Nrityagram, the dance village set in rural Hessaraghatta, is only two hours away by road from Bangalore but seems worlds apart. Spread over 10 acres, the space combines the traditions of the past with the feel of a modern conservatory capable of refreshing itself through a dialogue with old and new knowledge systems. An amphitheatre, open-air performance space, outreach programmes with rural communities through arts and dance, and a rigorous rehearsal regimen with students who stay for three to six years learning Odissi and other dance forms constitute the diverse facets of Nrityagram.
As artistic director and soloist Surupa Sen says, research at Nrityagram feeds into the “creation of new and original vocabulary to push boundaries and serve compositional and choreographic purposes”. Sen and Bijayani Satpathy, director of Odissi Gurukul, will visit Mumbai’s NCPA for an eight-day visit where they will present performances, conduct workshops and interact with dancers, teachers and others at panel discussions. “This template of programming is often used in the West. I think it brings a depth and a greater degree of understanding of the dance to both the participants and the artists,” says Sen.
“Nrityagram is known for its artistic rigour, discipline and for being a modern professional dance institution,” says Amrita Lahiri, head of dance programming at NCPA.
A new piece composed by Sen for the Odissi repertoire is Samyoga, a duet presented by Satpathy and her. It represents years of practice at finding the perfect balance as dancers who complement each other’s artistic quests.
Led by Satpathy, there will be master classes to learn the basic phrases of Odissi and the isolated body training specific to Odissi, as evolved and practised at Nrityagram.
One highlight is the Kandyan Dance Workshop conducted by Guru Upeka Chitrasena, who revitalised the temple dance form of Sri Lanka in the 1940s, and Thaji Dias, principal dancer of the Chitrasena Dance Company.
Samhara: The Braid, a collaboration between Odissi and Kandyan presented by The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble and the Chitrasena Dance Company, will mark the end of the week. This collaboration emerged from the premise that the Natyashashtra is the root of all dance traditions in the region and led to an exploration of the vocabulary of dance using the performance practices of India and Sri Lanka. Samhara is the culmination of a significant five-year journey that showed the elemental connections between Odissi and Kandyan dance.
Bottomline: A chance to delve into the details of Odissi choreography and technique.
Where: NCPA, Mumbai
Where: August 25 to September 2