Festival: The Dhauli festival was a showcase of Indian classical dance forms as well as folk art traditions of Orissa. SHYAMHARI CHAKRA

After Orissa Government's two-decade-old famed festival of Konark, the six-year-old annual Dhauli festival hosted at the historic Dhauli hills near Bhubaneswar by Orissa Dance Academy has emerged as the most promising presentation of Indian classical dances in Orissa. It has at its helm efficient arts administrator and veteran Odissi dancer-choreographer Aruna Mohanty.

The recently concluded sixth edition of the event that showcased some of the best known troupes of Odissi, Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Manipuri was a treat for the connoisseurs. Three globally acclaimed Odissi troupes were presented during the three-day festival – late Protima Bedi's Nrityagram led by Surupa Sen; late Kelucharan Mohapatra's Srjan led by his son Ratikant Mohapatra and host Orissa Dance Academy led by its secretary Aruna Mohanty. While the Nrityagram dancers excelled in their exploration of pace and space in Surupa's choreographic compositions, Srjan's budding artistes staged a show of ecstasy and beauty with their geometric formations. And the Academy's peerless presentation of Navarasa (nine sentiments) through stories drawn from The Ramayana would be etched in the memory of the spectators for years. US-based young Odissi dancer Shibani Patnaik was presented as the lone soloist in the festival.

Late Kathak exponent Rohini Bhate's Nritya Bharati troupe from Pune stormed the stage with Tarang, a pure dance number, and then made the audience dance with them literally with the Kajri that depicted the joyful mood of the village damsels on a rainy day set to the folk tunes of North India. Kathputuli, the troupe's thought provoking ballet on women's emancipation, was a wonderful collage of dance, mime and puppetry.

Delhi-based Bharatanatyam Guru Saroja Vaidyanathan's Ganesh Natyalaya troupe was bubbling with energy. It also exhibited neat team work. But, their entire recital was too fast paced and a bit monotonous. Besides, the solo dance number presented by its foreigner troupe member Nikolina did not fit into the format of the festival. Similarly, Kolkata-based young Manipuri dancer Bimbavati Devi's dance ballet Samavatree based on the story of Chaitanya Dev's wife Vishnupriya - who misses her divinity-seeker husband and finally joins his mission – was touching but extensive use of the martial arts forms of Bengal and Orissa besides stage props diluted the essence of a Manipuri production.

Classical dances apart, the festival presented three dying but glorious folk art traditions of Orissa – Prahlad Natak of Ganjam, Moghul Tamasha of Bhadrak and Rod-puppetry of Keonjhar – as per the vision of well-known Odissi Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, the founder of Orissa Dance Academy and the festival, who believed in a harmonious promotion of the classical, folk and tribal art practices.