Every year, many practitioners of Odissi present their performances in solo, duet or groups. Odissi has traveled from smaller villages of Orissa to across many nations and continents. Festivals, lecture-demonstrations, workshops, performances take place each year in large numbers at various places and thus provide Odissi a path towards its promotion and popularization.
In the year 2006 it was the '3rd International Odissi Festival' which created a grand platform to many artists in the field. It was a big success for the Odissi artists and art lovers as the year ended with the celebration of the said festival.
The fact bag of the festival brings to us: 17 countries participating, more than 450 artists from around the globe, 5 days of celebrations, 4 styles of Odissi, indoor and outdoor stages, exhibitions, seminars, workshops, lecture-demos, felicitation of senior artists and scholars, a high amount of interaction, tremendous exchange of creative ideas as well as a close view of the true Oriya culture – says it all.
The concept of the festival was initiated by Indian Performing Arts Promotion Inc [IPAP] which is an NGO based in USA. In making this festival possible, along with the chief organizers were - IPAP, were the festival co-sponsors – Government of India (Culture-Tourism), Sangeet Natak Akademi, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Government of Orissa (Culture & Tourism), Odissi Research Centre- Bhubaneswar, Bhubaneswar Circle, Utkal Sangeet Mahavidhalaya etc.
This festival took place from December 26 – 30, 2006. Each day of the festival was full of excitement and enthusiasm. It was a homecoming event for the overseas dancers visiting their roots. The theme of the festival was Odissi – Origin and Beyond. It was dedicated to the memory of Guru Keulcharan Mohapatra. The festival also celebrated the golden Jubilee celebration of Jayantika – the mission of making Odissi a classical dance. The previous two festivals were held in Washington DC, USA.
On Tuesday, December 26, 2006 at 12pm the festival was declared open. It started with a beautiful 'Ganesh Vandana' by Ramahari Das and then the 'Sankha Dhwani' by Rajendra Mahapatra. This was followed by the welcome message given by Pratap Das - President IPAP. Gopinath Mohanty, Secretary, Dept. of Culture gave the opening speech and Dr. Subhas Pani, Chairman Organizing Committee gave special remarks.
It was followed by the 'Sankha Vandana' by Rajendra Mahapatra, Subhashree Sankha Dhwani Kalakendra and Narendra Pur, Ganjam.
Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Showcase began at 13:00hrs featuring some brilliant solo performances by Gurus Gangadhar Pradhan, Durga Charan Ranbir, Shankar Behera, Rabindra Atibudhi, Bichitrananda Swain and Ramli Ibrahim.
This was followed by the Sanjukta Panigrahi Showcase featuring beautiful and graceful solo performances by Ileana Citaristi, Ranjana Gauhar, Minati Mishra, Kumkum Mohanty, Madhavi Mudgal and Sonal Mansingh.
The inauguration of the Exhibition followed at 18:30hrs. The concept was '50 Years of Odissi.' The visualization was put forward by Ramahari Jena and Soubhagya Pathy. Later the same evening, the inauguration of the Utkal Mandap took place. The welcome speech was given by Pratap Das. Rameshwar Thakur, Honorable Governor of Orissa was the Chief Guest and Ajit Kumar Tripathy, Chief Secretary, Orissa was the Guest of Honor.
The function continued with the release of publications 'Odissi 3,' which has been edited by Dinanath Pathy, Dr. Sunil Kothari and Soubhagya Pathy and 'Rethinking Odissi' which has been authored by Dinanath Pathy.
Next came the presentation of performances with traditional repertoire at 19:00hrs. The presentations included Ananga Utsav, Mahari and Gotipua categories.
Orissa Dance Academy's (Bhubaneswar) group choreography on Jayadeva's Geeta Govind was a beautiful composition and probably the best choice for opening the evening performances. The Academy's 18 graceful dancers dancing to a live orchestra along with Guru Gangadhar Pradhan himself on stage was undoubtedly a big treat on the 1st day itself for the audience.
'Celebrating 50 years of Odissi – Jayantika' was the theme of the seminar which opened the 2nd day of the festival. It was followed by a workshop 'Preventing physical injury' conducted by Dr. Kannon and Bijayini Satpathy, assisted by two young dancers Pavitra and Bhaduri from Nrityagram. Guru Sonal Mansingh then conducted a workshop on 'Effective communications.' Young dancers as well as teachers came in good number to attend these workshops. The opening of the second day proved to be good.
In the afternoon session, Pallavi Das from USA dressed in a beautiful red Odissi costume started with her performance in the international solo category. Her recital was highly appreciated by the audience. Also Saranya Mukhopadhyay's presentation earned a lot of appreciation because of her ability to portray good abhinaya. Ratna Roy's student Shibani Mohapatra from USA gave an incomparable performance by presenting a Thali dance, which is an extinct tradition from Puri. She danced on the edge of a brass plate along with two plates with lights on both the palms. A very nice dance piece on 'Hanuman' by a young skillful dancer Amanda from Canada followed.
The second session (International solo category) saw performances given by Nandita Behera, Jyoti Rout, Ratna Roy, Mitali Dev, Sylvana Duarte, Revati Carroll, Anjali Gaston, Ananda Ceballos, Kimiko Yanaglda, Devsmita Patnaik, Masako Ono, Chitra Krishnamurti and Vishnu Das.
The evening air was then harmonized with a vocal presentation by Sangeeta Panda and group. The group dance presentations were by Urvasi, Mayur Dance Academy, Jyoti Kala Mandir, Nrityalaya, Odissi Dance Circle and Sutra Dance Theatre. Sutra's young performers were highly appreciated for their very energetic and strong performance. The festival co-coordinator Sibashis Pradhan, during the lunch break told this writer that many festivals take place each year in Orissa on small and big scale, but this was indeed a different and important festival because it concentrated totally on Odissi. He further added that it is one such event that brought many Odissi artists from around the globe under one roof at one time.
The next 3 days saw a swing of various activities such as a seminar on 'Preparing Odissi in the global arena for the 21st century audience,' workshops like 'Fit to dance' (by Meera Das), 'Managing the media' (by Dr. Kothari, Leela Venkatraman and Shyamhari Chakra). The conference featured 4 other workshops on Networking Skills, Art of Make-up, Odissi Costumes and Jewelry, Role of Parents, and Valuable Tips for the Teachers.
There were two field trips to the Sun Temple at Konark and Puri. Additionally, there were lecture demonstrations for Maharis, Gotipuas and Odissi.
Many other solo, duet and group performances took place under the different categories such as: Promising Solo, Established dancers, International – National groups, Purusha Anga, Traditional and new dimension dancers...
Amongst the duets, Amulaya Balabhantray and Debashree Patnaik's performance was liked by many for their picture perfect poses and wonderful co-ordination. The abhinaya piece 'Jhulanti Range' presented by Pabitra Pradhan and Sridutta Bhol was adored by the audience. The evening of Dec 29 was indeed a big feast for all the art lovers. Amongst the solos, Rahul Acharya’s newly composed and well presented 'Sthayee' was in demand. Lingaraj Pradhan presented a graceful piece titled 'Ganga.'
Undoubtedly all the solo dancers got very high critical appreciation from the audience. The evening was rich with performances by these 12 established dancers (Dipti Mishra, Alpana Nayak, Nandini Goshal, Meera Das, Madhusmita Mohanty, Kabita Dwibedi, Leena Mohanty, Snehaprava Samantray, Aruna Mohanty and Sharmila Biswas).
This festival not only promoted the senior artists but also gave a platform to the young and upcoming artists. Ravital, born in Israel, now living in the USA, who performed 'Sankarabaranam Pallavi' said that it was the first time she was performing in India and that too in Orissa and what better could she dream of...and before she could, it was already a wonderful reality.
Apart from this, the festival also shared the stage with a dancer Shakti Swaroopa Bir, who cannot speak or hear. She had been learning dance since her childhood. She presented a beautiful piece, which lasted for about 12 minutes. Her performance was so fine that if it wasn't announced about her being a part of the special talent category, spectators would have hardly been able to tell. Another such brilliant performance was by Nityananda Das, a dancer who had lost one of his legs in an accident. He presented an abhinaya piece 'Mukam Karoti Vaachalam...' which lasted for about 15 minutes. The effect of his dance presentation was such that many in the audience had tears in their eyes. Nityananda's performance was indeed a big inspiration for dance students and other young dancers in the festival.
ended on a successful note. Pratap Das gave his vote of thanks and quoted
J F Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can
do for your country!" Dr. Kothari, Leela Venkatraman and Dr. Mishra also
conveyed their message on the festival. The closing ceremony saw beautiful
fireworks with the loud confirmation of the festival's return next year.
Odissi and Bharatanatyam artiste Manasi Pandya is also a freelance journalist from Vadodara, Gujarat.