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Birthday tribute to Ananda
- Cell firm teams up with foundation for dance scholarship

It was a dream that Ananda Shankar dreamt: promoting individual talent in the field of creative dance. To his closest friends, he would lament how there were government scholarships for classical dancers, while those in creative dance forms had to depend solely on stage performances and tuitions.

That dream is finally coming true, with the Ananda Shankar Foundation being launched on December 11 — the late choreographer-musician’s 60th birthday — with a scholarship from AirTel to go along with it.

“The scholarship will initially be restricted to among students of the Ananda Shankar Performing Centre but over a period of time, we will ask other contenders to appear for the auditions. A student must have at least 90 per cent capability in the modern dance syllabi, besides the ability to clear the oral examinations,” said Tanushree Shankar, chairperson of the Foundation, adding that she would involve AirTel officials during the auditions “to maintain transparency”.

The foray by the corporate sector into the world of performing arts is not exactly new. “But so far, most of these associations had been into sponsoring events mainly to sell their brands. We are looking at a long-term arrangement where we would provide an annual scholarship to talents in the field of creative dance to begin with,” said Deepak Gulati, chief executive officer, Bharti Mobitel. According to Gulati, AirTel has set up an in-house core committee for arts appreciation to organise events as a goodwill gesture.

“But we are also looking at promoting young talents at musical events and having them permanently attached to the company, like they do with sports personalities,” he added.

The Ananda Shankar scholarship promises an outstanding performer all monetary support towards creating something individually, with a chance to go abroad and study at reputed institutions of dance.

The 600-odd participants of the Ananda Shankar Performing Centre have long been looking for the proper platform to evolve individually. “Some have already branched out but there are others who have stood by me for over 20 years now, although I can offer little by way of monetary help. This is where the scholarship money will come handy to provide financial support to artistes during their tenure of service and retirement,” added Tanushree.

The funds will also help set up a musical archive, “the kind that Ananda, Somnath Banerjee and others began their careers with”.

The launch of the scholarship and the Foundation will be marked by a mega performance of Uddharan — that has won the West Bengal government’s Uday Shankar award — and a fusion music performance by Taufiq Qureshi at Kala Mandir.

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