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Interpreting movements with clarity and new dimensions

Statesman News Service |

tapati chowdurie recently attended Odissi and Mayurbhanj Chhau workshops
ODISSI exponent and Sangeet Natak awardee Sharmila Biswas is a dancer with a difference. She not only thinks and acts for the improvement of the dance form by working on its weak points, but also has a keen eye when it comes to training her students meticulously. With these aims in view, her Odishi Dance Vision and Movement institute conducted a workshop recently. The workshop was conducted by Lingaraj Swain, a student of Gangadhar Pradhan and Bichitrananda Swain. He is the senior guru of Konarak Natyamandam and repertory teacher at the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya. He has been associated with ODVM for the past 15 years.
Lingaraj Swain is a dedicated teacher, with a sharp eye for detail and what makes him very special is the rare ability to evolve and interpret movements with clarity and new dimensions.
Why I say Sharmila is a discerning guru is that she also held a Chhau workshop along side, because of her discovery that both Odishi and Mayurbhanj Chhau have been developing along parallel lines, which would give her students a chance to practice postures and stances of the form that would give support, strength and vigour to Odishi techniques and movements.
The Chhau workshop was conducted by Trilochan Mohanto from Baripada. The Centre&’s support of Mayurbhanj Chhau for the past 20 years has rejuvenated and helped the form evolve as one the finest performing art forms of India.
Shashwati Garai Ghosh, Priyanki Chatterjee, Jhinuk Nag, Neelay Sengupta, Krishnendu Roy and Sohini Majumdar helped Sharmila conduct the twin workshops. The other participants were the students of Shashwati, Krishnendu and ODVM students.
The Odishi workshop focused on bhramaris — circular movements. Almost 30 years back Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra had compiled all the possible bhramaris performed in Odishi and had categorised them into groups. Lingaraj Swain and Sharmila added a few more and taught the students.
At the end of the workshops, Sharmila presented a few pieces to a select group at Padatik Buildwel Theatre. The students did a Ganesh Vandana with simple and basic technique of Odishi. According to Sharmila, teaching expressional dance is difficult, mainly for two reasons: teachers lay stress on “angika abhinaya”, which makes students mere imitators at the expense of shutting out their minds and soul; and, added to this, the students take to heart whatever expression they have imbibed, which is difficult to erase.
Therefore in abhinaya it is important for the dancer to identify himself/herself with the main character one is depicting, as well as the characters that fleet in and out as the dancer becomes the storyteller, and maintain the stylisation required for Odishi dance, and, ultimately one has to be natural. Abhinaya entails a lot of work for both the dancers and the teacher.
At the Chhau workshop, Sharmila said that “when we include a traditional art form other than Odishi in the curriculum, besides familiarising dancers with their roots, it also makes them learn how that particular  form is adding to their Odishi experience”.
Odishi and Chhau being close cousins, they are both aware and independent of each other. Many of the movements are basically similar, but are executed with different techniques and expressions. Sharmila demonstrated how the technique of Chhau, like the shifting of weight, control of the pelvic region, flexibility of the joints, balance, upper torso movements, concentration, endurance, freedom and stamina could benefit Odishi dancers.
Padatik Dance Centre presented a collage on 30 June at Padatik Little Theatre II. Anuranam, which means vibration of sound, was its first presentation. Vibration of music leads the dancers to perform with joy and abandon. There was beauty of movement created by Souvik Chakraborty who choreographed it in Kathak style and the music was by Anushka Shankar. Black Coffee, choreographed by Susmita Chatterjee, explored the various features of Indian classical rhythms from the Kathak repertoire, using contemporary movements. The music was by Mayukh Bhowmick. Dancers Anirban Pramanik, Debjaya Sarkar, Srabanti Das, Sanchari Nandi and Proma Mukherjee were in excellent form and were a treat to watch.
Rabindranath Tagore&’s poignant tale, Kabuliwala, was presented beautifully.  The script and choreography was by Sushmita Chatterjee and was in the form of mono-acting, performed by the very talented Baidurja Chatterjee. Kunal Padhy lent his voice while the play was directed by anardan Ghosh. Little Baidurja had the versatility to sing, dance and act with ease, keeping the audience glued from start to finish.
Souvik Chakraborty&’s Krishnokoli was an interpretation of a selected portion of Tagore&’s Akash Prodeep. Souvik conceptualised it as the love story of a young village boy for Krishnokoli, whom he had seen on a cloudy day in the field. He fantasises, and romanticises his love for her in innumerable ways using the lyrics of Tagore mainly. A platonic, one-sided relationship develops in the boy, which is his wealth throughout his life. The music was by Agnibho Bandopadhyay while the recitation was by Sukumar Ghosh. The piece was aesthetically beautiful.
Some Dots, the last presentation, was choreographed by Anil Panchal of Delhi in Mayurbhanj Chhau and contemporary dance style and technique. The theme of the dance-theatre piece was the journey of human souls trying to discover themselves. It involved drama, music and various dance techniques for the portrayal of human emotions. Dancers Reshmi, Wanshu, Devika, Lazip, Prosenjit, Narottam, JD and actors Pratigya, Maruf and Sushil were highly disciplined. Light and sound by Pabitra Sarkar and Subho Das was helpful in bringing out the theme.
Anil Panchal, who is trained in Mayurbhanj Chhau from the Natya Ballet Centre, is famed for his improvisation in both traditional and contemporary dance technique. Over the years he has worked with several national and international choreographers and has also participated in various prestigious festivals and musicals both in India and abroad, some of which are: “Flavours of India”, in Australia; “India Summer Festival”, Switzerland; Sangeet Natak Academy Festival of choreographic work, Assam; Ibsen Festival, Norway; World Performing Arts Festival, Pakistan; Swan Lake in South Africa and Russia; Khajurao Festival of Dance; and Sadir Theatre Festival, Goa.