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Sonali Mohanty mesmerizes with graceful Odissi performance
- Srivatsa Shandilya

June 7, 2024

Sonali Mohanty, a distinguished Odissi dancer with over 15 years of experience, captivated the audience with her solo performance at the Every Friday Cultural Festival, organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) South Bangalore at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore. An evening well-attended by art enthusiasts, it showcased the depth and beauty of the classical dance form Odissi.

Initiated into Odissi at the National Music Association under the tutelage of Guru Bharat Charan Giri, Sonali's dedication to her art has been unwavering. She further honed her skills under the guidance of Guru Meera Das. Her relentless pursuit of excellence led her to Bangalore, where she currently trains with Madhulita Mohapatra at Nrityantar, and actively participates as a member of the Nrityantar ensemble.

Sonali Mohanty
Photo: Srivatsa Shandilya

The performance began with Jagannath Astakam, where Sonali's expressive movements paid homage to Lord Jagannath. The piece beautifully depicted Jagannath Swami, akin to a bumblebee enjoying the lotus-like faces of the gopis of Vrindavan, highlighting his compassion, vast as the ocean. Sonali's portrayal was a testament to the distinctive features of Odissi dance, leaving a lasting impression with her precise movements and expressive gestures.

Next, she presented Malhar Pallavi, showcasing the lyrical beauty and grace intrinsic to Odissi. Pallavi, known for its elegant amalgamation of melody and rhythm, was performed in raga Malhaar. Sonali's movements synchronized flawlessly with the rhythmic syllables of the music, emphasizing the twin aspects of melody and rhythm in her performance.

The centre piece of her performance, Dhira samire, portrayed the anguish of Radha towards Krishna, who is depicted enjoying affectionate exchanges with other gopis. Sonali's flawless execution and exemplary expressions brought the story to life, vividly displaying Krishna's deep love for Radha. Set in a dense grove by the Yamuna River, the piece detailed Radha's sorrow and Krishna's resulting depression. Sonali masterfully conveyed a range of emotions, beautifully choreographed by her guru Madhulita Mohapatra.

In Patha chhaadi de, a poetic dialogue between a Gopi and Krishna, Sonali captured the playful frustration of the Gopi with Krishna's mischievous behaviour. The performance, rich in abhinaya, depicted Krishna's playful acts, like stealing clothes and halting boats to tease the Gopis. Sonali's gestures and expressions were spot on, concluding her performance on a high note and making a profound impact on the audience.

Overall, Sonali Mohanty's performance was a blend of religious, emotional and philosophical elements. The grammar of the Odissi art form was evident throughout, with brilliant postures and classic Odissi dance movements. Her dedication and artistry elevated the beauty of Odissi, leaving the audience in awe and further cementing her reputation as a masterful performer. The evening was a testament to Sonali's exceptional talent and her deep understanding of the dance form, promising a bright future for her in the realm of Odissi.

The evening's highlight was the narration by Banashree Mahapatra, herself a distinguished Odissi dancer, whose eloquent commentary added depth to the presentation.

Srivatsa Shandilya
Srivatsa Shandilya is a photojournalist and director of International Arts & Cultural Foundation, Bengaluru.

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