Day one of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra awards fest opened to a superb start with Bijoyini Satpaty’s (Nrityagram) Odissi which held the audience of Rabindra Mandap spellbound. Viewing her for nearly two hours made one feel that there was something that went beyond the typical Odissi. The seasoned artiste had brought about a beautiful amalgam of grace and elegance with vigour and verve. Yes, that was Bijoyini’s USP to an audience who were accustomed to viewing steady, soft motion with a smooth flow of the body and the expression. Here was something that could make one sit up and watch without batting an eyelid. The atibhanga was predominantly there freezed as they were in statuesque postures reminiscent of Odissi temple sculptures. The moves were fleeting with brahmaris (circling) and the dancer’s balance and agility were something of a marvel even to the most critical eye. The Nrityagram style really showed itself as being unique yet traditional. Also, the innate talent of Bijoyini is the enriching factor in the entire performance.

The Ganesh stuti wherein her explicit expression to the lines, ashesha vesha…Ganesha sesha… was impressive. Her going down on her knees and circling the stage to the refrain Shiva, Shiva… with an eye expression that seemed as if a search for the lord was on, had to be seen to be believed. Dedicating her presentation to Guru Raghunath Panigrahi, a musician par excellence who passed away a few weeks ago, Bijoyini took up his favourite raag, Rithu Vasanth for showcasing her pure dance (Pallabi type) choreographed b y Nrityagram Guru Surupa Sen. The mix of jati bhol to swar bhol and her taking an aesthetic stance after every avarthan, was artistic excellence at its best.

Bijoyini’s virtuosity came to the fore as she conjured up a picture of Shiva and Shakti merged as a single entity. This was brought about only through dance and mime without so much of an utterance and we could literally feel the feminine principle at play with the masculine in the artistes’ neatly carved out moves and mukhabhinaya. The footwork was oscillating between the vilambit for the Shakti and druth for Shiva while finally merging in the madhyam as the divine union. The vigour paved way for the gentle, the tandava (with the Odissi grace intact) to the lasya, all in the subtlest of expressions! The spin with the Chowka posture was striking. The footwork was perfect to a T in absolute sync with the maddela (percussion).

The Manmohana... piece was abhinaya-centric and the artiste came up to our expectations as she seemed an adept in portraying the Shringara rasa, which only the mature can handle with the finesse she did. Despite the fleeting footwork and moves, the artistry with which she enacted the role of a woman in love (naayika) came out with aplomb.

The Shivashtakam was the highlight of the evening with the dancer’s mind-boggling flexibilities. Her lithe body was able to bend to her command which few dancers of her age can boast of these days. The fiery Shiva came alive with her gorgeous footwork and jumps and her versatile eye expression to the refrain ‘trinetra’ along with the amazing stances she struck every time the verse came to a close, elicited spontaneous applause.

Shrinivas Satpathy’s deft violin interlude substituting the bhol for the footwork was like a waft of fresh air. The fleeting transformation of facial expression from the shanth ras of Shiva to the roudra ras to again the yoganandaya, utterly benign was so lucid in those few moments where the dancer never paused altering them. The heights to which her expression and mime carried the lines nikhila bhaya haram, pancha vaktram, tri netram and then the obeisance to the refrain ‘Om namah Shivaya’ have so far not found a second. Sanjiv Kumar Kundu on his bamboo breathed the closing notes to this refrain making for an electrifying effect. The presentation could have had an enriching effect had the dancer lent an air of divine involvement rather than sheer artistic aesthetics and excellent footwork.

Shiv Shankar Satpathy on the dhol and Jatin Kumar Sahu on the vocal made for a fitting team. The dance was organised by Srjan.