A festival of music and dance from Odisha brought Delhi audiences enjoyable fare

In keeping with the aggressive push given to performing arts by the Odisha department of Tourism and Culture, sponsoring festivals throughout the year, Bhubaneswar’s dancer Iliana Citarishti curated a government-sponsored festival at New Delhi’s India International Centre, the performance part mounted on the temporary stage erected on the lawns of Gandhi King Plaza. Nabakishore Misra, now a dancer-guru inviting additional responsibilities in government institutions, presented Utkal University students in a short recital. Frankly, the quality was above what one expected. Presenting a homage to Shiva and to “Deepam Jyoti Param Brahma”, the dancers revealed good technique and group discipline, though in this indecisive school of Odissi, both Debaprasad (under whom Nabakishore Misra studied) and Kelucharan influences were visible. The best dancer was Meenakshi, and the male dancers — while agile movers — require more internalised mimetic strength. “Barsa Barasa Rasa Nayana” saw all the joyously rendered monsoon images of peacock and ‘alingan’. Change is acceptable, provided one guards against classic items choreographed by legendary gurus like Kelucharan being chopped and changed beyond recognition.

The music performances were supplemented by a seminar which, beginning with a very scanty audience in the indoor auditorium, evolved into an informative morning. Chittaranjan Mallia, Secretary of the Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi, spoke on the 2nd -12th century epigraphical and sculptural evidence on music and dance, followed by lilas like the Raslila of Sunderdev Goswami and Jagannath Das Ras Natakas and lyrical compositions by medieval Odisha poets, sung by Sakhi pillas, proving how significant music and dance have been to the Odisha way of life. Kirtan Narayan Padhi highlighted the speciality of Odissi talas which are “anagat” and different types of prabandhas, the “Paatta” percussive mnemonics and the music with “ullasita”, “andolita” gamakas and how Odiyas were reputedly fond of ‘Kannadagowda’ raga.

The best part of the morning was Gopal Panda’s lecture-demonstration, with daughter Sangita Panda assisting. Kolahal in Attatali with no Pancham “Manokori Moharako rahiboki”, the Odissi Bichittal Desakya “Bhola mukhachabinahi” and the well known “Boodigolli Sajani lajjare” sung in Gundakri (sounding much like Carnatic Suddha Dhanyasi) and finally a song in Madhuraagunjari were rendered, the classicism and the non-shrill voice of Sangita emerging from deep spaces in the abdomen, unlike what one normally gets from female Odissi singers — barring Shyama Mani who performed, and who is arguably the best vocalist in Odisha today. Desi identity was enjoyed in Ramahari singing “Nahi ke kari dela” ringing in variations in each line, and “Nivritanikunja” , the ashtapadi set to Suddha Desi.

“Kala — Time Bound”, Ileana Citarishti’s new production based on specially commissioned poetry of Devdas Chotray and music composed and sung by Ananta Prasanna Patnaik, comprised the choreographer’s visualisation of abstract Time. The work starts with well rehearsed group showing spreading feel for Time in an opening scene set to a hymn from the Upanishad, where dancers only moving arms, gradually feel vibrations of a time-span dictating movement, flowering out in space in geometry of circle, square and rectangle. Then follows Ileana’s solo miming interpreting Time as a cycle coming and going, the song “Ritu assoo Ritu Jane re” evocatively sung. Time giving something and taking away something is followed by a modern version of time — of frenetic clock dictated activities, the movements jumbled with no synchronised order. Here a male dancer effectively presented a frenzied Tandav sequence showing bellicose Time. Finally Time reaches beyond itself in the transcending quietude of Mansarovar. Innovative ventures have always been Ileana’s forte.