Explorations in Odissi dance 
- Nita Vidyarthi, Kolkata 

April 11, 2009 
There are few dancers who are complete in training and understanding of the art form but watching Ileana Citaristi perform at the Satyajit Ray Auditorium, ICCR, Kolkata, it is affirmed that she definitely is. 

An illustrious disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, her mastery in Odissi apart from her competence in Chhau was brought forth in a brilliant performance exploring every aspect of the dance form. Beginning with the traditional "Devagurusabha Pranata," a triple salutation in Anjali gesture, over the head to God, in front of the face to Guru and in front of the chest to the public, she moved on to Pallavi in raga Bajrakanti based on Ektali set to music by Rakhal Das Mohanty.  Her clean cut nritta in which she gradually built up the lyrical imagery of raga, tala and swara proved that her execution is not a vehicle or display of technical skill for skillís own sake but a natural manifestation. Crisp movements and sharp motifs made the presentation delightful.  

A heart warming and intensely human tale was gripped in 'Sharanam,' an abhinaya number based on the story of three women of different faith. Ileana's embryonic dance and facial expressions revealed her distinctive talent for abhinaya to portray the fate of Mary Magdalene, who was pelted by stones and took refuge with Jesus, a tortured Amrapali to be salvaged by Buddha and Pingala, who realised the futility of waiting for her client and surrendered to Lord Krishna (mokhshaya sadhanam).  A special mention of the numbers "Praharo maraya maraya daraya gataya" (Mary Magdalene) and "Hemanta bichari biraag bhav" (Pingala) is important. Without special aptitude such a portrayal cannot be executed.
The concluding piece combining nritya and abhinaya was a story of Jara - the Oriya version of the story of Ekalvya from the Mahabharata by Sarla Dass - that explored both the karuna and veera rasa of the piece sprinkled with vibrant tandava, karanas or thanis. This energetic piece choreographed by her guru with strong imposing swaying movements, set to music by Prafulla Kar, was finely represented by a very deserving disciple, the best number being "Ekalavyar gurubhakti rohibo amar". 

Vocal support by Ghanashyam Panda, Mardala by Buddhanath Swain and violin by Suramani Ramesh Dass added to the success of the enjoyable performance.