It is that time of the year again… The annual Marghazhi music and dance season will begin soon in Chennai. Programmes of music and dance by a galaxy of renowned, senior, leading, popular as well as upcoming artistes across the country make this festival a veritable Woodstock of the best in classical Indian performing arts with Sri Krishna Gana Sabha being a much sought after venue for both the performer and art lover.

Being invited by Krishna Gana Sabha to be the Convenor of the Natya Kala Conference for the years 2008 and 2009, was a great opportunity to integrate, my art, academics, management and administrative training.

Being in dance from the age of four, dance has meant many things to me, and yet it is not a hobby, or a pastime or even a career, but just a reason to BE. ..

And yet, the year, 2008, had other very deep and overwhelming meanings and connotations’. On July 1st 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Over the last year and more I have been undergoing treatment, through surgery, chemo and radiation therapies.

However, through it all I continued to dance. By bringing laser sharp focus to my dance, in all its multifaceted glory, I successfully Tuned out of cancer and Tuned into my dance. My dance saved me from myself!

While deciding on a topic for the Natya Kala Conference for 2009, it became a natural choice therefore, to have DANCE MATTERS!, as the theme of this year’s conference.

Today, the whole of India seems to be dancing! Dance, in all its multi hued presence has become a way of life. Yes, DANCE MATTERS! And it is time we bring matters related to dance centre stage. And thus this year’s conference is DANCE MATTERS!

India today- A pulsating energy of the can - do spirit, a synergy of ancient India raring to walk hand in hand with a Young India – ready to take on the world – nay – ready to lead the world! An India – where competition is the new mantra, and excellence its hand –maiden, standing on the cusp of a dazzling new era of growth and abundance in every field of human endeavour.

An era quite propitious for art and artistes – Every dawn brings in a fresh new perspective, a rewriting of content, of redrawing of structures and a rewiring of codes! An exhilarating freedom, to scale personal levels of creativity and expression. A new and free market place that is open to new explorations and ideas, new contexts and yes, new challenges. Yet, it is this very market place of liberalization and globalization that brings the inherent classical dancer in conflict with a newly evolving and all encompassing mass culture

This year the Natya Kala Conference, with DANCE MATTERS!, as its theme, will look at dance in India over the last 60 years, and its place in the India of tomorrow.

The conference is structured in five levels:

The first tier will look at the received legacy of some of Indian dance’s greatest performers, artists, scholars and minds, who have shaped and fashioned what we know as classical dance today.

The second tier will take note of the changes, influences and new directions that are being drawn, imaged, imagined and presented, by different generations of dancers and thinkers. This section will look at those pushing and bursting boundaries, collaborating, striking new paths, finding new partners and parameters, and treading fresh grounds of artistry

The third tier will look at issues of maintenance, sustenance and continuance and will have panel discussions that will address issues, of livelihood and relevance, of both dancers within and outside India.

The fourth tier will showcase the sweep and stretch that dance has undertaken into television and cinema, and its overriding influence thereof.

The fifth tier will look at dance matters, and will highlight some issues of and for dance , like lighting, intellectual property rights, media, etc.

Many senior dancers, and renowned artists and scholars, will share their knowledge and ideas over this 6 day conference, scheduled from 26th December to 31st December 2009 from 9am to 1pm, at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai

Smt Purandeswari, Union Minister of State for Humana Resources development, Government of India will inaugurate this year’s Natya Kala Conference, while Sri Jayant Kastuar, Secretary, Sangeet Natak Akademi, will deliver the keynote address, on Saturday the 26th December 2009 at 9.15am

On 31st December, well known writer and critic and International director of APPAN,Smt Shanta Serbjeet Singh will deliver the Valedictory address.

The conference brings on one platform, the genius of Balasaraswati, Rukmini Devi Arundale and Vempati Chinna Satyam, the artistry of legendary and iconic performers and choreographers like Kumudini Lakhia, Chitra Vishweswaran, Lakshmi Viswanathan, VP Dhananjayan, and Nandini Ramani, and avant-garde and cutting edge contemporary thinkers and performers like Anita Ratnam, Astad Deboo, Ramli Ibrahim, Geeta Chandran.

Frontline performers like Priyadarshini Govind, Sujata Mohapatra, share their vision. Well known dancers and gurus, A Lakshman, Gopika Verma, Deepika Reddy, Kishore Mosalikanti ,and Anita Guha from across dance styles come together, to converse and dialogue on dance teaching and training, and being both performers and gurus.

Renowned names from the firmament of Indian dance, living outside India; Lata Pada,Ratna Kumar, Rama Bharadwaj, Srividya Natrajan, Harikrishnan ,Aravinth Kumaraswamy and Siri Rama, confer about negotiating new cultures and navigating new spaces, and intercultural collaborations

Eminent scholars like , Dr Sunil Kothari, Leela Venkataraman, and Ashish Mohan Khokar, share their immense knowledge and experience. While Sadanand Menon, Ramnarayan, Anjana Rajan, Chitra Mahesh, Anuradha ananth and Anirudhan Vasudevan look at the role and place of media in dance and dance in media, Gautam Bhattacharjee, will teach us how to light up for dance.

Issues of intellectual property rights , and copyright issues in dance will be brought to light by Uttara Asha Coorlawala, Jayaprada Ramamurthy and the law firm Universal Legal

Excerpts of new works will be featured in the session Past Forward, which will feature Madhu Natraj, Samudra, Thiruchelvam and Arangham dancers.

While Radhika Shurajit, will throw light on TV, Reality shows and dance, the iconic Saroj Khan will take us through the paces of film choreography

Renowned musician Anil Srinivasan will explore Art Beauty and Creation , with renowned musician Unnikrishnan, film maker Rajeev Menon and mythologist Devdutt Patnaik.

A special session for and by children, called Twinkle Toes, will be presented on 29th December, as part of CSR (Cultural Social Responsibility),and will also have specially abled children as performers and viewers curated by Churchill Pandian.

A unique evening programme , of Manipuri – Nata Sankirtan, will be presented on 28th December 2009 at 7.30pm. This programme, to be presented by JNMDA, is sponsored by Sangeet Natak Akademi

The scope of the conference is large and encompasses the warp and weft of matters of dance, and yet there is still so much more that one can present

This conference will bring to the fore all matters related to dance as well as reinforce the message that dance really matters to humanity. As we race towards a global and connected world, it is all the more imperative now that we preserve and nourish every aspect of our rich cultural heritage.

The conference has been mentored by Anita Ratnam, and the title is courtesy Ashish Mohan Khokar

The conference is open to all and seating will be on a first come first served basis.

Be there, if you are an art lover or want to catch the best of India’s dancers scholars, musicians and thinkers, while they come together to say DANCE MATTERS!

Dr Ananda Shankar Jayant