Established and emerging dancers paid tribute to Guru Srinath Raut with precision and artistry.

Twenty-three years ago, gifted Odissi Guru Srinath Raut from Odisha was killed in a road accident in New Delhi. A proud product of Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, Odisha's premiere college of performing arts in Bhubaneswar, he was groomed by two of the greatest masters of Odissi — Guru Pankaj Charan Das and Guru Debaprasad Das. At 30, he was sent to the national capital to promote Odissi in Delhi and in next 17 years — till he passed away at the young age of 47 — he had groomed about 300 dancers, many of whom are well-known names today besides establishing himself as an innovative choreographer.

While he was forgotten in his homeland of Odisha and most of his disciples in Delhi switched over the other gurus, Jyoti Srivastava, the New Delhi based senior Odissi dancer, continues to commemorate his memories and carry on his legacy by hosting an annual festival of dance and music — aptly named as Guru Pranam Utsav — for the past 23 years in the national capital. She has also instituted an award namely Guru Srinath Raut Award that is conferred every year on a renowned artiste of the Nation. This year it went to Odissi music maestro Guru Ramahari Das from Odisha. A running trophy has also been instituted by Jyoti for the winners of the annual inter-school dance competition being held in the national capital region.

The just concluded two-day Guru Pranam Utsav this week staged at two different venues — Triveni Kala Sangam and Azad Bhawan — was a befitting tribute to the departed soul. The guru's wife was invited to inaugurate the festival along with the other dignitaries and she also conferred the award. In a touching manner, celebrated Kathak dancer Shovna Narayan, Kolkata-based senior Odissi dancer and choreographer Aloka Kanungo and Jyoti Srivastava came together on stage on Friday evening at the Triveni to set the pace of the evening by performing to the emotive rendition of the song Guru Devaya Namonamah. “Guru Srinath Raut was very fond of young Shovna Nayaran for her scholarly bent of mind, her talent and personality as a performing artiste. He used to tell everyone to emulate her. She performed in the festival as her tribute to the late Guru,” informed Jyoti.

Going solo

The trio later performed as soloists. While Aloka Kanungo, disciple of Guru Kelucharan, had an energetic presentation of a pure dance number set to raga Kamodi followed by an expressional piece — both being her own compositions — Jyoti Srivastava's articulation of Asta-Nayika (the eight facets of the mythical woman Radha) was a real treat for the connoisseurs. Despite being the host of the festival, she could convincingly come under the skin of the character. It was her dance of total involvement and intensity when the dancer loses her self and becomes the character. Her presentation of Kalavati pallabi — Guru Srinath Raut's most favourite composition — on Sunday at Azad Bhawan was also another amazing performance.

Memories of Shovna Narayan's pulsating presentation of captivating Kathak on Friday would linger in the minds of the spectators for many more days. Though she was exhibiting the beauty of the rare techniques and footwork of traditional Kathak, her amazing ability to connect to her audience through her verbal communication made her concert lively and arresting. With an unbound energy and the joy of dancing from within, the dancer became dance at times.

The concluding evening also witnessed solo Odissi recital by guest artiste Carolina Prada from Columbia and group presentation of Guru Durga Charan Ranbir's dance drama Ramayana by the budding dancers of Jyoti Srivastava's Vaishali Kala Kendra where she grooms her students. Odissi music's best known exponent today, Guru Ramahari Das' soul stirring solo recital on the inaugural evening was a befitting tribute to Guru Srinath Raut who had left Odisha with the mission to promote Odissi culture in Delhi.