Masako enthrals 
Text & Photos © Thakur Paramjit, Chandigarh 
August 26, 2004   

Ganga flows from Shiva’s hair.  According to legend, when Ganga fell from Heaven, its water was descending at such a ferocious speed that it would have created havoc on earth.  So Shiva volunteered to absorb its impact on his hair to save thouands of innocent lives on earth.  And he succeeded in this noble cause. The posture shows how calm Ganga gently flows out from Shiva’s hair to spread prosperity on this earth.
Shiva applying Tilak on his forehead.  Shiva marks his forehead with three vertical lines either with sacred ash or with sandalwood paste.  These three lines represent three facets of his personality - Creator, Preserver and Destroyer. 
Shiva anoints his arm with sandal paste and holy water of  river Ganges.
Her love for Odissi forced her to travel thousands of kilometres from her hometown Tokyo to Nrityagram to become a disciple of Protima Bedi.  She worked hard for eight years - first at Nrityagram and then at Bhubaneswar under the guidance of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and other renowned teachers.  Today, her supple and lyrical body movements and understanding of nuances of Odissi dance speak volumes of long dedicated years she put in to attain a little expertise in the field. 
Her programme on August 14, 2004 at Chandigarh was well received and she got wide applause from hundreds of spectators.  Depicting only male form of dances revolving around Shiva, she started the recital with Pallavi, based on Raag Shankarabaranam in Ek Taal.  A pure dance item, it can be compared to blossoming of a flower, from a closed bud to a full bloom, which gradually unveils itself, spreading its beauty in all directions and enthralling everyone.  She executed the piece very well with right kind of body movements and facial expressions, and ending with fast footwork.  The piece had been choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.  
To pay her homage to Shiva, Masako ended her recital by performing a piece on Siva Panchakshari Mantra Stotra by Adi Jagadguru Sri Shankaracharya Bhagavatpada 'Nagendra Haraya' based on choreography by Nabakishore Mishra (modified by Masako).  Shiva or Nataraja is considered to be the originator of dance.  Orissa was swept by Shaivite tide during the time of Shankaracharya’s mission.  So the temples and dance traditions of the region show great Shiva influence.  Masako showed her expertise as a dancer while carrying out the above piece.  Hand gestures, facial expressions and body movements were beautifully executed.  
Whether it was Sarpasirsha Mudra to denote snakes, smearing the body with ashes or just creating fierce facial expressions, Masako did a good job.  Her depiction of Ganga leaving Shiva’s hair; Shiva applying Chandan on his forehead, and creation of contrasting expressions of delicacy (while behaving as Gauri) and strength (while behaving as Shiva) were praise worthy.  She ended with repeating Om Namoh Shivaya staging various postures of Shiva. 
“Dance is an expression of man’s joy through movement.  This pure expression and release of energy, when in the classical mould, must strictly adhere to the codes of a systematized technique.  Odissi bases itself on a wealth of such techniques and abounds in prescribed or handed-down codes”, says Leela Samson in her book “Rhythm in Joy”.  However, while recuperating from its almost extinct status, Odissi has undergone certain changes from its original form dating back to 2nd century BC.  Most of modern day gurus have modified the things here and there, maybe due to changed circumstances and lifestyle of people, or maybe to give a touch of their own style or belief.  Other dance forms, like Chhau (and teachers of Chhau) have also influenced the techniques of young dancers.  And this change reflects in some of the dance movements of Masako.  
The changes in techniques created by these gurus are carried on by their disciples and thus Odissi is losing its authentic centuries old flavour to some extent.  They say change is the law of nature.  Does this apply in this case too? 

Thakur Paramjit is a Chandigarh based dance critic.  
He can be contacted at (91-172) - 2725641, mobile: (91) - 94172-10101