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Updated: June 11, 2010 19:22 IST

Finding the Odissi spirit

RANEE KUMAR
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Sonali Acharjee
Sonali Acharjee

Sonali Acharjee's performance lacked the depth to make her recital perfect.

An evening of Odissi (Odissi Sandhya) was an inviting title for a dance enthusiast to walk into Ravindra Bharati. The mention of Odissi conjures live and moving Konark temple murals and sculptures evoking Lord Jagannath of Puri. Next is the ahaarya (costume) so unique and ethnic with its silver ornaments that it holds a special appeal for those not too familiar with Orissa and its culture. We have outstanding names in the field of Odissi dance like Sonal Mansingh and (Late)Samjukta Panigrahi not to talk of those Meenakshi Seshadri.

So, it was with great expectations that the audience came over to witness the dance performance of Sonali Acharjee, who till then was little known in the Hyderabad dance circuit. But her credentials are established elsewhere in the country. The traditional ‘mangalacharan' by pupils of her school, Srishti Odisssi Dance Academy, paying obscience to the Adi guru, Trimurthi and the Guru in raag Pahadi-Yam was a meaningful verse sung in deep reverence to which the dancers could hardly render any justice. They lacked the essence of Odissi in synch and stances. At best, it was calisthenics to rhythm. The saving grace was the hasta abhinaya to depict the Trimurthi through three different mudras. All was not lost as hope is what keeps us all going. The audience braced themselves for the principal dancer to do some damage control.

Sonali chose a wonderful invocation to Durga by Adi Sankara in chaste Sanskrit sung with an Oriya intonation by Vinod Bihari Panda who had a sonorous voice. The divine music to this hymn was composed by Raghunath Panigrahi. The dancer was so conscious in working out her footwork to the syllabic patterns and her eyes to get the right expression, as she had to shift from the benign to the angry goddess, that she quite missed the sway of Odissi dance. Her body kinetics betrayed nothing of the curvaceous, sculpture-like movements as she flitted across the stage enacting various bhava. The put-on expressions did not evoke realism which is the soul of abhinaya. Her Pallavi too followed similar patterns, wherein there was more footwork and speedy cycles to which she did full justice never falling out of pace. One could detect lack of balance as Odissi stances required single-foot balancing act in statuesque postures.

Her guru Shasank Kumar Das was the redeeming feature the Odissi Sandhya. Being a male dancer, he vested his swerves with adroitness and accuracy in matching footwork as he went through Jayadeva's very famous Dasavatara. The ‘jatis' were impressive as was his execution in absolute precision. His expressions were sublime especially in the Narasimha, Parasurama, and Krishna avatars. The audience could finally get the authentic Odissi flavour from the guru who had come over to the city for conducting a workshop.

The show was co-hosted by A.P. Department of Culture.

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