Winging their way past 'limitations'  
- Ranjana Dave, Mumbai 
January 12, 2007 

We in India always believed that one needed two real hands and legs, limbs of flesh and blood, to be able to dance. Till Sudha Chandran proved us wrong.  

At the 3rd International Odissi Festival that took place in Bhubaneswar from December 26 30, 2006, Nityananda Das again proved to the dance world that Chandran was not a one-off case of determination, dedication and devotion. This young Odissi dancer may have lost his right leg in an accident, but that has not deterred him from delivering stellar performances on stage. He wears an artificial leg for routine activities but prefers to use only his remaining leg while dancing.  

Given the hurdles he has surmounted to reach this stage, his exposition of the form is quite commendable. There are so many of us who find it difficult to balance on one leg even for a short while. Das does seat himself on a stool during portions of his performance but also spends large chunks of time standing and moving around on the stage. The void created by the absence of one leg is filled by an invisible support system that stands strong on resolve and grit. 

Nityananda Das
Shakti Swaroop
Shakti Swaroop Bir, 26, was introduced to Odissi by Chittaranjan Acharya, at the age of seven. When she performed 'Dasavatar' at the festival, many in the audience were surprised to see her teacher standing and conducting her dance like a lone soldier on the platform generally used by accompanists. Since childhood, the only way Shakti can 'hear' things is by feeling the vibration it creates on the person's throat. This is not always feasible, and when she dances, she does it in an impenetrable web of silence.  

The way she learnt the dance form became an exercise in improvisation and innovation. Though it was sometimes frustrating for her to understand sounds in arduous ways, her teacher's encouragement, love and support helped ensure that she never gave up her struggle. Today her handicap is not really a handicap anymore and never stands out as a disadvantage in the profession she has chosen. 

It is really heartening to see how Odissi has been gladly adopted and mastered even by so-called 'physically-challenged' people who make up for the loss of a limb or sensory organ with firm objectives and the courage to pass through fire to achieve those objectives. 

Ranjana Dave learns Odissi, Hindustani classical music and the flute.