Bombay Showcase

Fighting for tradition

Soumya Bose and Sanchita Banerjee believe that classical Indian dance should evolve with time, but without compromising on the structure of the dance form.  

Often, dance companies generously describe their productions using phrases such as ‘fusion of dance styles’ and ‘borrowed motifs’. These showcases amalgamate different genres and help in blurring lines of distinction, making dance a more inclusive art. But perhaps, it is important to return to our roots and revisit traditional practices to understand what we are gradually distancing ourselves from.

The upcoming Odissi performance that’s part of Umang-Dance 2016, an ongoing series hosted by the National Centre of the Performing Arts (NCPA), looks to revive traditional Odissi repertoire. Odisha-based dancers, Sanchita Banerjee and Soumya Bose, disciples of Sujata Mohapatra, will present a traditional Odissi.

“Umang began in 2008, and earlier we would only host solo recitals,” says Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, head of dance programming at the NCPA. “But for the past two years, we have encouraged duet performances and now Umang is a platform for artistes to collaborate.” By requesting renowned dance teachers to allow their students to perform, Umang encourages the guru-shishya parampara.

The performance will open with a mangalacharan : a shloka invoking the blessings of Vishnu. To protect the stage and the audience from any untoward incidents, the Natya Shastra (the Sanskrit text on performing arts) prescribes a prayer ritual to any deity before commencing a performance. Choreographed by Ratikant Mohapatra, this mangalacharan will be performed by the duo to Shantakaram Bhujagashayanam in raga Gurjari Todi and in tala Triputa. It describes Vishnu as the one who rests upon the thousand-headed serpent, Adishesha. The Hindu god, worshipped as the sustainer of the cosmos, is further portrayed and as the ruler of all beings and of the entire universe.

This section will be followed by a pallavi presentation by Bose. Pallavi is the nritta , pure dance, element in an Odissi recital. Its musical accompaniment is initially slow paced, complementing the dancer’s graceful movements. It culminates with fast-paced rhythmic patterns, allowing the performer to showcase their technical prowess. The pallavi for this Odissi performance, choreographed by Padma Vibhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra, is set in raga Hamsadhwani and tala Eka.

“Krishna has always had the attention of gopis, but the Oriya abhinaya will show a gopi refusing to entertain anymore of Krishna’s tricks,” says Banerjee. An abhinaya composition conveys a story, mostly using the dancer’s expressions as its medium. Banerjee will present To Lagi Gopa Danda , written by Oriya poet Gopal Krushna Patnaik. In the composition, vexed by Krishna’s incessant wooing, a gopi tells him that the roads of Gopapura are no more for him. This obviously comes as surprise to Krishna, who has always been an object of much adulation. The music for this segment has been composed by Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra.

Next, both Bose and Banerjee will perform a duet pallavi in raga Kirwani and tala Khemta followed by the final act presenting the widely performed Dashavatar. It is an ashtapadi, a musical composition with eight lines, from Jayadeva’s magnum opus Gita Govinda . The ashtapadi, set in Mohana raga and Jhampa tala, depicts the 10 incarnations of Vishnu. “I wanted them to begin and end their recital by paying obeisance to Vishnu,” says doyenne Mohapatra, a disciple of Kelucharan Mohapatra.

The dance recital’s traditional approach is likely to attract a large audience. The artistes, however, have other reasons to look forward to the event. “Kelucharan Mohapatra used to conduct workshops at NCPA’s Little Theatre,” says Bose. “I am just glad to be performing in a space where he once taught.” Banerjee feels privileged for other reasons, “My guru will fly down from Odisha to watch this performance. It is a rare opportunity to have your guru by your side while you perform.”

Banerjee and Bose believe that classical Indian dance should evolve with time, but without compromising on the structure of the dance form. The artistes intend to use the platform provided by Umang as a chance to revisit the traditional repertoire.

Odissi performance today at 7 pm at the NCPA. This is a free event.

The writer is an intern at The Hindu

The dance recital’s traditional approach is likely to attract a large audience

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 3:20:46 PM |

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