Editor’s Note

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Photo Courtesy: Maya Kabir

 

Hello Dear Readers:

Welcome to the 2018 re-launch of Global Rasika!

We are thrilled to revisit our online magazine cultivate critical thinking and discourse across the Odissi community worldwide. Launched in 2014, Global Rasika has featured many incisive and thought provoking articles over its multiple editions. After an extended gap, we managed to channel our limited time and resources to complete this edition, the work for which started many months earlier.

As part of our re-launch: ‘Dynamics of a Contemporary Odissi,’ we thought it was important to focus our energies to examine current challenges in the field and their implications. Our goal is ultimately to create an awareness and acceptance that these issues affect both the growth of dance form and the lives of individual dancers; and examine how and what way we can meaningfully address these challenges moving forward. If we can seed and initiate conversations, we will have done our job.

Our writers this issue therefore have focused on several pressing challenges in the field: the need to cultivate thinking dancers in the current contemporary context, re-examining Odissi as a creative process, and the implications of a festival curation process that is driven more by nationality rather than quality.

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to sit down with the internationally acclaimed Guru Sri Bichitrananda Swain, founder of Rudrakshya Foundation, who has carved a niche for himself as one of the world’s leading Odissi Gurus and choreographers. Guru Sri Bichitrananda Swain very candidly shared his life journey with us, from a struggling dance student to internationally acclaimed choreographer.

We are also happy to present Kolkata-based Sri Argha Chatterjee, senior disciple of Guru Smt. Sujata Mohapatra, as our featured artiste for this issue. Global Rasika launched this initiative in 2016 to provide a virtual platform for local Odissi dance artistes to showcase their talent. Sri Argha  Chaterjee is an exemplary Odissi artiste with a firm command of the  Odissi form and technique. He has taught and performed extensively in India, the USA and in Canada.

We would like to offer our sincere thanks to our contributors: Manishikha Baul, Supriya Nayak, and Fatima Montero – thank you for tackling these important issues head-on with such passion and clarity. Thank you for your patience in seeing this issue through to its completion. Heartfelt gratitude to our Barcelona-based photographer Maya Kabir for generously contributing her images to give us the visual appeal we were seeking.

And lastly – thank you to our loyal readers who have supported us through it all and for encouraging us to continue our mission. We hope that you continue to read, think, discuss and share; to continue to enhance and expand the Odissi experience for everyone.

 

Sonali Mishra
Editor, Global Rasika
April, 2018
Detroit

 

Guru Bichitrananda Swain: Dance and Devotion

 
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Guru Sri Bichitranda Swain is a force to be reckoned with. Answering the call of his childhood dream, he immersed himself in dance despite great difficulty. As a result of his hard work, unrelenting drive and determination over the years, Guru Sri Bichitrananda Swain has emerged as one of the leading Odissi choreographers of his generation. His impressive body of work, spanning over two decades, reflects his depth, sensitivity and understanding of the art form and has earned international acclaim from dance critics and connoisseurs alike.

After having served as Principal of Orissa Dance Academy for many years, Guru Sri Bichitrananda Swain started his own institution, Rudrakshya, in 2003. Under the banner of Rudrakshya, he and his students have toured various cities throughout India, the USA, Canada, and Sri Lanka. A meticulous and highly sought-after teacher, Guru Bichitrananda Swain has trained a number of today’s leading soloists. Rudrakshya remains a home to many young aspiring male dancers who lack the financial means and support to pursue their dance training. Guru Bichitrananda Swain and his students have imparted training to hundreds of students both in India and abroad. During the course of a long tete-e-tete with Global Rasika, he very candidly shared his struggles and triumphs on the path of becoming who he is today.

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Returning to Form: Odissi as Creative Practice

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Photo Courtesy: Maya Kabir

 

By Supriya Nayak

In the Fall of 2017 a group of people who work in the fields of dance, music, visual art, curation and academia gathered at an art gallery in Toronto for a ‘class’. The focus of the discussion was on choreography for non-traditional performance spaces (such as art galleries) and I was one of only two Indian classical dancers in the room. The discussion was based on three readings we had been asked to do for the ‘class’ and touched upon questions of the relationships between presenters, choreographers, the audience and dancers, how art and its makers respond to the demands of the market, processes that lead to traditions of dance becoming crystallized or transforming through individual or community efforts, and much else. I would like to bring a question from that conversation to the discussion this issue of Global Rasika attempts to initiate, with an eye on the historical development and present eco-system of Odissi: What is the task of the dancer?

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Nationality vs. Quality: The Foreigner Fixation in Odissi Dance

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Photo Courtesy: Maya Kabir

 

by Fatima Montero

India is the land where philosophy proclaimed in earlier times so ‘ham asmi andatman brahman and developed the most beautiful texts about the identification with the divine and oneness. We should remember this idea of unity and apply it to our arts. For decades now, artistes from around the world have learnt Odissi dance both in India and abroad. We owe our gratitude to brave women like Sharon Lowen and Ileana Citaristi, who came to Odisha under far more difficult circumstances to study this art form. We also owe our gratitude to Gurus of that generation who were open-minded-enough and who trusted and cared for their students, opening the gateway for so many of us in the process. Unfortunately, despite the decades that have passed since their arrival, the existence of non-Indian Odissi dancers in Odisha remains a novelty. It is absolutely normal that societies will experience a ‘culture shock’ when citizens from distant parts of the world come to their land. When this happens, there are different ways to manage it: confrontation, normal acceptance (integration) and a third way, which is the one that I think continued to exist in many regions of the world, and also in Odissi: surprise and exoticism

[Read more…]

Becoming Un-Classical

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Photo Courtesy: Maya Kabir

 

by Manishikha Baul 

I often wonder. Where are the young Odissi dancers in this city? Are they ever performing? Or maybe playing with the form to create new? Where are the stories that are their own, telling of their lives and journeys? How is it that I never get to watch them or hear their stories?

As my mind lingers, the morning newspaper brings another festival for classical dance; this time for the new generation of young dancers. I am excited to see the line-up of artists. But of course. Not much has changed. The age old stalwarts of classical dance take stage yet again. The gimmickry of calling it a festival for the new generation of dancers was perhaps a strategy to attract new funders. I am heart-broken and disappointed but allow myself to sit with these thoughts and reflect deeply instead.

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Dynamics of a Contemporary Odissi: Contributors April 2018

Manishikha Baul is a dancer aspiring to be an independent-performer-maker heading zestfully towards her 40s. She has practiced Odissi for the most part of her life, managed arts organizations and messed with the corporate honchos.  Currently she is undergoing some non-normative transformation through theatre studies. She is inspired by the many walks (literal meaning) of people in cities and is working on her debut project, Chaari. Her teachers have been Sutapa Talukdar, Mandira B. Singh, Madhavi Mudgal, Rahul Acharya and Navtej Singh Johar. She presently resides in Delhi and her adda has been Gati Dance Forum for the past few years. If you bump into her on a street, market or station, know that it is but a character from Chaari. Manishikha can be reached at: manishikha.baul@gmail.com

Maya Kabir is an Odissi dancer, photographer, and entrepreneur based in Barcelona, Spain. She is a graduate in Social Work at Ramon Llul University. She also completed her postgraduate certificate in Language and Cultures of India and Iran by the Universidad de Salamanca. She is the founder of Rajani, an online business featuring unique jewellery from India. Maya can be reached at: mayakabir@icloud.com

Fatima Montero is a graduate in History (Licenciatura). She received her Masters Degree in Archaeology and Heritage (her thesis focused on the relations between the Roman Empire and India) by the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. She holds a special diploma in Indian and Irianian studies by the Universidad de Salamanca. She was awarded an ICCR scholarship to continue her dance studies at Srjan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Nrityabasa from 2014-2015. Fatima will continue her work to promote Indian classical arts in Spain by Ekadâ, the cultural association based in Madrid of which she is one of the founding members. Fatima can be reached at: asociacion.ekada@gmail.com

Supriya Nayak is an Odissi dancer from New Delhi, based in Toronto since 2015. Her work has been presented in India by the National Centre for Performing Arts (Bombay), Bharat Bhavan (Bhopal), International Odissi Festival and Odisha Dance Academy (Bhubaneswar), Sangeet Natak Akademi, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and more. She has performed internationally in South Africa, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, China and the USA. In Toronto, Supriya has danced for Anandam Dancetheatre, Toronto Dance Community Love-In, Sampradaya Dance Creations and CanOSA andreceived support through grants from the Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation. She has taught Odissi at Ashoka University, Sahitya Kala Parishad, and others. Supriya can be reached at: odissi.supriya@gmail.com