Nrityagram - First Modern Gurukul for Indian Classical Dances, Odissi, Mohiniattam, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Manipuri, Protima Gauri
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- Nrityagram
- First Modern Gurukul for Indian Classical Dances


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Protima Gauri (October 12,1948 - August 18, 1998)
Protima Gauri (October 12,1948 - August 18, 1998)
"I dream of building a community of dancers in a forsaken place amidst nature. A place where nothing exists, except dance. A place where you breathe, eat, sleep, dream, talk, imagine - dance.
A place where all the five senses can be refined to perfection. A place where dancers drop negative qualities such as jealousy, small-mindedness, greed and malice to embrace their colleagues as sisters and support each other in their journey towards becoming dancers of merit."

"A place called Nrityagram."

Protima Gauri (October 12,1948 - August 18, 1998)

Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances
Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances.

Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances and an intentional community in the form of a dance village, set up by Odissi dancer Protima Gauri in 1990. The residential school offers training in Indian classical dance forms, Odissi, Mohiniattam, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Manipuri, eight hours a day, six days a week for seven year, following the ancient Guru-shishya tradition. Designed by Gerard da Cunha, the community is situated near Hesaraghatta Lake 30 km away from Bangalore. Today the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble has performed across India, in many countries abroad.

History

The word Nrityagram, literally translated, means “dance village,” and in founder, Protima Gauri's own words,

"It is a community of dancers in a forsaken place amidst nature. A place where nothing exists, except dance. A place where you breathe, eat, sleep, dream, talk, imagine - dance. A place where all the five senses can be refined to perfection. A place where dancers drop negative qualities such as jealousy, small-mindedness, greed and malice to embrace their colleagues as sisters and support each other in their journey towards becoming dancers of merit."

kids attending the Summer Camp at Nrityagram.
Kids attending the Summer Camp at Nrityagram. It's so much fun to hear little voices from Daybreak to Night and to have their innocent energy transform this place!! Here's a photograph of the group after a (messy?) class with Atul Kumar!!!!

Protima left Mumbai in 1989 to start the dance village, the land was given on lease by state government and by 1990 the institution had taken root, inaugurated on May 11, 1990, by the then Prime Minister, V.P. Singh. The building started coming up soon after, designed by Gerard Da Cunha, following the vernacular architecture of the region. The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble made its New York debut in 1996 and received rave reviews.

Lynne Fernandez a Delhi-based theatre actress and light designer, first came to Nrityagram in December 1995 to coordinate Surupa Sen's debut and the Nrityagram ensemble's trip abroad and after Protima suffered a mild heart attack Lynn became actively involved managing the institution, as Protima gradually withdrew. Eventually Protima formally handed over Nrityagram to Lynne Fernandez on July 10, 1997, who became the Managing Trustee of the institution. Subsequently, in August, Protima Gauri set off on her pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar and it was there that she died in the Malpa landslide, near Pithoragarh on the night of August 18, 1997. Since then, Nrityagram has grown in its stature by leaps and bounds and is known today for some of the best ensemble work in . Perfection in dance along with a high level of good technical support, leading to a complete presentation, is its trademark. Even today, gurus and students work in the fields within the Nrityagram, which has 10 acres of land, and grow their own food. Over the years, only Odissi gurukul has been functional due to paucity of funds.

Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances
Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances.

Surupa Sen who first came as a student, debuted in 1995, later became artistic director of Nrityagram in 1997, and remains to date. Orissa Dance Academy (ODA) student Bijayini Satpathy who was first student of Nritya gram, is now in charge of the Odissi gurukul. Some of Nrityagram's few but meritorious students include, Pavithra Reddy, who has had her solo debut in 2003 and who will be hopefully seen in some solo pieces on a wider platform very soon. She has spent almost 12 years as a residential student at Nrityagram, and has learnt under the tutelage of Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy. Ayona Bhaduri and Priyambada Patnaik are also students at this gurukul. They both joined Nrityagram in 1998 and have been a part of the ensemble since 2001. Vasanta Habba, a cultural event organised by Nrityagram is known as the classical Woodstock of India, first started in 1994 by Protima, held on first Saturday of February every year, and soon it became the famous annual night-long festival of arts that had 40,000 visitors when it was last held in 2004. When the 2004 tsunami struck, the subsequent 2005 event was cancelled, and community hasn't been able to regroup since, though it hopes to restart it in 2011. A 30-minute documentary on the dance village, Nrityagram: For the Love of Dance, directed and produced by Nan Melville was premiered at the annual Dance on Camera Festival, in New York City on January 25, 2010 to which dance critic Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times responded, .."much of the dance footage, not least during the closing credits, is spellbinding. I wanted the film to be twice as long."

Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances
Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances.

Nrityagram Dance Ensemble

The 1996 New York debut of the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, with Surupa Sen, Bijayini Satpathy, Anitha Nair, Pavithra Reddy and Jaya Mukherjee was called, "one of the most luminous dance events of the year" by Jennifer Dunning, the dance critic of the New York Times. After its New York debut, the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble has performed to sold-out shows in Hawai and Bozeman, USA, Middle East, Far East and Europe, and in time created a niche for itself in the world of dance. Today, apart from lead dancer-choreographers, Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy, Pavitra Reddy, Rasmi Raj and Manasi Tripathy are the other permanent dancers of the Ensemble, and are accompanied by musicians like Swain playing the percussion instrument, Mardala, Srinibas Satapathy’s on Bamboo flute (Bansuri) and Sanjib Kumar Kunda on the violin. Its first full-length production "Sri - In Search of the Goddess", was premiered in Delhi in 2001 and in the United States in 2002-2003, to critical acclaim. Since then it created several productions including, "Ansh", "Sacred Space" (2005), and "Separation and the Duality of the human spirit" (2008)
By 2008, the ensemble had made 12 tours of the US, its 2006 production, Vibhakta (The Division), by Surupa Sen which was performed together by Surupa Sen, the artistic director, and Bijayini Satpathy was enlisted in the "The Ten Best Dance Performances of 2008" by dance critic Joan Acocella of the The New Yorker.[15] and prior to it in February 2008, the Ensemble had the world premiere of "Pratima: Reflection", at New York, Joyce Theater. It has also performed at Pittsburgh Dance Council (2002). As of 2010, the ensemble members included, Surupa Sen, Bijayini Satpathy, Pavithra Reddy, Rasmi Raj and Manasi Tripathy.

Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances
Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances.

Temple of dedication

A thoughtfully evolved temple (pictured), built in 1998, welcomes people to the Nrityagram, near Hesaraghatta Lake, it depicts the image of Kelucharan Mohapatra, guru of founder Protima Bedi in a dancing pose. The caption given for the picture states:

Temple at Nrityagram. Fashioned from the raw mud of Nrityagram and fired after it was built, the temple is dedicated to space. It is decorated with panels depicting the elements, dance motifs, mudras and designs from costumes and ghungroos. Inside is a granite rock scooped out to hold water and a flame that stays lit.

Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances
Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances.

Philosophy of Nrityagram

At Nrityagram, dance is a way of life, a matter of faith and belief, nurtured and enriched by the souls of it's own people. We believe that being a good dancer is second only to being a good human being.

We believe in a self-motivated holistic lifestyle focused on dance and the higher principles associated with the arts.

We believe in a self-sufficient existence where we use our resources to the utmost and share
a relationship with the earth that is nurturing and mutually beneficial.

As members of Nrityagram, all residents experience this way of life. So that, in keeping with our beliefs, at the end of training, we will have a complete dancer and more importantly, a complete human being!

Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances
Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances.

Gurukul Tradition

LIFE IN A GURUKUL

The lifestyle that we follow is based on the age-old Gurukul tradition. As per this ancient method, students look after and care for their Guru by growing fruit and vegetables on the land, cooking, cleaning, and earning through dance recitals. At Nrityagram, the institution fulfills the role of the
Guru - as protector and as someone who makes available knowledge and experience. Trainees will learn under the tutelage of several Gurus, however their duties towards Nrityagram are of prime importance.

Along with the intensive dance training, they learn Indian Literature, mythology, poetry, Sanskrit, music, aesthetics, history of dance, philosophy, spiritual thought and dance theory. Regular workshops are conducted in martial arts, yoga, mime, meditation, sculpture, etc. These
workshops, in other disciplines that use the body, help to improve stances and energy levels. They also inculcate an awareness of the interdisciplinary approach and an understanding of the inter-relatedness of all arts and physical traditions, not only of India, but also of other countries.

Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances
Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances.

The Future

WHOLE BODY CENTRE

Dance is a synergy between the mind and body. The focus of a dancer always, is to develop the mind and hone the body, so that, she becomes the perfect vehicle for her art.

While it is important to train the mind and body, it is also equally important to provide a system of physical care for the body. Over the past few years, we have come to realize the debilitating impact of injuries caused by the use of inappropriate flooring, inadequate preparation of the body before training and lack of facilities for physiotherapy on an ongoing basis.

To address this need, we are building a "Whole Body Centre" for the dancers at Nrityagram. This will house two studios for dance (with wood flooring), a gymnasium, Yoga room, massage room, steam room and Jacuzzi. In addition, one of the dance studios will also serve as an indoor performance space, which will seat 250 people and have all the facilities of a well-equipped auditorium.

Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances
Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances.

Training Programmes

We have a residential training programme in Odissi, Kathak or Bharatnatyam (new programme).
The basic training programme is for three years followed by an advanced training programme of three years. In addition we offer a separate advanced training programme in Odissi.

A total of six students are selected for the Basic training programme in Odissi, Kathak or Bharatnatyam. These students will stay at Nrityagram for the next three years. During this time, they learn from the greatest masters from all over the world and, the aim is to have holistically trained professional dancers and teachers, so that this dying tradition will be revitalized and preserved.
Dancers in the residential programme work six days of the week with dance related training for 10 to 12 hours per day.

It is our belief, that dance should be made available without any consideration of cost. Therefore, all residential students receive free lodge, board and training for a period of three to six years.

Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances
Buildings in the Nrityagram - Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances.

Vasantahabba - Celebration of Spring

Vasantahabba (Spring Festival) is an all-night festival of dance and music organized by Nrityagram every year.

Thirteen years after the first Vasantahabba, it is now considered the 'Woodstock' of classical dance and music in India. Living legends and leading artists congregate together, under one sky, to make Vasantahabba what it is - an unmissable treat!

People arrive at 2 PM, for an event that starts at 6 PM. They come with family; they come with friends. They come from all over India; they even come from abroad. City dwellers come; so do the villagers. They know everything about Indian culture; they know nothing about Indian culture. Yet they will not leave before 3 or even 8 the next morning!

The history of Vasantahabba is remarkable. From an audience of 3,000 in 1990, there were over 40,000 in 2003! The festival has been covered on the web and on television networks from around the world. And millions have witnessed the event LIVE on Doordarshan, the public broadcasting station of India.

Classical dancers are relaxing at Nrityagram garden.Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances
Classical dancers are relaxing at Nrityagram garden. Nrityagram is India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances.

Expression

Odissi

Odissi takes its name from the state of its origin, Orissa. Orissa’s interesting geographical position at the exact centre of the eastern border of India, has influenced its culture and tradition a great deal, thus making its dance and music very unique. Though dance originated in Orissa in the 2nd century BC, it was not until approximately 60 years ago that Odissi, in the form it is seen today, was re-invented, re-vitalised and re-defined. Therefore, Odissi is a synthesis of the ancient and exotic and modern and intellectual. Todays Odissi is sourced from Devadasi or Mahari tradition (a tradition where beautiful young women were consecrated to the Gods. They sang and danced in the sanctum-sanctorum of the temple as a part of the sacred worship), Gotipua Nacha (a tradition that was started, to popularise the Vaishnava philosophy, by dressing up young boys as women who sang and danced the devotional poems of Vaishnava poets), and the endless sculptures in various motifs carved on the temple walls of Orissa.

Odissi is the only dance form to have another basic body position besides the centered ‘Plie’ stance. The second stance Tribhangi, literally meaning three bends and inspired by temple sculptures, is the feminine curvaceous sculptural position with the body weight on one foot. Therefore, Odissi creates an illusion of sculpture coming to life. Isolated torso movements, typical to the Odissi style only, help create these curves and therefore an eternal ‘S’ pattern is formed in the body and space.

An extraordinary person, you knew instantly when you met her that here was someone you could trust implicitly and depend on to keep her end of the bargain. Her friends, her students, her Gurus, if they were honest would not disagree, that she was the best friend you could have.

To me, she was the most fascinating individual I have ever met. My Gaurima. The single most important influence in my adult life.

Mohiniattam

Mohiniattam literally means the dance of the enchantress. Born in Kerala, Mohiniattam is the female counterpart of male dominated Kathakali.

One legend says that the princess of Travancore, created and performed this enchanting dance in secret to invoke Lord Padmanabha (Vishnu) to life who she wished as her husband. Another legend is that the women of Kerala who were denied the right to learn Kathakali, created their own dance inspired by Kathakali, yet highly feminine, sensuous. A dance form that makes no sound with its footwork (perhaps to avoid attention).

Kerala, a coastal state, is rich in its landscape with valleys of swaying coconut palms, vast paddy fields and the blue waves of the sea. Mohiniattam literally translates these features into the basic movement language of the dance form, which is marked by circular movements and circular spatial patterns, making the style extremely graceful and sensuous.

Lasya (languid grace) and Sringara (beauty and love) are the essence and the basic mood of Mohiniattam. In Mohiniattam it is compulsory to wear white costumes where as in other dance forms white may be a colour of choice. Traditionally, Mohiniattam is taught, learnt and performed by women only.

Kathak

Kathak originated in northwestern and central north India as a story telling tradition. This tradition was practiced by wandering monks who sang and enacted mythological stories in praise of a chosen deity at a public gathering, in a village square or temple premise. The performances occurred during social celebrations like birth, marriage, etc and on days of religious importance.

These storytellers were called the Kathakars. Hence the name Kathak.

As the tradition gained popularity, the dance style developed technically and thematically. A perfect synthesis of the Hindu story-telling tradition and the Persian dance style took place in the royal courts of the Mughal Sultans, allowing Kathak to evolve into a unique dance form with unusual characteristics like pirouettes and rhythmic tapping of the feet. The technique and presentation of Kathak is enhanced with the aware and sensuous royal Persian etiquette as well as the spiritually submissive innocence and beauty from the Hindu religious performance tradition.

Kathak uses very simple hand gestures and less stylised and closer to real life expression or abhinaya. Because of the influence of two distinct cultures, Kathak can be presented in a Hindu costume or in an adaptation of a Persian costume.

Bharatnatyam

Bharatanatyam originated in southern India in the state of Tamilnadu. It started as a temple dance tradition called Dasiyattam (the dance of the maid-servants) 2000 years ago and is perhaps the most advanced and evolved dance form of all the classical Indian dance forms.

The name Bharatanatyam is a simple derivation from the four most important aspects of dance (in Sanskrit). These are: Bha from Bhava meaning emotion, Ra from Raaga meaning music or melody, Ta from Taala meaning rhythm and Natyam meaning dance. Thus Bharatanatyam is the dance that encompasses music, rhythm and expressional dance or Abhinaya and strictly adheres to the Natyashastra (the scripture of classical Indian dance).

This dace style is characterised by a linear form of the body without any pronounced movement of the upper body and linear spatial patterns, which make the dance form extremely dynamic and powerful.

Kuchipudi

Kuchipudi is the other Indian classical dance that originated from a dance drama tradition. Native to the state of Andhra Pradesh, the style derives its name from the village of its origin, Kuchipudi. Originally, only male dancers performed various episodes from the Bhagavatas (with the central character of Lord Krishna). During its revival, Kuchipudi was adapted to create a solo form for stage presentation and its practice was opened to female dancers also.

Even though it appears to be similar to Bharatanatyam in costume and make up, Kuchipudi is very different in form and presentation. This dance form truly has in it all the aspects of dance as mentioned by Natyashastra, Nritta meaning pure dance, Nritya meaning expressional dance and Natya meaning dance drama. The presentation of dance drama in Kuchipudi strictly follows the rules of traditional Sanskrit theatre. The pure dance is usually based on complicated and fast rhythmic patterns complemented by a very flexible and mobile upper body. Though the mood of each item is based on the corresponding theme and characters and the origin of the style rooted in Bhakti or devotional tradition, the movement language of Kuchipudi brings out the spirit of vivaciousness, sensuality and femininity that is unique to the style. This is perhaps the influence of a popular and widely presented character of Kuchipudi, Satyabhama - an extremely candid and vivacious character from mythology.

Kathakali

Kathakali, a religious dance-drama tradition, originated in Kerala, in southern India. Kathakali literally means enactment of stories. Traditionally it is a male dominated performing art practiced
by the warrior caste. The style evolved in the 17th century from techniques derived from Sanskrit classical text, regional ritualistic folk theatre and traditional art forms that included dance movements, facial expressions, elaborate hand gestures, music, theatre and martial art.

The transformation of human actors into the shape and personality of gods, titans and demons of the netherworld is unique to Kathakali making Aharya Abhinaya (enactment of stories, while dressed in the assumed get-up of the mythological characters) the basis of the dance form.

The art of Kathakali make-up has profound undertones of feeling and mood associated with it. It is cultivated, not only with great skill and care, but almost as a ritual, so that through this prolonged process, which begins several hours before the performance, the actor will grow into the symbolic character he is to portray through a gradual involvement.

The gestural language of Kathakali is a grammatically complete language of hand symbols equivalent to speech. Stylised eye movement is a technique unique to Kathakali. Ayurvedic massage is part and parcel of the Kathakali training and performance tradition.

Manipuri

Manipuri is a dance from Manipur, on the north-eastern frontier of India. The tradition of dance belongs largely to the community of people called Meiteis who trace their origin to the Vedic times and were well-versed in innumerable ritualistic dances.

During the 18th century Vaishnavism as a spiritual philosophy was born in India and came to Manipur.. The evolution of present day Manipuri dance and repertoire is a synthesis of the traditional ritualistic dances dedicated to Lord Shiva and the Vaishnava belief of devotion.

The repertoire therefore, is divided into Meitei dances like Lai-haroba and Khamba Thoibi and Vaishnav inspired dances like Raas (pure and expressional dance based on the eternal love story of Radha and Krishna) and Bhangi Pareng. The modern day repertoire also includes martial dance Thang-Ta (the dance of sword and spear) and Pung Cholam (where dancers play and dance with the percussion instrument with vigorous acrobatic leaps and spiral turns).

Manipuri is marked by the fluid grace of the total body. The feet are barely lifted off the ground and are hardly visible beneath the unique skirt. The knees are kept close together and bent sideways for poses and there is simultaneous deflection at the waist. Few gentle hand gestures and rolling or swinging head movements ornate the dance.

Tourist Info

Nrityagram, Hessaraghatta, Bangalore 560 088, Karnataka, India.

+91 80 28466313 / 4
(Tuesday to Sunday - From 11 AM to 4 PM India Time)

FAX: +91 80 28466312

E-MAIL: nrityagram@gmail.com

U.S REPRESENTATIVE
Pentacle / DanceWorks Inc.
Sophie Myrtil-McCourty
T: 212-278-8111 extn 313
E: sophiem@pentacle.org

TIMINGS:
Open to visitors from Tuesday to Saturday from 10AM till 2PM. · · Dance classes can be watched between 10:30AM and 1 PM.

· On Sunday, we are open from 10AM till 2PM. Classes are from 10.30 AM until 2PM. · · This is when we have the Village Outreach programme in which we teach approximately 300 children from nearby villages.
· On Sunday, The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble and the students from our residential programme do not rehearse. ·
· We are closed on Mondays and all National and state holidays. · · This is in addition to regular school vacations.
· Please call earlier to ensure that the Ensemble is in residence and/or we are open on the date of your planned visit. ·

ADDITONAL INFORMATION
· We do not serve meals, unless it is part of our Lecture-Demonstration series.
· We do not provide accommodation for visitors.

PRIVATE TRANSPORT
· From Bangalore, take the Bangalore-Pune highway (National Highway # 4; also known as Tumkur · · Road).
· At Dasarahalli (after you pass Yeshwantpur and Peenya), you will see the ECIE factory on the left. · · · Across the road on the right, is a large black glass-covered building.
· Immediately after these, there is a right turn to Hessaraghatta.
· On the Hessaraghatta road, follow signs to Nrityagram or Taj Kuteeram.
· Please note that if you reach JINDAL'S INSTITUTE OF NATUROPATHY & YOGIC SCIENCES (which · comes on Tumkur Road on the left), you have missed the turn to Hessaraghatta. Please
· turn · around.
· Nrityagram is 35 kms from Bangalore and 5 kms from Hessaraghatta. It will take you approximately · 90 minutes from the city.

BUS
· From City Market, bus number 266 (at 7:30am and 2:30pm), 253, 253D, 253E.
· From Majestic, bus number 253J.
· Only bus number 266 goes up to Nrityagram, the others stop at Hessaraghatta village.
From Hessaraghatta you can take an auto rickshaw (Approximately Rs. 50).

PUBLIC TRANSPORT
· From City Market: bus number 266, 253, 253D, 253E.
· From Majestic: bus number 253J.
· All buses stop at Hessaraghatta village.
From Hessaraghatta you can take an auto rickshaw
(Approximately Rs. 60).

 
 
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