Finding Lila: Tales of Odissi in the 21st Century

by Nisha Somasundaram 

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Not long ago I attended a seminar on the subject of astronomy and physics written in verse at the university I currently attend. The presenter spoke of how mathematicians of a bygone era in India aspired to write about physics in poetic form in a way that was as beautiful and sophisticated as the subject matter itself. In many ways, this is an idea that underpinned the creation of Finding Lila, a multi-media initiative and website dedicated to exploring Odissi from the viewpoint of UK-based practitioners: [Read more…]

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
Detroit

Portrait of the Artist: Guru Smt. Aruna Mohanty

Photo Courtesy: Shantanu Das

Photo Courtesy: Shantanu Das

Guru Smt. Aruna Mohanty has the unique distinction in the Odissi fraternity to operate par excellence on multiple levels – performer, teacher, choreographer, administrator, and organizer. A master strategist, she continues to keep a pulse on the broader trends of the dance world, as reflected in her work. Guru Smt. Aruna Mohanty’s global outlook, combined with her sensitivity to local issues, has made her a thought leader in the field, and was the most obvious choice for this issue’s featured artist. She has earned numerous accolades for her contribution to Odissi to include: the Mahari Award (1997), Sanjukta Panigrahi Memorial National Award (2001), Fellowship by Ministry of HRD, Government of India, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar Award in 2010. She also served as vice-president of the Odisha Sangeet Natak Academy. Currently Director of Orissa Dance Academy, Guru Smt. Aruna Mohanty shares her views on the changing landscape of Odissi dance over the years:

[Read more…]

The Dance of Creativity

by Merle O’Brien

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

 

As the fields of art and science move to a common space in the 21st century, creativity is taking centrestage in all fields of human endeavor, driving a new form of economy and redefining itself from an art into a lifescience.

Working as a Futurist at the forefront of creativity, design and front end innovation – while also being an Odissi danseuse, training in one of the world’s oldest forms of codified creativity, I see that the future of creativity looks remarkably similar to its most ancient past. If this holds true, Odissi may find itself becoming increasingly relevant as an educational technology for neuro-muscular entrainment to unlock human creative potential.

[Read more…]

From Proscenium to the Public: Alternative Spaces in Performance

by Ashwini Raghupathy

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Photo Courtesy: Ddebiprasad Sahoo

In April earlier this year, a video was uploaded on Youtube which created a furor that launched a barrage of discussions on social media which continue even today. The clip showed a dancer Aleksy Furdak, also known as Gaura Natraj Das, an American performing Bharatanatyam in a metro station in the USA. (http://www.southreport.com/classical-dance-in-new-york-subway/) ) This performance was not the first of its kind, as other dancers, including myself, have been exploring public spaces to present traditional Indian dances. Here you see another Bharatanatyam dancer, Jai Khalsa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUBWtuxyiUQ, and here is a video featuring me which encapsulated a little of my work in this area : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GCXHbycgd4)

While I personally have not spoken to the above-mentioned dancers, I have realised from my own experience that there will be detractors every time one challenges the status quo in any field. When I started to dance Odissi in the parks and streets of Bangalore. I received a fair share of criticism, some of which I have outlined here:

[Read more…]

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…]

Independent Spirit: My Journey as a Solo Artist

by Ayona Bhaduri

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Every competent artist, with a thirst for knowledge and a will to rid her art of parochialism and complacency, goes through a very significant and inevitable transitory phase from collective participation to individual pursuit; in case of a dancer, from working within an ensemble to venturing out as a soloist. I think a lot of it has to do with the dancer’s intellect. Beyond the physicality of the dance, when the mind begins to yearn for the ‘tripti’ or total satisfaction brought about by complete synergy of the mind, body and soul over and above the immediate trivial concerns of movement technique, when the ‘utsah’ of a movement stems from the emotion driving it so much so that the body feels just right at the said moment, in perfect harmony with the mind, in response to the ‘bhava’ initiating the movement, that is when the dancer intuitively knows that it is time and that she is ready to start her individual pursuit, searching both within and outside herself, to find her own personal vision that would define her art. Because every work of art ultimately becomes a true reflection of the artist herself.

[Read more…]