Angika: Sculpture and the Dancing Body
- Shreelina Ghosh, Michigan

April 12, 2010 

Michigan-based Odissi exponent Sreyashi Dey presented a multi-cultural collaborative artistic creation Angika: Sculpture and the Dancing Body, at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), Ann Arbor on March 20, 2010. 

Sreyashi Dey, disciple of Guru Mayadhar Raut and Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, and her disciples presented a collage of traditional and new choreographies in an attempt to demonstrate the intimate connections between the living body in classical Indian dance and its depictions in ancient temple sculptures and paintings such as those found in UMMA’s collection. Poems by Zilka Joseph interwoven into the narrative of the performance brought to life the visual splendor of the temples of Orissa. Actor/director Martin Walsh paced among the audience as he read out the poems aloud after each piece, creating an interesting de-centralization of performative space, a maneuver unusual in a traditional classical dance recital. This reviewer interpreted this as an act of re-living the physical experience of moving among the pre-historic arts of Orissa imagining the dancing figures etched on the walls of Konark come to life on being kissed by the moonbeam. 

The repertoire began with a Mangalacharan choreographed by Sreyashi, based on a Sanskrit hymn from the Atharva Veda. She performed it with her twin daughters and disciples Ishika Rajan and Kritika Rajan, and her disciple Debnita Talapatra.  They evoked the Earth, giver of life, through visual and mythological imagery. In the next presentation, Konark Kanti, the young dancers Ishika, Kritika and Debnita showed impressive anga-shuddhi as they attempted to recreate Konark’s sculptures in their poses.

This was followed by Manini, a beautiful contemporary abhinaya, based on extracts from works of medieval Oriya poets Gopalakrushna Pattanayak and Bhaktakabi Banamali Das. This beautiful choreography of Guru Gangadhar Pradhan explores a spectrum of rasas in Radha’s longing for Krishna that turns into hopeless anguish when Krishna does not arrive. Sreyashi’s transition from vasakasajjika to virahothkanditha nayika was carried out with smooth and poised elegance.

Sreyashi and her disciples next performed Shiva Vandana Nagendra Haraya choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Bilahari Pallavi re-enacted the sensuous sculpturesqueness of Odissi. This struck a perfect note of finality to the evening’s riveting tribute to the temple arts which bear the memory of this two thousand year old dance. 

Shreelina Ghosh is a Michigan-based performer of Odissi dance and senior disciple of Guru Aloka Kanungo. She is pursuing PhD at Michigan State University in digital / performative / cultural Rhetorics.