Tuesday, January 24, 2006

(D) Jan 22, 2006 - Quintessence - Celebrating the Joy of Odissi

Pix Source: The Star

QUINTESSENCE – Celebrating the Joy of Odissi, a Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) production held last weekend, coincided with the auspicious Ponggol festival observed by Hindus to usher in good luck and prosperity. It was the second of year-round programmes which will be held throughout 2006, to celebrate TFA’s 25th anniversary. The first was Umesh in Odissi, staged on Jan 1 and 2.

The beautiful Indian classical dance was presented by Odissi teachers and senior dancers trained by TFA’s Odissi teacher and dancer Geetha Shankaran- Lam. The 11 performers were Gowri Chandran, Sumathi Chandra, Sri Thina, Nadina Vijay, Sri Vidhya, Dhanya, Manjulah Harihara, Priya Roshan, Sharmila Prasad, Urmila Ganesh and Aarthi Paranjothy.

Quintessence, a six-part repertoire, began with a simple devotional item that had the dancers singing and reciting a verse written by the late Swami Shantanand Saraswathi, describing the god Shiva in his silent, meditative form.

This was followed by the Sthai, whereby the dancers emulated dance sculptures in Orissan temples. The choreography revolved around the two basic Odissi stances, chowka (square posture) and tribhangi (‘S’-shaped body). The duo who presented the early part of this piece displayed well-controlled movements, interchanging smoothly between accented and fluid movements.

The next section, the Pallavi (flowering), in Raag Sankarabharanam was a dedication to Saraswathi, goddess of wisdom and learning. The six dancers, through abhinaya (dramatic expressions), portrayed the character of the goddess in a joyful and girlish dance. Their steps traced the six-petal white lotus kolam (an Indian decorative artwork drawn on the floor), representing the goddess’ seat.

Odissi dancer Sharmila Radha Krishnan was also the presenter of ‘Quintessence’.

At one point, the dancers gathered, in the centre of the flower with their hands clasped above their heads, each like a petal. They stood upright at first. Then the lotus blossomed when the dancers bent sideways or leaned forward. This piece showed the versatility of the dance while retaining its quintessence.

The Mangalacharan captured the union and joy of Shiva and Shakthi, who gave birth to Lord Ganesha. The most unique part of this piece was when each of the four dancers formed a part of the head of Lord Ganesha – two tusks, the face and trunk, and the head.

In Yugma Dwandva, Geetha created an ensemble based on a solo choreography she performed in 1994. This strenuous piece dwelt on the concept of jugal bandi or the question-answer process between the musician/singer and the dancer. This pure dance item featured energetic turns, jumps and spins and explored various formations. However, some of the incorporated yoga postures looked out of place and the shaky balancing acts interrupted the flow of the dance.

The concluding section, Moksha (liberation), saw 10 dancers in the role of goddesses, to epitomise divine radiance. Four on centre stage depicted the core of the sun and the others, forming an outer circle, its rays.

The hour-long performance was thoroughly engaging and revealed the good harvest from TFA’s labour of planting and nurturing the seeds of Odissi.

Finding Her Own Style

THE style that Geetha Shankaran-Lam has assimilated is that of the late Kelucharan Mohapatra, one of the Trinity (Brahma- Kelucharan) in Odissi after Pankaj Charan Das (Vishnu), and Guru Deba Prasad Das (Shiva).

“Through Ramli Ibrahim, my guru, I have come to understand and feel Guru Deba Prasad’s style. It’s big, broad, grand, mad, tribal, unconventional and unique. He wanted to say everything in one breath!” Geetha said.

“In contrast, Kelucharanj’s style is quiet, beautiful, graceful, perfect. It involves technique-mastery before the body can melt and move, emphasising curves and intricate rhythms. His choreography heightens Odissi’s sensuality by adopting themes related to nayikas (maidens), the famous Krishna-Radha story, and love poems in Gita Govinda.”

The late Swami Shantanand Saraswathi, founder of the Temple of Fine Arts, encouraged Geetha to study as much as she could from all the gurus before creating something of her own, in line with TFA’s history and growth. In 1997, he invited Kelucharan to Malaysia; the guru stayed with Geetha for a few weeks.

“From him, I learnt to fall in love with simplicity. He gave me his all – dance instruction, books, notes and details on history. He was like the grandfather I never had! I realised that to know more of a style, it is important to understand and experience the life and times of the artiste,” said Geetha.

“With Swamiji’s and Ket’s (my husband) encouragement to continue the process of creativity and evolution, I will persist with my research and study of Odissi styles so as to develop a style of my own one day.”


edvin said...

Miss, Ur blog hard to understand but give many information about dance! I found that you are marriage... hehe..

Break-A-Leg said...

Married? I would really like to know who my husband is!

Anonymous said...

umm.."break-a-leg", my name is nurul and im from singapore..are u indian or whatsoever?i have a project to do and i wonder if u noe anything about Ponggol festival cuz the other websites are all nonesense but at least i asked u..