The last fortnight of 2012 saw, what might be the world’s biggest splurge of Indian classical music and dance events and concerts. But it is not over as yet. The after party only begins in the first week of January with the Madras Music Academy’s signature dance festival that every Indian dancer is striving to be a part of. Indian classical dancers have literally grown from stage to stage and no, that was not some smart pun. The year that went by saw a gigantic soar in the image of the very art from on the global art map. From performing in some of the world’s most significant venues to winning important offices and heading organisations to making constant headlines for their awards, Indian dancers have had a fantastic year.
The year began with the centenary celebrations of Vuzhavoor Ramaiah Pillai by all his students. The Central Sangeet Natak Akademi then announced the ‘Tagore Ratna’ awards. Several veterans such as Kalanidhi Narayanan and choreographer Maya Rao received them in a glittering ceremony at the Music Academy. Maya Rao also received the lifetime achievement award for her contribution to dance and choreography at the Epic Women conference curated by Anita Ratnam. This year the Music Academy’s prestigious ‘Natya Kala Acharya’ award goes to Sudharani Raghupathy, a well-qualified guru and one of the most under-rated vidushi-s of our times. Krishna Gana Sabha , that conducts its signature ‘Natya Kala Conference’ that the whole dance world looks up to, conferred the ‘Nritya Choodamani’ on Kathak dancer Saswati Sen, and the ‘Acharya Choodamani’ on Ambika Kameshwar. The first recipient of the ‘Vidwat Choodamani’ for overall scholarship in the field of arts is senior musicologist and dance scholar B.M. Sundaram.
Bharat Kalachar, probably the only sabha run by a woman at its helm of affairs, the efficient Mrs. Y.G. Parthasarathy, conferred the ‘Vishwa Kala Bharati’ on the multi-faceted Lakshmi Viswanathan. The ‘Acharya Kala Bharati’ went to the veteran dancing couple Narasimhachari and Vasanthalakshmi. As the year fleeted by, the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi has announced their annual awards and this year’s award for overall scholarship on dance goes to Nandini Ramani, who has been serving arts through the foundation that she has successfully nurtured for decades now. The other awardee was Priyadarsini Govind, who convened the Natya Kala Conference that just concluded.
It is almost impossible to talk about Indian classical dance and not mention Alarmel Valli. Her documentary ‘Lasya Kavya’ went ahead to win the coveted National Award, for being one of the finest movies ever made on dance. She also received the lifetime achievement award, the ‘Bharata Kala Ratna’ from the Trinity Arts Festival.
The dance world, in particular Kuchipudi, has faced a steep descent with the final exit of both its biggest cultural icons; Vedantam Satyanarayana Sharma and Vempati Chinna Satyam. But their legacy continues to remain immortal in the many students they trained. Dancer turned ace musician Pandit Ravi Shankar also headed to the heavens to entertain the gods.
Two thousand and twelve marked the centenary celebrations of Tanjavur Kittappa Pillai, whose students include the distinguished Vjyayantimala Bali and Narthaki Nataraj. As the New Year takes on, get ready for a lot more dance on and off stage to change the course of the coming year and constantly make headlines.
The year 2012 was one of the most successful and positive years for the Indian classical dance world. Hopefully the coming year carries much more promise as our dancers are set to rock the scene once again.
(Veejay Sai is a writer, editor and a culture critic.)