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…]