Book Review

Indian dance Forms

‘Indian dance forms’ is not a new subject for a book.  But it is probably for the first time that leading performers of Indian dances have written about their style for publishing house, under one title.  ‘Dances of India,’ published by the Wisdome Tree brings together seven dances – Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, Manipur and Oidssi – presented by the leading exponent of each – Pratibha Prahlad, Shovana Narayan, S. Balakrishnan, Raja and Radha Reddy, Bharti Shivaji and Vijayalakshmi, R.K. Singhajit Singh and Shron Lowen.


All the books discuss the origin and history of the dance form, its techniques, its repertoire, accompanying musical instruments and the contemporary scene.  The books are generously interspersed with photographs, all taken by the well-known photographer Avinash Pasricha.  While the history and development of the more popular of these dances, like Bharatanatyam, are known, the history of Manipuri is enchanting.  Singhajit Singh, easily the most famous face of Manipuri guides us through the form, its technique and also distinguishes it from other dance forms.


Kathakali is probably the least “understood” of all the classical dances of India.  Sadanam Balakrishnan unravels it for the general reader, taking one though the origin and development of Kathakali, its tough training methods (it could take 10 to 12 years), the sequence of performance, make-up and costume and the complicated gestural language.



Exploring the art of Mohiniyattam

IGNCA recently launched a short-term fellowship.  This is meant to give opportunities to budding and amateur artistes to express their innovative ideas.  This fellowship carries a total grant of Rs.75,000.  The recipient has to prepare and submit a monograph at the end of the one year fellowship.

In 2002, the fellowship was given to Ms. Vijayalakshmi for her project ‘New Dimensions in Mohiniyattam.  An exponent of Mohiniyattam, a dance from the Kerala, Vijayalakshmi has attempted to introduce new themes in the presentations.  She has also presented Mohiniyattam, fusing the movements of Kalaripayattu, a martial art also from Kerala.  In her report, Ms. Vijayalakshmi acknowledges the contribution of her Guru and mother Bharti Shivaji in rejuvenating the repertoire of Mohiniyattam.  Drawing inspiration from her, Vijayalakshmi made a production based on the northern Kerala ballad ‘Unniarcha.’  Unniarcha, born in a Nair family is known for her bravery.  She was a good as any man in swinging the sword.  In this production, Vijayalakshmi introduced the movements of Kalaripayattu, the martial art of Kerala.


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