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.

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Agency and Gender: the New Identity of the Female Odissi Dancer in a National and Transnational Perspective

by Shilpa Bertuletti

Duet Dancers

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

 

In this period of socio-economic change in the globalized world, the formation of individual cultural identity in India is marked by the contestation between national, global, regional and local socio-political forces, influencing also the world of Indian Classical Dance. Odissi, which is now practised throughout India and in other parts of the world is a classical dance form born in the state of Odisha. The narrative that I want to describe has emerged from my two identities: one, a scholar interested in the relationship between representation, identity and gender, and the other, an Indo-Italian Odissi practitioner interested in the long tradition of this dance and its relationship with the west. It was during my intimate association with the world of classical dance in India that I began to see some of its interesting relationships: using an ethnographic field methods, I saw how Odissi dance is transforming itself due to the changing conditions of patronage, national, regional and local politics and the increasing involvement in dance of middle class and lower middle-class women.

 

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