Nishagandhi Dance Festival 2018 - Program Schedule


January 20-26, 2018

Nishagandhi Auditorium, Kanakakkunnu, Thiruvananthapuram

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NADAM ENSEMBLE An established Kathak exponent and a recipient of the Central Government scholarship in Kathak awarded by the Department of Culture, Murali Mohan is an epitome of grace and versatility. Being a natural dancer, it is a treat to watch him perform, be it pure nritta or abhinaya. Fast pirouettes and intricate footwork are the hallmarks of his dance. Meanwhile, Nandini Mehta's passion for dance took wings under the guidance of her gurus, Maya Rao, Chitra Venugopal, Maulik Shah and Ishira Parikh. Also the recipient of the Central Government fellowship in Kathak and a French lecturer in various colleges in Bangalore, Nandini was recently honoured with the title - "Guna Nidhi", in commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the magazine - "GunaGrahi" for her contribution to Kathak. Nandini Mehta and Murali Mohan together founded NADAM, an acronym for "Narthan Academy of Dance and Music" in 1997. Since its inception, the academy has worked to showcase India's Classical Dance & Music Forms and helped preserve them as living traditions. Their annual music and dance showcase, "Kala-Nadam", is one of the leading events on Bangalore's Cultural Calendar, featuring numerous national and international talent. Recently, they completed a 20 day Dance Tour organised by the ICCR, for the SCO Summit at Kazakhstan, Khanh-Hoa Sea-Side Festival at Vietnam and Rhythm of the Earth Festival at Bangkok.

Amongst Deepika Reddy's most prized possessions is a letter penned by the dance maestro Vempati Chinna Satyam. It urges her to make a comeback after a hiatus that ill health had forced her to take from her Kuchipudi dancing career which began as a child of six. Since then there has been no looking back. She has performed at the closing ceremony of the Festival of India in Berlin, the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Sri Lankan Parliament and at the inaugural ceremony of "Year of India" at the Bolshoi Theatre in Russia. Deepika mirrors her Guru's techniques with ease and élan and is acknowledged as one of the leading exponents of the Kuchipudi art form in India. An accomplished performer, choreographer and cultural ambassador, Deepika has been certified as an A Grade artiste by Doordarshan. As a choreographer, she combines mythology, drama and social causes to delight a diverse audience. And it is this passion that she extends to the younger generation in 'Deepanjali', her dance institute which strives for excellence in the field of Kuchipudi. Telangana Govt. State Award; 'Kala Ratna' Andhra Pradesh Govt. State Award; 'Nritya Choodamani' by Krishna Gana Sabha; 'Natya Kalasarathy' by Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha; 'Vani Kala Sudhakara' by Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha are just a few of the many accolades that she has gathered over the years.

Widely rated as one of India's best male Bharatanatyam dancers, Parshwanath Upadhye has an assortment of merits to enlist. He is a state-level swimming champion, a trained Carnatic vocalist, a black belt holder in Karate and a Literature graduate who studied the traditional Mysore style of Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of Guru Ravindra Sharma, Kiran Subramanyam and Sandhya Kiran. He is also an empanelled artist of the ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) and an artist of excellence at the Bangalore Doordarshan Kendra. Currently, he resides in Bangalore where he heads the Upadhye School of Dance and Punyah Dance Company and aspires to someday build an art village in his hometown, Belgaum.

On the banks of Bharatapuzha, Kalamandalam stirs up at 4 am. Oil lamps cast shadows on the disciples, who sit cross-legged on the floor in front of their teacher practising eye movements, their first ritual for the day. They spend days perfecting 600 hand gestures and nine facial rasas (emotions) that one must master to graduate. Sleep is vanquished as the wooden stick thuds on the floor to produce the rhythm for their day's lessons. Eighty-eight years after Vallathol Narayana Menon and Mukanda Raja laid the blueprint for Kerala Kalamandalam, the institution through such dedication continues to be an immortal name in the cultural map of the world. Kalamandalam adheres to the ancient Gurukul system where the students live in the campus. Kalamandalam's Kathakali, Koodiyattam, Mohiniyattam and Thullal troupes have travelled widely in India and abroad for programs, lecture-demonstrations and workshops. As a deemed University of Art and Cultutre, Kerala Kalamandalam has been functioning as a grant-in-aid institution under the Cultural Affairs Department, Government of Kerala with support from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi.

Celebrated Bharatanatyam dancer, Alarmel Valli’s dance draws parallels between dance and poetry. It was her early training in music under the renowned musician, T. Muktha that helped her explore the seamless connection between word, meaning and music. In her own words, dance is visual music. Apart from Pandanallur Shri Chokkalingam Pillai and his son Shri Subbaraya Pillai who were her Gurus, her distinctive style also reflects years of Odissi training under the eminent Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Ramani Ranjan Jena. A recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, Alarmel’s work has been featured at landmark theatres and festivals in India and abroad. She has had a long-standing fascination for Sangam poetry which culminated in a one-of-its-kind repertoire of dance poems. In her interpretation, Alarmel Valli explores subtexts and works with musicians to give the texts a visual and melodic dimension. ‘Pravahi’, commissioned by the Films Division of India and ‘Lasya Kavya’ by Sankalp Meshram are movies that were made about the amusing world of Alarmel Valli. In the words of the celebrated poet, Arundhathi Subramaniam, Alarmel Valli's art may invoke the mystical, but it never mystifies. It understands abstraction but is never abstruse. It is capable of soaring, but it never loses its vital connectedness with the earth.

As a young child, Daksha Mashruwala took baby steps in Bharatanatyam under the tutelage of Mrinalini Sarabhai at Darpana and began her Odissi journey much later, in her early 20's under the guidance of distinguished maestro Padmavibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Since then she has clung to the child-like joy of dance, devoted herself to understanding the intricacies of Odissi and has tried to impart the same at her institution, ‘Kaishiki’. Daksha has continuously tried to expand the frontiers of the classical dance forms by rendering thought stimulating performances that not only create awareness but also propagate Odissi along with other traditional art forms. She is actively involved in the formation of ‘Sanyuktam’, a collaborative initiative for the enrichment of the cultural heritage and plays an important part in Sangit Mahabharti, which aims to spread the love for Indian classical art forms. A top grade artist of Doordarshan, she has recently been bestowed with the prestigious Uday Shankar Choreography Award.

Pasumarthi Mruthyumjaya is gifted in many ways. Born to Pasumarthi Kesava Prasad and Gnana Prasunamba, he is bestowed with an enviable lineage to two of the most revered Kuchipudi traditional families - the Vedantam and Pasumarthi. He was trained in Kuchipudi from the very tender age of six under his maternal grandfather, Vedantam Parvateesham. After which he was taken under the wings of Padma Bhushan Vempati Chinna Satyam and his son Vempati Ravi Shankar. Pasumarthi’s work is delicately wrought, possessing a sheen that is a testimony of being groomed by the best. He has essayed almost all the major characters including the female personification roles in Yakshaganams, Kalapams and Ekta pathra Kelikas, the solo repertoire of Kuchipudi. A Sangeet Natak Akademi ‘Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Purasakar’ awardee, Pasumarthi has performed on various prestigious stages, including the Opening Ceremony of Commonwealth Games, Telugu Mahasabha, SNA Dance festival, Pursh Festivals, Kuchipudi Mahostav and Cuttack Mahostav.

A leading Kathak exponent, Shama Bhate’s personal idiom which evolved over 35 years, is an amazing blend of virtuosity (tayyari) and sensitive expressions (abhinaya). As a performer, teacher, choreographer and artistic director, she has explored new choreographic possibilities using diverse media like painting, line drawing, sculpture and cinema. For her, creativity goes a long way in promoting classical dance which is visible through endeavours such as ‘Maths through Kathak’, ‘Quest for New Horizons’, ‘Creating Awareness’, ‘In Tandem’ and ‘Prajakta’ a gig with specially-challenged children. Shama Bhate is the recipient of the prestigious ‘Maharashtra Rajya Puraskar’ 2011, conferred by the Maharashtra State Government, the ‘Sri Durga Mata Shakti Puraskar’, 2011 from Paramhans Swachandananda Seva Pratishthan. As the Director of Nadroop, a dance institute based in Pune, she has arranged over 60 concerts of Great Masters, organised workshops and several lecture-demonstrations. This 27-year-old dance institute, known for its choreographic productions, was also recently empanelled under the ICCR, Ministry of Culture

For Anusri, dance is an elixir of life, an eternal passion which inspires her to break boundaries and tread new paths. A perfectionist to the core, Anusri has been juggling multiple roles - as a mother, an IT professional and a dancer - with perfect élan. Since the tender age of five, she has been learning Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam under the dance exponents, Kalamandalam Meera Nambiar and Ashwati A. Nair. Gifted with a pleasing stage presence, Anusri brings to her audience a refreshing presentation enhanced by her powerful sense of rhythm. Hailing from Thiruvananthapuram, Anusri is an empanelled artist of the South Zone Cultural Centre and has been a well-known television presenter. An A Grade artist in Doordarshan, she has performed for Mohini Nirtyati organised by Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi and Soorya. She has also given outstanding performances in dance festivals organised by the Dept. of Tourism, Kerala and the 92nd Indian Science Congress.

As a young student, Bichitrananda Swain’s only dream was to get on stage. Even though his Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, founder of the world-famous Orissa Dance Academy, encouraged him to pursue his goal, those were the days when it was uncommon for male dancers to aspire the stage. They were expected to end up as teachers. Even male characters as Krishna would go to a female dancer. Decades flew by but the dance scene in India was predominantly feminine. So when Bichitrananda began Rudrakshya Foundation in 2000 he hoped to encourage danseurs to dream of a stage life. Rudrakshya Foundation follows the methods of the ancient Gurukula antiquity of Indian Art Schools. Yoga in Dance is Rudrakshya’s attempt to shed light on the belief that classical Indian Dance has traditionally been viewed as a form of Yoga. It shares with all forms of Yoga, the ultimate goal of Moksha (spiritual liberation) for both performers and audience. A Mangalacharan (invocation to a deity) shares the passionate devotion which is the essence of Bhakti Yoga. If an aspect of Hatha Yoga is mastery of the physical body and coordination, then a Pallavi (“flowering” or elaboration of form and rhythm) can be seen as a highly advanced form of this Yoga. The complex sequencing of any dance requires the intense mental focus of Raja Yoga. And Abhinaya (acting or storytelling), utilising the Navarasa (nine emotional flavors), allows the audience to experience the transformation of internal chemistry which is essential in both Yoga and Ayurveda.

For Padma Shri Chitra Visweswaran, dance is a window into a large life. Even as a child of three, Chitra followed her mother Rukmini, a trained dancer from the Uday Shankar School of Dance, through their house imitating and picking up Bharatanatyam mudras. At the age of five, Chitra was enrolled for Western Classical Ballet in London, which was then followed by lessons in Manipuri, Kathak, Rabindra Sangeet, Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam from Kolkata. Chitra holds a B.A. from Calcutta University, post which she was given a government scholarship for advanced study in Bharatanatyam. Her scholarship years were spent in Chennai under the doyen of Bharatanatyam, Vazhuvoor Ramaiyya Pillai. Together with her musician husband, R. Visweswaran, she founded the Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts in 1975. Productions conceived and researched by the duo have brought out different thrusts, facets, rare compositions and pieces hitherto untouched in Bharatanatyam. She is one of the first Bharatanatyam dancers to have composed her own Jathi Sollukattu and also the first dancer to have trained her students to do Nattuvangam. Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar, Kalaimamani, Nritya Choodamani, Nritya Ratna are a few of the many accolades she has won in her long dancing career.

Established in 1954, Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy (JNMDA), Imphal, is one of the oldest and most significant institutes in India for teaching, promoting and preserving Manipuri dance and music. A constituent unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, JNMDA offers comprehensive training courses at elementary and advanced levels in Manipuri Ras and Nat Sankirtan and also imparts training in tribal dances, such as Lai Haraoba and Thang-ta. Its brilliant and innovative dance drama productions have garnered wide accolades. Over the years, several renowned scholars and dancers such as Leela Samson, Devajani Chaltha, Dr. Sunil Kothari, Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya, and Chitra Visheswaran have given lecture-cum-demonstration at JNMDA National level. Eminent dancers and musicians from across the country take part in the JNMDA Festival of Dance and Music (National level) organised by the Academy.

Vidya Pradeep's graceful and lyrical moves illuminate the extensive training she underwent in diverse dance forms like Mohiniyattam, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathakali. She also has to her credit, an M.A. in Bharatanatyam from the University of Madras and M.Phil from Kerala Kalamandalam. Her work, which includes solos she choreographed for several Malayalam poems, has been exhibited in platforms across the world. She is also an integral part of classical dance bands like Urja, Thrayam and Nrutharuthya Dance Company. As a means to give back to the dance community, Vidya also engages herself in SPIC MACAY (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth) initiative, where she often travels to rural areas to promote Indian art forms. Furthermore, this Kalathilakam holder has been honoured with a senior scholarship for Mohiniyattam from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and has also bagged the India International Dance Award in 2015.

Empanelled artists of Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India and graded artistes of Doordarshan, Girish and Devi are the founder members of Aathmakalpa Dance Ensemble, where they impart training in Kuchipudi. The duo has captivated audiences with their stellar performances in Soorya Parampara Dance and Music Festival in Thiruvananthapuram, Uttar Purva Nritya Parva in the North East and the Ananya Dance Festival, Bangalore. The choreographic works of Girish such as ‘Be Inspired’ and ‘Still I Rise’ have created a solid benchmark in the creative space. Quite recently, their international performance series, ‘Arjunah Dasanameeyam’ won tremendous acclaim in the Festival of India, held at Mandalay and Naypyidaw Myanmar in 2017, where the Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, felicitated them. With a performing career spanning more than nine years and individually more than 15 years, Girish Chandra and Devi Girish, have carved their own niche in the field of Kuchipudi. While Girish was initiated into dance under the exemplary guidance of Dr. Vedanatam Ramalinga Sastry, both of them flourished under the tutorship of Prof. Jonnalagadda Anuradha and Vempati Ravi Shankar.

One of the celebrated new faces in classical dance from Kerala, Rithu Prakash rose to fame after winning the much acclaimed University Kalathilakam. Over the last twelve years, she has learnt Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam under the tutelage of renowned danseuse Neena Prasad, Kathakali from Kalamandalam Krishnaprasad and Kuchipudi from Jai Kishore Mosalikanti. Her endless fascination with Bharatanatyam encouraged her to pursue her Post Graduation and M.Phil in Bharatanatyam from Madras University. Academic wisdom and authentic training helped her become an A Grade Bharatanatyam artist in Doordarshan and an empanelled artist of ICCR. Rithu Prakash now works as a senior instructor at Bharatanjali Academy of Indian Dances.

Jill of several trades, Aparna Vinod believes variety keeps life interesting. Her tryst with Mohiniyattam started at the young age of five but when marriage took her to a city where it was hard to locate good gurus, this management graduate shifted her focus to Bharatanatyam instead. An avid learner, Aparna has also been learning Hindustani music under the tutelage of Rina Basu. And if these weren’t impressive enough, she is also a gifted writer. When approached by her ex-classmate and friend Anjali Menon, Aparna, who used to write often for her college magazines, took to the pen again and wrote the dialogue for two critically acclaimed movies, Kalyani and Manjadikuru. A National Nritya Shiromani award winner for Bharatanatyam at Cuttack Mahotsav, Aparna is also a graded artist of Doordarshan and the Director of Tharang Academy of Arts. Tharang aims to promote Indian classical dance and music by organising Tharang Utsav, an annual event presenting eminent, promising and upcoming artists. Aparna’s Bharatanatyam performances have graced many stages including Every Friday Cultural Evening Programme ICCR, Soorya Festival, Chilanka Festival, Brahan Natyanjali, Chidambaram Natyanjali, Sai Nrityotsava in Bangalore and Chennai Music Academy, Onam Utsav organised by Government of Kerala to name a few.

Gayathri Suresh’s unlikely route to dance as a career began with a B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering. It was the scholarship for the Young Artistes in Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) that gave her a much-needed impetus to pursue dance. A disciple of V. Mydhili from Thiruvananthapuram, Gayathri’s poise and dedication bagged her the lead parts in two dance dramas Pibarae Ramasaram, a production based on Eka Sloki Ramayanam and Kalpatharu, a production of Midhilalaya Dance Academy staged in Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai. Apart from being a graded Bharatanatyam artist in Doordarshan (Grade B) she has also performed the traditional repertoires at several programs organised by the Department of Tourism and Public Relations.

20-26 JANUARY 2018 KATHAKALI FEST at: Kanakakkunnu Palace Auditorium
During uduthukettu, a process exclusive to Kathakali, lengthy sacks are fastened around the waist of the artist and are bound together with a loincloth called Kacha. A Kathakali performance is earmarked by many such elaborate processes. Even its colours are virtues. Red from chayilyam, white from lime, green by mixing yellow manayola and ink, and black the soot residue after burning sesame oil and clay tile. Join a talented troupe of Kathakali artists in a week-long celebration of this painstakingly beautiful story play.

THE DHANANJAYANS Kerala Government to honour the Dhananjayans with the prestigious ‘Nishagandhi Puraskaram 2018’

The doyens of Bharatanatyam, the Dhananjayans have redefined Bharatanatyam in more ways than one. They are trendsetters in the field of Bharatanatyam, bringing fresh waves of choreographic innovations and creativity within the traditional repertoire; a true inspiration for upcoming Bharatanatyam dancers. The senior most disciples of the legendary Rukmini Devi and alumnae of the famed Kalakshetra, the Dhananjayans founded Bharatakalanjali in 1968, an institution which seeks to promote and develop Indian art and culture by offering the best Gurukul system of training combined with modern approach. Choreographers par excellence, the Dhananjayans have undertaken collaborations with Western choreographers and ballet dancers, while retaining the traditional essence of Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and other dance forms. The Dhananjayans have been instrumental in uniting artists by nurturing a healthy interaction between dancers, musicians and connoisseurs. They have been the recipient of several titles and recognitions including the first International Naatya Award, instituted by the American Association of Indian Dancers (AAID), Kalaimamani, Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, Kerala State Sangeetha Nataka Akademi's Fellowship, and Nritya Choodamani. In recognition of their valuable contributions to dance, the Dhananjayans would be conferred the prestigious ‘Nishagandhi Puraskaram 2018’ by the Kerala Government.


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