Picture credit: Esplanade Singapore
On the 15th of July 2017, Esplanade proudly presented Anweshanaa, an Odissi dance recital by a classical Indian dance ensemble, Srjan. Srjan was founded in 1993 by the late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, one of the leading artistes behind the revival of Odissi. The institute’s mission is to impart the classical art form to new students each year, to maintain and allow the cultural tradition to thrive and flourish as well as to showcase new choreographies to the public. Srjan is now lead by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s son, Ratikant Mohapatra, the artistic director who is now responsible for the artistic direction of the neo- classical art form.
The night’s performance featured six dances, half choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, and the other half by Ratikant Mohapatra. Here is a breakdown of all the dances with my thoughts about them.
Ardhanarishwara is a composition by the 8th century philosopher Adi Guru Shankaracharya, where the dual image of the God and Goddess Shiva and Parvati are represented. It is a fusion of the contrary, dissimilar and irreconcilable of the male and female aspects.
This piece was a strong start to the show, and for me one of the best pieces of the night. There were two female dancers wearing silky lavender costumes, each respectively depicting the male and female aspects of Ardhanarishwara. There were many steps where the dancers’ arms and torsos intertwined and blended into each other. They really captured the essence and merging of the masculine and the feminine in graceful steps.
Pallavi means ‘ an elaboration’. Indeed, this was an elaborate performance (no pun intended!). It was a dazzling showcase of steps, with dramatic lighting which gave depth to the dance. There was wonderful use of the stage with formations in diagonals, to the side and the centre of the stage.
Jatayu Moksa is a segment taken from the ancient Indian epic, Ramayana about the prince Ram who is exiled to the forests. It depicts the section where Ravana the demon king entices Sita, Rama’s wife with a golden deer and later abducts her. Later Jatayu, a vulture, attempts to save Sita when Ravana carries her off in his flying chariot. Choreographed by Kelucharan Mohapatra, this dance is a classic of the Odissi repertoire.
This dance was a done by a soloist, Rajashri Praharaj. I had seen her perform this once in a smaller auditorium a few years ago. Her abhinaya, or expressions were wonderful. She depicted each character so realistically; be it the coy femininity of Sita, the evil triumph of Ravana or the frisky gait of a deer. I particularly liked the depiction of Jatayu, the vulture, the way he attacked Ravana, and how he writhed in pain when Ravana slashed his wings.
Though the performance was excellent, I recalled the last time Rajishri had performed this dance. The stage was closer to the audience and more intimate so we could really see the expressions for each character. Her costume was more vibrant last time as well.
With half of the performance over, the performers changed their costumes from purple to a lovely blue and cream. This was a fusion, contemporary piece which was still grounded in classical steps. The dance displayed strength and fluidity and maintained high energy.
Vande Maataram is a song that represents a tribute to the Indian diaspora. This dance featured a lot of sculpturesque poses of peacocks, deers, flags and flowers; essentially things that are associated with India
Here is a clip of Vande Maataram which was performed at a different venue and date :
The music for this piece was by the melodious singer OS Arun. It was rhythmic and there was great coordination among the dancers. Unlike Yugmadhwana Pallavi there was not much variation in the steps and use of the stage, so I felt the choreography could have been more innovative for this dance.
Overall, it was a brilliant night with many enjoyable moments.