Darpana Academy of Performing Arts
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|Purpose||Centre for the research, learning and performance of Indian dance, theatre, music and puppetry, and for the use for the arts for social change.|
Darpana is a centre for the arts in Ahmedabad, India, started in 1949 by space scientist Vikram Sarabhai and legendary dancer choreographer Mrinalini Sarabhai, to teach the arts and to propagate Indian arts through performances. Since 1977 Dr Mallika Sarabhai, dancer, actor, publisher, writer, social activist , has been its Director. The institution focuses on teaching the arts, being a centre for the study of folk, tribal, classical and contemporary dance, theatre, movement, puppetry and music. Darpana’s other focus area is the use of the arts for social change through many different types of interventions at the grass roots as well as with policy and decision makers and the general public. Darpana for Change has worked in the fields of women’s empowerment, violence against women, the environment, issues of violence and human rights through live interactions and through the use of film and video, through broadcast and social media.
In the revival of South Indian classical dance in the last century the two names at the forefront are those of Rukmini Devi Arundale and Mrinalini Sarabhai. Both from highly educated and evolved families, they not only performed, but wrote about the art forms, giving them the respect and value that they deserved.
In the year 1942, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the scion of the illustrious Sarabhai family, married Mrinalini Sarabhai (then Swaminadhan), a celebrated classical dancer and couple moved to Ahmedabad. Mrinalini Sarabhai didn’t particularly want to start an institution, though she had started a career as a solo classical dancer.
In order to impart training to the local community and to have a group of locally groomed dancers, it was Dr. Vikram Sarabhai suggested starting a dance academy. Thus Darpana was founded in the year 1949 in Ahmedabad.
Started as a small dance academy, today Darpana is a platform for the arts where performers from across the world work together to open mindscapes through the arts. The academy uses different art forms to educate, empower, and raise awareness about the critical issues of today. Located on the banks of the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad, India, Darpana features a world-class performance venue named Natarani, an open-air café, a library, and space for rehearsals and workshops. The institution runs regular classes Bharatanatyam, Folk Dances of India, Vocal music, Mridangam, Violin, Flute and Kalaripayattu.
The performance venue Theatre Natarani regularly organizes different shows showcasing different art forms and its audiences range from art lovers to students to tourists to influential people. The performances are known for their innovative choreography, technical excellence, and political and social messages that make audiences sit up and think. The centre also holds a three-day festival every year called InterArt, the “Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival” to commemorate Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, its founder.
Its departments range from performance and teaching of the arts, to the use of performance and arts as development communication, through face-to-face impact and software production.
The Drama Section, under acting duo Kailash Pandya and Damini Mehta, is responsible for more than 100 productions of a wide variety.
Darpana attracted young writers and staged their first scripts, making them an integral part of production efforts. Some of the names can be mentioned as Madhu Rye, Labhshankar Thaker, Shrikant Shah, Subhash Shah, Chinu Modi, and Hasmukh Baradi. It also conducted theatre-training courses for over two decades.
Its research wing, Janvak, published monographs like Goverdhan Panchal's on Bhavai. Darpana has also built an experimental thrust auditorium, Natrani, reminiscent of Greek amphitheatres, on the banks of the river Sabarmati.
Established in the year 1994, Natarani, Darpana's amphitheatre on the Sabarmati is perhaps the only international performance venue of Ahmedabad, presenting national and international performances to the people of the city. Natarani presents seven cross cultural festivals to audiences every year besides many other performances. These festivals become the cultural highlights of the month bringing in diverse audiences and full houses.
Sunday to Sunday Theatre Festival
The Sunday to Sunday Theatre Festival is Natarani’s week long Theatre Festival that brings together the best of international and local theatre. In its third year now, the festival aims not only to make the best of theatre accessible to people in Gujarat, but also provide a platform to showcase and encourage upcoming local theatre and keep alive old traditional theatre, like Bhavai and Dastangoi. The first two Festivals have witnessed the performances of Mallika Sarabhai, Nandita Das, RajitKapur, Shernaz Patel, Nisha Theatre – Chennai, Sutradhar – Hyderabad, AnkitChadha among others.
Scheduled in November, Naada is Natarani's music festival. Most music festivals showcase one genre of music - classical, pop, jazz and so on. Naada attempts to show a variety of genres to show the great palette of music that is available. This festival highlights the best of fresh talent as well as stalwarts.
In its first two seasons, Naada showcased the work of some amazing new talent – ‘Tritha Electric’ with Ethno Punk, ‘Indicus’ with Sufi Rock and the seven sister band from Assam – The Hurricane Girls. Naada has also witnessed the performances of BickramGhosh, Anuradha Pal and ShubhaMudgal and her pop group.
Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival
The idea of the Vikram Sarabhai Festival was born a few years after his tragic and early death in 1971. He was the co-founder of Darpana with Mrinalini Sarabhai, and its main supporter. He was a great lover of the arts, and a connoisseur. It was felt that the best way to remember and pay homage to him would be to have a yearly multi- arts festival in his home town, Ahmedabad.
From a modest beginning in 1974 in the Tagore Hall, till 1994, the festival highlighted major national and international artists like PrabhaAtre, Bhimsen Joshi, The Battery Dance Company, Gruppa from Sweden, Pratap Sharma and AlyquePadamsee and Darpana’s own new productions.
With the birth of Darpana’s own unique theatre, Natarani in 1994, the festival shifted gear and became the Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival, with a thrust towards highlighting and producing major new collaborative work. These have included collaboration between countries, between artists of different styles and between performing artists, painters, sculptors and installation artists.
The Cinema of Resistance Film Festival
The Cinema of Resistance film festival is a unique initiative started by Natarani at Darpana in Ahmedabad, to celebrate resistance through cinema. It intends to create a space for debate on issues of oppression and repression that are seldom addressed in mainstream cinema. The festival highlights films and filmmakers who have centered their stories around substantive problems that our society faces, giving voice to the silent and subjugated.
The first edition of the Festival looked at the work of filmmakers Onir and LeenaManimekhalai. The festival took place over two weekends - films on the first weekend centred around the theme of displacement and political identity and that of the second weekend, on issues of sexuality and personal identity. The second edition of the Festival explored the theme of displacement and paid homage the greatest film maker in the country who relentlessly spoke for and about the displaced, RitwikGhatak.
Festival of Non-violence Through the Arts
The idea of the Festival of Non-Violence was born in the aftermath of the destruction of Babri Masjid and Mallika Sarabhai's immediate reaction in creating a piece called Mean Streets on Earth. The piece was shown in many places and seemed to have a resonance. This is what encouraged her to ask creative people to produce work that launched a discussion on issues of violence and non-violence. Over the years we have presented many celebrities and various forms of performances.
Celebrating the world of dance
Celebrating the world of dance  aims to pick the brightest classical dancers, the stars of tomorrow. The festival presents 21 youngsters hand picked by the country's senior most gurus as those with the greatest talent.
List of Kathakali Artists and Musicians who worked in Darpana since 1949
Guru Vazhenkada Kunchu Nair, Kavungal Shankarankutty Panicker, Guru Kottakkal Gopi Nair, Kottakkal Appu Nair, V.P. Ramakrishnan, Chandramana Govindan Namboodiri, Mankombu Sivashankara Pillai, Kalamandalam Govindan Kutty, Kalamandalam Murali, Kalamandalam Gopinath, Kavungal Chathunni Panicker, Kalamandalam Ravindra Warrior, Kalamandalam Madhavan, Kalamandalam Bhaskara Menon, Thakazhi Kuttan Pillai, Kalamandalam Unnikrishna Kurup, Kalamandalam Subrahmanian, Kalamandalam Sukumaran, Kalamandalam Haridas, Kottakkal Narayanan Namboodiri, Kavungal Gopala Panicker, Kavungal Krishna Panicker, Kalamandalam Narayanan, Kalamandalam Ananda Narayanan, Kalamandalam Sasi Poduval, Kalamandalam Balaraman, Kalamandalam Anandan, Thichur Vasu Variar, V.P. Shankara Narayanan, Kalamandalam Shivaraman Nair, Kalamandalam Devaki, Kalamandalam Sitalakshmi, Painkulam Narayana Chakkyar, Kalamandalam Hariharan, Kalamandalam Kalyanikutti Amma, Kottakkal Sasidharan Nair
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