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Indian Dance - Through a Critic's Eye

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Item Code: NAP914
Author: Leela Venkataraman
Publisher: Publications Division, Government of India
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9788123024318
Pages: 205 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 10.5 inch x 8.5 inch
Weight 860 gm
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Book Description
About the Author

As a scholar, author, historian and commentator on Indian dance, Leela Venkataraman has been critiquing and writing about dance for 30 years, with regular columns and articles appearing in The National Herald and The Patriot. She also contributes to SRUTI, a monthly journal on classical dance, music and theatre published from Chennai; Nartanam, a dance quarterly published from Hyderabad, and international foreign journals like TDR (USA) and PULSE (UK), a magazine on South Asian dance in the UK. As an interviewer and anchor person for Doordarshan, she has interviewed such luminaries as America's Merce Cunningham, when he came to India.

Widely travelled, Ms Venkataraman has participated in numerous international festivals and seminars and has also served on the board of Kalakshetra, the prestigious institution founded by late Rukmini Devi at Adyar, Chennai, for five years. Her books include Indian Classical Dance: Tradition in Transition (co-authored, 2002); The Dancing Phenomenon: Birju Maharaj (co- authored, 2001); and Step by Step Bharatanatyam. She has received the Lifetime Achievement Award conferred by Angarag in Bhuvaneswar; Excellence in Dance journalism Award given by the Lalit Kala Academy, Mysore; Kartik Fine Arts Chennai Award for Best journalism in Dance given by Parthasarathy Trust, Chennai; Dance journalism Award by the International Odissi Organisation in Washington, DC; and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.


Looking back, it seems strange to realise that what one stepped into by chance, in the year 1980, became a lifetime occupation. When I was asked to write a commentary for the Hindustan Times, on a prestigious dance festival of Kathak being mounted by the Kathak Kendra Delhi, a purely stop gap arrangement because the paper's dance critic was going out of station for a couple of weeks, little did I know that my writing would lead to my becoming a regular Critic and writer on Dance for the National Herald, later Patriot and three years later the Hindu which was about to launch its Delhi edition- and I was informed that the then Editor Mr. G. Kasturi would like to interview me at the Maurya Hotel lounge for their paper. Much has happened during these thirty- seven years with publishing of several feature articles, commentaries, and books on India's Dances - the major part pertaining to aspects which come under the nomenclature of 'Classical' - though current perception does not regard this as a water tight category.

During my participation in a book discussion event at the India International Centre, when I was approached by Dr. Sadhana Rout, Director General, Publications Division, about publishing an anthology of selected writings of mine over these 37 years, I was overwhelmed for more reasons than one - the first being the prospect of selection which would obviously entail the herculean effort of going through articles spread over such a long period through different journals. To my great satisfaction I was told that Dr. Rout would depute her officers to do the work of selection, after painstakingly going through the writings. Obviously the choice would largely pertain to articles outside the weekly reviewing material which is time-bound in its limited coverage of just a particular recital.

I owe this book to the very hard work of Ms Harini Srinivasan, Editor, Publications Division, who has undertaken the task of reading through innumerable pages of print in every conceivable font size, selecting what she considered would be interesting for the general reader and with all this, not forgetting to keep me informed at each stage about the progress - and obstacles posed during the process of publishing this anthology. The entire process has also meant excluding some selected material keeping in mind the optimum size of the book. Anuj Sharma with his technical experience and as the assistant editor has contributed with his suggestions in trying to ensure a selection which reflects several aspects of our classical dance forms for the general reader. Providing valuable assistance to the editorial team were Ms Shubhra Singh and MIS Praachi on whom fell the painstaking task of digitally converting the selected articles. I am also thankful to Chitra Sharma for her aesthetic inputs in the book designing and I am indebted to the Sangeet Natak Akademi, Ministry of Culture and Photo Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for making available the photographs from their archives. Without this visual element, a book on dance would be difficult to read.

I am grateful to the Publications Division for all ,heir combined efforts in bringing out this volume on a priority basis. This is a compilation of 36 articles and spread over three and half decades. The book, one hopes, will give some idea of changes in dance perception and presentation over the years.


i. Preface
1. Introduction: Tradition and Modernity in Indian Dance 1
2Just what is Culture? - Beyond Tea, Snacks, Iranian Pulao and Dhansag Dal 7
3Where are the Silences of a Heritage? 14
4Madurai: The Eternal City 18
5A Tradition in Transition - Melattur 22
6Jagannath Consciousness 30
7Silapaddikaram: The Ageless Tamil Epic 36
8What is Dance? - East and West 48
9The World of Dance Today: A New Look at Old Concepts 52
10The Poet's Word and the Dancer 59
11Let's get Physical 62
12Dance Notation - A Memory Bank of Creativity in Movement 69
13Dance, Hardsell and Media 74
14Art Forms in an Alien Clime 81
15The Shrinking Audiences 85
16Artists as Art Managers and Administrators 88
17Odissi - Changing Identity 94
18Odissi - Unique Chapter in Indian Dance 100
19Yakshagana 109
20Kathak at Crossroads 114
21A Tradition at Sixes and Sevens 120
22Enchanting spell of Mohiniattam 125
23Inside Kalakshetra today: The Sheer Joy of Dancing 132
24The Mystery called Bharatanatyam 139
25Where is Bharatanatyam Headed? 143
26The Male Body in Indian Dance 151
27The Paradox ofPurush - The Eternal Man 160
28Music and Dance - Connection and Disconnection 168
29Soundscape in Dance 171
30On the Role of Art Critics 174
31The Critic as an Interface 178
Section B
32Sashimoni: The Dancer who Lived on Society's Edge 185
33Appukuttan Nair: A Defender of Tradition 187
34Durga Lal: A Gem of the Purest Ray Serene 190
35The Incomparable Bala 198
36In Memoriam: Bipin Singh 202

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