It was an unforced and natural presentation by Sonal Mansingh that earned her a standing ovation at the end of the recital.

Veteran Odissi dancer, Sonal Mansingh’s name has been synonymous with the dance style for more than four decades. A disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Sonal went on to research traditional Oriyan music along with scholar Jeevan Pani and was the first to integrate traditional music into the Odissi repertoire. In a sense, her recitals do not ‘sound’ or ‘feel’ like a typical Odissi recital. For one, she uses only the traditional Oriyan music, not Hindustani, and for the other, she has moved away from the Mangalacharan to Moksha repertoire to more esoteric presentations.

The opening verse of the Rudrashtakam or Siva Stuti, ‘Namaa Miisha’ set the tone for Sonal’s recital that was dedicated to the ‘Formless One’ through the form of Siva. Though not always so intense, the thread of bhakti ran through every offering that evening.

The recital was effective because of the sense of peace that pervaded it. There were no annoying interruptions vis-a-vis the musicians or any other distractions this time. Every composition was detailed to a great degree with small segments of nritta tightly interwoven within. Because Sonal is a seasoned performer, everything she does looks unforced and natural, and this came through in her presentations and in the erudite explanations she offered for them. She still makes the effort though, and that’s why she was given a standing ovation in the end.

Siva Navarasa was one of the most detailed and colourful of the repertoire. With a well-rehearsed orchestra echoing her every move and mood, Sonal was able to bring out even a little nuances so dramatically, the best being Parvathi creating a boy-child and breathing life into it.

Innovative bols accompanied the process of removing the sandal paste from the mother and creating a mould of a child from it. The child is brought to life with the Pranava Mantra ‘Om.’ And when the child starts breathing and its eyelids flutter, the musicians burst into joyful swaras!

Another gem was the Mohini-Bhasmasura encounter that was dramatised by the softer and more aggressive bols and the soft flute and the louder sitar to distinguish between the male and female characters.

It was a masterful effort by the orchestral team headed by Sonal’s long-term associate Bankim Sethi (vocal and bols) with Abrar Hussain (sarod), Kshyamanidhi Pradhan (pakhawaj, khol), Rajat Prasanna (flute) and Sai Venkatesh (lights).