Presented by Leela Samson and Spanda
:Date & Time and Place:
6:30PM, April 21, 2016, Thursday – National Auditorium of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy
6:30PM, April 22, 2016, Friday - Main Auditorium of Bangladesh National Museum
6:30PM, April 23, 2016, Saturday - Main Auditorium of Bangladesh National Museum
Organized by: Shadhona and Shristi
Supported by:Charuta and Kazi & Kazi
Buy your ticket: Click here

Though Shadhona’s scope of work encompasses many genres of art and the target group is diverse, the defining character of our organization is the hard-core, intensive work that we do with the arts and artistes, in the areas of: a)research, documentation, b) training and c) production and presentation. Our work encompasses both the urban and indigenous arts.
Cholo Lathi Kheli
A country-wide year-long project to document, support and enhance ‘Lathikhela’ a martial art of Bengal, both East and West.
Cholo Poddar Gaan Gai
Shadhona has identified around eight different forms of ‘Poddar Gaan’ or the ‘Songs of Padma’ under various names i.e. ‘Behular Lachari’, ‘Monoshar Bhashan’, ‘Podda Puran’, ‘Poddar Nachon’ in four out of seven administrative districts of Bangladesh.
With the partnership of ‘Manipuri Theatre’ based in Ghoramara of Komolganj in Moulvibazaar District of Sylhet, On June 6, 2013 Shadhona started a project to teach Manipuri Dance to the Manipuri Community. On July 18, 2013 ‘Dhrumel’ presented its first performance at Ghoramara which gained much enthusiastic appreciation.
Improving the quality of music and dance in Bangladesh had been the initial concern on which Shadhona was formed. For the last two decades Shadhona has regularly provided opportunities for students of dance and music to participate in workshops.
Shadhona has also arranged a workshop, demonstration and seminar on Charya Dance from Nepal, which is an esoteric tantric dance based on ‘Charyapada’, the earliest instance of written Bangla literature.
Shadhona has arranged many dance, music and one Festival of Books and Writers and also participated in many, at home and abroad.
• ‘Nupur Beje Jai’ a bi-monthly ticketed performance of dance
• Musical soirees of Indian Classical Vocal and Instrumental performances
From its very commencement Shadhona has been producing Tagore dance-dramas which include ‘Chondalika’, ‘Nohi Debi Nohi Samanya Nari’ (Based on Chitrangada),and ‘Bhanushinger Padabali’. Shadhona staged of Tagore’s dance dramas to celebrate Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th Birth Anniversary starting with ‘Tasher Desh’ and then Fireflies (Tagore’s Haikus), “Mayar Khela’, ‘Mawmomanoshoshathi’ (May, 2012) and ‘Aye Amader Angane’.In total Shadhona has 26 dance productions.
Shakti – A Feminist Dance Theatre Project
‘Shakti’ is a unique initiative to empower young dancers to include issues of social justice, viewed through the perspective of feminist ideology, into their work in mainstream performance. ‘Shakti’ aims to create a space for critical reflection, based on the conviction that the arts, and the artists who practice them, do not exist in a vacuum, but are active participants in the process of shaping our culture. It aims to direct young dancers to believe that creativity and imagination are powerful instruments to change lives and build a better world.
Work With Differently Abled Children
Shadhona has conducted several workshops for differently, physically and mentally, abled children who are part of the BRAC Education Program. Gaining from our experience from ‘Shakti’, we conducted two workshops for Children with special needs. It is our hope that we continue with this workas we firmly believe that dance is a unique method of liberating the body and empowering it with new ways of communication.
Training Of Trainers
Shadhona has been training Primary School Teachers to conduct dance/music/elocution classes at the various schools run under the BRAC Education Program
From 2012 Shadhona has been awarding scholarships to young dancers to train in dance for a year in India with the support of an endowment from the SAARC Women's Association.
• India-Bangladesh Foundation
• Goethe Institut, Dhaka
• American Center, Dhaka

Leela Samson: The Dancer
Leela Samson is a dancer, teacher, writer and choreographer of bharatanatyam. She has been deeply influenced by the visionary Rukmini Devi Arundale, who founded Kalakshetra, the premier academy of arts in Chennai. Leela joined Kalakshetra as a young child and her formative years were spent imbibing the nuances of bharatanatyam and related arts at the feet of celebrated gurus. Over years of independent work, her dance has metamorphosed from representing the best of her alma mater into a unique personal expression, which is at once unostentatious, serene, philosophical and joyful. A well-loved and respected teacher, Leela has also trained several students who are now accomplished dancers and teachers in their own right. In 1995, she formed a group called Spanda, to explore group dynamics in bharatanatyam. Leela has been the subject of two documentary films, Sanchari and The Flowering Tree. She has also authored several articles as well as two books, Rhythm in Joy (1987) and Rukmini Devi: A Life (2010). She is the recipient of several honours, from the Padmashri and Kalaimamani to the Sangeet Natak Akademi and Sanskriti awards. Leela has served as Director of the Kalakshetra Foundation, as Chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi as well as of the Central Board of Film Certification. Leela lives in Chennai, where she continues to dance, choreograph, teach and write.

'You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.'
Spanda, a group that presents works conceived and choreographed by Leela Samson, explores group dynamics in bharatanatyam. Launched in September 1995, and later registered as a Trust, it has an evolving repertoire. Spanda, which means a vibration or pulse, is symbolic of the enduring and perpetual energy that is the life force of the universe. It acknowledges prithvi, the earth, as the central source of energy in the universe, and finds resonance in the nabha, the womb or core, as being the energy centre of the human body.
Bharatanatyam is an art-dance that connects with the earth, taking life from it and returning energy to it. The focal point of the dancer is the abdomen. Its potential to enhance the core values of bharatanatyam is sought to be explored and expressed anew. The need to rediscover learnt vocabulary challenges and excites Spanda. While retaining the geometry, the variety and grammar of this ancient form one can reduce movement to its truest expression. Speed and virtuosity tend to take away from the beauty and grandeur of this dance style and its vital textual and musical tradition.
Spanda deliberates text, musical traditions and movement vocabulary and exposes the dancer and viewer to the stillness within them. The dancer in a group has necessarily to be more acutely aware of the space she occupies and of that occupied by another. Spanda seeks to establish a relevant dialogue between dance, music and stage craft.

Nattuvangam : Aadith Narayan
Vocal : Ashwath Narayanan
Mridangam: Karthikeyan Ramanathan
Veena: Bhavani Prasad
Flute: Sujith Naik
Dancers: Leela Samson, Nidheesh Kumar, Aditi Jaitly, Bilva Raman, Ashwini Viswanathan, Satyapriya Mohan Iyer, Bhavajan Navarathnam and B. Harikrishnan
Lighting: Gyan Dev Singh

Aditi began studying bharatanatyam at the age of seven under Leela Samson. She graduated in English Literature from Delhi University in 1993. From 1990 onwards she began travelling for performances across India and abroad. In 1996 Aditi spent a year with the UK-based Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, touring extensively in the UK and elsewhere with the company. During her stint, she was exposed to different dance and martial art styles such as ballet, western contemporary dance, kalaripayattu, mayurbhanj chau and tai chi. Aditi has been a member of Spanda since its inception in 1995 and is also involved in the management of the Spanda Trust. She has been teaching dance in Delhi for several years.

Bilva was initiated into bharatanatyam at the age of six at the Rajarajeshwari School of Dance in Mumbai. Subsequently, she also trained with Kadirvel Pillai in Mumbai. Since then, she has been a disciple of Leela Samson. She has travelled widely and performed at various platforms in India and abroad. While in Delhi, she also devoted time to teaching the art form. Bilva moved to Mumbai in 2011, where she worked at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in the dance programme department. She has been a member of Spanda since 2004.

Initiated into dance at an early age, Harikrishnan started learning bharatanatyam from Smt. Jayashree in Kerala. He has learnt both classical and folk dance forms, including kathakali, bharatanatyam, kuchipudi and ottamthullal. He later specialised in bharatanatyam and received intensive training at Kalakshetra, where he completed his post-graduation. While at Kalakshetra, he performed at several prestigious platforms such as the Konarak Dance Festival, the Ananya festival in Delhi and at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai. Also a teacher of bharatanatyam, Harihrishnan has been part of Spanda since 2012

Satyapriya’s love for dance brought her from Pune to Kalakshetra, where she was awarded the best outgoing student of the year award in 2009 and received a first-class diploma. She also has a post-graduate degree from the same institute. As a member of the Kalakshetra repertory, Satyapriya participated in dance dramas and bharatanatyam margams. She has performed important roles in Sheejith Krishna’s production Masquerade. A part-time teacher of bharatanatyam, she joined Spanda in 2013.

Ashwini began learning bharatnatyam at the age of seven from Jayanthi Subramaniam. She has also trained in abhinaya with guru Kalanidhi Narayanan. Ashwini has four master’s degrees: in Economics from Stella-Maris College, in Fine Arts from Kalai Kaviri University, in Professional Accounting and in International Finance from Australia. She is the recipient of several honours, including Best Dancer award (2000-2001) from the Indian Fine Arts Society, the Lakshmi Viswanathan award (2002) from Krishna Gana Sabha, the Yuva Kala Vipanchee award, Natya Chudar from Karthik Fine Arts and the Yuva Kala Bharathi from Bharat Kalachar, as well as a scholarship from the Iyal Isai Nataka Manram. Ashwini has had the privilege of working with stalwarts of the arts, including Birju Maharaj and Leela Samson. She has been a member of Spanda since 2013.

A student of Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon, Bhavajan continues to learn abinaya with Bragha Bessell. Bhavajan has received several honours for his dance, including the Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai Endowment from the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana, the Pandit Durga Lal Endowment from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, the Natya Ratna Kalaapuraskar from Prayaag Nrithyolsav and Yuva Kala Bharathi from Bharat Kalachar. He has also worked with veterans such as Padma Subrahmanyam, Sudharani Raghupathy, Chitra Visweswaran, Leela Samson and C.V. Chandrasekhar, among others. Bhavajan has performed and toured extensively in India, Canada, the USA and Europe. Spanda’s newest member, he joined the group in 2014.

Nidheesh kumar is a post diplomate from Bharatha Kalakshetra. Currently he is working as a guest artiste in the same institution. A dancer with magnetic stage presence, his stage shows have been appreciated by one and all. During his education at Kalakshetra, Nidheesh trained intensively in both dance and music, and was awarded a scholarship from the ministry of culture, Government of India for talented young artists.
Nidheesh is also a recipient of the India Foundation award. He is also a B grade artiste of Dooradarshan Kendra , Chennai. Nidheesh played main roles in nearly every production which the group presented in its performance engagements around the world.


21st April, 2016, Duration: 1.45
Kalabhairava -
Varnam – Ragamalika ‘Aattkollavendum’ - 40
Ososi – Mukhari - 10
Ananda Natamidum – Kedaragaula - 12
Smarasundara –Parasu
Medley Tillana - 24

22nd April, 2016, Duration: 1.35
Ardhanari - 14
Kalyani – 8
Aakash - 23
Abhinaya – 10
Atishaya - 10
Yetuvantivade – 10
Javali - Mayaladi – Todi - 8
Tillana Purvi – 10

23rd April, 2016, Duration: 1.45
Bhaaskaraya - 11
Spanda Maatrika – 37
Ashtapadi medley - 16
Kumara - 15
Gange – 15
Charishnu -12

The Dancer Within, the Dancer Without

Leela Samson

An illuminating Rig Veda mantra speaks of two birds living in the same tree. One is the bhokta, who partakes, who tastes. The bhokta enjoys the fruits of the tree. The other bird is the drashta, who watches, contemplates. In dance as in life, those who partake of life are like the bhokta. The bhokta may be seen in paintings and in literature, caught in the web of life, in its joys and sorrows, a victim of life's varying gait. Each of us readily recognizes ourselves in the bhokta, whether it is portrayed as the nayika in dance, or in a painting or in a literary work. Yet in each of us, lies the seed of reflection, of observation and contemplation. We are caught up in the vagaries of life but at the same time, one part of us seems to stand aside, watching as our lives mingle with the ocean of existence. This duality has been personified in the story of the two birds. The drashta symbolizes the pilgrim soul in each of us.
The dancer is often seen as the bhokta, enmeshed in life, longing for completeness, yearning for something beyond the parameters of her self. During a performance the dancer and perhaps the audience as well, is compelled to ask ‘Who is the dancer? What is the dance? Are they the same? Can they be separated?' While a dance recital is taking place, the audience may be enraptured by the world into which they are drawn. The physical beauty of the dancer, her technical virtuosity, the glitter of her costume and the grace of her gestures often carry the audience into another sphere of awareness.
Many elements contribute to creating the spectacle that is dance. There is the sheer physical aspect of a performance. To a young person just beginning to learn the art, the physical awareness of movement is where they begin their training. All dance is physical, of course. It is also emotional, for what is life and art without feelings and the expression of those feelings. It is also intellectual, in that it is an assessment of life's play through literature, song, architecture, design, colour, individuality and human relationships. It is, above all, an examination of the, individual's relationship and communication with those elements in nature that are beyond one's rational assessment, that require contemplation, looking within, in silence. Dance is, I think, fundamentally philosophical and can be spiritual as well. Portrayals of a dancer's personality in films and in biographies and fiction highlight the dancer's volatility. She is shown as being temperamental, unpredictable. Is it because of the physicality of her art, and her knowledge of its potential strength? Dance also teaches sensitivity, grace, containment, and a philosophical strength. Why are these qualities so seldom portrayed?
For a dancer who has a true calling, a sanskaar, or inherent perception beyond the physicality of her training, another level of awareness evolves. Even as she is bound by her technique, by the appearance of her physical self and the ritual and romance of the traditions she is following, the dance is also stripped away, it is transcended, until only the essential element of spirituality remains. And it is this quality that the dancer finally shares with her audience. To arrive at this point, a dancer has to hone her skills until they are sharp and clear. There can be no room for imperfection. Small inhibitions, small hesitations or flaws will hold the dancer to the physical, constrain her from shedding the form and weigh her down.
For the vast majority of dancers it is not possible to show this 'free spirit' à la Isadora Duncan, who ran barefoot on to the stage, with free-flowing veils trailing her in the wind. (How they loved her spirit before and after the Russian Revolution, for she seemed to epitomize the will of the people to soar into the sky). But she was exceptional. She was neither proficient, nor consistent enough to spawn imitations. Proficiency and consistency are the hallmarks of great art. The dancer imitates the gods, represents the wind, the flowers, the trees, a storm. This literal representation was bound to die as it no longer fulfilled its function of communication. It merely represented. Ornamentation and impressionistic dancing cannot be sustained. Instead, we are taught not merely to represent a god but to portray the spirit of his or her being. This is what is taught through-the nayika bhav. The poets and the devadasis who kept the classical dance traditions alive understood this subtle distinction. A dissonance appears when a dancer fails to identify and define the line between representing the spirit of an object or individual and the object or, individual itself. Does the dancer seek to link the audience to a god or to be the god himself? It is when the dancer becomes the wind or the mountain on stage and off, that terror reigns!
The responsibility for sustaining the art at its highest level does not lie with the dancer alone. There is an audience, there is a society. There is a world of which she is a part. She is free to innovate within her style of dance, but with it comes uncertainty. Audiences who come to be entertained may go away disappointed. As Richard Austin wrote, 'A dancer cannot do the unforgivable—make an audience think.' They want her to be whole, they demand imagination, inventiveness, beauty, skill, grace. She wants all that too. And must have them. But these qualities by their very nature are shrouded in all the paraphernalia of dance. Dancers exist on a tightrope—literally and metaphorically. Before she can actually get on to the stage and present her performance, a dancer has to plunge herself into prosaic practicalities, she has to ensure that her musicians are adequately rehearsed, that their payments are taken care of, that her costumes are ready. The stage has to be prepared, countless details of publicity executed, especially in the case of a group performance. And then, having checked on the condition of the stage, the needs of her musicians, the terms of payment and arrangements of the organizers, she has to go on to the stage and transform herself into the ethereal being whose spirit she is trying to portray. She has to be creative. Lose herself in the dance. Break barriers perhaps. Be witty... and profane. And it is a demanding audience that she must satisfy.
As a dancer reaches her peak, there comes the growing dominance of her persona, on and off the stage. Very rarely have star performers tolerated equals, either in the form of a lover or a husband, a manager or another dancer and least of all in a student. All these factors come into play when she is at her most vulnerable. In the lives of many dancers these crises have come when her career is on the wane, when elderly parents she never had the time to visit, are beginning to ail or to pass on, when her marriage is on the rocks, when managers have failed her or married one of her students (as in the case of Isadora Duncan) and when a younger generation is beginning to take centre stage. She is usually quite alone when she has to pick up the strands of her life. It is a time when she is surrounded by those who need her, or at least her prestige, but upon whom she cannot depend and in whom she cannot confide.
Louis Horst, an American composer at Denishawn, once said of Martha Graham, 'Every young dancer needs a wall to grow against, like a vine. I am the wall.' He was her mentor, her lover, the one she shared her dreams and doubts with. A dancer taps her own emotional life for her solo work. This 'methodology' if you like, is impossible to pass on to another dancer. As Graham said, 'Only if there is just one way to make life vivid for yourself should you embark on such a career.’ It is both tragic and fortunate that a dancer's instrument is her body, fragile, strong, bound by birth and death. When she perishes, her art perishes too"
'A dancer has only memory to rest in, that fragile impermanent shell of time and our recollection of how she danced are her only memorial...' But it is a living tradition and every dancer after her is part of a royal lineage of roles, personas that have gone before her. Above all, their interpretation is an expression of their own nature and their own unique (or not so unique) vision of life.
I believe that it is a phase of both being alone and being lonely that leads one to a philosophy that fuses the private and the public lives of a dancer. One must be without anyone to discover oneself, to understand who one is. It is then that true discrimination and a balance is attained, between what is being portrayed on stage and one's personal life. It is then that the dichotomy between the bhokta and the drashta may be put behind one. In the division between physical beauty and emotional confusion, between centredness on stage and the erratic nature of one's life and career, between the image people have of you and your own image of yourself—the dancer is like any one of us in this dilemma. However it is amplified in her situation, by the very nature of her art. Her life is not hers to have. It is public. The dance itself is physical, exposed. Her persona is known, whether it is a true one or fabricated, either by herself or others. So that she is often caught, in the wakeful sleep after a performance, between two personas. Is the dancer me? Was that nayika me? Am I the person I was? Was I complete then? Is me—the dancer, the whole person, complete? Do we really know the truth about ourselves? There is the vision friends have of us, the one we have of ourselves, that of a lover, a parent, a student, a critic. The vision of our enemies. All these are different. You get up with a cup of coffee and the paper and read of your beauty and composure. You open the next paper and you are devoid of talent, worn out, presumptuous! Which one is you?
'Great dancers are not shadows, however softly they may illuminate the stage,' writes Austin. 'They are vital, often idiosyncratic human beings whose marked individuality is the source of their gifts. It is, most of all, their extraordinary personal magnetism which lights up the stage like an explosion of stars. This is not merely "star appeal" but something more. It is an expression of the artist's inner nature made visible through the roles she portrays, the embodiment of her deepest and most secret dreams. It is this fusion of an artist's inner and outer world at the most intense level of expression that produces great dancers; the ones who set a standard for their own generation.' The dancer ultimately transforms the dance into an allegory of her own being, seen in terms of some poetic imagery. Often their own lives are a sad muddle, containing excesses that may seem wasteful, or deprivation that may seem unnecessary, had it not been that she uses each experience, good or bad, to enrich her dance. For you really discover the dance and yourself—privately—within the secrecy of your heart.

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