Festival of Odissi Dance & Music 2009 - Part 2
The National Festival
of Odissi Dance & Music 2009 took place from 26th - 30th December,
at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar.
Festival of Odissi Dance & Music 2009 – Part 1
session of 29th December 2009 was inaugurated by Kumkum Mohanty. The first
part of the session was devoted to a seminar on "Use of properties, stage
sets, costumes according to the characters in Odissi classical dance drama
presentation." The general consensus was that while stage props were acceptable
as support for certain kinds of compositions, the actual dance performance
must have priority at all times and the props used must not disturb, in
any way, the actual dance. A stage prop could be used when the choreography
demanded it, and only as an instrument to improve the communication between
the performer and the audience. The prop must not assume a higher prominence
than the dancer/s. The greatest asset for a choreographer would be to use
the dancer's body in such a creative way that gestures and postures themselves
convey an abundance of meaning and thus become very communicative props
were presented at the seminar, one by Dr. Ileana Citaristi and the other
by dancer/choreographer Sharmila Biswas. While Citaristi's paper was a
fund of information on the history of props used on the Oriya stage, down
the years, Sharmila Biswas spoke about Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's use
of props derived from the dress or customs of a particular locale where
the performance was taking place. She gave examples of how her Guruji included,
for a particular performance of "Bhanusingher Padabali," the familiar
shawl used in Rabindric performances together with the normal Odissi costume
in such an effective way that the shawl used as a prop conveyed a local
flavour without impinging upon the formal Odissi dress. The discussion
panel consisted of Guru Ratikant Mohapatra, Guru Sudhakar Sahoo, Aruna
Mohanty, Guru Bichitrananda Swain, Guru Gajendra Panda, Guru Pitambara
Biswal, Jyoti Srivastav and Khirod Patnaik.
The first item
in the dance section in the morning session was the "Nabadurga"
performed by Baishakhi Ganguli from Kolkata. Although blessed with beautiful
features and pleasing appearance, her dancing was rather stiff and this
combined with the scanty use of stage space, reduced her performance into
an ordinary one. She performed to recorded music. The item was choreographed
by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra and the music was composed by Harihara Panda.
The next item was "Shiva Panchaka" performed by Navnita Pal from
USA. Since the item is on Lord Shiva, it demanded more vigour and power
than the dancer could deliver. While it was a good performance, the dancer,
however, could have paid more attention to the dominant mood of the subject-Shiva.
The dance choreography was by Guru Gangadhar Pradhan and the music was
composed by Pt. Balakrushna Das. Like in the previous instance, Mallika
Bhandarkar also delivered a standard performance. But it was rendered lacklustre
by the absence of ‘brightness' in the movements as well as the expressions.
For an Odissi performance to be good, it is not enough for the dancing
to be merely correct but must have a spark, which is possible with a combination
of rigorous practice and enthusiasm on the part of the dancer. Both Mallika
Bhandarkar and the previous dancer Navnita Pal have it in themselves to
become much better performers. The item "Aaigiri Nandini" was choreographed
by Jyoti Rout and the music was composed by Sarat Kumar Sahoo. The following
item was "Durga" performed by Bishwajit Dash. While extra care has
to be taken by a male dancer when dancing a feminine subject, Bishwajit,
by exerting more power and vigour, took away the "femininity" that the
subject called for; another example where an extraordinary performance
by a competent dancer failed to become one because the dancer neglected
this vital element. I have seen his performances in the past and he is
certainly capable of much more. The item's choreography was by Guru Kelucharan
Mohapatra and the music was composed by Debashis Sarkar.
The first item
of the evening session on 29th December 2009 was an excellent duet Mardala
recital, made all the more appreciable because of the youth of the players
Arup Das and Murlidhar Swain. It was a neat and flawless performance by
both of them who showed that they could handle this difficult instrument
very well. The future is bright for both of them. They played the Adi tala.
The next item, a set of two pieces, was performed by Nazia Alam, who in
spite of being a good singer gave an unexpectedly indifferent performance.
Her voice strained in the upper registers and the resultant shrillness
did disturb what otherwise could have been a good performance. The songs
sung were "Kunje murali bajuchhi" and "Naja Jamuna." The
concluding item of the music section was a duet by Pradip Kumar Das and
Bishnu Priya Priyadarshini. They sang two songs - "Kaha chitta taha
chahin nabaliba" (Raga Kirwani) and "Kahibu jai Shyama bandhunku"
(Raga Bakulabharana) and the performance left much to be desired. While
Pradip needs to improve the 'gayaki' which would improve the flatness
of his singing, Bishnu Priya's performance was below par and she needs
substantial improvement in almost all aspects of her singing. This was
not a National Festival level performance. The traditional tunes of these
songs were adapted by Guru Ramahari Das and the accompanists were Subhashis
Barala on harmonium and Niranjana Patra on mardala. As always, Niranjana
Patra played exceptionally well and his clever accompaniment to the singing
saved the item from totally falling flat.
The opening item
for the evening session were three dance pieces which were presented very
well by Namrata Gupta, and showed excellent training and practice. There
was however a noticeable flaw in the 'Chauka' which needs to be
corrected to make an Odissi performance flawless. In Namrata's case, in
the 'Chauka' the knee bend and the toe need to be in a perfect vertical
line. In this instance the knee bend was jutting forward. Otherwise an
excellent performance. While the first item "Bhumi Mangalam" was
choreographed by Daksha Mashruwala with music by Manoj Desai, the subsequent
two items "Kirwani Pallavi" and "Tolagi gopa danda" were
choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra with music by Pt. Bhubaneswar
Mishra. In spite of dancing three pieces, the dancer stayed within the
time allotted, and this is a good thing. The following item was a good
presentation of "Barsha Barnali" by Shibani Pattnaik and the excellence
of the performance was made even more commendable by the fact that the
dancer was ill at the time of the performance. A little breathlessness
towards the end of the item was due to the artiste's physical indisposition,
and not due to any lack of stamina or preparedness. The item was choreographed
by Guru Aruna Mohanty and the music was by Sumanta Mohanty. The next item
was a duet performed by Sonali and Sasmita -"Jaya Bhagabati Devi Namo
Barade" in Raga Gurjari Todi. It was a good and well coordinated performance
which fell just short of being an excellent one. There needs to be a little
tightening up of the outer lines of the body especially in the outer movements
of the arms and legs. The dance choreography was by Guru Naba Mishra and
the music was composed by Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi. The next item consisted
of two pieces, a "Pallavi" in Raga Bajrakanti and an Oriya abhinaya "Kielo
Sajani" in Raga Khamaj and was performed by Jyoti Srivastav. A good
performance which showed the experience and maturity of this senior dancer.
I would have been happier if the "Pallavi" could have contained
more variety and complexity. The abhinaya piece however, was expressive
and pleasing. Choreography was by Guru Duga Charan Ranbir and the music
was by Sukanta Kumar Kundu. The concluding item of the evening was by Guru
Somnath Pradhan and students of Ginwa and consisted of two pieces "Batu"
and "Ambe." It was a disappointing performance all round. Guru Somnath
Pradhan seemed to be quite unsure and looked visibly uncomfortable, showing
unpreparedness for a stage performance at this level. Added to this, the
Ginwa group gave a weak and disjointed display - the coordination was bad
and the performance dull. Certainly not a National Festival level performance.
Both the pieces were choreographed by Guru Somnath Pradhan. The first was
set to music by Himanshu Sekhar Swain and the second by Guru Bijay Kumar
The morning session
of the final day, 30th December 2009, was inaugurated by acclaimed ‘Pala'
singer Soubhagya Chhotray, and Sanskrit slokas were recited by his grandson
Surya Narayan Chhotray. The opening item was set of two pieces - "Sakhigo
mora kunjaku" in Ragamalika and "Leela nidhi he" in a traditional
tune, danced by Nandita Tripathy. It was a pedestrian performance and it
was obvious that this dancer needs far more training and polish to come
up to a festival level performance. The first piece was choreographed by
Guru Gangadhar Pradhan and music was set by Guru Ramahari Das while the
second piece was also choreographed by Guru Gangadhar Pradhan to a traditional
tune. The next item was by Rajashri Biswas who performed a "Pallavi"
in Raga Hamsadhwani. It was a good performance and the control she had
over her dancing spoke well of her training and preparation. The item was
choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and music was composed by Pt.
Bhubaneswar Mishra. This was followed by the classic Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra
item "Nachanti Range Srihari" in Raga Arabi. It was an inept performance
by the male dancer Jyoti Ranjan Das who made glaring mistakes by not being
able to give a faithful and true rendition of this often performed item.
The music for this piece was composed by Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra.
The dancer for
the next performance Swayanpragyan Sahoo was absent. The next dancer Snehanjali
Behera performed two items - "Pallavi" in Raga Bihag and "Mali
Mala Shyamaku Debi" in Raga Khamaj. It was a good performance though
occasionally it seemed there was a drop in stamina. Her performance indicated
that she has the potential to become a good dancer. Both the items were
choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and while both the items were
set to music by Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra, the music for the second item was
an adaptation based on a traditional tune. The following item was by Sonali
Acharjee who performed to a traditional Oriya song "Mu biki deichhi
parana Ghanashyamaku." It was an above average performance. The choreography
was by Muktilata Pal and music was composed by Binod Bihari Panda. The
next item was a "Pallavi" in Raga Shankaravarana, another classic
choreography by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra with music composed by Pt. Bhubaneswar
Mishra. It was a satisfactory performance and the dancer Sangeeta Chhotray
certainly has the potential to grow. However considering that this classic
piece has been often performed, the nuances that should have been expressed
were not visible. The concluding item of the morning session was "Krishna
Leela" which was performed to recorded music. This group item was led
by Jyotsna Sahoo in the role of Lord Krishna, and she herself was the choreographer
of the piece. While the item was presented well and the dancing was neatly
executed, one could not escape the feeling that Jyotsna could not bring
out an essential aspect of Krishna's character - the spark of naughtiness
and mischief that makes Lord Krishna such an endearing character on stage.
While the music, composed by Swapneswar Chakraborty, was definitely good,
there were a few phrases where light music has crept in. But since the
overall presentation in both dance and music was of good quality, the little
oddity in music was hardly noticeable.
Sahoo & group
item of the evening session (30th December 2009) was easily the highlight
of the entire evening. Named "Badya Bichitra," it was an attempt
to orchestrate a variety of instruments to play Odissi tunes, and it was
very successful and pleasing effort. All the musicians performed with total
understanding of each other and the effect was a combination of high skill,
experience and musical sense which succeeded in bringing out the typical
character of Odissi music. The instrumentalists were Guru Satchidananda
Das on Khanjani and Mardala, Kalandi Charan Parida on Khol, Nilachal Patra
and Agnimitra Behera on Violin, Aviram Nanda and Jabahar Mishra on Flute,
Swapneswar Chakraborty on Sitar, Ajay Kumar Satapathy on Harmonium and
Bibekananda Panda on Manjira. The tunes were "Sajani ki laje sarili"
in Raga Bageshri and "Mana Sumana" in Raga Mishra Khamaj. The following
item was a set of two songs sung by Ranjita Senapati. The first was "Kana
tu deri tha banshi tanaku go Radhe" in Raga Bajrakanti and the second
was "Ehi sehi paralo sajani" in Raga Kirwani. It was a satisfactory
performance but never reached any great heights. The following item was
a set of two songs sung very well by Rupak Kumar Parida. It was a very
pleasing performance of Odissi singing and it is obvious that the singer
has excellent potential. One suggestion however needs to be made. When
the singer descended to the lower register, there was, on occasion, slightly
diminished tunefulness. A complete artiste needs to sing in perfect key
in all registers. Rupak rendered "Sajani ki laje sarili" in Raga
Bageshri and "Cha" Champu in traditional tune.
The first item
of the dance section was a performance titled "Suryastaka" and was
danced by Smrutirekha Tripathy. It was good, well-rounded performance and
gave a strong impression of the future potential of this young dancer.
The piece was choreographed by Guru Durga Charan Ranbir and music composed
by Guru Ramahari Das. The subsequent item was performed by Subikash Mukherjee,
who rendered "Ardhanarishwra" in Ragamalika and Talamalika. His
handsome face and physique contributed to a pleasing stage presence. It
was a good performance of "Ardhanarishwara" and his natural abilities
combined with physical attributes give promise of a bright future. However,
good preparation for one or two performances may carry the day, but long
and diligent practice is unavoidable if the dancer wants to grow into a
fine artiste. The item was choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and
the music was composed by Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi. The following item was
a "Pallavi" in Raga Bilahari performed by Bijan Kumar Palai. It
was a good performance giving clear indications of excellent potential.
The stamina and staying power of this young dancer was evident and signifies
a bright future as a dancer. However, since his physique is not developed
and he is on the thin side, he looked very lanky; his stage presence needed
to be augmented by better make-up. While the choreography was by Guru Kelucharan
Mohapatra, the music was composed by Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra. The
next item was a duet performed by Subhashree and Pragyanseni. It was a
composition titled "Juge Juge Jagannath." It was a run-of-the-mill
performance and there was hardly any outstanding feature of the dancing
that merited a National Festival slot, that too on a closing day. The dancers
need much more training and preparation. The piece was choreographed by
Guru Niranjan Rout and Puspita Mishra: the music was composed by Ramarao
Patra, Sukanta Kumar Kundu and Guru Dhaneswar Swain.
item was a very important one considering that it was a performance by
the veteran Odissi danseuse Dr. Minati Mishra. The large audience was waiting
for this performance with great anticipation; it must be said that their
expectations were completely fulfilled by a very balanced, mature and graceful
performance by Dr. Minati Mishra. Her advancing years seemed to have had
no effect on her skill, poise and stage presence. The Mardala accompaniment
by another Odissi veteran Guru Banamali Maharana was also of an exalted
quality, and together with Guru Ramahari Das's singing, was altogether
an inspired performance. However, the Manjira accompaniment by Guru Gobinda
Pal on occasion was out of sync with the Mardala playing and was unexpected
of an artiste of such seniority. Dr. Mishra performed "Jagannathashtak"
and an ashtapadi from Gita Gobinda "Nindati Chandana" which were
choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Guru Debaprasad Das respectively
and the music for both the pieces were composed by Guru Balakrushna Das.
item of the National Festival was three dance pieces by Daksha Mashruwala
and group. Considering the high class of the previous performance of Dr.
Minati Mishra, this item should have suffered by comparison. That it did
not because this was also a well executed performance in both solo and
group presentations. There was good coordination among the dancers and
Daksha Mashruwala, herself a senior artiste, led by example with expertise
born of long experience and practice. The first piece was a "Pallavi"
in Raga Khamaj and danced by the group; it was choreographed by Guru Kelucharan
Mohapatra, with music by Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra. The second was a solo
piece of an Ashtapadi from Gita Gobinda ("Kishalaya shayana taley")
in Raga Bibhas, choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and with music
by Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi. The last piece was a group dance named "Ragamala"
and set to a Ragamalika composition in which every Raga represented a particular
goddess; choreographed by Daksha Mashruwala, it was a skillful composition
with imaginative music composition by Manoj Desai and Vijay Tambe.
Mashruwala & group
I would like
to bring to your notice certain small but important lapses which need to
be rectified in order to create a good ambience for a festival of this
importance. They are:-
1. I found
the "compeering" in the evening sessions too long and repetitive, thereby
becoming monotonous. Also, the habit of generously doling out adjectives
and accolades in equal measure to young dancers as well as established
artistes, is patently unfair. The younger artistes need more time and experience
to deserve such free flowing and overwhelming praise. In contrast, the
compeering for the morning sessions was adequate and to the point.
2. The other
avoidable habit is the practice of serving tea and snacks to dignitaries
and others while the performance on stage is in progress. From the view
point of our culture which respects Art almost as a form of divine expression,
it is very insulting for an artiste on stage to see the performance being
disturbed by the distribution of tea, snacks and irrelevant conversation.
It is incumbent on the part of the Art establishment to stop such practices
so that their example will be followed by those in the private sector who
organize performances and festivals.
Festival of Odissi Dance and Music is an event of considerable importance
in the cultural life of Orissa. While extending my congratulations to Guru
Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre, I also wish to commend the
supportive efforts of Dept. of Culture & Tourism, Orissa and Sangeet
Natak Akademi, New Delhi. I would like to record my thanks to the organizers
for providing me an opportunity to witness the festival as an observer,
and it is my belief that my objective comments will be taken as coming
from a genuine well-wisher of the Festival who hopes to see it growing
from strength to strength in the years to come.
Mohapatra is the Director of Srjan (Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Nrityabasa)