Reginald Massey reports
Hyderabad, once the capital city of the fabulously rich Nizams, was famous for its palaces, architecture, cuisine and culture. It has now regained its rightful place thanks to the vision of many of its citizens. For many years NARTANAM, the leading dance magazine of India, has been published from Hyderabad under its editor Madhavi Puranam. She has published the topmost critics, academics and writers of the country. The pages of NARTANAM now constitute an encyclopaedia of the various styles and genres of dance of the country.
Over the years there has been a certain drift between dance practitioners, academia, critics and patrons of dance and so Madhavi Puranam, in consultation with all stakeholders, decided to hold a Conclave to create understanding, mutual respect and common goals so that the art of dance could reach out to wider audiences. After meticulous planning by Vikas Nagrare, CEO of Nartanam, a four-day (5th – 8th October) Conclave was held in Hyderabad in which leading personalities of India’s dance establishment participated. Among others these included Suresh K. Goel, former Director General of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations; Kiran Seth, founder of SPIC MACAY which endeavours to spread Indian culture amongst the young; the Sanskritist Mandakranta Bose, Professor Emerita of the University of British Columbia who is featured in the latest issue of Nartanam; the leading critics and dance writers Leela Venkataraman, Sunil Kothari, Manjari Sinha, KK Gopalakrishnan and Kedar Mishra.
There were four main dance programmes by first rate practitioners. Bharatanatyam was represented by the young Guru Parshwanath Upadhye and his group; Kuchipudi by Guru Rama Rao and T. Reddi Lakshmi; Manipuri from the Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy in Imphal staged a full length dance drama choreographed by Guru Choutombi Singh; and Guru Madhavi Mudgal and Arushi Mudgal presented Odissi.
Every year the Nartanam Conclave will focus on a particular theme or text. This year it was the medieval classic Nrttaratnavali written in eight chapters by Senapati Jayapa Nayudu. He was a successful general, hence his rank ‘Senapati'; but his heart was in the arts and particularly in dance. He wrote on dance from deep knowledge and commented on both Marga (classical temple dance) and Desi (rural or folk dance). Fortunately the two translators of the work (Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao and Dr Yashoda Thakur) attended the Conclave and could therefore illuminate the subtle nuances of the original.
Dr Bharat Gupt outlined the history of the Sastras from Natyasastra to Nrttaratnavali; Dr Anuradha Jonnalagudda assessed Nrttaratnavali in Telugu literature; Dr Yashoda Thakur gave an overview of Nrttaratnavali; Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao elaborated on the Sastric tradition of Nrttaratnavali; Dr R. Ganesh compared Someshvara’s Manasollasa with Nrttaratnavali; Prof. Mandakranta Bose spoke about the transition of the concept of Marga and Desi post-Nrttaratnavali; and Dr Vidya Shimladka explained the sculptural representation of the Desi tradition with special reference to Nrttaratnavali.
There was also a Lecture – Demonstration by Guru Kalakrishna titled Panchangas of Perini as reconstructed by Dr Nataraja Ramakrishna. The Panel Discussion had the title The Artist, the Scholar and the Corporates: Bridging the Gaps which was informative and fruitful. Those who conributed were: Shri B. Papa Rao, Shri Venkatesham, Shri Mamidi Harikrishna, Corporate representatives from Tata Projects and Reddy Laboratories, Dr Bharat Gupt, Dr Pappu Vengopala Rao, Dr Kiran Seth, Dr Suresh K. Goel, Dr Katyayani Ganti, Smt. Leela Venkataraman, Shri Kedar Mishra and Shri K.K. Gopalakrishnan.
Giving a brief history of Nartanam, Madhavi Puranam paid tribute to Shri G.M. Sarma, the founder, and the publication’s first editor Shri Modali Nagabhushana Sarma. She then, on behalf of all those present, gave an Oration praising Dr Kapila Vatsyayan, the doyenne of Indian dancer scholars, who could not attend on account of her advanced age. Dr Vatsyayan did however send a warm goodwill message to all who were at the Conclave.
(Photos: Avinash Pasricha)