Watching Kavita Dwibedi speak is as mesmerising as watching her on stage. Her kohl-rimmed eyes dart in quick flashes, her hands create liquid patterns in the air and her smile breaks in on her words. “You know, after a point, the dancer and the dance become one,” she says, gracefully swatting a mosquito that seemed to have strayed into her well-‘barricaded' room at a guest house in the city. “The day I stop feeling that, it will be my end,” says the Odissi dancer, who was in the city recently for a lecture tour.
Kavita has been associated with SPIC MACAY (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth), since 1994 and says that she loves performing for children. “For artistes like me, coming down to the students' level and communicating with them is an enriching experience.”
She has been dancing for over 20 years, and now, Odissi almost defines her personality. It is an intensely creative form of self-expression, of communicating with the world around her.
Daughter of acclaimed Odissi dancer Hare Krishna Behera, Kavita was initiated into the world of Odissi at an early age, but her father, a perfectionist, did not give her any “special treatment”, she recalls. “He treated me just as any other student and would scold me often,” upsetting her little world. “Today, I thank my father for the way he has helped me grow as a dancer,” Kavita says.
‘Abhinaya' being her forte, Kavita says it still is the most challenging part for an artiste. It is the ‘abhinaya' that brings out the dancer's true passion for the dance. “It is story-telling, communicating with the audience and taking the composition to a whole new level,” she says.
Having performed at countless venues across the length and breadth of India and abroad, Kavita has experimented with various ‘sahitya' (content) for her pieces. Right from the Upanishads to the Vedas, epics, the Bhagavata and verse by contemporary poets, she has worked with a variety of songs for her compositions. However, even as she explores the colourful world of ‘sahitya', she ensures that the classical format of Odissi is never diluted.
Krishna's lady love Radha and Siva's wife Parvathy find themselves reincarnated in Kavita's choreography, her expressions, movements and grace depicting their various moods of love, devotion, separation and pain. “Odissi is a very lyrical dance form. It is important to choose the right ‘sahitya',” she says.
Her next work will be on Buddha. Unlike a routine composition on the life and struggles of the Buddha, Kavita says her piece would delve deeper into the “conflict between Buddha and his path to Nirvana”. The serenity and the ‘bhakti bhav' of the character would suit the graceful, flowing movements of Odissi, she says.
She has choreographed pieces on themes such as “save the girl child” and global warming, too. “Dance, like any art form, should constantly evolve and it will not happen unless we experiment with themes and make it relevant to society.”
Kavita set up the Odissi Academy in Delhi in 1991, which organises the Jayadeva Utsav, a dance festival held every year to celebrate Jayadeva's ‘Gita Govindam'. Classical dancers from different parts of the country perform the ‘Gita Govindam' at the festival, in addition to holding seminars and talks.
Festivals such as these also help create awareness about Odissi, which, unfortunately has not got the kind of exposure other classical dances such as Bharatanatyam and Kathak have enjoyed. “Until Indian independence, Odissi was confined to the temples. It got recognition as a dance form only after the British left,” Kavita says.
Kavita will be performing at Khajuraho with Mohiniattam and Kathak dancers after which she will travel to South Korea as part of the ICCR-sponsored ‘India Festival'.