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Temple Sculptures Come Alive at Elegant Odissi 2006

September 2006
Temple Sculptures Come Alive at Elegant Odissi 2006

The night of August 12th at Glenn Memorial Church Auditorium in Emory University, Atlanta wore a very festive air. Rudrakshya, the dynamic young Odissi dance troupe from Orissa, India, performed one and half hours of Odissi during the Elegant Odissi 2006 show which was sponsored by IPAP (Indian Performing Arts Promotion Inc.) and Emory University. It was encouraging to see nearly 300 people out there supporting the Indian classical and traditional art form.

Odissi, the oldest classical Indian dance from the eastern Indian state of Orissa, traces its history to second century B.C. It is known for its graceful postures and movements. Rudrakshya's niche has been in introducing and popularizing the ‘Purush ang' or male form. This is a challenging task because Odissi, like most classical Indian dance forms, has predominantly been a feminine dance form.

The fifteen member troupe comprising eight dancers (four women and four men) and veteran musicians performed six items. The repertoire consisted of Mangalacharan, Pallavi, Abhinaya SritaKamala, Pallavi Chandrika, Tala Madhurjya and Maa Kaali Stutee. From seeking the blessings of the Sun God to dancing with sheer pleasure and ecstasy to invoke the spirit of Goddess Kali, Odissi was presented in all its grandeur.

The four male dancers performed the first item (Mangalacharan) that paid obeisance to the all pervading and powerful Sun God. Pallavi, the pure dance, was ecstatic and the dancers danced with gay abandon. Abhinaya Sritakamala was choreographed to the 12th century poet Jayadeva's Geeta Govinda. The dancers' abhinaya or facial expressions took the audience to a spritual world of Krishna leela. Tala madhurjya, the fifth item of the repretoire, was an exquisitely choreographed dance piece with sculpturesque poses, intricate footwork and composite body movements. This dance also accentuated the introduction of masculine features in Odissi. The last item Mahakali Stutee was a celebration of the gunas (qualities) of the all encompassing Goddess Kali- the creator, preserver and destroyer. This rendition caught everyone's attention for it depicted Goddess Kali in her vigorous form. The sheer energy of the dancers and the brilliant composition of dance, music and rhythm added to the fervor.

The show was unique, especially with the male dancers in their overtly masculine depictions of various roles. Barbara Wallace, an audience member, was particularly fascinated by the postures and magnificence of the male dancers. She commented after the show, ‘‘It was as if the sculputres of the beautiful Indian temples had come to life and I have never seen men look so graceful while dancing."

Guru Bichitrananda Swain, choreographer of the entire repertoire and the founder-director of Rudrakshya, is a pioneer in introducing innovative styles to Odissi.

All the young artists who performed had three things in common - they started training at an early age, they are highly accomplished, and have performed internationally in many parts of the world.

Elegant Odissi enthralled the audience and there was never a dull moment even at 11 pm on a Saturday night. The only thing that was lacking was proper stage lights and comfortable seats.

The support from the Emory community (especially Dr. Gary Hauk, Dr. Lancaster, Dr. Albert Erdican, Jeff Martin and Betty), along with the dedicated efforts of the Oriya community and their friends, made the show possible. For more information on the show and Rudrakshya, please visit www.odissi.us or www.rudrakshya.com

~ Dharitri Pattnaik

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