Well-known dance critic Leela Venkataraman has been writing regular columns of dance reviews in several newspapers like The National Herald, The Patriot and The Hindu for more than three decades. She also contributes to Sruti, a monthly journal published from Chennai; Nartanam, a dance quarterly published from Hyderabad; Narthaki on-line; and for a number of international foreign journals as a commentator on dance.
She has also coauthored several books, including Indian Classical Dance: a Tradition in Transition, The Dance Phenomenon Birju Maharaj, and Step by Step Bharatanatyam. The Publication Division, Union ministry of information and broadcasting, has brought out a compilation of her writings, Indian Classical Dance ~ Through a Critic’s Eye, a selection of 36 articles written by Leela Venkataraman, published in newspapers, periodicals and dance magazines.
These thoughtfully-selected and systematically-presented articles offer a peek into the changing world of Indian dance.
They are also a record, or sort of documentation, of various important events, institutions and personalities that have influenced and enriched the legacy of various Indian dance forms over the years. Very wisely selected, outside the time-bound coverage of the weekly reviewed particular recitals, the articles are quite systematically arranged in this book. Opening with an introductory scenario of Tradition and Modernity in Indian Dance,the book is divided into two sections.
In Section A, the publishers have taken the articles that showcase the author’s perspective on Culture, Dance, Dance Administration, Media, Indian Classical Dance Forms and Music, Criticism and the Culture Divides. In Section-B the reader comes to know about some of the immortal pioneers and legends of Indian dance. The author herself acknowledges this in her preface: “I owe this book to the hard work of Ms Harini Srinivasan, Editor Publications Division, who has undertaken the task of reading through innumerable pages of print in every conceivable font size, selecting what she considered would be interesting for the general reader.”
Every article in this book is an independent piece. The gist and required reference of every article is given in a few lines for the convenience of those readers who don’t want to go through the whole article and just want to turn the pages enjoying the beautiful pictures. These comments also inspire them to read on. Like in the article titled Where are the Silences of a Heritage, one immediately sees the highlighted comment: “This article examines the quality of meditative silence in our traditional arts and the need for audiences and performers alike to share a space that is created by a profound understanding of all that underlies creativity of any sort.” Or with another article on culture the highlighted lines say: “What is Indian Culture? Speakers at a seminar held in Delhi in 1995, put forwards some old and some new definitions.”
In this way the publisher also helps the reader in deciding one’s preference in selecting the articles to read first. In one go this comprehensive book provides a lovely glimpse of Indian dance, its critical perception and the dance scenario in general.
Apart from the subjects relating directly to Indian dance, the varied topics also cover interesting information about Madurai the Eternal City; a Tradition in Transition-Melattur; Jagannath Consciousness; Silappathikaram; the Ageless Tamil Epic; or about Male Body in Indian Dance; about Yakshagana, or the author’s concerns about the Shrinking Audiences, or Music and Dance Connections and Disconnections.
The well conceived and beautifully brought out book costs Rs 860.