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Odissi

October 29, 2014

Dancers are athletes of God - Albert Einstein

 

Many people always ask me whether I prefer Odissi or Bharata Natyam. I always told them that there was a beauty in both and I love watching either forms but I think that my body is more suited for Odissi. Maybe my temperament better suits the languorous, sensual mood of Odissi. I sometimes feel that Bharata Natyam doesn't allow me to revel in a movement long enough, i can't stretch my body to its fullest before launching into the next step.I've actually come to believe that Odissi may be present in my blood. The music itself gets my feet tapping and for the entire duration of the song, I am entranced. No one can catch my attention while I am lost in the world of its music.


The make-up is exquisite. The chitta (white dots) define your eyebrows, nose and chin ever so subtly. The antique silver jewelry add additional weight to your body and it restricts your body in such a way that adds to the authenticity of the movement. A headdress of flowers that resemble a halo around your sacred head making you look even more ethereal.

When you mention adding weight let's not forget our ankle bells. 50 little bells strung on a rope for each ankle, the tintinnabulation of the bells sets your mind to a time far, far away where once men were enticed by women who danced for them in their private harems. Passersby knew a woman is present when they hear the distinct peals of bells jingling in the distance.

The subtle shift of weight only in the rib cage is a feat in itself. It requires pure articulation on the dancers part, and this asymmetry makes it even harder to balance. One needs pure focus, patience and agility to perform this form.

And if things are finally in control, the head and eyes automatically fall into place. The coy glances, ferocious valor and aching compassion can only be related via the eyes. They are after all windows to our soul.

Once  your body is strong enough to hold everything together, only then is the vehicle ready to run. And how does a vehicle run without fuel? The fuel that will drive this divine instrument is of course, the Bhava. Bhava comes from within and is the catalyst that creates the rasa you feel while watching a dancer.

Ramli always told me that when you dance, you are bearing your soul to the audience and I couldn't agree more. Didn't someone once say that "Art is the lie that tells the truth''?

 

When you are portraying a role, you are 100% committed to playing that role. You believe that you are in fact this character and and it is your duty to convince the audience that you have indeed transformed into the part we are supposed to play. And we all know that in any Indian story, there is never a singe character to a drama.

You are expected to be a white canvas and on this canvas are you supposed to create images of Krishna, Ganesha, Manmata, Parashurama, Ravana and so on...can you imagine how emotionally draining it must be to hop in and out of character like that?

String that schizophrenia with some technical dance steps and you've got yourself a 20 minute piece equivalent to a 20 km marathon. Nope not easy...

But everything is worth it when you are on stage. Aches and pains magically disappear when you are completely lost in dance. I mean, how can you experience stage fright when the stage was the safest place you know? I spent my life growing up on it.

Maybe that has kept me grounded, being honest and true, I mean, really doing art for art's sake because
after all, if you're a liar, you are bound to be caught one day...

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© 2014 by January Low

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