Panel Discussions

What is a Guru?
San Francisco: Saturday, Oct. 2nd, 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Los Angeles, Saturday, Oct. 9th, 5:00pm-6:30pm

From executive offices to yoga studios to your latest energy drink, the word guru is ubiquitous in our post-modern, global society. A principle revered in the East, it has increasingly made its way into the Western consciousness and has continued to evolve and change in India itself. But, what is a guru?  A teacher? A mentor? An idea? A life-guide?

The Sanskrit word guru literally means “one who removes darkness”. Pandit Chitresh Das says, “Guru gives blood. It is a bond that is life-long and the guru and shishya (disciple) go through ups and downs. Mother is the first guru. The time in which I was raised and trained by my guruji is no more. That is why I call myself a ‘modern guru in training’”.

This panel will gather renowned gurus representing the various Indian classical dance and music traditions to discuss what it means to be a guru in these modern times.  What is the responsibility?  What are the challenges?  Is the idea or concept of guru relevant in modern times and if so, how?  What is the difference between a guru and a mentor?  Is a guru in India different from a guru outside of India?

Featuring: V.P. Dhananjayan (Bharatanatyam), Smt. Darshana Jhaveri (Manipuri), Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri (Tabla), Pandit Bachanlal Mishra (Kathak) and Sri Ratikant Mohapatra (Odissi)

Who Does Indian Culture Belong To?
San Francisco: Sunday, Oct. 3, 12:00pm-1:00pm

We live in a global age.  From Bollywood on national U.S. television to Indian classical artists performing in Carnegie Hall and Royal Albert Hall, over the past fifty years Indian culture and Indian classical dance and music in particular have become global phenomena.  Indian classical artists have settled abroad and are teaching and performing in the West. Indian artists living in India are opening schools throughout the world and there are non-Indians who have taken up Indian classical dance as a profession.

So who sets the standard for Indian culture?  Does one have to have grown up in India to be an “authentic” Indian artist? Does one have to know the language and if so, which language?  Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Malayali, Bengali? Are South Indians legitimate North Indian classical artists and vice versa?  And who says what’s right – the government, senior artists, presenters, corporate funders?

Featuring Gretchen Hayden, Rasika Kumar, Shila Mehta, Kasturi Mishra, Seema Mehta, and Niharika Mohanty.

Indian Classical Dance & Theater—What’s the Story?
San Francisco: Sunday, Oct. 3rd, 4:00pm-5:00pm
Los Angeles: Sunday, Oct. 10th, 1:00pm-2:30pm

Nritta (pure dance), Nritya (dance with expression) and Natya (drama) are the three pillars of classical Indian dance. One cannot separate Indian classical dance from drama, just as one cannot separate it from music.  Indian classical dance, after all, originated from a storytelling tradition—it’s main purpose being to tell the stories of the major epics and religious tales of India.  Each Indian classical art form approaches drama differently. In Kathakali the movements of the eyes and face are so specific and refined and the mudras (hand gestures) are a sign language all their own.  In Kathak the soloist portrays all the characters – male, female, animate, inanimate – and the abhinaya (acting) and mudras are far less codified.  In Bharatanatyam, the stances and gestures follow a strict code and structure bringing together dance and drama in yet another unique fashion.

So what can we gain from looking deeper into the methodologies and techniques of these art forms?  How can a dance critic review these art forms that encompass not only dance but also music, rhythm and drama?  What does the audience need to know in order to have the context necessary to understand the storytelling? Are the stories told by these traditions – the stories of ancient India’s Gods and Goddesses -relevant to modern day audiences?  Can these theatrical techniques be utilized to tell contemporary stories? This panel aims to explore these questions with some of the leading artists representing the various dance forms of India.

Featuring: V.P. Dhananjayan (Bharatanatyam), Sadanam Harikumaran (Kathakali), Smt. Mahua Mukherjee (Gauriya Nritya), Sri Ratikant Mohapatra (Odiss), Charlotte Moraga (Kathak)


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