Odissi, referred to as Orissi in older literature, is an ancient Indian classical dance that originated in Hindu temples of Odisha – an eastern coastal state of India
31 July 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka – Anugamana, (the ongoing journey) presented by the Indian Cultural Centre at the Russian Cultural Centre recently, was an offering of Odissi dance showcasing
the talent of Sri Lankan born Nritta Ganeshi Manoharan, and daughter of a leading proponent and teacher of the Bharatanatyam dance form, Shangitha Namasivayam and two senior exponents of the Odissi dance form,Leena Mohanty and Daisy GaraniVijayakumaran.
This debut performance in Sri Lanka, comprised five items choreographed by Leena Mohanty, with music composed by Sri Dheeraj Kumar Mohapatra, and was especially momentous for Nritta as it was her first in her motherland.The event was graced by the presence of R Sambandan, Leader of the Opposition and the Acting Head of the Indian High Commission, Arindam Bagchi. In addition to members of the public, well-wishers, friends, doyens of Sri Lankan dance Khema and Upekha, Haridevi Jauasundara, Vasuki Jagathesswaran and Nirmala Benedict were in the audience.
The evening opened with Mangalacharan, a salutation to Goddess Saraswati, who can take any form, and bestower of all boons. Mangalacharan was performed by Nritta and Daisy. Nritta has that rare quality in dance that transcends the exposition of technique, capturing her audience. Her fluidity of movement and grace were in deep contrast to Daisy’s technically perfect and precise expression. The second item, Pallavi, was performed by Leena and Nritta. This elaboration of a melodic-rhythmic theme built gradually into complex patterns and variations, capturing the mood of the monsoon with Leena Mohanty’s choreography. Leena and Nritta were in delightful harmony as they performed the duet. Leena’s choreography brought to life the Gita Govinda, a work composed by the 12th-century Indian poet, Jayadeva, which describes the relationship between Krishna and the gopis (female cow herders) of Vrindavana, and in particular one gopi named Radha. The item performed by all three dancers to the music of Guru Rama Hari Dasand was a compelling demonstration of the strengths of each performer
‘A star is born,’ said Swami Shantanand Saraswati when he saw Nritta perform at the age of 5 and expectations were high when she stepped onstage alone. Nritta’s solo performance of Chamunda Stutee was a revelation of the breadth and depth of the talent of this young dancer. Gone was the graceful, genial beauty and in its place, was a compelling and credible – Chamunda. Chamunda, one of the chief yoginis and the slayer of the demons Chanda and Munda. In Nritta’s dance one could envisage the garland of severed heads or skulls, a drum, trident, sword held in her hands, snake, skull-mace, thunderbolt, drinking vessel or skull-cup filled with blood. The dancer’s strong, sharp movements made believable that she stood on the corpse of a thwarted demon or man. Her facial expressions complemented her movements and this was the most enthralling performance of the evening. It dazzled.
The evening ended with Jaaga Maheshwara danced by Leena and Daisy, evoking Lord Shiva as Nataraja worshiped as the king among dancers He is described as the greatest yogi who wears the sky as his garments, balancing on a solitary foot, totally poised. A well-executed finale to a grand evening of Odissi dance.
Anugamana was indeed a fitting title – as this is but one performance in these dancers’ ongoing journey in their search of the sublime and perfection of execution of Odissi dance. The evening’s Odissi was in the style of Guru Deba Prasad Das, which is known for its pristine qualities and immaculate compositions, and his fascination for exploring and deriving inspiration from tribal dance movements.
Nritta’s name translates to “pure dance”, and she has chosen to express her natural gift for dance through Odissi since her early childhood, blazing her own trail around the world as one of the youngest and most promising stars of the dance form. She has delivered outstanding performances which have prompted invitations from India and Orissa, home of Odissi. Nritta was selected by Singapore as one of six “Wonder kids of Asia” for her academic performance and her excellence in Odissi. She has also been named as one of the top ten young Odissi talents in India. Nritta is currently pursuing a degree in Engineering at the University of Newcastle, Australia whilst continuing to seek perfection in dance under the tutelage of great teachers such as Guru Durga Charan Ranbir and Leena Mohanty. She is currently also in her final year of a Master’s programme in Odissi with the Pracheen Kalakendra in india.
Leena Mohanty is one of the leading exponents of Odissi dance and is a senior dancer with wide national and international experience.She was the recipient of the first Ustad Bismillah Khan Youth Award in 2006 from Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi and has been awarded the coveted and prestigious Mahari award. She is the artistic director of Bansi Bilas, an institution devoted to training young and upcoming dancers of Guru Deba Prasad Das School of Odissi, and of the Trinayan Dance Theater, New York City, USA. She also heads the Odissi Department of the Kalpana Dance Theatre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Daisy GaraniVijayakumaran has been involved in Bharatanatyam and Odissi dances for the past 30 years. A senior dancer with wide performing experience, she has trained for many years with the artistic director of the Kalpana Dance Theater, Shangita Namasivayam, Daisy combines perfect technique. Ever the student, she is intensely desirous of exploration within the inspiring realm of classical dance. She has been awarded the title Singaramani by Sursingar, Mumbai, India.
Odissi, also referred to as Orissi in older literature, is a major ancient Indian classical dance that originated in the Hindu temples of Odisha – an eastern coastal state of India. Odissi, in its history, was performed predominantly by women, and expressed religious stories and spiritual ideas, particularly of Vaishnavism, but performances have also expressed ideas of other traditions such as those related to Hindu gods Shiva and Surya, as well as Hindu goddesses.
Odissi is traditionally a dance-drama genre of performance art, where the artistes and musicians play out a mythical story, a spiritual message or devotional poem from the Hindu texts, using symbolic costumes, body movement, abhinaya (expressions) and mudras (gestures and sign language) set out in ancient Sanskrit literature. An Odissi performance repertoire includes invocation, nritta (pure dance), nritya (expressive dance), natya (dance drama), and moksha (dance climax connoting freedom of the soul and spiritual release).
Odissi dancers are colorfully dressed with makeup and jewellery. The sari worn by Odissi dancers are brightly coloured and usually of local silk (pattasari) made up with pleats, to allow maximum flexibility during the footwork. The jewellery includes silver pieces, and the hair is tied up, and typically drawn into an elaborate bun resembling a Hindu temple spire, and decorated with Seenthi, and a moon shaped crest of white flowers. The dancer’s forehead is marked with tikka, and the eyes are ringed with kajal, whi;e the ankles are decorated with a leather piece on top of which are bells (ghungroo). The dancer’s palms and soles may be painted with red coloured dye called alta.