Ever wanted to know more about classical Indian dance? Rema and Simon explain some of the philosophy and history behind Bharatanatyam ahead of a performance by local group Revathi Performing Arts.
Revathi Performing Arts
The purpose of Revathi Performing Arts is to encourage people to know that these dance routines can be practiced as an exercise for body conditioning, mental alertness, and building stamina. People from all walks of life come to learn and share the experience of being part of this classical Indian dance movement. Initially their performances, held at the end of the year, were largely for family and friends, in order to show case developing talent. Their first public performance was held in 2015. Their upcoming performance Mayuram – which celebrates Murugan (also known as Kārttikēya), the son of the Hindu god Śiva and his wife, Parvati – takes place on 5 August.
Dancing for the gods: the South Indian dance tradition
Bharatanatyam is one of the Indian classical and traditional dance forms from South India. It has its origins in sadir, the traditional dances performed by devadasis, young women who were ceremoniously married to the deity of a temple to which they had been dedicated as children. Such was the respect in which devadasis were held that kings were known to gift them grants of land. Two classical dramatists from the 2nd century have been credited with compiling the theory behind the dance form; Nandikeśvara, who wrote Abhinaya Darpaṇa (Mirror of Gestures), and Bharata Muni, who wrote Nāṭyaśāstra (Treatise on Dramatic Art).
Underlying these works was the concept of rasa, that dance should be means for the individual to transport themselves into a spiritual realm. This illustrative performance is portrayed by a dancer with excellent footwork, impressive gestures and facial expressions accompanied by song. A Bharatanatyam performance includes synchronized movement of eyes, neck, hands (mudras) and feet to depict various moods and expressions. The dancer must remember the whole song, and the associated rhythmic steps and moves, which need a higher level of concentration and coordination.
There are three forms of dance:
Nritta – Dance which is purely without expressions or emotion.
Nritya – Dance where emotion and expressions are conveyed through the use of hasta mudras (hand gestures, of which there can be up to fifty-five) and abhinaya (facial expressions).
Natyam – Dance which is included into a dramatic performance.
Decline and revival
The classical dances of the devadasis were brought by performers to the Thanjavur court in South India. Here, many artists, dramatists and musicians vied for the patronage of the kings. Among such dramatists to receive this patronage were the Thanjavur Quartet, four brothers who synthesised the various sadir dances in the early 19th century. However, the annexation of former South Indian kingdoms by the British in the latter half of the 19th century led to a loss of patronage for many of these dancers and dramatists.
Further damage was done to the dance tradition by Victorian notions of morality, which were being spread by missionaries. This colonial criticism was adopted by some prominent Indians who had received a Western education and led to the tradition losing its social acceptability. The criticism continued into the 1930s, with social reformer and women’s rights activist, Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy (1886-1968) launching a campaign against it. However, she was countered by Krishna E. Iyer (1897-1968), a lawyer, artist and political activist, who recognised the important role India’s dance traditions played in the movement to reassert Indian culture and independence. He argued against the colonial misinterpretations of the devadasi tradition and is often credited with forming the name by which the dance tradition is now known, Bharatanatyam.
Iyer was aided in his formulation of Bharatanatyam by Rukmini Devi Arundale (1904-1986), a young Brahmin who had rebelled against her upbringing by not only learning Western forms of dance, but also by marrying an Englishman. In 1935, she attended a performance of a form of dance known as Pandanallur, which has been formulated by the teacher Meenakshisundaram Pillai (1869–1964), who was himself a descendant of one of the brothers from the Thanjavur Quartet. From Pillai, Rukmini learned the forms of dance which had once been performed in the Thanjavur court, and later that year she performed at the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of the Theosophical Society. In the following year, she established the Kalakshetra Foundation, an organisation dedicated to the revival of Bharatanatyam and its worldwide propagation.
If you wish to experience this dance, which has its origins in the temples and royal courts of South India, then come to Mayuram, from 7pm to 9pm at Cashmere High School Performing Arts Centre. For tickets and details please contact email@example.com
I’d be the first to admit I judge books by their covers all the time, but sometimes the blurb is so compelling I have to try the first chapter anyway. Such was the case with Noteworthy, a book with a deceptively bland cover much like the author’s previous book, Seven Ways We Lie. I mean, look at them! A+ for colour-matching but C- for covers that don’t match the content:
Actually don’t look at them, just open them up and start reading instead, because listen to the description of Noteworthy:
After learning that her deep voice is keeping her from being cast in plays at her exclusive performing arts school, Jordan Sun, junior, auditions for an all-male octet hoping for a chance to perform internationally.
I didn’t realise I needed a book about a girl going undercover in an all-male a cappella group, but I definitely did. The blurb doesn’t mention it but she auditions and spends much of the book passing as a teenage boy and (against her first inclinations) becoming friends with the other members of the group. The author describes her book as “approx. 1/3 slapstick comedy, 1/3 hideous music puns, and 1/3 explorations of toxic masculinity and performative femininity,” which is fairly accurate, so if you’re a fan of puns and a cappella and figuring out who you are while pretending to be someone you aren’t, then give Noteworthy a try. If you want something a bit darker with a larger cast of characters, each based loosely on one of the seven sins, then try Seven Ways We Lie.
Ramona Blue is the most recent novel by Julie Murphy, whose book Dumplin’ I enjoyed last year. They have similar themes of teenage girls in small towns trying to be confident in who they are while suffering from crippling doubts, but where Dumplin’s self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean deals with this by entering the local beauty pageant, Ramona Blue is aggressively happy to stay living in a trailer with her dad and supporting her pregnant sister, definitely isn’t frustrated that she can’t go to college, definitely isn’t upset that her summer girlfriend has gone back home to her boyfriend.
In the middle of all this Ramona’s childhood friend Freddie moves back into town and they start swimming at the local pool, which Ramona turns out to be rather good at, and maybe also start having feelings for each other, but that can’t be right because Ramona has always known she was gay, hasn’t she? And she still likes girls, so what’s going on? Spoiler! it’s the elusive bisexual, now captured in fiction. I was worried when I realised the direction the book was going in but it was handled really well, and is only one strand of Ramona’s complex story.
If that’s still too light-hearted for you then maybe you’ll appreciate Tiffany D. Jackson’s grim debut, Allegedly.
Inspired by a similar case in Maine five years ago, Allegedly is told from the perspective of the now sixteen-year-old girl (Mary) convicted of manslaughter of a white infant when she was only nine. Her case is famous; books have been written, a film is in the works, and at the time of her trial the public were pushing for the death penalty. Eight years later she’s living in a group home while attempting to study for her SATs despite the interference of the women who run the home and the other girls living in it — while newly pregnant. The discovery that the authorities will take away her baby when he’s born prompts Mary to re-open her case, declaring she has been innocent all along. Was she? Or is she just doing whatever it takes to keep her unborn child?
Right at the end of the School Holidays I succumbed to ‘The bug’.
Temperature, shivers, face-ache, sneezing, splutterings, sore throat, several hot-water bottles, over the counter meds and copious amounts of tea/coffee/honey, lemon and ginger combos later, I am now dealing with a more head cold-like scenario. What really upset me is my diligence in having the Flu Jab appears to have been for nowt!! Swiftly moving on …
Streaming eyes and almost constant nose-blowing meant that the only source of entertainment I could tolerate was talking-books … Plug in and LISTEN. So I did.
First offering from OverDrive audiobooks was Round the Horne Movie Spoofs. In my weakened state I managed several wry smiles – OK 1960s British ‘camp’ humour admittedly, but quite clever for all that although one offering was sufficient as smiling wasn’t helping the face & teeth-ache symptoms!
Second offering was The Captive Queen the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine – wife of two kings – King Louis VII of France and King Henry II of England, and mother of such notables as Richard the Lionheart and King John (of ‘Magna Carta’ fame). I just thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t live in huge, draughty castles and gratefully placed my hot water bottles in my ‘nest of rest’ set-up for the requisite warmth and comfort.
Third offering I had picked up from the library prior to being ‘felled’ – I persevered, but really CDs don’t work in a sick-room environment. The constant getting up to change the discs is tiring. It takes forever to rearrange yourself back to that exact comfortable position you had previously discovered. But then, adding insult to injury, just as you start to feel relaxed and drowsy, the sonorous tones of the narrator announce that ‘this ends Disc xx’. Do this manoeuvre fifteen times and you are ready to hurl said CD Player through the bedroom window. Common sense prevailed as this would have left me both freezing cold and wet as rain lashed down the east coast of the South Island. Sufficed to say I can remember little of the plot or characters.
Final offering is a BBC Radio dramatization of an Ellis Peters ‘Cadfael’ mystery and will keep me going until I feel ready to open the physical pages of a book.
My listening choices will, in all probability, not be yours, BUT the variety that is available is a fantastic resource to have with just a library card and a Pin/Password.
“Cathedral Square by night the northwest corner with the start of Chancery Lane under the bright white light. The Tivoli theatre later became the Westend, a huge cinema (scene of many happy nights out in my teenage years) complete with cat known to sleep on seats at the back. The old building to the left was later the site of the AMP building, and the one to the right became the Government Life building.”
Date: 18 August 1959.
Entry in the 2016 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt by Isabel Tweedy.
Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.
In this world of alternative truths, acts of terrorism, online dating and climate change, sometimes what one really needs is a well-mannered book. In well-mannered books there is no gratuitous swearing, sex is private, and war (a sometimes necessary evil?) is viewed from a big picture perspective. These are books in which Mr Please and Mr Thank-you have not yet left the building.
And if you are thinking the descending scale “Boring”, you could not be more wrong. Take A Gentleman in Moscow as an exquisite example of a well-mannered read. Count Rostov (an unrepentant aristocrat) is placed under house arrest for life in 1922 in The Metropol Hotel opposite the Kremlin. The book is 462 pages long and almost all of the action takes place in that grand old hotel. Count Rostov is an urbane, witty, positively likeable character – what is more, the book is peopled by a fascinating array of eccentrics.
As time passes, the world outside of the hotel changes and in a conversation with his lover Anushka, Count Rostov gives his view on the conveniences of modern life such as remote garage door openers:
“I’ll tell you what is convenient,” he said after a moment. “To sleep until noon and have someone bring you your breakfast on a tray. To cancel an appointment at the very last minute…….To sidestep marriage in your youth and put off having children altogether. These are the greatest conveniences Anushka – and at one time I had them all. But in the end, it has been the inconveniences that have mattered to me most.”
Another contemporary author who writes in a very well-mannered way is Francois Lelord. In his novel Hector and the Search for Happiness, a young French psychiatrist (Hector) surely knows about love, sex, anxiety and behaviour problems. Indeed, this novel touches on all manner of problematic topics like prostitution and drug dealing, but in a very polite way.
You will be on a spectrum with your opinion of these books: from charming, to naïve, to patronising and worse. But I myself was charmed. So much so, I was delighted to hear that a film has been made of the first book. Imagine then my dismay when I learned that the film had turned its back on its French origins, been cast with a British psychiatrist, and set in the USA. How rude, not at all well-mannered. This would not have happened had Hector and Count Rostov met and formed a political party and taken over the world!
In the end Hector comes up with 23 “Life Lessons on Happiness” from all his travels. It seems appropriate to end with lesson no.5
The first open air classroom at Fendalton Primary School was officially opened on the 26th of July 1924 by Mr E.H. Andrews, a member of the Canterbury Education Board. Professor Shelley, who was Professor of Education at Canterbury College, also gave an opening address encouraging the school and committee to continue the project.
This first open air classroom was viewed as an experiment in the new educational philosophy that fresh air, good ventilation and sunlight encouraged good health for the students, as well as providing space for exercise.
The classroom was designed by the Headmaster Mr A.R. Blank, M.B.E. and Dr R.B. Phillipps, the Canterbury Schools’ medical officer, along with the architects Ellis and Hall. A new architecture for classrooms was developed to cater to the new philosophy and the Fendalton examples allowed the whole side of a building to be opened up. Using wood as an adaptable building material, rather than brick, was seen as important for this new architecture to enable adaption of the buildings over time to incorporate developing ideas in educational theory.
Mr Blank and Dr Phillipps’ belief in the ideals of the Open Air movement was so high that they guaranteed half of the £400 cost from their own pockets, and secured the other half from Christchurch Rotary Club. By opening day £170 had been raised from the public and no money was requested from the Government or Education Board for the experiment. The Department of Education was reported as being skeptical of the potential benefits of this new educational philosophy, but Mr Andrews stated in his opening speech that the Education Board had been misrepresented as being opposed.
Through the 1920s, three additional open air classrooms were built at the Fendalton Primary School. The school was often visited as an example of how open air classrooms could operate including by Dr Truby King, the Department of Education and the British Medical Association.
The Open Air Schools League was established to continue to champion the cause, and they put out a booklet The New Zealand Open-Air School in 1928 using Fendalton as the example of what can be achieved.
If you have any images you would like to contribute to a community repository of Christchurch, please visit Kete Christchurch.
Congratulations to our two Highly Commended entries who will each receive a library goody bag.
Congratulations to our talented finalists! We have certificates for our finalists; they are ready for you to pick up at Papanui Library after 9am on Saturday 22 July – please contact us at LibraryEvents@ccc.govt.nz to organise delivery if you are unable to pick-up.
23 July marks the 5th anniversary of the passing of one of Christchurch’s most famous locals, Margaret Mahy.
One of New Zealand’s most prolific writers for children and young adults, Margaret’s writing has touched lives over many generations. Her stories and poems are full of magic and fun with a moral tale in the weaving.
Many of her tales have been brought to the the screen.The Changeover, filmed locally, will be released on film on 28 September 2017.
Margaret Mahy has been an inspiration to writers. She established a retreat for authors in Governor’s Bay, and in her video A Tall Long Faced Tale she tells how publishers would often ask her to rewrite a story up to eleven times! Take note.
I was lucky enough to meet Margaret at the 100th anniversary of the New Zealand School Journal. There she was, in her famous rainbow wig, for all the world holding court at the National Library of Wellington. She signed my journal. I’ll never forget it.