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Soorya Australia Presents – Anubhuti Indian Dance Drame

May 16, 2014

Riverside Theatres, Parramatta on 30th May 2014 at 7:15pm
Ticket Rates: VIP : $90, Gold : $70, Silver : $50, Bronze: $35
For Tickets Contact: Riverside Theatres 02 8839 3399
For online booking, visit:
https://www.riversideparramatta.com.au/

Chitra Visweswaran – Concept and Choreography : Padmashri Chitra Visweswaran. Anubuthi was created at the at the instance of the Opera of France, which invited Smt Chitra Visweswaran to choreograph a production conceived on the foundation of the traditional margam format of Bharatanatyam. Kinetics of space, architectonical layers of interpretation, bordering on the unexpected, aesthetics of form, sound and content, have been explored to push the boundaries of conventional Bharatanatyam choreography. Commencing with the celebration of the Hindu Trinity, representing the Cosmic acts of creation, preservation and destruction, Anubuthi goes on to unravel the mystic philosophy of Ardhanareeshwara / Ardhanareewshari, the multi moods of the multifaceted Shakti, engages with the search and realization of the Divine – Krishna and culminates in a mood of Ananda – bliss experienced through dance and music – Thillana. Anubhuti has toured Germany, France, Luxembourg and Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Trivandrum and Madurai in India.

The Doyen and Legend of dance Padmashri Chitra Visweswaran

“Dance is a prayer. It has given me the courage to face several challenges in life,” said danseuse Chitra Visweswaran at the valedictory of the 73rd music conference and festival of the Indian Fine Arts Society. Ms. Visweswaran was addressing rasikas after she was conferred `Natya Kalasikhamani’ award by the Indian Fine Arts Society in Chennai in 2006. “Honouring Chitra is honouring dance itself. She lives for dance. Her dedication is tremendous,” said Ms. Sarasa.

“Dance is something beyond physical movements. Rasanubhava is the essence and purpose of dance and one can find it in abundance in Chitra’s performances. She makes you cry with joy,” said Ms. Raghupathy.

The danseuse is lauded for introducing commentary before a recital.

Somewhere along the way Chitra dropped the concept of dancers dressing up in the aharya or costume in accordance with the character she / he played; for, to suggest a character through mime, gesture and stance was more demanding and challenging than in playing the character in the expected costume.

Chitra Visweswaran

Chitra Visweswaran is amongst the leading classical dancers of India. Apart from being a marvellous dancer, she is a brilliant choreographer and an amazing teacher. She started her own dance institution with the help of her husband R. Viswesaran, called ‘Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts’ in Chennai, in 1975. She has provided immense support and encouragement to the Indian classical dances across the world. Chitra has given astonishing dance performances in almost all the major dance festivals of India and has participated in foreign shows regularly. Chitra has made great contribution to the field of dance through her experimentation and innovations in the Bharatanatyam.

Early Life

Chitra Padmanabhan had an inherent talent of dancing right from her childhood, which she gained from her mother Smt. Rukmini Padmanabhan who herself was an outstanding classical dancer, while her father Shri N. Padmanabhan was a railway engineer. Chitra started dance at a very tender age of three and the first teacher was her mother. She got married to an artist R. Viswesaran, who is a composer, vocalist and a Santoor player. He is the nephew of the famous Carnatic musician, G.N. Balasubramanian and adherent of Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma.

Dance Career

Chitra, at the age of ten, started taking her lessons in Bharatnatyam from one of the devdasis of Tiruvidaimardur, Smt T. A. Rajalakshmi, who was in Calcutta (Kolkata) and there she took the training for about ten years. Along with this, she also learnt Manipuri and Kathak. At the age of 11, Chitra choreographed her dance under the guidance of Rajalaksmi. Later on, she took training of Western Classical Ballet in London. She gave her first dance performance (Arangetram) in ten months of the learning, which was a great achievement. Besides taking lessons of Bharatnatyam in Calcutta, she was also studying in Uday Shankar School of Dance. In 1970, Chitra completed her graduation in B.A. (Hons.) in English from Calcutta University. She was honored with the National Scholarship for advanced study in Bharatnatyam from the Government of India. At that time, only two scholarships were awarded all over the country and she was one of the recipients.

After getting the scholarship, Chitra took training from the great and notable Bharatnatyam dancer and teacher Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai, in Chennai. She received an excellent
training from all her Gurus and it helped in expanding her artistic visualization. Chitra started working on her own after completing her scholarship. She, with her immense knowledge of dancing, became a great Indian classical dancer and a teacher.

Dance Choreography

Chitra’s first piece of dance choreography was at the age of eleven. At thirteen, she had choreographed the life of Saint Thyagaraja in the format of a Varnam, the most demanding of pieces in the Bharatanatyam repertoire. Several such pieces of choreography followed even as she studied contemporary dance in parallel to her Bharatanatyam training. During this period, she choreographed individual pieces and short thematic presentations. Though she wanted to leave Calcutta for Madras (or Chennai as it is called now) in order to pursuedance seriously on finishing school, her parents insisted on her completing an honors degree (B.A. in English). Thanks to the frequent closures of Calcutta University, she fruitfully spent her time studying dance theory and dance history entirely on her own and also became involved in interdisciplinary search and research. In 1970, she received the National Scholarship for advanced study in Bharatanatyam from the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India, at a time when only two scholarships were awarded throughout the country, as against twenty-five, today. She spent her scholarship period of four years under the doyen of Bharatanatyam, Vazhuvoor Ramaiyya Pillai. Her experience as his sishya widened her aesthetic vision even as her earlier Gurus’ training gave her excellent grammar and technique. Within three months of joining Vazhuvoor Ramaiyya Pillai, her guru introduced Chitra to the Madras audience by promoting her over all his other students as the heroine of a dance drama, Thirumalai Kumaresa Kuravanji, which her guru had choreographed. Eminent people such as Prof. Sambhamoorthy,Kapila Vatsyaya and Sunil Kothari even then noted her work. On completion of her scholarship, Chitra started working on her own, combining the lessons she had learnt from her Gurus and her knowledge of the cognate forms of arts, harnessing to it a scholastic approach and holistic vision in order to develop a wholly individualistic philosophy of movement and language of communication. Chitra started teaching dance at Calcutta at the age of sixteen, but it was in 1975 that she established “Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts” (CAPA) in Chennai, now an acknowledged premier institution in India. Since its inception, she has extended its repertoire with several pieces culled through research, which has earned her a very strong and supportive following. Even as her institution grew, she slowly tried her hand in group performance choreography in which her earlier experience of the Bengal School helped her substantially.

Dance Productions

In 1980, Chitra choreographed her first major dance drama Devi Ashta Rasa Malika which took Chennai by storm. The concept of group formations, which was hitherto comparatively unknown in Bharatanatyam, took firm root in this genre through this production.

Several solo thematic and group productions in the Bharatanatyam format followed. A few examples in solo are:

Krishnanjali – a solo thematic presentation, wherein the concept of flashback was first introduced.

Purandara Krishnamritham – in which rare Kritis of the Kannada saint-poet, Purandaradasa were researched and strung together thematically.

Saptha Sapthi – a solo production exploring seven aspects of the number seven Sthree Sakthi- a saga of Indian women from Sita to Jhansi Ki Rani.

Viswam Vishnumayam, Naveena Niroopanna, Sadaa Venkatesa Smarami are other notable. productions

Her group productions, which followed Devi Ashta Rasa Malika, were several. One of these discovered the parallels in poetry and approach to bhakti of the South Indian Saint poetess Andal, with that of the Mewari princess Meera.

The Ramayana with just one Sanskrit kriti to harness it musically, which was incidentally also translated into Tamil, is another popular production.

Devaki Pulambal took on a different view point – that of Devaki, Krishna’s natural mother, instead of the much presented Yashodha.

Somewhere along the way Chitra dropped the concept of dancers dressing up in the aharya or costume in accordance with the character she / he played; for, to suggest a character through mime, gesture and stance was more demanding and challenging than in playing the character in the expected costume.

Her vision further widened when the National Academy of Sciences commissioned her to present a production on the river Ganges in 1989-90, not highlighting the religious connotation of the river, but presenting it as representative of the ethos of India. She took six months off to research this project and to this day feels that this experience contributed considerably to her evolution as a thinking dancer.

Mary Magdalena, Maithreem Bhajatha and other productions that followed, brought in different and varied thrusts.

Performances

Chitra has been regularly featured in the National Program of Dance, local programs of Doordarshan and other Indian channels. Her dance has also been telecast by Television in Sydney (Mike Walsh show), Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, BBC Television, U.K, Portugal TV, French TV, Swiss TV, U.S. TV, Malaysian TV. On the occasion of India’s 50th year of Independence, BBC invited her to present a specially choreographed program at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham that was telecast internationally on 15 August 1997. Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts Her institution CAPA has grown extensively and has satellite institutions all over the world headed by present and past students. In order to maintain exclusive quality, admission is highly selective and restricted. The holistic approach of CAPA has led to several national and international scholarships and fellowships being awarded to its students. Here dance, music, nattuvangam, theory, stagecraft, lighting, teaching methodology, philosophy of movement and a deep study of the cognate art forms is stressed upon. Besides drawing great joy of sharing her knowledge with all those who desire it, Chitra now has an added motive in her life – to collect funds for RASA, an institution using creative dance and music therapy for special children with learning disabilities.

Chitra has performed in all major dance festivals in India and has made several tours abroad, dancing in the U.K, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria, Portugal, USA, Canada, USSR, Australia, Austria, Fiji Islands, Singapore, Malaysia, Kuwait, Muscat, Bahrain, Dubai, Qatar, Holland, Srilanka amongst other countries. Her dance and lecture – demonstrations have been documented for reference by various institutions and universities

Awards and Distinctions

In 1980, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha awarded the “Nritya Choodamani” to Chitra. As an awardee, she convened the Sabha’s Natya Kala conference in 1996 & 97, the only dance seminar of its kind in India. She is a Trustee of India Foundation for the Arts, a Ford foundation activated project and is also a member of the committee constituted by the Government of India for selection of candidates for award of scholarships and fellowships in Bharatanatyam. Chitra was the only dancer invited by the University of Madras to occupy the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Fine Arts. She is also a member of the General Council and Executive Board of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi (the apex body of Performing Arts in India).

In recognition of her contribution to Bharathanatyam, the Government of Tamil Nadu conferred the title, “Kalaimamani” upon her in 1982. She received the “Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award” in 1987 and the “Padma Shri” from the President of India in 1992. In addition, in India’s 50th year of Independence she was awarded the titles of “Mahila Shiromani” (honoring distinguished women of Indian origin) and “Sthree Ratna” (gem amongst women – awarded to fifty eminent Indian women). Her other awards include Nritya Vilas – Sur Singar Samsad, Bombay, 1988; Manav Sewa Puraskar – Institute of economic studies, 1992 (Lok Shree Award, New Delhi); Natanamani – Kanchi Paramacharya in 1999. Under the scheme of inviting a personality whose contribution to Indian Culture has been outstanding, The Japan Foundation invited Chitra Visweswaran to be their special guest for the year 2000.

Chitra Visweswaran is the 2013’s recipient of the Music Academy’s Natya Kala Acharya Award for Dance.The award was conferred on Chitra Visweswaran on January 3, 2014, at the inaugural of the Music Academy’s Annual Dance Festival. Chitra’s husband, late Sri R.Visweswaran, nephew of the legendary Carnatic musician, G.N Balasubramaniam was a vocalist, instrumentalist and composer and had a long experience of working in the genre of film music. He played the Kashmir Santoor, veena and was a self-taught Flamenco guitarist. His knowledge and experience came together in composing and directing great music for Chitra’s solo work and group productions, for which he also lend his voice. Together they were considered a contributive force to be reckoned with in the field of Classical Indian Dance.

“My husband Visweswaran equally deserves all the awards I have received. His cooperation is not merely about supporting a dancer; it is also about being part of my exploration. I would wake him up at 2 in the morning and ask him to compose a piece and he would do it so enthusiastically,” Chitra Visweswaran.

REVIEWS OF ANUBHUTI