A century of Telugu dance traditions

In focus The 16th edition of the annual dance magazine ‘attendance’, titled Telugu Traditions, chronicles the glorious history of classical dances of Telugus, with a focus on the future.

Published - July 24, 2014 07:57 pm IST - Hyderabad

WITH A CREATIVE ZEAL Ashish Mohan Khokar and dancer Ananda Shankar Jayant. Photo: G. Ramakrishna

WITH A CREATIVE ZEAL Ashish Mohan Khokar and dancer Ananda Shankar Jayant. Photo: G. Ramakrishna

“This is my sweet 16 romance and the sweetest,” jokes Ashish Mohan Khokar, renowned dance historian, writer and founder of ‘ attendance ’, a magazine dedicated to dance, as he makes himself comfortable at Hotel Harita Plaza in Begumpet. Danseuse Ananda Shankar sitting next to him breaks into peals of laughter. The duo’s energy levels are at a high with the national launch of the 16th edition of ‘ attendance’ titled Telugu Traditions . Over the past 15 years, ‘ attendance ’ has been taking a step back in time every year to narrate the story of classical danceculture in India. As the editor, publisher and writer of the dance magazine, Ashish travels far and wide and this is his first visit to Hyderabad. “ attendance looks back, focuses and chronicles the milestones crossed by dancers, along with events as well as articles by experts. Every year we highlight a perspective, from putting a spotlight on performers to drawing attention to dance forms… it’s is an attempt to document and preserve the dance culture of India,” he says.

This year, ‘ attendance ’ with guest editor as Ananda Shankar Jayant looks back at all Telugu traditions in classical dance. (“There may be political boundaries but artistic boundaries are none.”). “A music lover could be in Czeckhoslvakia or Chikkaballapur and might not know the nuances but equally enjoys a Thyagaraja composition or a Rahman number. In the same way, the classical dance traditions could be in many styles but still one looks at them all in awe,” says Ashish.

Telugu Traditions looks at the spectrum of myriad classical dance traditions of the Telugus — Kuchipudi, Andhra Natyam and Vilasini Natyam.

While Pratima Sagar has designed the layout, the book has 55 articles. “The narrative spans Telugu dance traditions from the ’20s in their myriad manifestations, through the fading voices of nonagenarian gurus, coursing through the vision of extraordinary performers and teachers, across nearly a century, who have written the history of Telugu Yakshagana, Kuchipudi, Andhra Natyam, Vilasini Natyam and Perini,” reveals Ananda.

The book includes a host of articles, interviews, personal memoirs, books, research articles, and write-ups highlighting the creative journey of unique artistes, who have shared personal stories of their lives in dance, in-depth articles on repertoire covering Bhamakalapam, Golla Kalapam, Yakshagana, Simhanandini, path-breakers holding the Kuchipudi flag aloft overseas, senior performers and teachers in India and male dancers making a mark.

Also finding space in the book are snippets from Telugu films, filmmakers (like an interview with K. Viswanath for Sankarabharanam ) and film music that encompassed classical dance in various forms.

Besides overseas contributions, the yearbook also looks at early gurus who choreographed for films, television dance archives and even the attempts to garner Guinness book records.

The book is not just a chronicle of the glorious history of Dance among Telugus, but has its eyes set on the future too. The spotlight is on young talent, such as the emerging dancer in Kuchipudi, Yamini Reddy.

Ashish says Telugu Traditions will be a one-stop companion for dancers, academicians, young researchers, scholars and policy makers (“especially when it comes to choosing dancers for awards”).

For Bharatanatyam dancer Ananda, it has been a shift in gear for a year now. “Being the guest editor is my thanksgiving offering to Kuchipudi,” smiles Ananda, who has also been trained in Kuchipudi. While Ashish has already begun his work on the next year’s issue of ‘ attendance ’, a tribute to Zohra Sehgal, he is happy and satisfied with the outcome of Telugu Traditions. “ The delivery for the 16th child has been an easy one,” he smiles.

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