When the hills came alive

At the the Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav. Photo: Arabinda Mahapatra  

Now a landmark event of cultural multiplicity , the Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav, mounted at the foothill of the great peace pagoda of Dhauli, about 8 km from Bhubaneswar, underlines the message of peace from a land which saw history’s most gory battle. It was here that the Kalinga war was fought, with the river of mercy Daya nadi turning red with the blood of slain soldiers — the sight of the massacre converting Emperor Ashok into a Buddhist messenger of peace.

The aesthetically laid-out open air stage in two levels had a mud-coloured back wall with tablets of Udaigiri-type engravings, looking under the soft lights at times like an Egyptian monument. The two halves on either side of the wall had an open middle — the luxuriant green leaves of the banana tree growing there making for a unique decoration.

Agility of Martial arts like Thang Tha by expert Imocha Singh from Anjika Centre for Manipuri, fire-spitting Raibense of Sarabhuja Dance Theatre Medinapore, Khurda’s Paika Akhada under Sambhu Dutta Swain, kept company with classical dances in a delightfully conceived Saptavarna that ended in a spirited tala vadya with an orchestra put together by Ramahari Das and Dhaneswar Swain. The transitions from one form of dance to another were velvety smooth. Just as one was totally absorbed in Parshwanath Upadhye’s striking energy, who with his perfect technique immaculately brought out the definitive geometry of Bharatanatyam along with his well-trained group, one was suddenly treated to Manipuri lyricism, gradually taking over the performance space.

Aruna Mohanty’s Orissa Dance Academy presentation did not have a dull moment. Kathak artist Sandip Mallik’s Kolkata-based Sonarpur Nadam’s tandav/lasya seemed to reverberate through the beautifully illuminated pagoda. If Shankar in Benares was in majestic Dhamar tala strung to Kedar Raga, Krishna in ‘Rasa Rache Brindavan’ gloried in Vibhas, with the female dancers in soft gat and tihais and the kavit ‘Chandrabadani nachat dekhi’ — the two opposed energies dissolving in the tatkar ta-thai-tai-tat footwork — well-conceived with excellent music.

An established and popular Kolkata duo, Rajendra-Nirupama, fell short of expectations, the excellent singing on tape overwhelming what was rather tame and sugary Kathak. Also disappointing was Odissi by Kolkata’s Shinjan Nrityalaya, with a confused Manipuri/Kathak Ras, with below par dancers and taped music marred by off-key singing.

It was not all tradition, for the Contemporary category had its representation in Sangeeta Sharma’s Anvesha Society wherein Abhimanyu getting trapped in the Kaurava chakravyuha, was visualised through Kalari movements mostly. Professionally equipped dancers moved with assurance, though tighter treatment would have preserved the built-up tension.

The organisational part by Aruna Mohanty, who took over from an original festival featuring only martial arts conducted by Odissi dancer Ileana Citarishti has to be commended. Rarely does one witness so many established dancers in the audience.

More pertinent, instead of the customary middle aged and elderly audience that dance events attract, here was a large audience of youngsters from colleges and vocational training centres and schools — apart from members of the bureaucracy and politicians. With large generators for lighting and other arrangements in a place far from the madding crowd, to attract people to travel and see the show is a great achievement. And to generate funds augmenting what the government offers as core grant, calls for great management skills, without which just presenting the variety of Indian arts would have little meaning.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 3:34:26 AM |

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