Dr. Ileana Citaristi’s Search for Meaning

Photo Courtesy: Avinash Pasricha

Photo Courtesy: Avinash Pasricha

Decades ago, Italian-born Dr. Ileana Citaristi yearned for unrestrained expression and traveled to India in search of self-discovery. In the years that followed, she metamorphosed from a free-spirited hippie to a classical dancer of international repute. After having trained in Odissi under the legendary Guru Sri Kelucharan Mohapatra, Dr. Ileana Citaristi has since made Odisha her home.  She has established herself both nationally and internationally as a performer, scholar, choreographer and organiser. Dr. Citaristi founded her Bhubaneswar-based dance institute, Art Vision, in 1996. She has earned many awards and accolades for her work, including the prestigious “Padmashree” award by the Government of India in 2006. Dr. Citaristi’s most recent book, an autobiography aptly titled My Journey, A Tale of Two Births, published in 2015, candidly tells her story of transformation. We are happy to have had a chance to sit with Dr. Citaristi as she shared her life and experiences with us.

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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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