BIMBAVATI DEVI

Manipuri

Why did you choose the dance form?

I chose it because my parents are Manipuri dancers. By saying that, I am not saying that I didn’t have a choice to select other dance forms, but I should say it came very naturally to me.

(Bimbavati is the daughter of Manipuri dance exponents Guru Bipin Singh and Kalavati Singh.)

How do you see its relevance in your life?

I have not pondered about it so much. But I must say, though I am born and brought up in Kolkata, the dance form gives me the son of the soil feeling. It is my cultural identity. Now you would say, Bimba is sounding clannish, but I really feel a strong connection with it.

Though, sometimes I feel a bit confused for when I go to Manipur, I am told you look like a Bengali, and in Kolkata, I am told even if I speak fluent Bengali, I don’t look like one.

How will the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar help you in pursuing it better?

Only time will say how far an award will help in propagating a dance form. It will definitely contribute in establishing myself as a Manipuri dancer. I might sound self-centred but if I get recognition, my dance form gets it too. I hope through my performances people get the right essence of Manipuri dance.

Many say that its movements are repetitive, it is too slow, etc., but it has its own subtle beauty.

SBP

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MEERANANDA BARTHAKUR Sattriya

Why did you choose this form of dance?

It is a classical dance form specific to my home State, Assam. Though it is locally quite popular, it is still not so outside Assam. I feel as an Assamese, it is my responsibility to take Sattriya to a wider audience. I have been dancing Sattriya since childhood.

How do you see such an ancient form of dance relevant to your life?

Like every dance form, Sattriya too demands a certain discipline from a dancer. Since my mother is a classical musician, I have grown up in an environment conducive to classical arts. So, it has not been difficult for me to adhere to the form. Being pursued only in Vaishnava sattras (monastries) for so long, Sattriya has not undergone much change. It is a ritualistic dance presented in praise of the deity. Traditionally it has no abhinaya. It, however, throws up a lot of possibilities for today’s dancers to contemporise it, whether in its costume, music, etc.

How will the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar help you in pursuing it better?

Since 2000, Sangeet Natak Akademi has shouldered the responsibility of taking it to a wider audience. It now includes the dance form in every major classical dance festival it hosts. This will help Sattriya in the long run. Personally, I feel the Puraskar is a big honour for me. It is also an appreciation of my style. Being tucked away in far-off Assam, such an award coming my way has strengthened my resolve to continue pursuing the form. I now feel a lot more responsible towards it.

SBP

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PURVADHANASHREE

Vilasini Natyam

Why did you chose Vilasini Natyam?

I have been performing Bharatanatyam widely in India and abroad. In 2000, my mother and guru Kamalini Dutt took me to Swapnasundari ji in Delhi to learn abhinaya.

Swapna akka informed us that her engagement with abhinaya has undergone a significant change after learning and performing Vilasini Natyam – the art of Andhra devadasis – and that it is not possible for her to only teach abhinaya because it is improper to separate abhinaya from the body technique with which it is performed, a technique which is the hallmark of Andhra devadasis. Hence, I decided to learn Vilasini Natyam.

I have not stopped Bharatanatyam and never will.

How do you see the dance form as relevant to your life?

Vilasini Natyam and, especially, my training under Swapnasundari ji has opened up a whole new world of aesthetics and art history. It has made me more aware of issues concerning artistes and their place in society. Dance is an inevitable part of my life. I cannot separate it from other activities – be it writing or academics. In fact, the reason I registered for M.A. in Sociology at Central University, Hyderabad, is to understand classical dance from a sociological point of view. I also wish to study the devadasi system from the human rights perspective.

How will the Yuva Puraskar help you?

Yuva Puraskar is not only a recognition but also a responsibility towards carrying forward this tradition. Coming from a highly prestigious body like Sangeet Natak Akademi, this award will strengthen my efforts.

S.S.