When Local Goes Global: Odissi’s Identity Crises

by Sonali Mishra

Saree of the dancer

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo

Odissi is one of many cultural practices in the world that has expanded beyond its local roots to a national and international framework. Considered a relatively new style in the pantheon of Indian classical dance, Odissi’s continued evolution on a global, rather than local [or semi-local] scale has raised concerns with regards to the loss of its unique cultural identity. Debates regarding authenticity, purity and dilution of the dance form have dominated many a seminar in the Odissi community in Odisha. Odissi’s growing popularity internationally asks that we re-examine tradition and modernity in a changing context, where the parameters that once defined the form are now blurred. The challenge for this generation of dance practitioners is to evolve the form in a modern context whilst maintaining the unique distinguishing elements of Odissi. To do so requires a thorough understanding of the dance form, as well as a willingness to explore new ideas.

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