High on contemporary interpretation

Ramli Ibrahim’s ‘Odissi on High’, staged recently in Mumbai, was the coming together of two artistic legacies

May 16, 2019 04:05 pm | Updated May 21, 2019 04:54 pm IST

Complementing the legacy of two paramparas of Kelucharan Mohapatra and Debaprasad Das, their star disciples Ramli Ibrahim (Sutra Dance Company, Malayasia) and Guru Bichitrananda Swain, (Rudrakshya Foundation), enabled a creative confluence by broadening the outlines of Pallavi.

Pallavi is significant in Odissi repertoire as the centre piece and is melodic and rhythmic with less lyrical element. The artistic alliance of Ramli and Swain, an assay that incorporated methodical movements, joy of dancing, graphics, pleasant and relevant music and excellent light effects, resulted in a tapestry of power-packed Pallavis in Odissi on High, staged recently at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA.

After a crisp announcement by Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, Head, Dance Programming, NCPA there was pre-emptive silence, serene instrumental music and semi-darkness accentuated by subtle lights.


The opening Pallavi in Kalavati, termed ‘Saabhinaya pallavi’ had ample nritta with the inclusion of a short poem on Krishna. Ramli who represented a soul, seeking Krishna is with Harenthiran, dressed as Krishna. Fit as a fiddle , Ramli flitted across the dance space, exiting and re-entering in a flash as Krishna, with mukut and mala. More dancers entered and many were Krishnas in varied formations, conveying a sense of love and joy. Balancing acts when Harenthiran is carried head high and dancers as Krishna going round and round in frenzied bliss; it was a captivating opening piece.

Trained in Odissi, Bharatanatyam, modern and many folk forms, Ramli impressed with his expertise in group composition, as seen in the rearranged and reinterpreted Pallavi.

The Mukhari Pallavi that followed explored the subtleties of the traditional Odissi postures. The female dancers moved in speed across the stage in striking sequences contrasted with the serene moves and still poses of the male dancer.

‘Tala Taranga’, choreographed by Guru Bichitrananda Swain had riotous rhythmic sounds and movement. Various percussion instruments were deployed to create patterns in beats. The added accent was on meticulous nritta and measured technique by the all-male team of Samir Kumar Panigrahi, Santosh Ram, Jagandatta Pradhan, Sanjeev Kumar and Bichitra Behera from Rudrakshya Foundation.

In the intermission, Ramli Ibrahim related to the audience with an impromptu, impressive speech. “Odissi on High is a union of two paramparas,” he said. “Globalisation existed much earlier in the art field, when Indian culture extended to the Far East.”

Post intermission, it was the turn of a mesmerising Pallavi in Shankarabharanam, originally choreographed by the legendary Kelucharan Mohapatra, rearranged by Sutra. It was an exemplary union of melody and rhythm. Chakravaha Pallavi had celestial nymphs deploy all tricks to cage Buddha. With ethereal music, it was an archetypical saga of lure. Anandabhairavi Pallavi was a tapestry of lyrical movement and rhythm. The melodic mode of the raga, so complete in itself, enlarged the scope for visual interpretation.

Artistic director Sivarajah Natarajan worked wonders in lighting. Every piece began in semi-darkness with shadow lights and shimmering silhouettes of dancers swaying.

The dancers, be it Geetika Sree, Tan Mei Mei, Guna, Harenthiran or Vickneswaran, or those from Rudrakshya, belonging to varied geographical and ethnic backgrounds, shared the stage space with ease, their camaraderie and creative involvement coming through in every piece.

The choreography of the two collaborators combined the fast and forceful and the still and serene. The production, which lifted the artistic spirit to an aesthetic high, reiterated Ramli’s vision that “art is a continuum”.

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