By Kedar Mishra

Vilasini Natyam by Yashoda Thakur on the second evening of the festival
Vilasini Natyam by Yashoda Thakur on the second evening of the festival
All of them were young and charged with high power creative energy. Each of them symbolized affinity to a creative past and at the same time held a modern view point for life. I’m talking of a bunch of young classical dancers who had assembled to perform in the Seventh Devadasi National Dance Festival in Bhubaneswar. The festival is named after Devadasis, the dedicated temple dancers in the days of yore and paradoxically creating a platform for young Indian classical dancers, who are by heart and mind modern and open for an innovative art world. One can say the festival is an amalgamation of paradoxical vision on Classical dance. The Seventh edition of the Devadasi National Dance Festival in Bhubaneswar brought about a fresh leaf of creativity to the city of Bhubaneswar. From September 24 to September 27, the dancers from eight Indian classical dance forms presented their respective style with high care and involvement. Devdasi Nrutya Mandir, a Bhubaneswar based cultural organization has been organizing this festival to showcase the talent of young Indian classical dancers. When major festivals look for established and accomplished dancers, this one is an exception, where budding artistes gets due exposure to a bigger audience. This is a festival, exclusively for the young dancers.

Blooming Youth

Taisia, an Odissi dancer from Russia performing “Ahe Nila Saila….“
Taisia, an Odissi dancer from Russia performing “Ahe Nila Saila….“
The list is not so short and their identities as global citizen were also vast. Some of them came a long way from Russia or United States. Very few Odia dancers were a part of this Festival and it was a welcome change in the mind set of the organizers. We must celebrate dance with all its diversities. Indian classical dance is not limited to India and with time it has transcended many a border. The Mudras, Bhangis or Bhavas are rooted to Indian soil, but it incorporates a variety of body languages. While seeing Taisia, an Odissi dancer from Russia performing “Ahe Nila Saila….“, the famous composition of Kelucharan Mohapatra on stage, one could feel the cultural effort she is displaying over it and her attempt to evolve a new cultural identity in her not so acquainted body. It’s a process of learning and also a process of assimilation.

Arushi Mudgal from Delhi, Portraying as a teasing Sakhi
Arushi Mudgal from Delhi, Portraying as a teasing Sakhi
Young and highly talented Arushi Mudgal, while portraying the teasing Sakhi of Kishore Chandrananda Champu looked more like a typical Odia girl and her movement on the stage blurred out the political identities, whether she was an Odia or a Delhite. Arushi’s Trivangas were perfect. She moved with natural grace to create a world of flowering through her Pallavi, set to Raag Sahana.

Likewise Gauri Diwakar, a highly promising Kathak dancer showed up her skillful footwork and poetic moves of the body through a couple of unusual compositions.

Meenakshi Srinivasan enthralled the audience with a traditional Varnam in Bharatanatyam. Meenakshi’s deep involvement with text and her typical classic look was a souvenir to treasure. Kuchipudi dancer Pranamya Suri presented a beautiful Abhinaya number on child Krishna. Her depiction of Krishna as Navanneta Choram (one who steals the butter) was quite impressive.

Gita Govinda, Many Ways, Many Styles

Kathakali Dancer Haripriya Nambudiri Performing at the 7th Devdasi Festival at Rabindra Mandap
Kathakali Dancer Haripriya Nambudiri Performing at the 7th Devdasi Festival at Rabindra Mandap on the the third evening
In the festival what impressed me more was the presentation of Sri Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda in different ways and style. Kalamandalam Nimmi in Mohiniattam came up as a Khandita Nayika in Yahi Madhaba. Her deep immersion in the textual flow was a sight of delight. The same Yahi Madhaba…Astapadi was presented with a different nuance by Manipuri dancer Debanjana Biswas. In Manipuri Kirtanam, Gita Govinda got a different dimension. Debanjana is a wonderful dancer having tremendous command over techniques and appropriate understanding of Sahitya. For me Debanjana was the find of this festival. Her strong rhythmic display of Brahma Taal containing 25 beats was a superb show.

Governor Shri M C Bhandare, Presenting the Devadasi National Award to Haripriya Nambudiri at the 7th Devdasi Festival at Rabindra Mandap
Governor Shri M C Bhandare, Presenting the Devadasi National Award to Haripriya Nambudiri at the 7th Devdasi Festival at Rabindra Mandap
Temple dance section was a bit weak. While inaugurating the festival Pratima Mohanty came up with a half hearted effort. The dressing and ornamentation for Mahari dance needs a serious introspection. Over ornamentation and unaesthetic wearing style (No way it was from tradition). There were a few rituals which were performed wearing a plain saree by the temple Maharis. Haripriya Devadasi had clearly written in a seminar paper that wrong dress codes of Maharis, kill the very essence of this beautiful art form. Versatile Yashoda Thakur also could not impress by her Vilasini Natyam. She looked uninvolved and uninterested to perform. Sweta Sinha in her Kathak impressed a little. So also Haripriya Nambudiri, the winner of Seventh Devadasi Award. Her movements were faster contradicting the smooth slowness of Kathakkali. Lack in clarity in Hastakas/Mudras made her performance incommunicable. Last but not the least two students of Srjan, Rajasree Praharaj and Irina Komisorova impressed the audience with their scintillating Odissi. Rajasree’s power packed enactment of Sita Harana had a multi layered effect. She personified many a characters in a short span of time and came out well with all of them- from Sita to Jatayu. Irina presented Ardhanariswara with perfect skill.

Organizing a festival for young dancers deserves all pet, but with a serious caution. A little discipline and decency is very much needed. Jagabandhu Jena, the organizer of this festival has to review and relook the organizing part.