Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Special Stories

Celebrating Devi, the Mother Goddess

IANS | September 30, 2021 04:17 PM

NEW DELHI:  'Stories from the Womb', will unravel mythical stories of the Mother Goddess by ace storyteller and eminent dancer Anita Ratnam. The virtual story telling session hosted by National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) will be followed by a Garba Raas workshop by renowned Bharatanatyam and Kathak dancer Avani Shah.

Navratri exudes music and colourful attire in its finest form. This festival celebrates the spirit of Devi, the feminine form of divinity and her nine forms. Garba -- originally a Sanskrit word 'Garbha' or the womb has a symbolic interpretation of being the body, within whom divinity (in the form of the Devi) resides. Keeping this sentiment in mind, NCPA starts the celebrations early this year.

"Navratri is almost incomplete without Garba and with the current Covid scenario we have missed the grandeur associated with the nine-day festival. Hence, this year, NCPA decided to start the celebrations early with Anita Ratnam and Avani Shah hosting a virtual session that pays homage to the forms of Devi through a curated storytelling and Garba Raas, " said Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, Head of Dance Programming at NCPA.

Anita Ratnam is an Indian classical and contemporary dancer and choreographer. Classically trained in Bharatanatyam, she has also received formal training in Kathakali, Mohiniattam, and T'ai chi and Kalarippayattu, thus creating a dance style which she has coined "Neo Bharat Natyam". She is the creative brain behind India's first digital portal for dance -- the Narthaki.com. She is known for her out of the box ideas and innovation.

Avani Shah is a trained Bharatanatyam and Kathak dancer, mentoring and schooling since 1989. She has choreographed for several Garba and Dandiya festivals along with video and film songs. She has co-choreographed and assisted Sanjay Leela Bhansali for the films "Devdas" and "Ramleela". Embark on a magical journey with Avani Shah as she presents a fun and energetic Garba raas dance workshop.

IANSlife caught up with Dasgupta to get more details and find out what the NCPA has lined up for the season. Read excerpts:



Q: Are you looking forward to events going back to normal and performances in front of a live audience?

A: Well, pre-Covid, that was our entire world. Ninety-nine per cent of our lives was about being excited about live performances, but I think what has been, has been and virtual shows have become a welcome, addition to our world. Now as we have started presenting digitally we have online workshops, we have presentations, dance, training classes for children from underprivileged even schools are being run online.

We look at virtual performances as a part of our lives now, you know, and that's so fascinating. The excitement has changed, we are as happy about this as we were about live performances before. We are just happy that we are not dependent. It's tension-free, we ae happy for live or virtual performances.

Q: What are the biggest takeaways from the world of virtual art and culture for professionally?

A: The world is our stage and the world is our audience. So I think there are many, many takeaways from the Virtual World which have helped us. I'm talking as a curator we are able to introduce artists who are not at their pinnacle of fame. New work can be presented which sometimes becomes a problem. When you have the pressure of filling a certain capacity auditorium and keeping them engaged that is a different pressure. So I think that way we are curating is changing with a virtual platform. This is not just in the Arts and Performing Arts, but in general, I think even for the Netflix or other OTT platforms. we can see a lot of new talent coming up in every field. So and I'm excited about that, this is going to be the case in dance too. So that's wonderful. Its a real way to democratize the field.

Q: Personally what have you learnt and enjoyed most in this time?

A: Personally, I'm a dancer and I have been experimenting a lot with the camera. You know, you always wear heavy makeup in live performances, you need the attention all the way to the back row, are they able to see my expressions, what I'm portraying. But in the virtual world, the camera is always close-up, it gives a very good feel the facial expressions. Similarly when we are having a workshop, the upper body, the expressions are all crucial and they can be in the spotlight.

Q: There is resurgence of Baithaks and going back to old traditions, how do you feel about this?

A: I really feel variety plays a very important role in inexperience, doesn't it? I was actually missing the Baithak, it used to be how we used to learn in class. I was a student of Guru Shri Karijaranthan Mahabharat Ji, who was known for his Abhinayak; one of my fondest memories of him is on a moonlit night, lamp lit and noisy, and Guruji was sitting on the floor and doing Abhinayak. Goosebumps!! And there has not been a more profound experience of watching an artist so we can imagine the effectiveness of such Baithaks or such interactions, which is being made possible again by the virtual world. I'm sure it's going to translate and create live audience when the time is right for physical baithaks also. We are going more to the heart of the tradition.

Q: What are you looking forward to in the festive season?

A: Well, we have three workshops that are running. So we're definitely looking forward to all. It has been a super fascinating journey with all our curations and workshops. Of course, storytelling by Anita Ratnam Ji and the Garba workshop by Avani Shah is something we are really looking forward to. To speak of the Devi traditions and Mother Goddess, how female energy is at work, and how we need to celebrate the feminine and protect the feminine is all part of 'Stories from the Womb'. So this, this undivided attention that we are giving to the female energy during the season is very gratifying.

* Dates: September 30

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