Explorations - a journey of 25 years in Odissi
February 3, 2022
Art Vision was founded in 1996 by Dr. Ileana Citaristi along with a group of artists belonging to different disciplines such as dance, music, painting and literature who wanted to have a common ground for sharing experience and creative ideas.
In tune with these premises along the years, Art Vision has been organizing different events eclectic in nature and comprehensive of different art forms such as the Festival of Films on Performing and Visual Arts, the Kalinga Mahotsav, a National Festival of Martial Arts and the Sangam Festival, a confluence of dance styles. Besides, the Art Vision Dance Academy conducts classes in Odissi and Chhau dances for local as well as visiting students and regular performances for tourists at the mini auditorium situated in its own premises.
In celebration of its silver jubilee, the Academy has organised two webinars during the last season - Dance Across Genres, a series of five conversations with exponents of Theatre, Films and Visual Arts and Jayadeva's Geeta Govinda: three Ashtapadi illustrated in Dance, Art and Literature. As a concluding event of its 25 years celebrations, Art Vision presented two evenings of dances by its repertory members on the 12th and 13th of January called 'Explorations: a Journey of 25 years in Odissi' meant to showcase some of the landmark items of its repertoire.
On the first evening, the artists accompanied by a live orchestra, presented a series of rhythmic and expressional items while on the second evening they performed thematic dance drama productions.
On the inaugural evening, two dancers Upasana and Anwesha, performed a mangalacharan in honor of Kapalika Shiva based on a music composition by famous Odia music composer Prafulla Kar. Interestingly this had been the first composition for Odissi dance done by Kar back in 1985 and it has been revived for this occasion. The Pallavi which followed was executed by three younger dancers of the academy, Russali, Rosalin and Swetapadma. This was a recent composition by Citaristi based on the elaboration of four bhangi of Odissi, alasa, manini, taranga and biraja illustrated through pata or descriptive words and dance movements. This sapta swara pata Pallavi is based on traditional Odissi raga Ananda Kedar and tala ektali with music composition by Ramesh Chandra Das.
The two Odia abhinaya of the evening were from the traditional Odia poetry belonging to the medieval period of Odia literature. The first one from Kavisurya Baladev Rath's Kishor Chandrananda Champu starting with the alphabetical letter 'jho' was performed by senior dancer Upasana Mohanty. Set to raga Jinjhoti and tala khemta by Ghanashyam Panda, the poem 'Jhogodi' is about Radha's friend teasing Krishna who is showing an angry attitude feigning to be offended and in a quarrelsome mood while his real feelings are revealed by his sudden jolt on hearing about Radha's condition.
The second Odia abhinaya 'Sajani budigali mu lajjare' was set to the traditional Odia raga Gundhakiri by Pandit Gopal Panda, one of the leading musicologists and researcher of the Odia paddhati style of music. Performed by Dibya and Subhashree, the poem is about Radha complaining to her friend that due to Krishna's mischievous behaviour her modesty has abandoned her.
In between the two abhinaya, a duet item of only rhythmical instruments such as mardala, manjira and khol was performed by dancers Kashish and Anwesha. The item called 'Sparsh' is a joyful interplay of movements and rhythm between the two dancers who respond to the rhythm created by the percussion and at the same time create their own rhythm by contact with each other.
The last item of the first evening was 'Dasa Mahavidya' or the 'ten forms of supreme knowledge' depicting the ten incarnations of Devi according to the tantric school of Indian philosophy. Originally composed in 1999 for the first batch of Art Vision repertory group, this item has been handed down along the years to the subsequent dancers and it has remained as a sort of 'signature' item of the academy. With original Sanskrit text by Pandit (late) Bhagavan Panda and music by Ramahari Das, the dance was executed by Upasana, Kashish, Dibya and Anwesha.
The musicians accompanying the dancers on stage were Satchidananda Das and Surendra Maharana on mardala, Sangita Panda on vocal, Ramesh Chandra Das on violin and Parsuram Das on flute.
The program of the second evening consisted of two thematic group presentations performed to pre-recorded tracks. The first presentation 'Suta-The thread' is a recent choreography by Citaristi specifically designed as an ode to the creativity of the Odia weavers or 'bunakar'. In the words of the director herself: "I got inspired to compose the dance by watching the rhythmic movements of the tana-buna (warp-weft) of the weavers and the analogy of the thread with the fabric as well as with the tale, the story of life. I imagine the lives of these village girls daily linked to the making and interlocking of threads of different colours, projecting into the fabric all their dreams, fears, imagination and aspirations. They weave not only sarees but also the story of their own life and at the end their life is symbolized by the fabrics they have woven. It is an ode to the creativity of the Odia weavers, their resilience and perseverance, their skill and simplicity of life." The music was specifically composed and electronically executed by Annada Prasanna Patnaik with lyrics by Devdas Chhotray.
The second presentation was 'Meghadootam' or 'Cloud messenger', an adaptation of the lyrical poem by poet Kalidasa which blend with vivid imagination the two prominent features of love and nature. The advent of the monsoon season gives hope to the lover to be able to convey through a cloud a love message to his beloved who lives far away in the Himalaya mountain. The dance was accompanied by the projection of water colour tableau painted by Helen Brahma and had music composed by Lakshmi Kanta Palit. In the role of the forsaken lover was Ileana Citaristi herself while the cloud was portrayed by Upasana, Mousumi, Dibya, Kashish, Subhashree and Anwesha.
The compere for the two evenings was Sangita Gosain, a renowned singer herself, who conducted the proceedings not only by introducing the items but also by filling up the narration with anecdotes and tales from the story of Art Vision and its founder. The event was supported by Vedanta Aluminium Ltd and advertising agency Teamadmark and besides being presented live on stage was also livestreamed on Art Vision Facebook and YouTube pages.