Launch of Attendance, the dance annual of India

Ashish Mohan Khokar and Dr. Sunil Kothari

The house of the Chandrans is done in ethnic wooden furniture and various hues of orange colour. On the terrace is the the Natayvriksha Dance Studio, with a huge mirror and hanging lamps. This was the venue for the launch of the 16th edition of Attendance, an annual on Classical Dance by Ashish Mohan Khokar. Though the gathering was small but the who’s who of the Delhi Dance circuit were present.

Ashish Mohan Khokar with Rajiv Chandran

Attendance, the dance annual of India, covers one whole calendar year from 1st January to 31st December. It gives a roundup of issues, events, shows, seminars, books, biographies and obits. This year’s edition focuses on Kuchipudi. Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant, a Padmashri and SNA awardee, is the guest editor.

Sharanya Chandran and R Amrita Shruti

The evening began with an introductory address by Rajiv Chandran. This was followed by a short performance by Sharanya and R. Amrita Shruti, both disciples of Geeta Chandran. The composition, Omkara Karini, is an ode to Shakti by Balamurali. Both did a befitting opening of the ceremony. This was followed by a short film showing the launch of the previous 15 editions of Attendance. The videos brought back memories. Finally the 16th edition of Attendance was launched by Dr Yamini Krishnamurthy and Smt. Shanta Serbjeet Singh.

Geeta Chandran, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Ashish Mohan Khokar and Shanta Serbjeet Singh

Ashish spoke very fluently about his pregnancy and birth of his 16th child symbolically. “Written word travels very far. We have three seniors here today, Sunil Bhai, Shantaji and Leelaji. They have recorded the past 20 years of history. The written word is very important in recording the music and dance history. I take you on a brief journey called attendance yatra. It was called Attendance by Mohanji, who was not only my father but a father figure to the dance world .There are very few journals documenting dance. This journal is about refreshing the memories of the last year. The dancers should support the cause of the written word. My white hair has greyed not due to wisdom but due to all the ink that has gone into the writing. The documentation shows some of the artists who are no more with us. So it is a history of the history. Yamini Krishnamurthy has been an iconic figure and one of the pioneers of the present day Kuchipudi. In those days there used to be no auditoriums, a pandal was set up Yamini ji used to be electrifying herself when there was no electricity. Her father used to conduct in the most eloquent manner in English and Sanskrit. This book compiles information not only about Kuchipudi but also about Vilasininatyam, etc. It also takes into account the NRI culture where many dancers take the stage together. This extent of compilation will not be possible now when many gurus are no more there. In a country of millions there are just 3 or 4 books on dance that make appearance every year. So please support the cause of dance books and journals. With the progress in technology, it has become now even more important to preserve memories in a film or book, otherwise they would be lost. With the internet, it has become very easy for somebody to write in some part of the world and to be read by somebody at some other part. The importance of the written word has not diminished with the progress of cyber space, in fact it has increased many fold. There has been a paradigm shift. But the young Indians, they need role models and they need direction. Sanskriti is not just music and dance, it’s a whole package of value system towards your parents your gurus and your children which has to be instilled. So the responsibility to carry it to the next generation has increased”.

Talking about his journey of compiling and cataloguing dance, he said, “Cataloguing has been interesting. It has been a tapasya, a journey and not work, which is still continuing.”

The esteemed guests present were Dr Sunil Kothari, Shri Valmiki Banerjee, Guru Rajkumar Singhajit Singh, Guru Charu Sija Mathur, Guru Jayarama Rao, Smt. Vanashree Rao, Smt. Prerana Shrimali, Pt. Madhup Mudgal, Smt Geetanjali Lal, Smt. Vidha Lal, Shri Anuj Mishra, Smt. Leela Venkataraman, Smt. Manjari Sinha, Dr. Krishna Menon, Mrs. Arshiya Sethi, Mrs. Sandhya Raman, Mrs. Helen Acharya and Ms. Madhavi Puranam.

Pics: Anoop Arora