I attended a most spectacular dance performance earlier this evening. “Gatha Odissi: The Odyssey of Odissi,” a co-production by Orissa Dance Academy (India) and Taal School of Odissi (Singapore), traced the history of Oddisi, from its devidasi (temple dancer) origins to its near extinction during the Raj to its modern, post-Independence and diasporic resurgence.
“Gatha Odissi” did not assume that viewers had any knowledge of Odissi dance vocabulary and the performance included English subtitles projected on a screen. I know a lot about a dance, but even I learned something today! Gatha Odissi included video footage of Gotipua, an acrobatic precursor of Odissi classical dance which is performed by young boys who dress as women to praise Jagannath and Krishna. Gotipua weathered the British Anti-Nautch (literally “anti-dance”) Movement because it was danced by males.
Odissa Dance Academy is one of India’s finest companies and directed by Aruna Mohanty, a most skilled performer. Her solo abhinaya this evening, a “Sitayana” of sorts, or a telling of the epic Ramayana from Sita’s point of view, was just remarkable. Taal School of Odissi’s dancers, including Indu Vijay, the school’s director, and Aarthi Subash Nair, an twenty-four-year-old phenom, dazzled.
I’m just disappointed for the performers that Raffles Hotel’s 400-seat Jubilee Hall was only half full. It was an excellent show.
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The artists of Orissa Dance Academy and Taal School of Odissi will be conducting a variety of performing arts workshops and lecture/demonstrations from April 27 to April 29 at the Temple of Fine Arts, including a three-day introductory mardal (the the traditional percussion instrument of Odisha) workshop. Contact TFA or Taal to register; it was announced at the end of the performance that there is still space!
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Isn’t the photograph above just beautiful? There are more from the shoot here.