Dr. Ileana Citaristi is an Italian dancer-choreographer, trained in both Odissi (Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra) and Mayurbhanj Chau (Guru Hari Nayak), who has made India her home for over 30 years. She has absorbed the local culture and ethos so well and it shows in her abhinaya. In the Radha-Krishna abhinaya piece, ‘Lajore’ (Khamaj, Rai Indra), Radha recounts her experience with the flirtatious Krishna, who pretends to heed her bashful protests before making her do his bidding. There was sensitivity in Ileana's delineation as she moved between a shy Radha and her beloved Krishna.
‘Sharanam,’ a contemporary composition about women from three faiths (Mary Magdalene -- Christianity, Amrapalli -- Buddhism, Pingala -- Hinduism) who gain salvation despite their dubious pasts, was the most thought-provoking. With lyrics in Sanskrit, Hindi and Oriya in that order, the music composed by Gopal Panda captured the pathos in the stories. Ramesh Chandra Das (violin) provided wonderful melody in this piece.
The Ashtapadi (‘Priye Charusheele,’ Deshavaradi, Jayadeva), carries the most important words of ‘Gita Govinda,’ where Krishna tells Radha, ‘Dehi Pada Pallava Mudaram’ (‘Place your foot on my head’). Krishna surrendering to Radha with these symbolic words forms the climax of the text. Krishna is supposed to have come in the guise of Jayadeva and written these words himself, when the poet was hesitant to pen them. Ileana delineated the verses with quiet involvement, but it would have been more effective with good vocals. The piece was a Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra choreography and the music was in the 'original' raag mentioned in ‘Gita Govinda.’
Ileana's nritta was showcased in the opening Mangalacharan and the Pallavi (Bajirakanti, Ektali). The dancer's style is knowledgeable and quiet. Jabahar Swain (mardala) proved to be the energy booster in this segment. The vocalist (Sangeetha Panda) gave adequate support. An aspect that one found disturbing was the question of exits. One felt the need for a proper closure for each of the items. An abrupt or sudden exit can undo even a well-woven presentation.