Editor’s Note

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Hello Dear Readers! We are delighted to present the summer issue of Global Rasika, an online initiative launched in 2014 to cultivate critical thinking and discourse across the Odissi dance community worldwide.

This issue of Global Rasika, “Changing Paradigms in Odissi Dance,” explores the changing dimensions in Odissi’s ecosystem and their possible future impact in today’s context. The last decade or so has brought about dramatic transitions in the world – economic, political, cultural, and social. These changes, further intensified by the internet and social media, have drastically altered the value systems not only in India but throughout the world. Thus, changes in the overall dynamics: our understanding, approach, practice and promotion of classical dance – is inevitable.

In this issue, our writers express their views on several live debates amongst the Odissi fraternity today: Dance as means of unlocking creative potential, performance in alternative spaces, a departure from the conventional mode of learning in pursuit of an individual artistic journey, and exploring Odissi as a means of creative expression. Our writers challenge the ingrained set of values that have defined the ‘norm’ in the field and which, if not examined carefully, will run the risk of doing the art form more harm than good.

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with veteran Odissi dancer Guru Smt. Aruna Mohanty, who offers valuable insight and perspective from her active involvement in the dance field over the last several decades.

We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the contributors for this issue: Merle O’Brien, Ayona Bhaduri, Ashwini Raghupathy and Fatima Montero, for drawing upon their own experiences and research to share with our readers. We also would like to thank photographer Debiprasad Sahoo, who has accompanied us on this journey from the very beginning and who continues to support our vision.

As with our previous issues, we humbly request our readers to please read, analyze and discuss the ideas presented here. It is our hope that with continued discourse, we can collectively contribute to the continuous and holistic transformation and progression of Odissi, helping to retain and hopefully further its position as a leading form of dance expression not just amongst classical forms in India but amongst all forms of dance globally. We welcome your feedback and suggestions to further our efforts to create a vibrant, engaged, and aware Odissi community worldwide.

Many thanks to you: our growing list of readers – for your continued support and enthusiasm.

Sonali Mishra
Editor, Global Rasika
July 2015

Odissi: Exploring an Evolving Tradition

by Fatima Montero

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Whatever remains unmentioned should be included into practice by experts from an observation of people – NS XXXVI, 83.

To this ending of the treatise Manomohan Ghosh very appropriately comments in his edition: “this shows that the author of the Sastra did not like to see drama eternally tied to his prescriptions.”
We learn and we teach. That is essence of being human: we have the ability to share our knowledge with the next generation, which is how civilizations have been built. This system will collapse if we neglect it, but it will also collapse if we do not add to it. Dances are the expression through the movement of the body. Dance needs music, decoration, emotions and ideas to express, but ultimately dance is movement. We should know what the essence of our art form is, keeping this in mind before modifying it and before criticizing others for modifying it. What exactly does Odissi need to be considered Odissi? What are the indispensable elements in our dance form that distinguishes it from the others? The elements that we cannot take away? What is its real essence? The first and main focus on our list must be attributes of movement.

[Read more…]

From Passion to Profession: Advice for Aspiring Dancers

By Rathimalar Govindarajoo

Rathimalar Govindarajoo with Divya Nayar in Panjara. Photo Courtesy: Nithya Kuthiah

Dance is an inherent part of any culture. Classical, folk, and modern/contemporary are three main forms prevalent today. In Malaysia, we are seeing a growing interest in dance, with an increasing number of young students seriously pursuing their craft. At some point, these dancers may find themselves at a crossroad: Passion or Profession? Should they choose a stable, secure profession for the sake of security, or should they follow their dreams, risking their lives in the process, to pursue an inner passion that could easily turn into a pipe dream? Moreover, what defines success for a dancer, especially in Malaysia where the performing arts are still not a priority? Is it popularity and achievements through the number of VIP performances? Or is it simply the promotion of Malaysia’s culture to the world? This question remains unanswered even today. Speaking from personal experience, single-minded dedication is required to take up dance as a career. Nowadays, there are many options for individuals interested in pursuing dance professionally: performance, teaching, choreographing, and writing are some of the many avenues available. Dance is a rare choice, but for those who have the perseverance, it can be a very satisfying and fulfilling decision. [Read more…]

Democratising Rasa (or the pleasure of the lay rasika)

by Elena Catalano

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

It is a common practice in the West to introduce an Odissi performance with brief descriptions of the items presented by the dancer. These introductions normally provide basic information about the rhythmic and melodic accompaniment of the dance or, in the case of abhinaya, about the text the dance interprets through gestures, movements or facial expressions. However, they are, more often than not, clichéd descriptions that dispense scant hints in support of the dance’s appreciation. While certainly satisfying a few who are already familiar with the aesthetics of Odissi, these introductions are nevertheless either too brief or too technical to substantially add to the reception of the performance by the wider audience. When not by the presenter, these descriptions may be uttered by the performer herself, hidden behind the scenes, as if coming on stage to talk to the audience would compromise her aura of immaculate and speechless apsara unable to communicate with her body and her voice at once. [Read more…]

Finding Meaning in Odissi Through Dislocation: One Perspective of a Diaspora Dancer

by Nabanita Pal

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo


(i) Odissi is Not a Commodity
Odissi in the United States (U.S.) was first nurtured in people’s homes, in basements and garages converted into makeshift dance studios. Before there were performances in professional theaters, group productions, and Mancha Praveshes, there were small classes that started through word of mouth. I can delineate much of my childhood and adolescence by parts of the Odissi repertoire. First grade was Mangalacharan. Second grade was Stayi. Third Grade was Batu, and so on and so forth. Just as I grew up with this art form, it too grew with the tireless efforts of teachers and promoters who built a base of future Odissi dancers, one student at a time. [Read more…]