When we talk of learning dance in a complete, wholesome and structured manner, one institute that crosses our mind is the renowned Nalanda Dance Research Centre in Mumbai, spearheaded by Padma Bhushan Dr Kanak Rele and her highly talented daughter-in-law Dr Uma Rele.
Nalanda is a non-profit public trust and undoubtedly a premier institution enjoying a unique position in the world of dance and education. This institute that follows the guru shishya parampara was established in 1967 by the renowned Mohiniattam dance exponent and scholar Dr Kanak Rele as an institution to impart traditional training in classical Indian dancing, Nalanda blossomed by 1973 into a unique three-tiered institution with foundation classes for pre-university children, Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya, a college of classical dancing affiliated to the University of Mumbai providing formal academic education and its different departments for post-doctoral and fundamental research. Nalanda Dance Research Centre is officially recognised research institute by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India., the only dance institution to get this recognition.
But today, I want to highlight another beautiful giving side of Nalanda. Teaching and imparting dance knowledge is just one of the feathers in its cap, almost a decade back, from 2011, Nalanda initiated a process of honoring individuals who have acquired iconic status by awarding them Bharata Muni Samman. At their renowned dance festival, Nalanda Nrityotsava, a four-day celebration of Indian classical dances.
Speaking of this award, Padma Bhushan Dr Kanak Rele said, “We, at Nalanda, believe that by honouring such artistes, we are honouring India on behalf of all Indians. Hence, the annual Bharata Muni Samman. To encourage youth, we have the Nalanda Nritya Nipuna.” Dedicated to the preservation and propagation of Indian dance in particular and Indian culture in general from its founding day in 1966, Nalanda Dance Research Centre has unswervingly trodden on its chosen path with single-minded determination. Nalanda has always upheld the pricelessness of all that is India and her great ancient culture which consists of the various performing arts, visual arts, the mother of all languages Sanskrit and Sanskristic studies, the religio-philosophical thought and other co-related facets.
Talking about Nalanda Nritya Nipuna Award for the youth, Dr Uma Rele said, “This year, we had 21 highly talented participants with very high standard of performances. It was a difficult choice to make but after considering all the aspects of dance presentation, the panel unanimously chose 12 dancers.”
The following dancers won the Nalanda Nritya Nipuna award at Nirtyotsava 2019. Tamana Tanna for Odissi, Sukanya Kumar, Naveen R Hegde, Shruti Ashokan, Divya Bhatt and Atanu Das for Bharatanatyam, Varsha Dasgupta and Priya Samarth for Kathak, Sandra Pisharody and Unnati Ajmera for Mohini, Kankana Singh for Manipuri and Ruchi Krishna for Kuchipudi.
On the third day of the festival, Nalanda Bharata Muni Samman Samaroha was held. In the past, legends like Kishori Amonkar, Dr Vijaya Mehta, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ratan Thiyam, Pt Jasraj, Kumudini Lakhia and many others have been bestowed with the Bharata Muni Samman. This was no less celebrated vocalist Dr Prabha Atre, Bharatanatyam exponents Shanta and. Dhananjayan and actor Vikram Gokhale were honoured with the Bharata Muni Samman.
Today, with this story I salute the unmatched work Dr Kanak Rele has been doing tirelessly for decades, to keep the tradition of Indian classical dances alive. I wish good luck to the dynamic Dr Uma Rele for keeping the flag high and never letting any obstacle come in her way.
Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore, is a World Book Record holder, a well-known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with three National Excellence awards and one National Achievement Award by the Government of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]