SPIC MACAY : An inward transformational journey; A Cultural Immersion – Convention 2017

I am very fortunate to undertake the soulful inward journeys laced with the culture pilgrimage of SPIC MACAY every year, all through. For every ambassador of Indian and world culture it has been a very enriching one as always. Here I captured the essence of the pilgrimage 2017, SPIC MACAY international convention 2017 held at IIT Delhi recently. You can check the visual captures, in still form, at my FLICKR stream

The Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi, inaugurating the International convention 2017, in his inimitable style of eloquence, pays tribute to the movement of SPIC MACAY and also to the founder of the movement, Dr. Kiran Seth. Beseeches the youth to embrace the spirit and purpose of the movement.

The following short video documentary, in five parts, captures the essence of the conventions, the daily schedule followed, the spirit of volunteerism, the passionate facilitation by gurus who have dedicated their lives for the cause of artforms, the earnest desire of every participant to assimilate, imbibe and live the spirit as well as the art forms, as much as they can.

The week long convention is an endeavour to instill the discipline and have a sublime control of ones own life and expose every participant to the mysticism of arts and culture.

The days start at 4am with YOGA, then shramdan to keep our environment clean and tidy, then after a break of an hour for morning ablutions, commences with the intensives. Every participant will undergo an intensive to gain deeper understanding of an art form works with a Guru for seven days, four hours a day. The afternoons after the lunch is devoted the exposing every participant to a variety of genre like not limited to music and dance but also theatre, choir music, folk music and dance, puppetry etc. The evenings are devoted to classical music and dance performances.
Enjoy watching!



The last day is all about sharing the learning during the week gone by, in every art form. .Here are a few of the showcasing I have been able to capture at a couple of venues. I apologize for not being able to cover all the five centres of performances.


Come participate and contribute to the propagation of art forms and the spread of the spirit of brotherhood and composite culture. UNITY in Diversity.

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SPANDAN – World Dance Evening 2017

The Spandan-World Dance Evening at the India Habitat Centre the same evening, was the enthusiastic culmination of  a month long Festival of the Performing Arts and an ambitious exhibition of dance photographs, curated by R Sreenivasan in the open spaces of the Habitat World on the occasion of the World Dance Day. 

 Celebrating the infinite potential in umpteen varieties of dance forms, Spandan showcased a spectacular melange of dance forms from Indian classical dances like Odissi by Arushi Mudgal, Bharatanatyam by Suhail Bhan and Kathak by Irina from Russia to contemporary dance by Neha Sharma of Sadhya, Jazz by Danceworx, Hip-Hop by the Quake Crew, Flow Art by Eshna Kutty, Tajik dance by Naseeba from Tajikistan and a mesmerising Folk Fusion by Nitisha Nanda from Banjara. The over-packed Stein Auditorium resounded with thunderous applause at the end of this extravaganza of dance, conceived by R Srinivasan of Spandan, created by Indira Ganesh and anchored by their 13-year-old talented daughter Mallika. 

Here is the coverage of the evening on the Rajya Sabha TV…

Cultural resonance – Manjari Sinha ji covers SPANDAN in her Statesman column

Manjari Sinha
| 02 June, 2016

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The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) celebrated Africa Day on 26 May at the Azad Bhavan Auditorium. The theme India-Africa: Bound Together highlighted Africa’s diversity, success, economic potential and cultural resonance with India. The celebration comprised a panel discussion, a week-long exhibition of African costumes, paintings and artefacts, a food festival of Afican cuisine and a cultural programme.

The cultural programme opened with lively songs by the Capital City Minstrels, New Delhi, but the talented troupe from the Kingdom of Lesotho stole the show with the multi-talented African ensemble Likakapa Africa, which literally means The Legends or Crème de la crème. The lively performances by the renowned ensemble were a blend of Famo Music, Afro-Jazz, Hip Hop; that established an instant rapport with the audience. Unable to resist the vibrant rhythm and the contagious zest of the African music and dance, many were seen whistling and dancing in front of the stage.

Likakapa had two major Famo artists Rabots’o le Semanyane and Lebohang Lets’ohla, who led most of the songs backed by Tom Rakoti, the Afro-Jazz artist, and Molibeli Mokake who was both a Hip-Hop performer and a Rapper. The ensemble presented the unique stylistic music and dance, commonly seen in the streets of major towns and villages of Lesotho.

The Spandan-World Dance Evening at the India Habitat Centre the same evening, was the enthusiastic culmination of  a month long Festival of the Performing Arts and an ambitious exhibition of dance photographs, curated by R Srinivasan in the open spaces of the Habitat World on the occasion of the World Dance Day. 

 Celebrating the infinite potential in umpteen varieties of dance forms, Spandan showcased a spectacular melange of dance forms from Indian classical dances like Odissi by Arushi Mudgal, Bharatanatyam by Suhail Bhan and Kathak by Irina from Russia to contemporary dance by Neha Sharma of Sadhya, Jazz by Danceworx, Hip-Hop by the Quake Crew, Flow Art by Eshna Kutty, Tajik dance by Naseeba from Tajikistan and a mesmerising Folk Fusion by Nitisha Nanda from Banjara. The over-packed Stein Auditorium resounded with thunderous applause at the end of this extravaganza of dance, conceived by R Srinivasan of Spandan, created by Indira Ganesh and anchored by their 13-year-old talented daughter Mallika. 

Humkadam-2016 by Rachana Yadav Kathak Studio.

Rachana Yadav Kathak Studio presented Navagraha for their annual event Humkadam-2016, at the Epicentre. Based on the Hindu astrological science that says the nine celestial bodies, or Navagrahas, affect our character with their typical characteristics, when close to us, Rachana most imaginatively conceived and choreographed Navagraha, incorporating the entire repertoire of Kathak  through different groups of students portraying different Grahas, according to the characteristics of these Grahas matching the maturity or the age group of her students.

Opening with Navagraha Stuti, an ode to the nine celestial bodies, the programme started with the youngest age group, the twinkling stars, in “Jagmag deep jale…” with the basic Hastakas and simple Tode Tukde based on Sargam.

Navagraha took off with Brihaspati, the Graha for knowledge and longevity, with Guru Vandana. Venus, that stands for the feminine grace, was presented next, by a young adult batch dressed like delicate “Abhisarika Nayikas” on Shyam Kalyan Bandish “Sundar sej sanvar ke…”, interspersed with  Aamad, Tode, Tukde, Parans and Chakkardars…et al.

Mercury was depicted with Sargams in Raga Yaman; Mangal Graha had Krishna Arjun Samvad with the dancers dressed in the energetic colour red; the Shani or Saturn had the impressive Malkauns Tarana; and Rahu-Ketu portrayed by twin sisters was applauded for their remarkable pirouettes. Surya and Chandra, the climax, were danced respectively by Rachna’s senior-most students. Surya had Pramelu, Paran and the impressive foot-work in the challenging Tala Dhamaar and Chandra was depicted through a Ghazal “Pighal raha hai Chaand…”, as an Abhinaya piece, completing Kathak in its entirety.  Rachana’s imaginative choreography was enhanced with the most appropriate music composed by Samiullah Khan.

Read more at http://www.thestatesman.com/news/voices/cultural-resonance/145968.html#xLvFAqpXhAYqO079.99

In Media : SPANDAN Festival of Performing Art 2016

SPANDAN festival of performing Arts 2016 found a few mentions in the media and online world. A few more good articles are expected. I shall keep updating this post.

On the day of “Facilitating the Living legends” along with Nartanam, THE HINDU, listed in the happenings dairy

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Distinguished dance critic, Smt Manjari Sinha covered SPANDAN in her weekly column World Dance Day, in STATESMAN on May 12, 2016

Statesman covers SPANDAN Fest of performing Arts

STATESMAN regular online version

STATESMAN epaper version

The May calendar on Narthaki mentions SPANDAN

BuzzInTown lists WORLD DANCE EVENING of MAY 26

Blog of PRIYALASYA has the invites

Tributes to GURUS : Nartanam special edition releases at SPANDAN 2016

A blessing to have had stalwarts of Indian Art and Culture on SPANDAN 2016 for release of special issues of Nartanam Dance Journal on Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, Dr Padma Subrahmaniam and Sri Avinash Pasricha by Prof Lokesh Chandra (President ICCR). The Amaltas Hall at IHC was packed with eminent scholars, dancers, gurus, photographers and rasiks.

Tributes to GURUS : Nartanam special edition releases at SPANDAN 2016

The evening was anchored by Ms Indira Ganesh.

It was very kind of Sri Raghuraman to play “Vataapi Ganapatim” on his soulful flute to start the evening, as the chief guest was a triffle late. It was blessing!

Tributes to GURUS : Nartanam special edition releases at SPANDAN 2016

Indira invited Dr. Sunil Kothari, scholar and dance critic, who conceived the evening to share about the chief guest, Prof Lokesh Chandra. Indeed we were blessed to have him, for his sheer depth of research on various aspects of culture, language and heritage. He extensively recited Sanskrit shlokas and also shared stories from his journey to the Oriental lands of Japan and China. Dr. Sunil Kothari felicitated Prof Lokesh Chandra.

Madhavi Puranam, editor Nartanam, humbly invited scholars Dr. Sunil Kothari, Mrs Manjri Sinha, Mrs. Leela Venkataraman, Sri Avinash Pasricha on stage. Prof Lokesh Chandra felicitated the scholars and also released the special issues of Nartanam. Unfortunately Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan was indisposed with a fall, and could not make it. Prof Lokesh Chandra unveiled the book on Art and Aesthetics written by Madhavi Puranam.

Tributes to GURUS : Nartanam special edition releases at SPANDAN 2016

Mrs Leela Venkataraman and Mrs Manjari Sinha shared their insights into the effort being taken by Madhavi in running the journal Nartanam, to deliver the issues month after month for the last 15 years. Indeed a commendable work and service to the art forms.

Tributes to GURUS : Nartanam special edition releases at SPANDAN 2016

Tributes to GURUS : Nartanam special edition releases at SPANDAN 2016

The evening culminated with a divine performance by Bharatanatyam Danseuese Rama Vaidyanathan. It was a humble gesture on part of Ramaji to gracefully accede to our request to perform. Smt Sudha Raghuraman with her divine vocals accompanied by Sri Raghuraman added to the divinity of the evening.

I humbly thank Mr. Veenu Pasricha for clicking these photographs.

Bhamakalapam – Ajay Kumar stole the show

In Hyderabad, through the childhood, we have been brought up with the music of Late Sri Ghantashala lilting in our ears every morning, and the character of ‘Sathyabhama’ and her ‘natkat pan’ vis-à-vis Krishna was part of the folklore diet.

When I heard of ‘Bhamakalapam’ as the theme of the dance this evening, I had to go. It was interesting because of the Jugalbandi format – two characters in two different dance forms – Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi; added to it enchanting ‘Satyabhama’ was portrayed by a male !! What more you could ask for.

The Performance, with two different dance forms juxtaposed against each other, with their own movements and the bhava, was aesthetically evocative. Ajay Kumar, the Kuchipudi dancer from Vijayawada, portrayed the ever-green character of Satyabhama, while the Bharatanatya exponent Sathyanarayana Raju from Bangaluru was the Krishna. The performance was part of the festival Samvaad, organized by Ms. USha R K, an eminent art consultant, at the Deshmukh Auditorium with active support of India International Centre.

Bhamakalapam - Sayanarayana Raju, Ajay Kumar 183

The seasoned exponents did make the evening very lively. Especially Ajay, the Satyabhama, trained in Kuchipudi from a tender age of four, has mastered the art of portraying ‘Stree Vesha’. He stole the show under the nose of more experienced and better known Satyanarayana Raju; more so because of portraying a woman,Satyabhama, I suppose. Audience had their eyes more on Satyabhama! Ajay was performing in Delhi for the very first time, while I have captured Satyanarayana Raju quite a few times in the past.

I am sure, no one, who walked in after the initial announcement, would have made out that the Satyabhama character was being portrayed by a male. The grace with which Ajay flourished on the stage was fabulous. Ajay, from the very entry, draped in a cream and red sari in the garb of Satyabhama, was captivating. His movement, gestures, expressions brought out the best of the female traits and personality. Only give away, for a very keen eye, would have been the body structure of a male vis-a-vis female.

Bhamakalapam - Sayanarayana Raju, Ajay Kumar 256

The Abhinaya – Satyabhama’s character of being haughty, the tiffs with the lord Krishna, the pangs of separation – flowed effortlessly from Ajay. Ajay has mastered the soft, gentle and fluid feminine movements too. It was compelling. It was Ajay’s show all the way; Raju, true to the character of Krishna vis-a-vis Satyabhama, looked like a mere spectator. He also let it be, in true spirit of the characters, I must say. Of course without Raju’s Krishna, Satyabhama would not have been as effective!

Looking forward to watch more of Ajay in the future; and love to see him mentor more disciples who will not let this art-form a thing of past.

Source: Bhamakalapam – Ajay Kumar stole the show

CLASSICAL DANCES CATCH EVOCATIVE VIBES OF ETERNAL MAN THROUGH TAGORE’S POETRY

Fun & Frolic

BY Leela Venkataraman in India Heritage Desk

Categories like traditional and contemporary dissolve in Tagore’s poetry which essentially catches Eternal Man, in all his colours. A scholar on Tagore’s works, Dr.Utpal Banerjee (recognised with a Padmashri award for his expertise) conceived of a delightful evening of classical dance hosted by Indira Ganesh and organised by R.Sreenivasan, under the aegis of India International Centre at the IIC auditorium, based on Tagore’s poetry.Established dancers selected from various dance disciplines, specially known for their sensitivity in abhinaya, in order of appearance, were Puvadhanashree (Vilasini Natyam), Kavita Dwibedi (Odissi), Pratibha Prahlad (Bharatanatyam) and Saswati Sen (Kathak).

Fun and Frolics 101

With Kamalini Dutt’s creative collaboration, the poem Purva selected for interpretation Saadh (The Desire), by settling for a vocalist like Samina De singing the original Bengali poem, preserved the linguistic ambiance of Tagore’s work, with Tanjavur Kesavan’s rhythmic inputs and mridangam accompaniment, tabla by Gyan Singh, Dr. S vasudevan’s nattuvangam and Rajat Prasanna’s flute chiming in with sensitive support. Purva’s interpretative skills, honed under years of training in Vilasini Natyam under Swapnasundari exudes an inner joy which ideally chimed in with the uplifting nature of Desire, where hope and expectation rising high bloom among the clouds and amidst the stars. This abstract state-of-being lost amidst the birds floating in comfort in the sky, was convincingly caught in the dancer’s highly internalised interpretation. Not going beyond the grammatical boundaries of the lasya-filled Vilasini Natyam even in the teermanams, the dance not having the ambit of bodily spread of Bharatanatyam leaps and jumps and leg stretches, the dancer through intensity of feeling (filling the dancer’s inner space), retained in the contained performance the soaring feel of taking off into space in joy. Lines like “..hriday mor megher mato, aakaash maajhe haasity chaay” or “paakhir gaan laage re Jena, deher chaaripaashe” with the songs of birds caressing the body were very suggestively brought out in the dancer’s gestures and expressions. Sung in the form of a thumri with feeling, the joyous finale with the garden filled with sounds of Dawn’s laughter and the laughter of flowers got represented through a Tillana in Kapi ragam sung by A.Venkateshwar, winsomely rendered through light footed nritta.

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Odissi dancer Kavita Dwibedi in Shapan (The Dream) “Dine hai ek-mato rate hai aar” wondered at the polarities she saw in herself – from what she was in her wakeful state and what she became in her nocturnal dreams – seemingly representing two contradictory selves – one a reluctant school goer being pushed by her youngest uncle, the other flying in the sky, a cloud searching for the rainbow, travelling on the wings of the wind, crossing the seas to spread ‘water -showers’. Rudely awakened by the thunderclap, she trembles looking for Mom, nowhere near. Kavita’s evolving artistic creativity now has the strong support of singer Suresh Kumar Sethi, whose Pallavi composition in Brindavan Sarang for this work, coming in as punctuation after every interpretative segment, changed the level of the work completely. With Aavery Chaurey for guidance, and her own very involved expressional talents (her now more trim presence aesthetically turned out), Kavita’s Odissi did full justice to the poem, Indira Mukherjee helping out with the poetry recitation parts. While the nritta parts for the Pallavi were well conceived and laya perfect, the chauka position so central to Odissi, tended to be less articulated than required.

Fun and Frolics 198

Pratibha Prahalad in her Bharatanatyam homage to Tagore and Utpal Banerjee, skilfully wove in passages from three poems – exploring the mother/child relationship – Aakul Aahbaan (The Fervent Call), Maa-Lakshmee (Goddess Lakshmi), and Shishur Mrityu (Death of a Child). A mother’s heartache at the loss of a child, the apple of her eye on whom she has lavished all love and care, whose heart could not bear the slightest tear in the child’s eyes and she sorrowfully asks Nature why as Lord of endless treasures, Nature needed the victorious thrill of emptying a mother’s heart by taking away the one treasure of her life? The dancer’s knitting of selected passages from each into a seamless whole, had Sudha Raghuraman’s very moving music in Neelambari, in Vasantha and finally in an evocative.Tanam passage set to Kalyani. Sudha added bhava through the contours of the raga while the highly emotive passages in Bengali were recited by Mahua Chowdhury. Stages of the child growing up under the mother’s care and love came as interspersed passages while the refrain of the Mother anxiously awaiting the daughter’s arrival – …”Kothay gelo Raanee aamaar Raanee” became the eternal cry of the bereaved mother. The dancer in a theme, which could have strayed into exaggerated histrionics, retained the aesthetic level undiluted. Chandrasekhar’s muted mridangam and G. Raghuraman’s plaintive flute notes added to the total impact.

Fun and Frolics 219

Saswati Sen, given her penchant for abhinaya, had the double advantage of dealing with home territory –for as a person from Bengal, she was on familiar ground with Tagore’s poetry. Banabaas (Banishment to the Wood) is a quaint child/mother interaction, wherein the child challenges the mother that if he only had a brother like Lakshman for company, he too would go to the forest without qualms, if his father like Rama were to send him. He would, under a tree shade, fix up a home for all, and would feed the deer with the tree leaves, make a garland out of the blooming flowers, share the fruit he collected with brother Lakshman, eating out of a lotus leaf, play a tune on the flute and watch the peacock dance, and the squirrel scurrying around. But for all that – he had to have a brother like Lakshman. The poem clearly echoes the child’s cry for a sibling. Saswati successfully drew on Kathak’s ancestry with the Katha vachak tradition, for the narrative bits of a mother/child dialogue. Kathak’s rich nritta bits of ginti compositions, tukras and Mayur gat, became links connecting interpretative passages with some footwork also woven in. Music composed by Pandit Birju Maharaj , had Abirban Bhattacharya for the vocal support with Utpal Ghosh on the tabla and Ajay Prasanna providing flute accompaniment.

Utpal Banerjee could hardly have wished for a better thanksgiving than what the evening provided.

Guru Ghanakanta Bora, Anwesa : Sattriya @ SPIC MACAY Intl Convention, IIMC
Leela Venkataraman

LEELA VENKATARAMAN

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