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

sharma

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

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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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A Lived Experience of Tradition: Odissi in a Liberal Arts Curriculum

Photo Courtesy: Susil Pani

Photo Courtesy: Susil Pani

 

by Aaadya Kaktikar

Note: This article is an excerpt from another article -Dancing in-between spaces: an auto-ethnographic exploration of an abhinaya class available at http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/sBZ8mFv348BRy5G8AABA/full

Three years ago, Odissi was introduced in the undergraduate curriculum in one of India’s first Liberal Arts universities. While dance had been a part of higher education curricula (to some extent) in India for a while, this phenomenon was unique in many ways. It marked a new direction for the meaning of Dance and Dance Education as an academic discipline in higher education in India. This article summarises the possible learning outcomes and the meanings generated by the transition and translation of a traditional dance form from one educational system to another.

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Mediating Odissi Culture: My Experience

Photo Courtesy: Susil Pani

Photo Courtesy: Susil Pani

by Saswat Joshi 

In 2006, I went abroad for the first time to South Korea with my Guru Dr. Ileana Citaristi to assist her with an Odissi workshop she was conducting. Being from the state of Odisha, that was the first time I felt like a true ambassador of Odiya culture. I began to think more in-depth about certain aspects of my culture that I had always taken for granted. One very simple example is attire: during the workshop I wore a dhoti, which I had always worn as a student at the Odissi Research Center. The workshop participants were quite excited to see me each morning because I was dressed in this traditional attire. Another example is that of “Guru Pranam.” Touching the Guru’s feet and taking their blessing was something the students were not familiar with. But every morning before the workshop session started, I would touch my Guru’s feet, as this is part of our tradition of learning dance, and something I was quite proud of. On the very last day of the workshop, without any prompting, the students came and touched our feet.

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Negotiating Cultures

Photo Courtesy: Susil Pani

by Sylvana Duarte

India and Brazil are geographically so distant and belong to such different historical, religious and philosophical traditions that, at first, they seem to have nothing in common. However, that is not entirely true. A closer and more careful look can reveal several similarities between the two countries. The similarities bring it closer while the differences, despite causing initial strangeness, arouse, at the very least, curiosity and fascination towards “the other’s” culture. [Read more…]

Developing a New Pedagogy for Odissi: the British Scenario

by Elena Catalano

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Would it be overtly optimistic to claim that Odissi is entering an unprecedented Golden Age of development throughout the globe? Perhaps not. However, it would be ingenuous to believe that the internationalisation of the form will leave its aesthetics, modes of transmission and performance untouched, ‘traditional’, as some would say, albeit of a fictional and constructed kind of tradition as scholars would answer back, citing Hobsbawm and Ranger (1983).[1] [Read more…]