A New City For Odissi

Since the day of its revival in 50s of last century, Odissi has travelled from temples of Odisha to the most advanced global stages across the world. Apart from its home ground, this dance form found practitioners and connoisseurs in cities like Kolakata, Mumbai and New Delhi. However, southern part of the country has somehow remained comparatively less enthusiastic to Odissi.

As a sign of change, Bengaluru has of late adopted Odissi as one of its choicest forms of classical dance and more than a dozen schools, teaching the dance form, are running in the city. Every time I visit Bengaluru, I find a new Odissi institute or a new festival, celebrating the spirit of Odissi. It was in the 80s that celebrated dancer Protima Bedi established her institute ‘Nrityagram’ and churned out highly professional and skilled Odissi dancers. Now, the city is flooded with Odissi teachers, pupils, performers and connoisseurs.

In August this year, I attend two major festivals of Odissi in Bengaluru. The first festival, ‘Kirti Chandrika’, was organised by ‘Alapadma, an Odissi school founded by young and promising dancer Chandrika Mohapatra Sharma. In the long line of new Odissi schools coming up in the IT capital of India, Chandrika’s ‘Alapadma’ is a fresh addition and having enrolled hundreds of students in itself is a big achievement. She learnt the dance form at Orissa Dance Academy, led and nurtured by Guru Aruna Mohanty.

Through this event, she not only presented her students but also showcased brilliant choreographic work of several Odissi exponents. Veteran Odissi dancer and choreographer Aruna Mohanty’s ‘Ashwathama’ (earlier I wrote a detailed review on this particular production in these columns) got a standing ovation from the audience. The dialogue between death and life was so powerfully presented by Aruna that it stayed etched in the mind, creating a never-ending panorama. ‘Kirti Chandrika’ was a brilliant mix of established and upcoming dancers.

In the last week of August, Ustad Bismillah Khan Youth Awardee Madhulita Mohapatra and her school Nrityantar presented a huge ensemble of her students as a prelude to their annual Odissi festival ‘Naman’.

Many of Madhulita’s students have the potential to enrich Odissi. This year, Maya Raj Urs,  Mrida Raj Urs, Saanvi Sahoo, Susmita Dhal and Mihika Mahnoor caught the attention of the audience and so also the solo performances by a battery of young talents. The piece presented by Meghna Das on Gopalakrishna poetry’s ‘Uthilu Ede Begi’, composed by her mother Sahana Das, had typical desi elements of Odissi expression. Sonali Mohanty’s solo piece on an Ashtapadi was astoundingly good. Anjali Raj Urs’ performance on Odia Abhinaya ‘Bajuchi Sahi Bajarae’, a brilliant Aruna Mohanty’s composition, was also applauded.

Besides, Pallavi based on Raga Darbari, Janasammohini and Malhar were energetically captivating.

Bengaluru is slowly but surely embracing Odissi as its own, and the better part of the story is, it’s no more restricted to Odias. Odissi is growing truly as a global dance form enhancing its cosmopolitan base across the globe.

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