Lecture demonstrations and engrossing dance performances marked the first-ever Gotipua festival.

Justice was delayed but not denied to the four centuries old Gotipua dance of Orissa — the precursor to Odissi dance — and its most marginalised practitioners recently with the first-ever Gotipua dance festival hosted in Bhubaneswar by the state government.

The three-day event, staged at Rabindra Mandap, received rave response from the artistes fraternity, connoisseurs, scholars and the public. The audience were seen standing for hours in the auditorium to witness the captivating performance by the young boys who were dancing in female impersonation as per the tradition. While eight troupes were invited to participate in the festival this year and 21 exponents of the dance form were specially honoured, the government declared that the Gotipua dance festival shall be a regular feature in its annual cultural calendar and it would be staged every year from November 15 to 17.

The festival revealed how winds of change is blowing over this age-old tradition under an unusual influence of Odissi dance and the market forces that govern its future as a mere dance of entertainment with the acrobatic movements and postures. The trends hinted out the positive possibilities and the dangers as well that the dance form might explore and get exposed to in future respectively.

The seminars and lecture demonstrations conducted during the day were quite engaging and relevant for the fraternity that had never had an opportunity to come together. The festival further featured screening of a documentary film made by Mrilanini Padhi.

In the presentation of Nilakantheswara Gotipua Gurukul Dance Academy of Brahmagiri and Natyambara troupe of Dimirisena, one came across the traditional and typical elements still in tact. On the other hand, in the performances of Konark Natya Mandap, Laxmipriya Gotipua Natyakendra of Balipatna, Naxatra Gurukul and Odisha Dance Academy — both from Bhubaneswar — the influence of Odissi and of stage craft were dominant.

Similarly, use of stage properties and dramatisation of presentation were seen in Dasabhuja Gotipua dance troupe of Raghurajpur. Music, movements, costume and choreography — much similar to of Odissi — in several presentations pointed out that the crude dance form is being refined too fast. Even musical instruments of violin, flute and sitar — which were never a part of Gotipua tradition — were seen becoming an integral part of the accompanying music.

If Gotipua got its name from goti (single) and pua (boy) — single male dancer — then the most authentic and mesmerising presentation were staged by two renowned Gotipua dancers of yesteryears as soloists — Gobinda Pal and Bhagirathi Mohapatra — who are above 60 years of age now.

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