Shanta Dhananjayan is convenor of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha's Natya Kala Conference (Dec 26-31), which will educate and entertain.

The Natya Kala Conference (NKC) presented by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha is a much anticipated event during the cultural season in December.

The discussions feature frontline dancers, gurus, scholars, critics and in the past, it has spotlighted key issues and trends.

This year ‘Abhyaasa – Sampradaaya' (Evolutionary developments in the system of Naatya training and presentation) will be the 30{+t}{+h} in the series and is being convened by Shanta Dhananjayan, veteran dancer and teacher.

It is dedicated to the memory of S. Sarada of Kalakshetra. Princess Gowri Parvathi Bayi of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, will be the chairperson.

“This year, the focus will be on the tremendous growth and developments in the learning process and the repertoire of the classical systems over the past decades.

“I also wanted to go back to the roots and from thereon show the direction we artists have taken in the past several years,” says Shanta.

The NKC has participants not only from leading schools of dance but also from different disciplines. Thus there is Kalakshetra putting up the session on Bharatanatyam, Jayantika, Delhi, with its offering on Odissi, the Gandhi Seva Sadanam Kathakali Academy from Palakkad, the Kuchipudi Arts Academy, Chennai, and the Kathak Kendra, Delhi, demonstrating techniques in their respective styles.

Excerpts from an interview:

Why have institutions (as opposed to solo performers) been invited for participation?

“The idea is to reach out and provide a wide accommodating platform. Also, no one can deny the role of institutions such as Kalakshetra (Shanta's alma mater) in sustaining and nurturing our art forms. These schools will feature stalwarts in their sessions.

The onus is on those groups, which have made an indelible impact on the performing arts and I thought the oldest schools or institutions will better the process than individuals.

“It is true that within the limited time-frame of the conference not all styles can be accommodated. For instance, Manipuri will not be featured this year. Keeping this in mind, I'll be working with the other mainstream forms next year.”

Other points for discussion?

“The critical part in this programme is detailing the need for funding. With this in mind, the last day will be an open house with guest speakers from the Department of Art and Culture, corporate houses (represented by Nalli Kuppuswamy), the Ministry of Culture and ICCR to name a few.

The bottom line will be - how can funds be generated to help dancers and more specifically ways and means to channel them fruitfully.”

How will the current generation of performers be roped in for the NKC?

“The painstaking efforts that have gone into hosting the conference will be meaningful only if it reaches the younger set of performers and students. Schools and colleges have been invited to select senior pupils to contribute articles or to come forward with ideas and suggestions. Participation is free.”

Who else is the NKC's target audience? aimed at?

“Its scope is dance trends - pan India - and should definitely interest scholars and critics who will get to witness the solid work of the varied schools.

“The critics are the communicators, for these are the persons who take our work to the larger group of rasikas. There will be much to learn for them too.”

How is this programme different from the past ones?

“One point I have taken care to ensure this year, is that the first half of the conference each day will be devoted towards training techniques and the next half will feature performances.

“I want to keep interest alive till the end, and also ensure that enough time is given to the interesting question-answer portions”

On the logic of the schedule

“This is a concept sparked off by Dr. Padma Subhramanyam, and Sri Krishna Gana Sabha has been doing a wonderful job of putting together these invaluable programmes every year.

“I truly aim to take this intention forward with the support of the artists and art lovers. Along the way, this conference will also throw light on just how our dance styles comprehensively educate, enlighten and entertain.”