Karmayogi & Kalayogis 

 Karmayogi & Kalayogis 

Leave it to our artistes (performing) or artists (plastic) to live up to the demands of times. Through their art works, they try make a statement, reach out and bring ordinary concepts centre stage. Sonal Mansingh did that at HABITAT with Karmayogi, which profiles the PM without even once showing his photo on stage. This is where you separate a real artiste from a mere poseur. Sonal means gold. Through her mind she proves the metal is worth its weight in gold.

Karmayogi is the title of the work that basically platforms various governmental schemes that have been undertaken in last decade which have indeed made a dent in lives of the common man, or, woman. Since Sonal Mansingh has always taken up causes dear to her gender. Draupadi was one three decades ago, then Pradakshina, Woman.

What’s a gas cylinder doing on stage you’d ask? Well, if after 75 years of Independence a majority of women were still burning their eyes out on smoke chulah; suffering indignity by having to go in dark to relieve themselves and not even having a bank account of their own, then successive previous governments are responsible for keeping half of the populace in poverty or misery, that’s the sub text. PM Modi’s many schemes touch the very core of daily lives in village or small town India and yet more ever talked of. Sonal Mansingh has done that. Uplabdhi of this sarkar – last two terms – very few artistes have taken up but she has. She feels strongly the subject of Naari Shakti – women’s empowerment and Van Dhan – lives of Adivasis who depend on forests for sustenance.

Reminiscent of SBKK Ramlila in opening sequences where the birth of Rama was well depicted through beautiful slides, the evening dovetailed to other cameos done by her students with a melange of forms, now Chhau now Bharatanatyam. A good corps de ballet did justice to quick-scene changes and what used to be a routine song and drama division type propoganda show in the 1970s today shone with spiffy visuals, commentary and introduction to each segment by Sonal Mansingh herself. Here’s a true ambassador of India and an able spokesperson for government schemes. This production can travel to various parts of India as an educational tool too: how to use various art forms – music, literature, drama, film, dance – to bring home a point.

Former President Ram Nath Kovind was the chief guest and spoke meaningfully. One left the hall feeling light.

French dancer -choreographer Anette Leday

Light dawned on Bangaloreans when a visiting French dancer -choreographer Anette Leday stayed for a month with a team of three talented dancers Helene Courvoisier, Sadanam Manikandan and Unnikrishnan Nair. They had come for a residency at an unknown place called Shoonya. Zero indeed it turned out to be. No core competency, no clue, no real understanding of India or about anything remotely connected to dance, things Indian or even Indo-French connections. A lost opportunity made good by a do-gooder lady of crafts called Geeta Bhatt who connected them to BIC and thus saved the show. BIC offered all facilities and Annette Leday ‘s work based on writings of Marguerite Duras, who wrote on an imaginary place: S.thala was show cased. The movements were organic and each dancer evolved on stage. Such works may question where is Kathakali really in all this or modern dance? Or, is there any need even for a defined language?

Annette Leday’s treatment was surreal. The constant splash of waves, the ennui of timelessness and the depth of art came through. The standing ovation in the end showed Bangaloreans value true art. Gold, again.

Gold standard in dance is being set in small village of Rajasthan, Tijara and Neemrana to be precise. Every Saturday, for six months good season of October to March a new dancer is presented there from all over India. Delhi’s hegemony of supply chain is over! They now have dancers from Kohima to Kansas City wanting to perform in this most unusual place. Tijara is an indoor stage, beautiful. And there isn’t a more magical stage to perform in all of India than Neemrana amphitheatre. When the fort lights come alive and the sound of music dovetails with dancing feet then every Saturday a star is born that is looked at by many in the sky! Dancers from afar – Bangalore and Kolkata; Pune and Paris get a ready stage with audience, which even big cities can’t.

Aman Nath promotes many upcoming talents

Aman Nath is the magician whose love for dance brings all this together. Over a hundred solo dancers get a chance every year and 500 support teams by way is musicians, scenographers and costume makers. Candle stick too, for there’s grand dinner for all after the show where artistes are treated with respect (not dumped after a show, to fend on their own for food and fare) and they can meet and interact with fans and new friends they and their art may have won over through that evening’s performance. Golden chance to dance.

Gold standard of art writing, documentation and dance history comes from sustained work in the field for almost 50 years; 47 books, 5000 articles, 3 monthly columns for decades and one yearbook – attenDance. Add cultural administration from 1980s onwards; teaching at universities dance modules, 85 such for UGC E-PATHSHALA and advisor to NEEMRANA group and IGNCA. On board of several institutions, organisations and NGOs make him a truly cultural icon of young India that bridges tradition with old Bharat. Ashish Khokar truly loves and serves Indian arts and culture selflessly.


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1 Comment

  • This article beautifully captures the essence of dance as a form of self-expression. As a reader, I’m inspired by the information and able to connect with so many different aspects of dance and several people related to this art form.
    Thank you so much Ashish ji for so many wonderful articles and books which is a treasure of knowledge for us.

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