National Festival of Odissi Dance and Music  
- Rahul Acharya & Sangita Gosain, Bhubaneswar 
Photos courtesy: Odissi Research Center 
January 28, 2008 

Quite recently Bhubaneswar saw a grand gala festival of Odissi Dance and Music, organized in the temple town, known to be the heaven of Odissi. This festival, organized by the Department of Culture, Govt of Orissa in collaboration with Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre, saw the reigning stars of the dance form along with the future faces of the fraternity. Organized quite on the lines of the 3rd International Odissi Festival, held in 2006 (organized by IPAP, a US based cultural organization promoting Indian art forms), this festival of dance and music featured more than 400 performers (including 9 from abroad), both established and amateur. It seems Bhubaneswar is experiencing a cultural renaissance.  

The venue fixed for the purpose was the only open air auditorium in Bhubaneswar, Utkal Mandap, built in 2006 to host IPAP's 3rd International Odissi Festival. No venue could have been better than this, as the seating capacity was huge and was open to one and all. The stage was aesthetically designed and a beautiful shamiana covered the sitting space to save the rasikas from the chill of winter. It was surprising to see the auditorium packed till late nights, despite the cold weather.  

The festival featured seminars on Odissi music, choreography, music accompaniment with dance, Guru-Shishya Parampara and Aharya of Odissi. The seminars took place in the mornings, followed by the morning session of dance recitals, featuring 5 dancers each day. The afternoon sessions began with vocal recitals followed by the evening dance sessions that comprised of solo, duet and group performances. Performances continued  till 11pm in the night. It was amazing to see the rasikas glued to their seats till the very end.  

Janhabi Behera
Geeta Shankaran 
The inaugural day of the festival (26th December 2007) started with vocal recitals by Bharati Jena, Ram Behera, Laxman Behera and Binapani Nayak. Ram and Laxman Behera represented the Dakshini style of Odissi singing.  The versatile vocalist Binapani Nayak stole the show. The dance session began with Janhabi Behera's Durga Stuti, followed by Rajashree Praharaj, performing Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's famous choreography based on Poet Salabega's Ahe Nila Saila.  Rahul Acharya presented Ashta Sambhu, strictly adhering to the Deba Prasad style conducted by his famous protégé, Guru Durga Charan Ranbir. Geeta Shankaran from Malaysia presented a Pallavi set to Raga Kiribani (recently composed by Guru Durga Charan Ranbir with music set to Prof Ramahari Das' genius score and rhythm composed by Guru Dhaneswar Swain).  Vishnu Tattwa Das from USA, swept the audience off its feet, by his rendition of Kuru Yadu Nandana. His sensuality and eroticism was further heightened by the music, carrying everyone into a realm of divine love play between Radha and Krishna. Manoranjan and Minati Pradhan presented Ardhanariswara and lived up to their names. Jyoti Raut danced to the lyrics of Gangaashtakam by Adi Shankaracharya and presented two of her disciples, Ananda and Mallika in a Pallavi. The group section saw the dancers of the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya in myriad colours of the Pancha Devata with well synchronized movements and perfectly executed tableaus. This was followed by Art Vision led by Ileana Citaristi, presenting a Pallavi and Dasha Mahavidya. 
Vishnu Tattwa Das
Ranjana Gauhar 
Orissa Dance Acdemy
Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya
The 2nd day of the festival (27th December 2008), started with a seminar on "choreography in traditional and experimental format" chaired by Dr. Dhirendranath Pattnaik (The chair-person for all the seminars during the festival). The speakers were Guru Durga Charan Ranbir, Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, Guru Bichitrananda Swain, Guru Rabindra Atibuddhi and Dr. Ileana Citaristi. The seminar was followed by dance recitals by Somanath Pradhan, Shakti Swaroopa Bir, Khyanaprava Parida, Tanushree Rakhit, Suchitra Mohanty and Bhadra Chowdhry. Among them, Suchitra Mohanty's performance of the abhinaya piece To Lagi Gopa Danda stood out prominently. The danseuse who needs special mention in this category was Shakti Swaroopa Bir, a physically challenged disciple of Guru Chittranjan Acharya, who carried herself in a remarkable way.  
Ileana Citaristi
The afternoon session started with vocal recitals by Dheeraj Mohapatra, an upcoming young vocalist, and Guru Gopal Chandra Panda, along with daughter disciple Sangeeta Panda. The dance session started with an offering to Lord Rama Keki kanthabha nilam by well known exponent Meera Das. This piece was choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, with music by Pt Raghunath Panigrahi. The male dancers on this day really impressed. It is heartening to see the way male dancers are shaping up their careers these days. Anshuman Mishra, an architect by profession, is obsessed with dance, his obsession being furthered by the expert hands of Guru Ratikanta Mohapatra. Saswat Joshi's Karna, an innovative piece choreographed by Ileana Citaristi, left the audience spell bound. Debasish Pattnaik's rendition of Shivashtakam revelled in Guru Durga Charan Ranbir's choreography. The dancer won applause for his tremendous body control and breath taking postures. This session also featured Jyotsnarani Sahu, Swetaleena Swain, Alpana Nayak, Muktilata Pal, Itishree Mohanty, Radharani Mallik, Chandrakanta Sutar, Sharmistha Sahoo and a very senior dancer Meenakhi Behera. Guru Nabakishore Mishra's Abartta put up a neat show by presenting Om Namaha Shivaya performed by an all male troupe. Meera Das' Gunjan Dance Academy presented some of its finest dancers. 

The 3rd day (28th December 2007) started with a seminar on "Music accompaniment in dance" and featured the stalwarts of Odissi music led by Prof Rahamari Das. The participants were Kirtan Narayan Padhi, Guru Dhaneswar Swain, Laxmikant Palit, Guru Satchidananda Das, Dr. Sangita Gosain, Bijay Kumar Jena and Purushottam Parida. The dancers for the morning dance session were Pallavi Das, Smarika Rout, Rashmirekha Das and Gouri Shankar Dash. Rashmirekha's Durga stuti Jatajuta sama rudha was remarkable. The only male dancer for this session, Gouri Shankar, showed great promise. He performed a Nayika Abhinaya Bitila to jamini choreographed by Guru Nabakishore Mishra.  

Bijay Kumar Jena
Guru Satchidananda Das & Guru Dhaneswar Swain
Amulya Balbantaray
Leena Nanda
The afternoon session featured some of the best musicians of Orissa. The vocal rendition by Bijay Kumar Jena and Shyamani Devi won rave reviews and was followed by a very involving Mardala session by the maestros of Odissi Mardala, Guru Dhaneswar Swain and Guru Satchidananda Das. The evening dance session featured Leena Nanda, Amulya Balbantaray, Arati Kar, Soumya Bose and Satchidananda Pradhan, Sonali Mishra, Banita Pradhan, Dipti Routray, Geetanjali Acharya, Sujata Mohapatra, Pragyan Priyadarshini Pattnaik, Gayatri Chand and Rekha Tandon.  
Dipti Routray
Gayatri Chand
Sujata Mohapatra, disciple and daughter in law of the doyen of Odissi, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra is known for her precision, accuracy and grace. She presented Barsha composed by her husband Ratikanta Mohapatra. Another dancer who stole the show was Dipti Routray, a senior disciple of Guru Durga Charan Ranbir, who shone brilliantly in her abhinaya Kie lo sajani.  Leena Nanda and Sonali Mishra gave equally stunning performances. In the group session it was Guru Bichitrananda Swain's Rudrakshya that really struck the audience with awe. His all male troupe presented Surya Stutee and Tala Madhurya with perfectly synchronized movements and brilliant usage of space. Kala Vikas Kendra, a pioneer institute, that has been closely associated with the development of Odissi, was appreciated for its performance.  

The fourth day of the festival (29th December 2007) started with the morning seminar on Guru Shishya Parampara and Aharya in Odissi Dance. The seminar was poorly attended. The speakers for the seminar were Guru Chittranjan Acharya, Guru Nabakishore Mishra, Meera Das and Rahul Acharya. The session was chaired by Dr. Dhirendranath Pattnaik. This was followed by the dance session featuring Subhalaxmi Samal and Alisha Mohapatra, Suhagnilini Das (the daughter-in-law of Adi Guru Pankaj Charan Das), Moushmi Madhuchanda and Rachana Rimjhim. The dancer who stood out was Rachana Rimjhim. The afternoon vocal session featured Guru Keshab Chandra Rout, Ritanjali Kundu and a duet by Himanshu Swain and Subhashis Baral.  

Leena Mohanty
Geeta Mahalik
The dancers for the evening dance session were Munmun Chakravorty, Lucky Mohanty, Arupa Gayatri Panda, Leena Mohanty, Trilochan Sahoo and Rosalin Srichandan, Subhashree Pattnaik, Surendra Mohapatra, Madhusmita Mohanty, Prativa Panda and well known exponents, Ranjana Gauhar and Geeta Mahalik. Leena Mohanty, a very senior disciple of Guru Durga Charan Ranbir, was brilliant in her exposition of a Pallavi set to Raga Suddhadeshi and abhinaya Sata Kaha. Her perfection in body movements and her restrained subtle abhinaya was a visual treat. Munmun Chakravorty presented a beautiful composition of Guru Ratikanta Mohapatra, Jaya Mahesha. Madhusmita Mohanty presented an abhinaya with perfection. Rosalin Srichandan and Trilochan Sahoo impressed with their piece, Jaya Bhagavati Devi. The group session featured two of Bhubaneswar's best dance troupes, Guru Durga Charan Ranbir's Nrutyayan and Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's Srijan, now under the direction of Guru Ratikanta Mohapatra. Nrutyayan presented Surya, composed by Leena Mohanty and Dasha Mahavidya, composed by Guru Durga Charan Ranbir. Both the pieces were remarkable. Srijan presented Om followed by Allah, both experimental choreographies of Guru Ratikanta Mohapatra.  

The last day of the festival (30th December 2007), started with an extremely interesting and involving seminar on Odissi Mardala. The speakers were Guru Dhaneswar Swain, Guru Satchidananda Das, Guru Niranjan Patra and Guru Kalandi Parida. The dancers for the noon session were Gayatri Mishra, Suchismita Sahoo, Subhalaxmi Padhi, Aurosmita Acharya and Dhairya Keshari Mohanty. Subhalaxmi Padhi and Aurosmita Acharya showed great promise.  

Aruna Mohanty
Kavita Dwivedi
The afternoon session started with vocal rendition by Binod Panda followed by Prof Mohini Mohan Pattnaik's flute recital. The closing ceremony was conducted by the Governor of Orissa, followed by dance recitals by Swayamprava Mishra, Raseswari Mohanty, Amrita Patsani, Kaori Naka, Nirada Kumar Dehury, Amanda Geory, Maria Laura Valder, Swapnarani Sinha, Nityananda Das, Aruna Mohanty, Kavita Dwivedi, Ileana Citaristi and Snehaprava Samantray. This session presented some of the crème de la crème of the Odissi fraternity. Starting with renowned danseuse Aruna Mohanty's presentation of Bajuchi Sahi Bajare, known for her involved abhinaya and amazing stamina, she outshone her younger counterparts in tremendous body control. Kavita Dwivedi's rendition was extremely involving and so was Ileana Citaristi's. Snehaprava Samantray was remarkable in expressing the sensuality of Mother Matangi in Kalidasa's Shyamala Dandakam that describes the Mother goddess, swaying like a drunken elephant, with full breasts; "Matangi madashalini………….. kuchonnate chandrakala vatamsa." The dancer who moved the audience to tears was Nityananda Das, the one legged dancer, who has led a life of complete struggle to be able to balance on one leg and perform a demanding dance form such as Odissi. Swapnarani Sinha's Nava Rasa, captivated the audience with her charming stage presence. Swayamprava Mishra, a child prodigy, was at her best with her abhinaya presentation, Saja kanja nayana 
Nityananda Das
Manoranjan-Minati Pradhan
Amanda Geory and Maria Laura, from USA and Peru respectively groomed at Srjan, showed complete dedication to the dance form through their performances. It is amazing to see dancers of non-Indian origin, practicing Indian forms with complete austerity. The group presentations by the Odissi Research Centre and Orissa Dance Academy, two elite organizations, gave outstanding performances.  

The festival was organized by the special efforts of the Dept of Culture, Govt of Orissa, headed by Gopinath Mohanty, Commissioner, and Surya Narayan Patra, Minister, Culture along with Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre. It was indeed a treat for connoisseurs and art lovers to be a part of the festival. Observing the overwhelming response from the rasikas of Orissa, the State Government decided to make this festival an annual event. 

This report has been jointly written by Rahul Acharya and Dr. Sangita Gosain. She works as the Senior Executive at the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre. Rahul Acharya is a known disciple of Guru Durga Charan Ranbir.