International Odissi Dance Festival 2011

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Odissi dancer, Ileana Citaristi, lives and teaches in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa. Here she her reports on a dance festival dedicated solely to Odissi which took place back in December.  Ileana will be leading workshops and performances at the Bhavan Centre in West Kensington during May.  

Image credit: Ganesh Sahoo

It was indeed a highly emotional   moment when, on the 23 December 2011, 555 dancers dressed in an array of coloured cotton Sambalpuri saris silently took their place in perfect formations and lines ready to start a twenty-three minute dance piece in the attempt to make Odissi dance entering into the Guinness Books of Records. It is with the greatest pleasure that we can announce that the record was achieved but, even if the attempt had failed, the fact remains that the event was a sure success and it was a spectacular show which has raised the spirits of the participating dancers as well as the Odissi dance community.

This was the inaugural show of the eight days International Odissi Dance Festival that followed, where more than 800 dancers from India and abroad showcased their dance items in a packed scheduled programme which ran from 10am until 10pm every day of the festival.   The international section of the Festival, which saw some forty soloists and seven groups perform, was sponsored and organised by IPAP (International Performing Art Promotion) based in Washington D.C.  presided by Pratap Das, whilst the national section which was supported by Department of Tourism and Culture, Government of Orissa and organized by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre, Bhubaneswar, included more than 170 solos, fifteen duets and thirty group performances by senior and young established  dancers from India.   

While the dance showcase was scheduled from 10am until 2pm and again at 430pm until 10pm, in between there was a seminar on various topics such as “The Aesthetics of Odissi”, “Challenges of Odissi in the 21st Century”, “Tradition, Innovation and Experimentation”, “Yoga in Odissi”, “Preventing Physical Injuries” and “Aharya-Art of Makeup, Jewellery”.  These took place daily with the participation of senior dancers and various experts in the respective fields.  Throughout each session there was a considerable level of interest and participation from the public which, although became more numerous during the evening slots, was very encouraging indeed.   

The festival’s real discovery was the high standard of dancing from the participating foreigner dancers; be they from Russia, Japan, USA, Malaysia or Peru, almost all of them dazzled the audiences with their neat renditions and faithful adherence to the style.  Also, during the discussion, it was young foreign dancers who were asking most of the questions; showing a through interest, involvement and passion for  Odissi dance.  

The concluding  ceremony, held at the open amphitheatre of  the Utkal Mandap, saw brief performances by ‘gotipua’ and ‘maharis’ groups, considered precursors to the Odissi dance as we see it today, and a presentation of the dance-drama, Dasanana, which was enacted by the Guru Shradda group from USA.  This item was choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra with music by Pandit Bhubaneswar Misra – nothing better than a homage to these two doyens of the revival of Odissi could have been a more befitting finale to this grand festival!

Ileana Citaristi