attenDance presented a two-day Dance Memorial – Saroja Mohanam

attenDance presented a two-day Dance Memorial – Saroja Mohanam

Tribute to dance pioneers Mohan Khokar and M.K.Saroja Khokar by legends

Celebrated critic and author Ashish Mohan Khokar paid homage to his parents and dance pioneers Mohan Khokar and M.K.Saroja Khokar in a 2-day extravaganza Saroja Mohanam on Saturday and Sunday, September 17th & 18th, 2022 at Stein Auditorium, Habitat World, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

Prof. Mohan Khokar and Guru M.K. Saroja are both benchmarks in theory and practice of Indian dance. Highly revered by the dance fraternity, both are also artiste-academicians with Padma and many other awards to their credit. The two dance exponents have contributed dearly to the Indian Classical Dance Landscape in India and overseas.

Mohan Khokar and M.K. Saroja Khokar

Embellished by luminaries in the dance universe, the two-day spectacle was an experience to absorb within for dance connoisseurs. Day One or September 17th, 2022 was slated to unveil the 22nd edition of India’s only yearbook on dance – attendance, guest edited by Ranee Kumar. The honors were done by thinker and philosopher Prof. Bharat Gupt whilst presenting the first copy to Conservation icon Mr. Aman Nath of Neemrana Group.

The event flagged off with Saraswati Upasana performed by Pt. Kailash Sharma and had legendary artiste Dr. Sonal Mansingh – MP Padma Vibhushan as the Chief Guest. Also present virtually at the do were Pt. Birju Maharaj, Gopika Varma, Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, Bharati Sivaji and others who talked on MKDC at IGNCA (Mohan Khokar Dance Collection)

Paying tribute through their art stars Navtej Singh, Kavita Dwibedi, Aditi Mangaldas performed a dance on Mystic Theme while Gurus Shovana Narayan, Sharon Lowen & Meera Das shared their thoughts and memories of the couple.

Day Two, September 18th, 2022 began with Kriti by Vid. G. Raghuraman and Prarthana by Dr. S. Vasudevan and further was inaugurated by Dr. Sachchidanand Joshi, Member Secretary, IGNCA.

Presided by Mr. Sunil Tandon, Director, India Habitat Centre as Guest of Honour, the event witnessed Icons of dance Madhavi Mudgal, Leela Samson, Alarmel Valli (All Padma and SNA awardees) pay homage through dance.

In their inimitable style Padma Bhushan gurus Dr. Raja and Radha Reddy summed up the art of Sarojamma and Vidushis of dance Nalini Kamalini and Saswati Sen illuminated audiences with their experiences pertaining to Saroja Mohanam as a union of creativity.

Bringing forth a marvel of such grandeur is evidently manifestation of love and reverence for one’s parents, and while he did so, Prof. Mohan Khokar and Sarojamma’s son Ashish Khokar said, “Dance has given us meaning and purpose in life and we are blessed by many gurus to serve the cause of Indian arts”. With 45 books to credit, 85 modules for UGC e-pathshala M.A dance course and 5000 articles in print media in the last 40 years, Ashish is easily the most widely read dance columnist on the internet too. He has devoted himself to the art and the sphere of dance and continues the Khokar family dance legacy with his yearbook attendance along with co-founder and publisher Elisabeth Khokar.

Ashish has also pioneered arts administration in the 1980s and served many cultural institutions (Delhi state Academy, INTACH, Festivals of India in France, Germany, China and Sweden under ICCR and then headed AFS India). He is a visiting professor to many universities in India and abroad. He continues to serve the field and together the Khokars have donated 7 crore worth of the family’s priceless dance collection to the nation@IGNCA in 2018. Thanks to efforts of its head Dr. Joshi and dance trustees on board.

Prof. Mohan Khokar (1924-1999) and guru M.K.Saroja (1931-2022) were born in Punjab and Madras respectively and met due to dance and married to dance. Mohan Khokar was the first north Indian male student of Kalakshetra in 1945! He was the founder- head of MSU Baroda dance dept and then headed the Sangeet Natak Akademi. 7 definitive books, 70000 photos taken when cameras were rare and pan-Indian documentation helped him create India’s largest dance archives named after him. On the other hand, Guru M.K.Saroja helped make the Tillai Chidambaram style of great guru Muthukumarm Pillai of Kattumunarkoil baani or gharana of Bharatanatyam, global. She was first to take Bharatanatyam to France, UK, Germany, Austria, Nepal, Burma, Netherlands and Sweden . Her main disciple is Vidya Pasard and her first student in Paris Milena Salvini was bestowed with a Padma award by PM Modi when he went there 2 years ago! The Khokar family are hailed as the first family of Indian dance heritage and history and universally acknowledged so. The Lincoln Centre in New York Public Library has a special section on them as also Italy Dance Museum in Bergamo.

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