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Udayaraaga - ushering a new dawn
- Tapati Chowdurie

August 10, 2020

To uplift the spirits of performers as well as sustain and nourish art and artistes, Udayaraaga was conceptualised by Aruna Mohanty, the creative director of Orissa Dance Academy, Bhubaneswar. Udayaraaga is a series featuring one solo Odissi dancer every Friday at 7.30pm. It started in July and will continue till December over a span of six months. These came as a breath of fresh air for viewers.

Founded in 1975 by Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, now led by Aruna Mohanty, Orissa Dance Academy is an institution engaged in teaching and promoting Odissi dance, music and related art forms. It has played a prominent role in popularizing and propagating Odissi in India and abroad. This review features three upcoming young dancers to inspire aspiring dancers to carry on practicing to retain their top form in these troubled times.

Leema Bhol

Leema Bhol is a talented Odissi dancer with extensive experience, having been in the field for more than two decades. She has traversed many a not so often trodden path in her chosen field. She was introduced to the field of her choice by gurus Gajendra Panda, Leena Mohanty and Pitambar Biswal. Her art was later nurtured by gurus Gangadhar Pradhan, Aruna Mohanty, Bichitrananda Swain and Yudhisthir Nayak. For this virtual program she performed "Manini" based on extracts taken from traditional Odia songs written by renowned Odia poets of yesteryears, Gopalakrushna and Bhaktakabi Banamali Das.

The piece exemplifies bhakti sringar/devotional love between a mortal and god. In this narrative Radha, the eternal beloved of Krishna, is immersed in a mood of romantic nostalgia while she lovingly decorates an abode for her beloved Krishna in the surroundings of nature and awaits his arrival. Images of her beloved draped in yellow attire and bedecked with a sparkling crown and ornaments appear before her love struck eyes, enthralling her. She unconsciously breaks into a dance, oblivious to everything. She feels there is no one as elegant as her lover. But all her high spirits and hopes gradually dim, as the night advances. Pangs of jealousy and hurt pride peep into her psyche. This beautiful piece of abhinaya was choreographed by Guru Gangadhar Pradhan to a joint composition of Guru Ramahari Das and Prafulla Kar. It was mesmerizing rendition.

Shubham Ojha

Young talent Shubham Ojha was introduced to Odissi by Guru Siva Prasad Chand, later to be honed under Guru Sanatan Nayak and polished under the guidance of Aruna Mohanty and Srinibas Ghatuary. In this virtual concert, Shubham performed an Odia abhinaya, "Kede chhanda jaanelo sahi", by poet Banamali Das. This dance depicted vatsalya rasa from episodes of Krishna Leela, miracles from the childhood of the Lord himself. A memorable dance and music composition by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Pt. Bhubaneswar Mishra, the piece focuses on different episodes from Krishna's life. During his early childhood Krishna had killed Putana; he was the cause of the annihilation of the crane demon Bakasura sent by Kamsa to kill him; and subduing the fierce serpent Kaliya on whose head he had danced triumphantly. He awed mother Yasoda by showing the entire universe in his open mouth. She forgives his mischief knowing his greatness. Performed by an accomplished dancer, it provided aesthetic relish.

Arupa Gayatri Panda

Arupa Gayatri Panda brings great insights into whatever she does, whether it is teaching, learning or performing Odissi dance. She has been consistently adjudged as one of the most promising young Odissi dancers of her generation. An Assistant Professor in the Department of Performing Arts at Sri Sri University, Odisha, she continues to train and mentor young boys and girls.

Arupa was initiated into Odissi dance by Guru Pusparanjan Mangaraj at a tender age and further continued under Sarita Mishra. To become a successful professional dancer she has taken rigorous training at the Orissa Dance Academy under the able tutelage of eminent gurus like Gangadhar Pradhan, Aruna Mohanty and mentor Madhusmita Mohanty. Her presentation of "Ramate Yamuna pulina bane" is a landmark choreographic work of Aruna Mohanty. As a heroine in love with Krishna, Radha visualizes him smearing musk on the beauteous face of a woman, like a deer mark on the moon, whose lips quiver when Krishna kisses her. The thought makes Radha despondent, while he probably rejoices with another woman in a forest near the Yamuna river. She perhaps is not yet ready to merge with the supernatural soul in whose soul every individual soul must rest. She thinks of Krishna decorating the curly tresses of a maiden with crimson flowers, which flash like lightning in her black hair.

He binds around her large lovely hips a cummerbund, upon which he rests blissfully. On her lotus feet he smears alta and adorns her toe nails to resemble gems. He places those feet on his chest, close to his heart. "If he is in love dalliance why must I keep dwelling here so uselessly? Mura's enemy is defeating me today." It was a nuanced emotional piece, where distressed Radha is yet to unite with her lord. There was a lot told between the lines by a discerning connoisseur. The music was composed by Dr. Subhas Pani, while Guru Bijaya Barik composed its rhythm. To perform this jewel of a piece, the dancer needs a great deal of maturity and Arupa was able to do justice to it.

Tapati Chowdurie trained under Guru Gopinath in Madras and was briefly with International Centre for Kathakali in New Delhi. Presently, she is a freelance writer on the performing arts.

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