept of ‘Model Work’ as explained by Bharatmuni and its application in the modern concept.

References taken from 'NatyaShastra' ascribed to Bharat-Muni.