News & Notes

Explorations: a journey of 25 years in Odissi

Ileana Citaristi’s  Art Vision closed their  year-long  silver jubilee celebrations of performances, webinars and discussions with a grand presentation of some of the landmark items choreographed by the distinguished dancer and performed  by the repertory members of the organisation on two consecutive evenings on 12 and 13 January 2022, at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar.

The first evening of this concluding event entitled “Explorations: a journey of 25 years in Odissi” showcased a series of rhythmic and expressional items and was accompanied by a live orchestra. The event opened with a fine duet mangalacharan in honour of the tandava aspect of ‘Kapalika Siva’ based on a music composition of Prafulla Kar. This item has a special significance as it was the first composition for Odissi dance by Kar in 1985 and has been revived for this occasion. The bouquet of pallavi entitled Bhangi which followed, is a recent composition by Ileana—a short piece based on the sabda nritya woven around the four bhangis— alasa, manini, taranga and biraja—featuring the lasya elements, in Sabdaswara Pata composed by acclaimed guru Gajendra. A solo abhinaya (Champu) with the alphabet “Jho” from Kavisurya Baladev Rath’s Kishore Chandrananda Champu, Jhogodi by the senior dancer Upasana Mohanty was followed by a duet Odia abhinaya Sajani sarigali mu lajjare set to the traditional Odia raga Gundakiri. Both poems were soulfully sung, live, by the renowned musicologist and researcher Gopal Panda. The duet Sparsh was a joyous interplay of movements and rhythm between two dancers responding to the percussions, created by the sounds of mardala, manjira and khol.

The evening’s concluding item Dasa Mahavidya was originally composed in 1999 for the first batch of Art Vision repertory group and had been handed down the years to the subsequent dancers. With original Sanskrit text by the late Bhagavan Panda set to music by Ramhari Das, this beautifully choreographed successful piece has remained a signature item of the academy. Able live support by Satchidananda Das and Surendra Maharana (mardala), Sangita Panda (vocal), Ramesh Chandra Das (violin) and Parsuram Das (flute), enhanced the appeal of the evening’s presentation.

The second evening saw some successful thematic dancedrama productions Suta and Meghadootam (cloud messenger), an adaptation of Mahakavi Kalidas’ famous love poem.

The production, Suta—The Thread, had premiered at the 17th Sangam festival in November 2021. It was an ode to the creativity of the Odia weavers, by Art Vision, conceived by Ileana Citaristi and scripted by Devdas Chhotray; her dance composition was set to music composed electronically by Annada Prassana Patnaik. What inspired Ileana to choose this as a performance text? She mentions, “I got inspired by watching the rhythmic movements of the ‘tana-bana’ (warpweft) 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 life, and, in the end, their life is symbolised 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 five dancers depicting reels of the threads of five colours, successfully advocated a co-relation of the narrative, singing and choreography spectacularly, complete with sensations and gestures, rhythms and tones. The intelligent juxtaposition of movements of handlooms with dancing, complete with details like the movement of the shuttle and the sound of the wooden looms, brilliantly emphasised the drama of the situation. Another memorable moment was the eyes behind the window at the backdrop when these women visit the city and the final drop of a wonderfully embroidered sari at the end to wrap the coffin to create a tragic climax!

While preserving a recognisable character to the classical dance form, Ileana based on her research and experience, was inspired to bring forth the dream, and difficulties of women weavers in this production; where poetry inspires music, music inspires dance and dance celebrates the journey and lives of these weavers. Annada Prassana Patnaik’s (Butto) brilliant, imaginative music was a powerful musical aid.

Meghadootam deserves a special mention for the artistic input of the projection of the watercolour tableau painted by Helen Brahma simultaneously with the choreography, merged seamlessly with the execution of the dancers. This taps on the aesthetic senses of the audience to alert their intellect and create a vision for this form of communication. 

Renowned Odia Singer Sangita Gossain not only steered the programme with élan but pepped it up with interesting anecdotes and inputs of the journey of Art Vision.

The reminiscences of Art Vision’s journey and their explorations offered direct communication to the aesthetic response to dance.