Thursday, May 5, 2011

Meet the walking encyclopaedia on dance

He is a dance historian, scholar, author, and a renowned dance critic. He is a globetrotter, attending several national, international dance conferences and dance festivals. He has to his credit more than 14 definitive works on Indian classical dance forms. He is a Fulbright Professor and has taught at the Dance Department, New York University; has lectured at several Universities in USA, UK, France, Australia, Indonesia and Japan. He has been VP of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific (2000-2008) and is VP of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific India chapter, New Delhi. He is a recipient of prestigious Padma Bhushan and Sangeet Natak Akademi award.

This is the brief profile of 78-year-old unmarried Dr Sunil Kothari who has created a niche in the field of dance is extremely polite and unassuming and do want to depend on any one. He was in Mysore on Wednesday and it was his third visit after the gap of 13 years, when Express engaged him with a tete-a-tete.

“Mysore is a great city and I like the Dasara procession and Mysore style of Bharatanatyam very much. I am planning to organize a dance seminar in Mysore under the aegis of its Karnataka branch and want to highlight the Mysore bani of Bharatanatyam as developed by legendary dancers like Jati Tayeema and Venkatalashamma. Karnataka has a great cultural heritage”

Speaking about his childhood Kothari says, “Born in Gujarat, I was the 10th child to my parents. Since my childhood I was fascinated with dancing. I started learning Kathak when I was 8 years old and by the time I turned 18, I had learnt Bharata Natyam under Guru Kalyansundaram in Mumbai. Several years later I learnt Odissi, Kuchipudi and Chhau dances during the course of my research work”

“A meeting with Mohan Khokar in December 1957 was a turning point in my life. Seeing his vast collection, chronicling the history of India dance, I was impressed, than I decided that I should follow his foot steps and next is Dr Mulk Raj Anand, the renowned author of Marg.

When questioned is not confusing to learn so many dance forms? he said “It was possible because of my intense passion and mad love for dancing. Every day I woke-up at 5 am in the morning and caught a bus to attend the class which began by 6.30 am. After intensely practicing for one month I could finally master the correct posture.

“After completing my studies of Chartered Accountancy I pursued my Ph.D in dance at MS University, Baroda under Smt Anjali Merh. I worked very hard and got my Doctorate in the dance- drama traditions of Bhagavata Mela Natak (Tanjore), Kuchipudi (AP) and Kurvanji (also from Tanjore) and Rasa Theory as expounded in Bharata’s Natyasastra.”

Speaking about his books, Kothari said, “I have written 14 books and another 3 books are on the way: Sattriya Dances of Assam, A Companion to Indian dance (for Oxford), Papers of dance seminar held by Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1958 and Dance Sculptures of Medieval temples of North Gujarat and Sangitopanisat Sarodhhara.

The most memorable moments in his life were, when he met famous dance personalities like Lalitha, Padmini, Ragini, Shambhu Maharaj, Yamini Krishnamurty and many others.
He aims to collect historical documents and preserve it for the future generation under the aegis of Sunil Kothari Dance Foundation.'

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