Curated by Anita Ratnam, Devi Diaries is a vibrant digital dance festival celebrating goddesses
Anita Ratnam talks about non-traditional goddesses in the spotlight for the digital dance festival, Devi Diaries, offering a performing space for dancers from across the country
If we have learnt one lesson through the pandemic — it is that the arts cannot be contained within four walls. From online poetry reading to virtual plays — now even as we talk about hybrid ways — we have an immersive dance festival to hold our attention and satiate our hunger for some exquisite performances. Presented by Narthaki.com and Anita Ratnam for Navaratri, the Devi Diaries is a digital event that features performances by young and renowned dancers from across India and is on till October 31. Devi Diaries was launched in October 2020 inspired by the writings of Sri Aurobindo’s The Mother. We catch up with the prolific danseuse Anita Ratnam to explore the trajectory of the performing arts post pandemic — in the new reality.
Do tell us the process that led to the curating of the performances for the Devi Diaries.
With a wide range of experiences in presenting and organising festivals and conferences for the past 30 years, I have developed a network of dancers across styles and age. Which means classical, neo classical and contemporary — so curating was never a problem. What was going to be the content for Devi Diaries, what was the idea behind the sacred feminine, what is called the divine feminine energy — those were the criteria that we kept in mind when we reached out to dancers.
What can we expect? Especially, considering the showcase celebrates the goddesses from all regions.
We wanted dancers to explore languages that were close to their geographical locations. T hat means — Malayalam, Kannada, Bhojpuri, Manipuri, Assamese, Odia, Braj, Prakrit, and of course Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam if they are doing it in Bharatanatyam , Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam or Kathakali and other dance forms. But linguistically we wanted diversity and we told the dancers to look at non-traditional goddesses. Not just Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati — the trinity. But, also various other village goddesses — what we call the gramadevatas — Goddesses who were not necessarily sweet and benign, but also the fierce goddesses who are filled with action.
What were the challenges you faced when putting together this event?
The challenges faced were — the health of the artistes or sometimes the health of the technical people, the editors, the camera people — so many people had COVID -19 or were recovering from it or their family members had it. So, those were the challenges. Not the willingness or the theme — those fell into place very quickly. The dancers said yes, immediately. Many dancers were able to send it (videos) just in the nick of time. Some were not able to send at all! Due to huge problems like rain in Bengaluru... the dancers are still not able to shoot.
Do you think that this ‘new normal’ of remotely presenting your work has an advantage too?
Dance needs a live audience. A dancer gets reduced to an ant-size if you watch it (the performance) in a hand held device or at the most on your laptop. Rarely do we play it on the big screen. But the big advantage is that you have a global audience. And once you have the advantage of a digital performance — it stays on and you can watch it at your leisure, a day or a week after it has premiered. So, the longevity and the reach of a digital space and presence have their own merits.
On till October 31. narthaki.com