Yoga in Odissi - the title of a recent dance concert staged by Rudrakshya Odissi Foundation with financial assistance from the Ministry of Culture at Rabindra Mandap auditorium in Bhubaneswar generated much enthusiasm among the artistes, connoisseurs and even several health professionals. Adding to their fervour was the choreographer Guru Bichitrananda Swain – who is known world-wide for his refreshingly original compositions apart from his special exploration of the purush ang (male body) in Odissi dance tradition.
“As a regular practitioner of yoga, I have developed a keen interest in it. The interest was compounded further by the frequent queries from my students from foreign countries who come in large numbers to learn Odissi at my institute or invite me to their countries to teach them. Thus, I was constantly trying to explore the symbiotic bond between yoga and Odissi. The Ministry’s grant helped me to choreograph on this important aspect”, explained Guru Bichitrananda.
Though the traditional repertoire of Odissi – the invocatory mangalacharan, pallabi, abhinaya and mokshya - was followed during the evening; the thread that gave the production a touching narrative was an elaboration of various aspects of yoga like the bhakti yoga, karma yoga, jnana yoga, raja yoga, hatha yoga and kundalini yoga.
As the ensemble of five dancers commenced the concert with the traditional mangalacharan – Bhaje Brajeka Mandanan - that described Lord Krishna as the saviour of the innocent and the destroyer of the evil elements as Taal Tarang extolled by the people of Braja, the audience had a feel of the bhakti-yoga through dance.
The pure dance number – Taal Tarang - that followed was a pure dance number that came under the traditional category of pallabi. The most captivating piece of the concert that received recurring rounds of loud applause from the spectators was an amazing exploration of the intricate rhythmic patterns of Odissi dance. The music, to which the dance was set to, had only three of Odisha’s indigenous percussion instruments – khol, madral and khanjani. While the taal was the same, the laya and chhanda witnessed a wide variety of variations justifying the title of the composition Taal Tarang that means ripples in the rhythms. Five male dancers of the ensemble stormed the stage, literally, with brilliantly patterned movements of the body forming refreshing geometrical patterns and exploring every possible space of the stage. It was a composition that saw the best chemistry between choreographer Guru Bichitrananda and music (rhythm) composer and percussion maestro Guru Dhaneswar Swain that was a treat for both eyes and ears. The composition was an attempt to explore Hatha-Yoga, believed to be created by Lord Shiva himself who is also the creator of dance.
Jnana Yoga and Kundalini Yoga were the highlights of the next presentation – Bhavani Bhujanga Strotam, one of the most enchanting hymns in Sanskrit composed by Adi Shankaracharya - that was staged as a duet by Lingaraj Pradhan, the lead dancer of the ensemble and his wife Sanjukta Dutta-Pradhan. The fundamental postures of Indian classical dances are geared to align the dancer’s body with that of the earth axis while the seven psychic chakras get activated and are meant to identify with that of the Supreme consciousness, explained the choreographer. The dancing couple brilliantly portrayed the abstract concepts through their meditative body movements. The way the kundalini shakti was shown arising in the body along with the beats of the percussion led the audience into utter silence and a sense of awe.
The solo abhinaya number that followed – Karna – enacted by Utsad Bismillah Khan Yuva Prativa award winner Lingaraj Pradhan, the globe-trotter fabulous male Odissi dancer, delineated Karma Yoga. It showed Karna, the great warrior of The Mahabharat dying heroically in the battlefield doing his duty despite being ditched by the destiny. He dies but not defeated as he declares that he would love to be born again as Karna who stands for the highest sense of duty without any weakness for any gain. Curtains came down on the captivating concert with the predictable fastest-paced and most intense mokshya number staged by the entire ensemble members.
As the concept denotes, mokshya (the ultimate liberation) witnessed the union of the dance and the dancer on the stage signifying Raja Yoga, the ultimate realization and salvation of the soul when it merges with the source – the Supreme consciousness.