May 21-June 14, various venues
ANY fan of the classical Indian dance form of Odissi would have been in seventh heaven in the last few weeks. Stirring Odissi 2008, the country’s biggest ever Odissi festival, presented performances, exhibitions, and talks galore, all centred on this ancient dance style.
Madhavi Mudgal’s brilliant choreography for the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Repertoire created a contemporary feel while using the traditional syllabus
Odissi certainly has many admirers, for it is a breathtakingly beautiful form of dance. It was originally developed in the temple of Jagannath in Orissa, East India, as a form of worship and meditation.
The dance form was kept alive, first, by the Maharis, and then the Gotipuas.
Various reasons have been presented by academicians to explain why the Mahari tradition died out to be replaced by the Gotipua tradition. The latter tradition arose from the fact that the Maharis never performed outside the temple’s grounds; instead, they taught the dance to Gotipuas, young boys dressed as girls.
It was these performers who took the dance into the public milieu. Odissi was seen for the first time outside the temple in the early 16th century.
Although innovation in any ancient art form is to be encouraged, the preservation of authenticity is of even more importance because of the irreversibility that “sophistication” has on dance.
Female and male solos as well as group performances were presented at Gandhiki Hall, Penang; Amphi-Sutra, KL; the Malaysia Tourism Centre, KL; and the KL Performing Arts Centre.
The performances that I found most enchanting were Rituvasant, a duet performed by female dancers Bijayini Satpathy and Surupa Sen (on June 8), and the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Repertoire (June 11), a group performance choreographed by Madhavi Mudgal.
Despite being based on a traditional syllabus, Madhavi’s choreography for the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Repertoire created a contemporary feel with its exploration of space and use of unique music.