Dr. Kanak Rele (born June 11, 1937) is an Indian dancer, choreographer and academic best known as an exponent of Mohiniyattom. She is the founder-director of the Nalanda Dance Research Centre and the founder-principal of the Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya in Mumbai.
Early life and education
Born in Gujarat, Dr. Rele spent a part of her childhood in Santiniketan and in Kolkata with her uncle. At Santiniketan she got an opportunity to watch Kathakali and Mohiniattam performances which she claims helped shape her artistic sensibilities. She is qualified lawyer with an LLB from the Government Law College, Mumbai and a diploma in international law from the University of Manchester. She also holds a Ph.D in dance from the University of Mumbai.
Dr. Rele is also a Kathakali artiste having been trained under Guru "Panchali" Karunakara Panicker since the age of seven. Her initiation into Mohiniattam came much later under Kalamandalam Rajalakshmi. A grant from the Sangeet Natak Akademi and later the Ford Foundation helped her delve deeper into her interest in Mohinattam and during 1970–71 she traveled to Kerala filming exponents of the dance form such as Kunjukutty Amma, Chinnammu Amma and Kalyanikutty Amma. The project helped acquaint her with the nuances of Mohiniattam and record its traditional and technical styles while also enabling her to evolve a teaching methodology for it. Her study of these artistes and their technique against the backdrop of classical texts like Natyasastra, Hastalakshanadeepika and Balaramabharatam led her to develop her own style of Mohiniattam dubbed the 'Kanaka Rele School' of Mohinattam.
Rele's concept of body kinetics in dance is a pioneering innovation that disaggregates body movements in Mohiniattam using a notation system. Rele is credited with having played a key role in the revival and popularisation of Mohiniattam and for having brought a scientific temper and academic rigour to it.
Rele is noted for the contemporisation of mythological tales in her performances and her portrayal of strong women characters in them which is a marked departure from the traditional Mohinyattam theme of the nayika pining for love. Some of her notable subjects and choreographies include Kubja, Kalyani, Silappadikaram and Swapnavasavadattam. Rele's association with the Malayalam poet and scholar Kavalam Narayana Panicker led to her introduction to Sopana Sangeetham and creation of choreographic pieces set to Sopana Sangeetam's talas. Rene has credited Kavalam's compositions as being inspirational for several of her choreographies that "highlight the trauma of women in society based on women characters in mythology". "Nritya Bharati", a documentary on India's classical dances produced by her Nalanda school has been acquired by the Ministry of External Affairs as the official capsule for all Indian missions abroad. The Enlightened One — Gautama Buddha which premiered in 2011 was a choreographic piece created against the backdrop of the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai.
Rele was instrumental in beginning the Department of Fine Arts at the Bombay University and also served as its dean. Rele established the Nalanda Dance Research Centre in 1966 and the Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalay in 1972. The Nalanda Dance Research Centre, Mumbai which trains students for a university degree in Mohiniyattam is recognised as a research institute by the Ministry of Science and Technology. Rele has also served as an expert and advisor on dance to the Department of Culture of the Government of India and the Planning Commission and has been part of the University Grants Commission's curriculum development team and a consultant to Indian and foreign universities in developing academic dance courses.
Awards and honours
Rele was conferred the Gaurav Puraskar by the Government of Gujarat in 1989 and the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1990. Kanak Rele was honoured with the title `Kala Vipanchee' by Vipanchee, a pioneering institution for Indian music and dance, in 2005. In 2006, the Government of Madhya Pradesh conferred the Kalidas Samman on her for her contributions to and excellence in the field of classical dance. She is also a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the M S Subbulakshmi Award. In 2013, she was conferred the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.
Books by Kanak Rele
- "ARTISTE'S PROFILE - Kanak Y. Rele". Centre for Cultural Resources and Training. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Imagination unlimited". The Hindu. October 27, 2006. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Dr. Kanak Rele gets Kalidas Samman". Narthaki. May 7, 2006. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Dance has its own language: Dr. Kanak Rele". Times of India. April 9, 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "'Dance has to serve more social causes'". The Hindu. October 28, 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Dancing Queen - Dr.Kanak Rele". Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Tryst with Mohiniyattam". The Hindu. January 29, 2006. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Lasya unlimited". The Hindu. May 20, 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Art of evolution". The Hindu. September 23, 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Dance of peace". The Hindu. November 28, 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- VENKATACHALAM, JYOTHI (August 2007). "DR. KANAK RELE IS A DISTINGUISHED DANCER-SCHOLAR".
- "Kanak Rele honoured". The Hindu. January 7, 2005. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Dance-Drama by Dr Kanak Rele at Lionel Wendt". Daily News. 6 August 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Padma Awards". pib. January 29, 2013. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- Mohinī āṭṭam, the lyrical dance. Retrieved 27 January 2013.