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Odissi dancer Sanchita Bhattacharya mesmerizes the audience
- Jayanthi Balachandran

August 6, 2022

Sanchita Bhattacharya (India) is a renowned Odissi dancer, teacher and choreographer par excellence performing and enthralling audiences the world over. She brings her soul into the world of arts, enriching audiences with both traditional and innovative concepts through her artistic forays. Trained under revered gurus in the Odissi style, Sanchita has dazzled audiences throughout the globe with her grace, command over the nuances of the sculpturesque dance style, creative presentations, heart touching abhinaya and divine stage presence, to name a few.

She enjoys collaborating with various people, bringing her inimitable enthusiasm and positive energy to the artistic endeavors at hand. Sanchita has contributed her time and creative efforts for many charitable causes, winning accolades for her humanitarian work, generosity and dedication. More than three decades of experience including presentations such as at the Madison Square Garden in New York, Ford Theater in Hollywood, Esplanade Theater in Singapore, Toledo theater in Spain, Khajuraho Dance Festival and other prestigious events in India, led to her recognition and hence the receiving of the 'Mahari Award' and 'Cultural Ambassador of India' from USA.

A recent and admirable endeavor was her spearheading the inauguration act of the NABC (North American Bengali Conference) held in July 2022 in Las Vegas, USA. Sanchita showcased her choreographic work, rendered through innovative conceptualization and artistic presentations, which was received with a standing ovation and immense appreciation by the packed auditorium at the mainstream Zappos Theater in Planet Hollywood at Las Vegas. The music was composed by Pt Tanmoy Bose.

Punna Janhavir Thirey by Sanchita and dance ensemblePunna Janhavir Thirey by Sanchita and dance ensemble

Sanchita and the dance ensemble of over 120 dancers from all over the USA (primarily Bay area, Los Angeles, Dallas and Phoenix), together presented the opening ceremony act based on the effulgent river Ganga titled 'Punna Janhavir Thirey' meaning "By the banks of the pristine river Ganga" (an opening line from the literature work of Rabindranath Tagore). The rich cultural heritage of the land of Bengal was the focal point of the production. Dancers from all ethnicities were included to present a kaleidoscope of art and culture. The choreographic excellence comprising intricate group formations and flowing movements to represent the Gangotri glacier transforming into Ganga; enchanting costumes; enthralling and graceful rendition by Sanchita herself as Ganga; dancing skills and virtuosity by the talented dancers of the dance ensemble and breathtaking video visuals of the cascading river Ganga as the grand scale stage backdrop marked the highlights of the stunning show. It was truly an astounding treat for the senses.

Sanchita also presented her acclaimed dance-theater 'The Draupadi Phenomenon' a very organic work of hers, on the second day of the festival,which has been scripted, conceptualized and choreographed by her, wherein she has essayed the main character of Draupadi (the heroine of the epic Mahabharatha), through the lens of the inner emotional landscape of Draupadi. Here, Draupadi is the spokesperson for all women, including today's women and seeks dignity and empowerment for all women.The protagonist painfully, yet courageously traverses the horrendous episode of "Draupadi Vastraaharanam" or the shameful act of disrobement thrust upon her in the very presence of her five husbands. Her inner anguish, unrelenting strength and utter devotion to Lord Krishna were vividly brought out by Sanchita. The deep love followed by the hurtful indifference of Arjuna, her true love, stood out for the gamut of emotions and juxtapositions of Draupadi's feelings and unfortunate predicament. Although the epic grandeur of the production was portrayed with intensity and historical flair, the crux of the presentation brought to light the plight of women; their right to exercise their freedom and choice; to express their "voice" to live their lives on their own terms; to fight for equality and justice. Sanchita's observations while traveling around the world was that women shared a collective resonance with issues faced over time, irrespective of race, color or socio-economic status. She hence took up the concept of women's experiences to address the subject through her best-known medium of expression - dance! The relevance of this concept endures the test of time.

The Draupadi Phenomenon by Sanchita and dance ensemble

Draupadi is the storyteller in the production, analyzing in excruciating detail all that happened in her life leading up to that fateful day - the failure by her husbands to protect her from the wretched hands of the evil men who humiliated her in the midst of everyone. Although Draupadi had loved and married Arjuna, upon the mother Kunti's surprising direction, she ended up being wedded to all five of the Pandavas, much to her dismay and against her own will. Arjuna's absence and inability to rise to the occasion during heart wrenching moments in Draupadi's life became the turning point of Draupadi's vulnerability in the hands of the evil doers.

The production has been rendered with music, dialogues and layered characterizations. The overall music has been composed by santoor maestro Pt Tarun Bhattacharya. The Draupadi-Arjuna piece has been composed by Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and the warfare practice music by Pt. Bickram Ghosh. More than 30 dancers from Dallas, SF Bay Area, Phoenix and India - Trishita Nandi, Papiya Ghosh, Swarnava Sarangi, Durga Swaminathan, Urmi Chakraborty, Arundhati Parmar, Tanaya Roy, Ipshita Pie, Depanwita Seal, Rikhi Majumdar, Monosrija Maity, Ambar Das to name a few performed with Sanchita. Costume design by Trishita Nandi and lights by Kaushik Ghosh augmented the presentation further. Pictures from the program have been captured beautifully courtesy of Dr. Kohinoor Kar.

All in all, the program was deeply moving, a stunning and soulful amalgamation of dance, theater, music, storytelling, visual backdrops, group choreography, costumes and emotions all rolled into a rich and colorful artistic tapestry.

Jayanthi Balachandran is an arts enthusiast and enjoys speaking and writing about dance.

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