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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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

HT City – Spandan: Celebration of performing arts to end with world dance evening

  • Nikita Saxena, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • |

  • Updated: May 25, 2016 19:59 IST

I am just pasting this article from the HT CITY website…SPANDAN in HT CITY

Suhail Bhan, a Bharatnatyam dancer, during performance.

Get ready for an evening of dance as Spandan — the month-long photo exhibition and dance festival in the Capital culminates with the World Dance Evening.

The event, which celebrates performing arts, aims at encouraging young talent. Talking about the event, R. Sreenivasan, the founder, says, “Spandan is all about enabling youngsters to realise their potential to make their dreams come true. While this year’s theme is celebration of iconic institutions, gurus and artists who help individuals to realise their talent and contribute to the field of arts, world dance evening celebrates the future of an artist.”

Some of the artists performing at the evening will include Arushi Mudgal — an Odissi dancer, Suhail Bhan — a Bharatnatyam dancer, Irina Biryukova — a Russian Kathak dancer and Nitisha Nanda — an Odissi danseuse and belly dancer.

Suhail Bhan, on his performance, says, “I will start with Pushpanjali, which is an offering of flowers, followed by Ashtapati that portrays Jai Deva Rasleela of Krishna, Radha and his Gopis. My last piece will be based on Raga Mandari. There aren’t enough people who encourage art and culture. This event contributes a lot in that way.”

Irina Biryukova, a Kathak dancer from Russia, will present a solo performance at the event.

International dancers performing on Indian classical dance forms will be another highlight. Irina Biryukova, Kathak dancer from Russia, says, “One of my performance is solo, while in another, I am performing with Nasiba Miravazkhonova, who is from Tadjikistan.” Nitisha Nanda, who will be presenting a folk fusion act, says, “I have been associated with Spandan since 2013. My show will be a fusion of different Indian dance forms.”

Danseuse Nitisha Nanda will present a fusion of folk, Odissi and belly dancing.

Nitisha Nanda, who will be presenting a folk fusion act, says, “I have been associated with Spandan since 2013. This is a very intriguing concept that involves a mélange of different dance styles. My performance will be an interesting fusion of folk dance, Odissi, there will be a tinge of Rajasthani and Gujarati dance, and belly dancing.”

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.

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.

Fun and Frolics 167

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

Passion and Perseverance – Dancing is a yet another form of meditation and more…..(here Garba / Dandiya of LOK UTSAV)

Every art form, whether performing arts and fine arts, enriches the soul. It is a completely different feeling when I am immersed completely into each. It is a form of meditation, in-explicable! Each one takes me to a space of consciously unconscious and unconsciously conscious! I invest a few hours every week to reach this space.

Yes, though every week I make it point to be a rasik immersing myself and capturing the soulful performances – music, dance, theatre etc – of eminent and young performers, the intense loss of self happens when I do it myself. It is a complete surrender! Come to think of it, this feeling also happens when I am intensely involved in a sport, like swimming, where I surrender myself to the process and the medium.

Every year, during the month preceding Dussherra, we get a great opportunity as a family, to participate and learn Garba / Dandiya. This is possible only due to the amazing purpose and spirit of LOK UTSAV, a movement that aims at treasuring the folk art forms of the country. These classes are held at SARDAR PATEL VIDYALAYA, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi and at a couple of other locations in Delhi.

Last week, Mr. Sandeep Dikshit, the force behind LOK UTSAV, insisted on my staying back for a while after the classes, as NDTV was to come to cover the classes as part their programme, ‘India matters’. The NDTV team surprised me by interviewing me for about 15-20 minutes on various aspects of dance, my interest in dance, my body of work including SPANDAN, annual world dance photography exhibition that I organize at IHC, Delhi and this specific workshop on Garba/Dhandiya.

Here is a short clip that NDTV incorporated from that interview of mine in their program :

I humbly pay my sincere gratitude to every dancer and guru at the Garba/Dandiya classes who have immensely contributed to what I experience in my daily meditation.

The rhythm connects

Saturday, 10 October 2015 | Shrabasti Mallik                          in the  Vivacity, The Pioneer

Four dancers from different genres came together to perform on the poems of Rabindranath Tagore translated to English by Utpal K Banerjee. By Shrabasti Mallik 

There are very few who had (or have) the vision or the creative genius to be able to capture every emotion of a human being, every phase that a man goes through, the soul and vibrancy of every passing season and the fervour of every festive season in one lifetime. Rabindranath Tagore not only touched upon every one of these with utmost dedication but his verses and texts were so universal that, translated (from original Bengali), it resonates with every soul. “Regardless of language, cast, religion or gender,” said Saswati Sen, Kathak danseuse and Pandit Birju Maharaj’s foremost disciple at Fun & Frolic, a musical soiree which saw the coming together of dancers and dance forms like Purvadhanshre (Vilasini Natyam), Kavita Dwibedi (Odissi), Pratibha Prahlad (Bharatanatyam) and Sen.

The performances, too, were bound by a thread — the poems of Tagore, translated to English by Padma Shri Utpal K Banerjee for National Sahitya Akademi, who published four volumes of the his satirical and whimsical poetry.

Pratibha Prahlad, however, had made a narrative with verses selected from three poems from the Mother and Child series — Aakul Aahbaan (The Fervent Call), Maa Lakshmee (Goddess Lakshmi) and Shishur Mrityu (Death of a Child). The performance etched the patient wait of a mother for her daughter to return home at the end of the day. The repeated recital of, “Kothay geli Rani?” (where did you go Rani?), weaved into the narrative was heartfelt as the piece recounted the anxiousness of the mother as her daughter does not return. Through gestures and expressions, Prahlad traced the journey of her baby girl blossoming into mature and beautiful lady. It was unique in its own accord because the recital drew lines from all the three poems simultaneously creating, almost an entirely new narrative.

Said the danseuse, “It was challenging working on these poems because Bengali is not my native language and ‘Rabindra sangeet’ style in which most of Tagore’s poems are sung does not seem in consonance with Bharatanatyam style. It may have been my cultural conditioning, I had to break through the barriers of my mind and my Shruti and Smriti — the heard and remembered — to even begin looking at possibilities and what can be accomplished.”

At the end, the daughter arrives, dead. The pain and the agony of a mother showed clearly on Prahlad’s face while her movements said, “I dressed you and adorned you and now you come back a lifeless body.” She cradles the imaginary body of her lifeless daughter and pats her to sleep like a child. The performance ended with the lines Aandhar raat e chole geli tui, aandhar raat e chupi chupi aye (You’re gone in the darkest of night, In dark night, you return to me).

Sen’s frivolous rendition of Tagore’s Bananaas (Banishment to the Wood) resonated quite well with the nuances of Kathak — brisk movements, hand gestures and storytelling. “Banabas is a highly suggestive poem by Tagore based on the Vatsalya, emphasising the secret dialogue between mother and child in Ekanki abhinaya. The presentation draws inspiration from Kathavachan tradition of Kathak through narrative, expressive and imaginative dance technique,”she said.

What added beauty to the performance was Sen reciting, “Lakshman bhai jodi amar thakto sathe sathe” (Only if brother Lakshman were with me at all times) in clear Bengali.

With childlike expression she donned the role of a 14-year-old boy requesting his mother for a baby brother like Lakshman. He tells his mother, through gestures and acts the many things that he plans to do with his brother — picking fruits from trees, building a resting spot underneath a shady tree, going to the forest together, and an arrow and travelling to mount Chitrakoot during monsoon.

“My mother was a great orator and I am familiar with most of Tagore’s works for children. No other author or poet could fathom the depth that Tagore touched — from the simplest of emotions to complex emotions,” she added.

photos Sreenivasan Ramakrishnan

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