History is not a mere narrative of past. It enlivens past, and inspires the identity of present. Looking history from many points of views is a modern phenomenon. Development choregraphers of our generation has started a new process to look at history, not as historians, but as artistes representing humanity. Linear narrative of history has been replaced by aesthetically designed choreography; and believe, history looks awesome in its new Avatara. Third evening of Samrachana, the ongoing National choreography festival organized by Sangeet Natak Academy of the state, witnessed history as a piece of art. Choreographers of the evening Aruna Mohanty and Santosh Nair shared their vision and imagination with the audience bringing leafs from history and mythology. Aruna Mohanty narrated the historical evolution of Odissi dance through his Gatha Odissi, and Santosh Nair brought a riot of complex emotions from Mahabharata through his production of the game of dice.
Living the History
It was grand and gorgeous. A group of well groomed Odissi dancers sprang up to stage to present a brilliant choreographic work. Gatha Odissi was the production of Odisha Dance Academy, designed well by Guru Aruna Mohanty. The choreography was a multi-tasked and multi-textual narrative trying to depict a huge time span; almost 2000 years of history. Again, it was an amalgamation of history and mythology. It was partly abstract, and partly descriptive. From Mahari dance to Goti pua, and from there to a modern stage, narrating the evolution of Odissi dance. Aruna wanted to sing the ballad of Odissi through a neatly designed composition. I must mention a few catchy things in the production:
- In Mangala charana, depicting Haratwam sansaram druta tara…. part of Jagannathastakam, the dancers portrayed very sensitively the Asaram or the futility of mundane. As a small, but significant piece of Sanchari, it was so captivating.
- Coming to Pallavi part, the Khamaj pallavi redesigned and ended with brilliant-subtle Bhramari. The ending part was so charming.
- In Abhinaya, the Death of Krishna episode was crisp catchy, and gave a completeness to the whole dancing effort.
Now let me say a few things, which made me a bit unhappy. For me Gatha Odissi is all about historical journey of Odissi as a cultural life stream; and originally, it was narrating that. I have seen the first production of Gatha odissi in Delhi. Here Aruna changed the Abhinaya part, and added one of her another very moving choreography called Krishna saranam to it. So, the continuation of historical journey looks a bit obstructive. Second half of the story was a bit longer, and could have been more precise. Use of Hindi dialogue could have been avoided. Despite structural errors which were almost negligible, power and energy of dancers, their synchronicity and discipline, and perfect timing made it a grand success. To the dancers delight, half of the auditorium offered them a standing ovation.
War, Violence and Contemporary Aesthetics
Santosh Nair, one of the brilliant contemporary choreographers, came up with his work “the game of dice”, the famous tale from Mahabharata. It was a mix multimedia production. In choreography, Santosh used Kathakali, Mayurbhanj Chhau and contemporary forms to create a kind of theatrical magic. Again, it was a descriptive work. A few suggestions in choreographic compositions were just brilliant. Bastra Harana or disrobing Draupadi in public was quite an innovative composition, so also the Raudra Bhima. Bhima’s killing of Dushasana, and extremity of violence involved with that episode were presented well through Kathakali. A neat and nice work. Power and energy were the moving factors in Santosh’s work. Synthesizing many dance forms, and bring out many styles to a single choreography were very tough task; and to the audience delight, he was so natural to achieve that rare success.
The festival was inaugurated with lighting the lamp by eminent danseuse Padmashree Madhavi Mudgal, Noted litterateur Shri Rajendra Kishore Panda, Shri Ashok Kumar Tripathy, Principal Secretary, Tourism & Culture Department, Shri H. S. Upadhyay, Director, Tourism, Dr. Sangeeta Goswain and Shri Kailash Chandra Sahoo, Secretary, OSNA. The programme was conducted by Dr. Mrutyunjaya Rath and Dr. Itishree Dwivedi.