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
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.
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