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Whiff of earthiness
- Madhur Gupta
Photos courtesy: Sutra Foundation

January 8, 2019

Guru Ramli Ibrahim, a seasoned dancer and guru of the Debaprasad Das style of Odissi is the perfect example of cross cultural exchange and excellence one can achieve with sheer dedication and impeccable aesthetics. Recently, his Sutra Foundation presented an evening featuring three generations of dancers titled 'Glorious Passages' in collaboration with the India International Centre, Delhi.

With Geetika Sree, the lead female dancer of the troupe, Ramli Ibrahim commenced the recital with an invocatory Mangalacharan dedicated to the elephant headed god Ganesh and the Lakshmi-Narasimha deities who depicted the soumya and the rudra anga of the universe. What was heartening was to see the well trained young members of the Sutra troupe who were a part of the foundation's outreach program joining in the piece with equally deft calibre. The chanting "Om Ganapathaye..." warmed up the audience to an auspicious beginning of the hour long production. The dancers extolled various epithets of Ganesha and smoothly moved on to the Lakshmi-Narasimha description. The classic scene of Hiranyakashipu being ripped by the lion faced God was the central theme of this piece.

Sticking to his style's earthy routes, the artistic director chose to present Sakhi Nata, an indigenous item of poise and pure dance from the Ganjam district of Orissa. The piece was intermingled with a Pallavi and was replete with the traditional Shabda Swara Patha which is a unique element found only in the style of Late Guru Debaprasad Das, in which the dancer performs to every shabda, which is knitted together with swara and their rendition is done together. The high music quality and fluent voiceover added to the understanding of the rasikas and laymen alike.

Aja mu dekhili ghana Shyama ku set to raga Bilahari and tala Ektali was the transitionary piece to the abhinaya anga. The two boys Deva and Hari were dressed in the typical mormukut and were reminiscent of the rich Gotipua tradition of Orissa. The piece though simple, with a symmetrical storyline depicting the various facets of the beguiling and enchanting Krishna as seen from the eyes of the gopis and Radha, was quite enjoyable due to the sheer innocence of the young dancers. Priyanka and Deepa, the female dancers of the troupe, were absolutely at par with their seniors.

Following this was an abhinaya piece based on Shaivite and Tantric traditions into which the Debaprasad Das parampara is so deeply entrenched into. Depicting the dualistic nature of Shiva who is all encompassing, one who is aloof, one who is easily angered, one who is easily appeased, the piece was replete with various mythological references. Optimum utilisation of cluster formations unfolded the episodes of Sagar Manthan and Shiva drinking the halahal with clarity. 'Shankara Girija ardha shareera..' went on to describe the advait bhava of the purush and prakriti anga of this couple deity. The flavour was highly rustic and quite a welcome change from the highly stylised form one often witnesses in the capital.

The Sutra Foundation ended their recital with a traditional Mokshya done to background score of Ukutas being repeated to traditional tunes. Guru Ramli Ibrahim must be congratulated to bring onto the dance scene high sensibilities both visually and aurally while keeping the roots of the traditions alive.

Odissi dancer Madhur Gupta is a disciple of Guru Sharon Lowen. He contributes to national dailies like The Hindu, The Times of India, The Asian Age, The Indian Express covering at large the Indian classical dance and music scene of the subcontinent.

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