Mar 082014
 
Final scene of Chitrangada

After a long absence from my blog, I thought I should mark International Women’s Day by publishing the part of our film version of Chitrangada in which Chitrangada reveals herself to Arjun. This is the version with English subtitles. We’ve also published the versions with French subtitles and with Spanish subtitles. Hope you enjoy it.

You can watch the full film here.

Oct 012012
 

Last Sunday, we had the charity gala premiere of our film version of Tagore’s dance-drama Chitrangada in Brussels in aid of Santiniketan Sishutirtha. Before the film, we had a live, multilingual performance The Story of Gitanjali. These presentations were complemented by two Tagore exhibitions from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations which were kindly provided by the Indian Embassy in Brussels, which actively supported the event.

Those who came really appreciated the evening. Many were amazed by the dance-drama and were inspired by Tagore’s poems and songs. Several Europeans who came told us that the evening had encouraged them to start reading Tagore’s work. See Obhi’s blog post A Tagore evening to remember for more details about how the gala premiere went.

Rehearsing the songs for The Story of Gitanjali
(Photo: Enrique Nicanor)

In the days leading up to the premiere, as we rehearsed with our friends from Santiniketan, it felt as though Santiniketan had come to Brussels.

Although we are very pleased with how the Brussels premiere went, our aim is that Chitrangada should reach a global audience. We spent some time considering which was the most appropriate online platform to achieve this. You may have noticed that we tested a number of alternatives with our first film Shyama.

As you can see, we have settled on Distrify for the global premiere of Chitrangada. It means that people can watch Chitrangada on any device, including iPhones and iPads. In addition, Distrify has been designed to encourage people to share the film online through social media – you can even earn a 10% commission for doing so!

So how can you take part in the Chitrangada global premiere? If you can watch the trailer above, you already have everything you need (a screen and an Internet connection). Whether you watch it on your own, with friends or at a public screening you’ve helped to organise, you can be part of the global premiere … so long as you do so by midnight on Sunday, October 28.

During this global premiere period, the rental price of Chitrangada is £3.99, €4.99, US$6.49, A$5.99 or C$5.99, depending on where you are watching it.

However big or small your Chitrangada global premiere event is, please do share photos of it on the Google+ event page. Please also help to spread the news about the global premiere via social media and feel free to sign up to receive 10% commission for doing so.

 

Sep 042012
 

The Glass entrance of Square Brussels

At midnight last night, Central European Summer Time, tickets for the charity gala premiere of Chitrangada in Brussels went on sale via TicketABC. Here is the related press release.

The premiere will be at the Gold Hall, Square Brussels, an 800-seat auditorium in the centre of Brussels. Originally known as the Palais des Congrès built for the 1952 World Expo, it was renovated recently and reopened in 2009. Its foyers contain original murals by the Belgian painters Delvaux and Magritte. Those attending the premiere will have a rare opportunity to see them.

Before a live, multilingual performance on 23 september of Obhi and Jayanta Chatterjee’s The Story of Gitanjali, which explores the origins of the collection of poetry that led to Tagore’s Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. September 2012 marks the centenary of Tagore completing the English Gitanjali.

Of course, we had to think about how to make so many tickets easily available online without causing a headache on the night when the audience arrives. As a dancer, this is not something I have had to worry about before! However, with Obhi’s help, it has been fascinating to explore all the options now available for online ticketing.

This is what I thought I would share with you. It could be useful for anyone planning to host their own screening of Chitrangada as part of the global premiere or indeed to host screenings of Shyama or Chandalika. Other dancers and theatre groups, etc, might find it useful for their performances too.

Chitrangada charity gala premiere seating plan

Initially, I had thought we would use the online ticketing system provided by Topspin Media. It’s very sophisticated and has been used extensively for anything from major concerts in sports stadiums down to small clubs. It’s even possible to use smartphones to scan tickets when people arrive! However, Topspin charge a 15% fee per ticket to use the system. I thought this would add quite a lot to the price of tickets for the charity gala premiere.

We want to ensure that our audience will not face prohibitively expensive ticket prices. After all, we want to fill the 800-seat hall in Brussels. As I explained in my previous post, we want to use the premiere to raise money for Santiniketan Sishutirtha – and 15% of the revenue from 800 tickets would mean a lot less money for Santiniketan Sishutirtha, even if this 15% includes payment processing fees. So we started to look for alternatives.

After looking around on the internet, we found several cheaper and well-established alternatives. Some offered free smartphone applications to scan tickets. However, in most cases, our problem was they are only able to sell tickets in US dollars.

For the premiere, we wanted a system which could ideally be multilingual, sell tickets in euros, handle reserved seating and allow people to print their tickets themselves with a bar code which could be scanned when they arrive at the hall. Few systems offered this combination, together with low processing charges.

The systems we explored included Eventbrite (2.5% plus €0.75 per ticket plus 3% credit card processing fees), Ticket River (2% plus $0.50 per ticket plus 3.5% or Paypal payment processing fee), Ticketbud ($39.99 flat fee for unlimited tickets + Paypal/Authorize processing fees), TicketLeap (€1.75 per ticket plus payment processing fees), osconcert (open source reserved seating software but flat fee for seating plan plus payment processing fees), Ticket Tailor (low monthly fees depending on number of events plus fees for setting up a seating plan and website integration) and Ticket ABC (5% plus £0.50 per transaction, all inclusive).

We were very tempted by Ticketbud (which can be used free by any events raising money for cancer charities). However, it didn’t seem feasible to use it to offer tickets with seat numbers on them. Ticket Tailor did offer the possibility of reserved seating but couldn’t guarantee us about using their scanning software to scan tickets as people arrived. Ticket Tailor has recently been acquired by TimeOut. So probably things will evolve for them.

Glowing review of TicketABC

In the end, as you’ll have realised, we opted for TicketABC, which is based in Ireland and allows tickets to be sold in a wide variety of currencies. The process of buying tickets is smooth and, rather than using smartphones (which each need an internet connection and may run low on batteries as more and more people arrive), they will provide dedicated scanners. We also didn’t want people to face unavoidable booking fees when buying their tickets. We believe such fees should be included in the ticket price.

TicketABC CEO, Mark McLaughlin, and his team have been very friendly and helpful in setting up the ticketing system for us within a few days using airline-style ticket pricing and several seating zones with different prices.

Initially, ticket prices range from €30 (Lower balcony) to €50 (Stalls A). However, the prices will go up by €5 by midnight on Tuesday and then in steps of €10 until the top price tickets are €75 in the week before the premiere. This way, I hope to encourage people to book early while keeping the prices comparable to similar Brussels events.

As it will be a charity event, and people will be curious to know how much money is being raised for the charity, I need to be completely transparent. So I will be publishing updates of the ticket sales compared to the costs of the evening.

50% of any profits from the evening will go to Santiniketan Sishutirtha. The other 50% will go towards financing our Tagore projects.

Sep 022012
 

I thought you ought to know why we selected Santiniketan Sishutirtha as the beneficiary of our charity gala premiere of Chitrangada in Brussels on 23 September. 50% of any profits from the evening will go to Sishutirtha.

Sishutirtha has been my favourite charity for a long time. I was a volunteer dance teacher there for the first 2-3 years after it opened and used to help to escort the children on outings to nearby villages. Whenever I have the opportunity, I visit it and the children I’ve watched growing up there.

Sishutirtha as it is today

I filmed the video above on my iPhone when I attended the performance by the Sishutirtha children in December 2011. It was for the 12th anniversary of the inauguration of Sishutirtha.

Shubhradi (Shubhra Tagore – our dance director and production designer for Chitrangada and Chandalika) and Supriyoda (Supriyo Tagore, who also appears in Chitrangada) were among its founders and continue to be involved.

I asked Shubhradi and Supriyoda to explain the background to Santiniketan Sishutirtha. Here is what they said.

“Santiniketan Sishuthirtha was created in order to care for children in the rural areas of Birbhum district, West Bengal, India. The goal is to provide these children with a protected nurturing environment that not only protects them from harsh poverty but also provides them with the skills necessary in order to become self sufficient for the future.

Santiniketan Sishutirtha: the building used for classes, dining and performances

“In 1989, a few like-minded people connected to Visva Bharati, Santiniketan (The University of Rabindranath Tagore) came together and decided that it was their responsibility to do something for their society, and formed an organisation to start and run an orphanage – an orphanage with a difference.

“The Santiniketan Sishutirtha project envisaged a family-like environment for orphaned or destitute children, so that these unfortunate children could get back a ‘home’ that they had lost.

“As far as their education is concerned, we decided to follow the ideals of Rabindranath Tagore, one of the pioneers of education of our time.

“It was a very difficult task for us to obtain 6 acres of land, near  Santiniketan on lease from the West Bengal Govt. Then it took us ten long years to collect enough funds to build two cottages and start our venture with 5 children on December 12, 1999.

Pottery made by Sishutirtha children

“We are grateful to all who helped us in our difficult job of raising fund for the orphanage. There are many friends and well-wishers who help us by making donations or by sponsoring children. We acknowledge our indebtedness to all of them.

“At present we have 20 children (10 boys and 10 girls) in the institution, between the ages of 5 and 17. There is a Primary School run by the West Bengal Government in our building and premises. We run the Middle School (Class V- VIII). Tribal children from nearby villages also attend the schools. For Secondary education, children go to a nearby village school.

“We have been able to arrange training for a number of crafts, music and dance. Ceramics, carpentry, weaving, silk-screen printing etc. are taught here.

“Children look-after the vegetable garden. We have started bee-keeping in a small way. A pond has been dug with the help of the Panchayat. In this way we try to give the children a happy and meaningful life.”

The pond at Santiniketan Sishutirtha as it was being dug

During our visit to Sishutirtha in November 2009, we were joined by our friend Séamas McSwiney who spoke to Dipu (Mangaldeep Karmaker). Dipu was one of the 5 children who started going to Sishutirtha when it first opened and who grew up there. As you will see in Séamas’ video below, Dipu’s exposure to arts and crafts at Sishutirtha led to his fascination with computer animation.

Dipu is also a good singer, dancer and actor. He is now studying for a BA in Philosophy at Asutosh College in Kolkata.

The children and their routine

There are 11 boys and 9 girls in the age group of 5 to 18. They all come from very poor families mostly from nearby villages within a radius of 15 km. All of them are destitute orphan children. The children were taken on the recommendations of the village council (Panchayat) after signing a contract between the guardians and Sishutirtha.

Sishutirtha children dancing in a Tagore-style tree-planting procession

On weekdays, the children get up early in the morning, sit for a prayer where they sing a song and sit quietly for two to three minutes facing the rising sun. Then they have a light breakfast, do a little bit of cleaning and gardening. After this they wash and go to school. During tiffin time, the children come back for tiffin and go back to school again.

After school, the children come back for lunch and rest. Some of them use the rest hours for different hobbies. In the afternoon the children go for games. After the games they meet for another prayer after tea. Part of the evenings are spent in singing lessons. The better part of the evening is spent doing homework and crafts. They retire after dinner.

Once in a while they have socials where they recite poems or read out creative writings or dance and sing. They have also staged a number of plays. They are encouraged to do painting, clay modelling, and other crafts. They stage a play, celebrate ‘Tree Planting ceremony’, ‘Spring Festival’, ‘Founders day’ etc.

Teaching techniques

The teaching techniques are for the most part traditional, following a standardised curriculum in the school. The children have some library time every day and once a week are shown educational videos of all types. In addition, the children are taught singing, dancing (mostly Folk and Tagore-styles), taking care of pets, gardening, painting and pottery. The teachers of the school receive formal training from the West Bengal Board of Education. An extra training consists of new teaching methods for singing, dancing, and sports.

Guesthouse

With the financial assistance of Sree Kanti Bhai, two cottages have been built to accommodate guests. If ever you feel you need a complete break in a quiet, natural setting in the middle of a forest, you may wish to consider this. It would also help Sishutirtha to earn some revenue.

One of the two guesthouses at Santiniketan Sishutirtha

Future plans

  • Cottage and Children

Santiniketan Sishutirtha aims at providing child care for 50 children. To meet these objectives another 3 cottages are to be constructed. To build four cottages in all for the present, a sum of approximately Rs.24,00,000 is required (just over €34,300 or £27,200 or US$43,200 at today’s exchange rates). Running expenditure will be about Rs. 28,000 per month per unit (just over €400 or £300 or $500 at today’s exchange rates).

  • Kitchen Garden, Poultry and Dairy

Santiniketan Sishutirtha plans to grow vegetables for daily consumption of its residents with the help of the children and staff in the Kitchen Garden. Similarly, it plans to be self sufficient with its own poultry and dairy, which also helps the society to earn some money. A humble beginning has been made with available paltry resources in the form of a small Kitchen Garden.

To continue this project on a larger scale, it is required that building up of structures and purchase of chicks etc. are taken up immediately. To start this project a sum of Rs.5,00,000 (just over €7,100 or £5,600 or US$9,000 at today’s exchange rates) will be required initially to build up structures and to purchase chicks and cattle.

  • Playground

A Playground needs to be provided. The present land acquired by the association is very undulated and needs proper levelling. The cost involved is about Rs.1,00,000. (just over €1,400 or £1,100 or US$1,800 at today’s exchange rates).

  • Vocational Education

Vocational Education serves more than one purposes. It is creative, helps self-expression, at the same time prepares children for earning a living. We therefore, have Silkscreen printing, Carpentry, Weaving, etc. as our vocational education. We desire to enhance the Scope of Vocational education in future because it is so useful. To improve vocational education unit we require approx Rs.15,00,000 (just over €21,000 or £17,000 or US$27,000 at today’s exchange rates).

  • Medical unit

The medical unit will have to start functioning as early as possible. To start with basic medicines will be arranged. Gradually a full time doctor, a nurse a helper will be provided to run the unit full time. This Medical unit will look after the health problems of the two villages also. Construction cost of such Unit, a sum of Rs.8,00,000 is needed (just over €11,400 or £9,000 or US$14,400 at today’s exchange rates).

  • The School

Three of the children have reached Class IX. Owing to the absence of a High School here at Sishutirtha, the children currently attend a High School about 5 km away. Soon other children will be eligible for higher classes and will face the same difficulty. We therefore need to upgrade the School already running into a High School for both our children as well as other needy students from neighbouring villages.

Who runs Santiniketan Sishutirtha?

Santiniketan Sishutirtha, which is a registered charity, comprises of a Core Working Group which is responsible for the functioning of Sishutirtha. The association has an Advisory Committee which includes eminent personalities like the noted film director Mrinal Sen, Professor KG Subramanyan, the ex-Commissioner of Police, Kolkata, Tushar Talukdar and others.

Staff

There are at present two mothers, one Honorary Administrative Staff Member, an Assistant, a Cook and a part-time Help.

Objectives

  • To provide a home to orphan and destitute children
  • To provide safe and secure accommodation, food and clothes to these children
  • To provide educational, recreational and socio cultural facilities to the children
  • To provide important craft based vocational training so that these children can learn some skill and earn a living in the future
  • To nurture all kind of arts and culture
  • To help the children become responsible and sensitive citizens of the country
  • To provide all kind of medical aid as and when required.

This complies with the 4 basic rights of children that were defined in the 1989 United Nations Charter to which India is a signatory:

  • Right to Survival .. to life, health, nutrition, name, nationality
  • Right to Protection .. from exploitation, abuse, neglect
  • Right to Development .. to education, care, leisure, recreation, cultural activities
  • Right to Participation .. to expression, information, thought

For more details

Please visit the website of Santiniketan Sishutirtha.

Aug 312012
 

We are just over three weeks from our charity gala film premiere of Chitrangada, including a live, multilingual performance of The Story of Gitanjali.

These days almost every evening actors have been visiting us to rehearse or audition for the live performance. It is very nice to hear the same Tagore poem in different languages. Every language has it’s own flow.

For the last couple of evenings we are taking the audition and rehearsing with Hungarian actors. The actor we finally selected to read a poem in Hungarian for The Story of Gitanjali is Ágnes Kaszás. She is very enthusiastic about Tagore’s work and had read Tagore’s poetry in high school.

We were telling Ágnes about our experience in Balatonfüred, a small town on the shore of Lake Balaton in Hungary.

In 2009 we went to Hungary specially for Balatonfüred where Tagore has been treated in a heart hospital for three weeks when he had been taken ill while visiting Budapest in 1926.

The promenade along the shore of Lake Balaton is called Tagore Sétány.

The Tagore Sétány (promenade) at Balatonfüred, Hungary

We were in Balatonfüred for just over a week, staying at a guest house recommended to us by Hungarian friends in Brussels. We were thrilled to see different things associated with Tagore around Balatonfüred.

Before we went to Balatonfüred, Supriyo Da (Supriyo Tagore) had told me that there is a tree which Tagore had planted while he was there. Then we heard from Somen Da (Somendranath Bandyopadhyay) that, near the tree Tagore had planted, there was a sculpture by the great Indian sculptor Ramkinkar Baij.

However, the statue of Tagore on Tagore Sétány turned out not to be the original sculpture by Ramkinkar Baij we had heard about but a hollow and very simple bust!

The simple and modern bust of Tagore on Tagore Sétány

After two days, with the help of our host, we went to see the room in the functioning hospital where Rabindranath Tagore was treated.

Plaque on the door of the Tagore memorial room at the hospital

A nurse at the hospital kindly allowed us to see the room when she heard that I was from Tagore’s home town.

Tagore’s room in the heart hospital, Balatonfüred,Hungary

The study where we found the Tagore’s sculpture by Ramkinkar Baij.

As you see, the original Ramkinkar Baij sculpture was housed in the room Tagore had used as his study. He had written his poem Lekhon here.

Tagore’s association with Hungary is summarised in this article. Ketaki Kushari Dyson provided more details in her review of the book Hungry Tiger by Imre Banghe.

It is not obvious why the Ramkinkar Baij statue was moved from the promenade to the hospital and replaced by a more modern bust. We were told that the reason was that it was not a very flattering sculpture as Tagore was presented by Ramkinkar Baij leaning forwards with age. Unfortunately, the more recent bust has been placed on the same plinth, which means that Tagore now appears to look out over the heads of people at Lake Balaton.

With Obhi and the modern statue of Tagore over our heads

Aug 272012
 

Asit Ghosh during the recording of Chitrangada

Obhi and I have already introduced our two guest singers for The Story of GitanjaliManini and Sayan.

Now I am introducing another of our artistes: Asit Ghosh (Pintu). He will be accompanying us on tabla, pakhawaj and khol (Indian percussion instruments) for The Story of Gitanjali in Brussels on 23 September 2012.

He was the percussionist for our film version of Chitrangada. Asit has his own sweet and very gentle style. His playing doesn’t overpower the singers. He knows how to play softly with Tagore songs. The role of the percussionist in Tagore’s dance-dramas is quite tough as the percussionist sets the pace for all the dancers, singers and musicians.

Asit has trained with different Gurus from different gharanas (styles):

  • Professor Dulal Mukherjee – Banaras gharana (tabla)
  • Professor Manas Das Gupta – Farukabad gharana (tabla)
  • Professor Swapan Ghosh – Bishnupur gharana (pakhawaj)
  • Pandit Jayanta Bose – Benaras gharana (tabla).

He completed his BMus in Tabla & Pakhawaj in 1998 and his MMus in Tabla, Pakawaj in 2000, both from Visva-Bharati University.

He won first prize as an accompanist from three  different festivals: East  Zone Youth Festival in 1998, National Youth Festival in 1999 and SAARC Festival in 1999.

He has taken part in many programmes with different groups in Santiniketan, as well as on All India Radio and Doordarshan (Indian television).

He regularly accompanies performances by pupils of Santiniketan Sishuthirtha.

He was the percussionist for the CD Jete chai mon - Desh, the Musical journey – released by Prime Music.

Aug 202012
 

Manini Mukhopadhyay during the recording of Chandalika

Obhi has already introduced one of our two guest singers for The Story of GitanjaliSayan Bandyopadhyay. Now it is time for me to introduce the other: Manini Mukhopadhyay.

I am very pleased that Manini is able to join us for the charity gala premiere of Chitrangada. Manini has been the voice behind all three of the title roles I was dancing in our film versions of ShyamaChandalika and Chitrangada. The expression she gives when she sings comes from the bottom of her heart. As a dancer, that helps me a lot to express the emotions of the character through my dance. You can see an example of this in the clip from Shyama on the right of this page.

Manini is one of the leading singers of Tagore songs (Rabindrasangeet). We know from the reactions of people who have watched Shyama and Chandalika that they have been touched by her singing, even though they may not understand Bengali themselves.

Manini comes from a very musical family in Santiniketan. She was taught to sing by her parents, Sheetal Mukhopadhyay and Chhobi Mukhopadhyay. Since 1990, she has been trained by Alpona Ray.

She has taken part in many televised productions and has recorded six albums to date: Santiniketaner utsober gaan (2003), Sumongoli bodhu (2003), Asim gaaner resh (2003), Nrityodharer taale taale (2003), Aamaader Shantiniketan (2005), the video CD Abelay jodi esechho (2007) and Bichitrer Duth (2009).

Manini has given many live performances. These included accompanying my dance performance at the opening of the Rabindra-Okakura Bhavan in Kolkata by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in August 2007 - we had been invited by the late Professor Kazuo Azuma, who played a key role in the foundation of the Bhavan. In February 2009, Manini gave a solo recital at Madhusudan Manch, Kolkata, where she was introduced by Professor Somendranath Bandyopadhyay (an internationally recognised authority on Tagore). Manini’s performance at an all-night concert at the 12,000-seat Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata in 2010 was highly commended by music critics.

Manini frequently performs at productions organised by Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan. Indeed, she will be performing in Sri Lanka as part of a team from Visva-Bharati a few days after singing in The Story of Gitanjali during the Chitrangada charity gala premiere in Brussels on 23 September.

As well as her performance career, Manini Mukhopodhyay has a Masters degree in Bengali literature and a Masters degree in Rabindrasangeet, both from Visva-Bharati. In March 2002, she was selected by the Visva-Bharati Music Board as a research scholar to prepare a variorum edition of Tagore notations. She is currently researching her PhD thesis on Rabindrasangeet under the guidance of Dr Ashok Kumar Ganguly and Dr Indrani Mukhopadhyay.

Aug 162012
 
Photo of Scandic Hotel Grand Place, Brussels

Scandic Hotel Grand Place, Brussels – photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

Whenever I have had to travel for a performance, someone else has taken care of the travel and accommodation arrangements for us. As a result, I have had a lot of experience of different standards of accommodation being provided. I also know how important it is for the peace of mind of the performers, and for a good performance, that these practical arrangements are carefully sorted out, ideally well in advance.

Today, I booked the accommodation for all four of our visiting singers and musicians for The Story of Gitanjali. I thought they should stay somewhere close to the Gold Hall. This would make the travel arrangements within Brussels much simpler and would also allow them to be within a short walk of the main places to visit while they are in Brussels.

I had thought that renting a large apartment for their visit would be easiest but then discovered that hardly any holiday rental apartments in central Brussels offer so many bedrooms or have more than 2 bathrooms. This didn’t seem like it would be a good idea.

So, to make things simpler for us and for our artists, I found a hotel within a short walk of both the Grand Place and the Gold Hall where each of them have their own room with attached bathroom. The hotel has been highly rated by people who have stayed there and, thanks to a special offer, is less expensive than renting a large apartment would have been.

Enrique in Galicia

We were pleased to hear that our friend and Chitrangada associate producer Enrique Nicanor will be coming to Brussels for the premiere. He has kindly agreed to stay with our artists to help them during their visit.

Judy, who loves all things Indian

Another friend, Judy Stowe, has kindly offered to help us, including joining us to meet the artists at the airport and dropping them back.

In the coming days, I’ll need to prepare a timetable for the weekend so that we and the artists know when and where they should be during their stay in Brussels.

Aug 142012
 

Final poster for the Chitrangada premiere

Today, I placed the print order for the final version of the poster I introduced in my previous post. Obhi and our designer, Debangana Banerjee, thought that my name should appear on the poster. I preferred to leave it out as Chitrangada is a team effort.

However, in the end, I made a deal with Obhi that my name could appear on the poster on condition that his did too. Hence the above result.

I also ordered a set of ‘visiting cards’ about the premiere. Here are the front and back:

Front of visiting card announcing the premiere

Back of visiting card announcing the premiere

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from this, we made progress with various things, including narrowing down our search for a cost-effective online ticketing system. More about that soon.

That was all I had intended to write for today but, this evening, a retweet by @Peacelovingguy reminded me of a comment made by UK Prime Minister David Cameron at the end of last week: “a lot of schools were meeting [the target of two hours a week of sports in schools] by doing things like Indian dancing or whatever, that you and I probably wouldn’t think of as sport …”. This apparently led to an item on Newsnight including members of Bollywood Dance London ”bringing a highly-athletic Indian dance which is taught in schools all over south-east [England] including, it seems, Eton College” (David Cameron’s former school).

Mira Kaushik OBE, Director of Akademi Dance, commented on Saturday. Shalini Bhalla of Just Jhoom!, “the only accredited Bollywood dance-fitness company based in the UK”, published their response to David Cameron, which ended with an “open invitation to you to participate in a Just Jhoom! dance session alongside a group of school children.”

Even in the early days of the school Rabindranath Tagore started at Santiniketan, he included dance in the curriculum, although he had to do so discreetly. In early 20th century India, educated parents would not want their children to dance. So he explained to parents that the children would be “exercising to drum rhythms”.

It took him almost almost three decades to overcome this negative attitude to dance before he could create and stage the three dance-dramas we have filmed, including Chitrangada. It was a social revolution for which Tagore was largely responsible and which allowed Indian dance to be seen on stage.

By the time I went to the school, all the pupils were taught dance from an early age. Tagore believed that culture, including dance, music, arts and crafts, allowed children to express themselves. He had seen that his two-year-old grand-daughter displayed her excitement at his arrival one day through her body language, even though she did not yet have the vocabulary to do so verbally.

Perhaps it would be wise for UK schools to take another look at Tagore’s educational philosophy, which Supriyo Tagore expressed succinctly in Dipu’s Story, the documentary by Séamas McSwiney about Santiniketan Sishutirtha. It has been responsible for several distinguished people, such as former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray and Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen.

So maybe UK schools should include dance in the curriculum, but as culture rather than as a sport.

Oh, and real Indian dancers have to do much more than 2 hours’ physical exercise per week! I wonder if David Cameron would like to try Kaberi’s Indian dance workout … ?

 

Jul 312012
 

Poster for premiere of Chitrangada

Here is the latest version of the poster for the charity gala premiere of Chitrangada in Brussels on Sunday, 23 September. It was designed by Obhi with advice from Debangana Banerjee, who designed the cover of my forthcoming book Tagore Dance. Comments are welcome. Slightly different versions will be provided to anyone hosting a screening of Chitrangada as part of the global premiere.

I mentioned the plan for the premiere in my post ‘Introducing Chitrangada to a global audience‘. Obhi is gradually preparing the live performance of The Story of Gitanjali which will be the first part of the premiere. In his blog post ‘Staging The Story of Gitanjali in Brussels‘, he explains what he has in mind. We are still looking for actors in some languages who could read one of the 13 poems in the show.

We are close to finalising the details of the evening in Brussels, 50% of whose profits will go to the charity Santiniketan Sishutirtha. Once they are settled, I’ll explain how people can buy tickets online. Just to forewarn you, those buying tickets before 1 September will get the cheapest price and there should be a discount for groups of 10 or more.

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