A Glimpse Into The Pure Odissi Dance Performance By Aloka Kanungo And Her Team!
The drenched Saturday evening was a perfect foil for the drama created through pure dance by Aloka Kanungo and her group at Rabindra Mandap. The many hues of Odissi were in full display in the performances by the artistes of Shinjan Nrityalaya.
Kanungo, one of the senior disciples of Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, beautifully interlaced the nritta (pure dance steps performed rhythmically) and nritya (interpretative dance) aspects of Odissi in the one-and-a-half-hour show. Ganesh Bandana – Kharbam Stulatanu – set the tone for the evening that saw five items. The duet was an amalgamation of fine footwork and perfect mudras and bhangis, depicting the greatness of the god of knowledge. The choreography satiated the contemporary taste of audience while keeping the grammar intact.
The next performance gyrated around Navrasas that brought to the fore the grace and sophistication associated with the dance form. The artistes enacted the rasas – Hasya (Happiness), Krodha (Anger) , Bhibasta (Disgust), Bhayanaka (Fear), Shoka (Sorrow), Veera (Courage), Karuna (Pity), Adbhuta (Wonder), Shanta (Serenity) – based on Ganesh’s life. The story was weaved around subtle expressions and perfectly synchronised moves, which were a feast to the eyes. The Sanskrit verses by Pandit Bhagaban Panda and music by Ramahari Das and Dhaneswar Swain took the performance to an entirely different level. It was composed in 2003.
“The first half of the evening was devoted to Ganesh. His life and journey evoke all the nine emotions. It came naturally to me while working on the concept. It is a beautiful composition,” said Kanungo.
Graceful postures and energetic footwork marked the next performance in Taal Madhuri, a beautiful composition by Guru Kalandi Charan Parida. The choreography took the audience from one frame to the other, freezing time and space. The Bhangis added beauty to the performance by four of Kanungo’s disciples – Arpita, Vaishali, Nibedita and Sriparna.
“It has been enriched with different rhythmic patterns known as khandi, gadi and arasa on percussion instruments. The choreography is an attempt to bring on stage the beautiful dancers that enhanced the temple architecture with their stylised postures,” said Kanungo.
The abhinaya, Mo Krushna Pari Gopa Kiye Haba Sari, brought the intensely emotional and lyrical structure of Odissi to the fore. Who could but Kanungo emote the love of Jasoda for Krushna with perfection
The audience savoured the Batsalya Rasa served by the artiste as a mother using all tricks in her book to make her baby eat his food.
The shift from nritta to nritya and then back to nritta was effortless as the artistes performed Mana Samahara. “The composition is a combination of tihais,” she said. The pure dance with effortless footwork and beautiful formations appealed to the senses.
A high octave performance on Goddess Shakti brought the curtains down on the Odissi recital by the Kolkata-based group. Kanungo choreographed this piece, depicting four of the 10 Mahavidyas (forms) of the Divine Power. The lights and sound took the presentation to a feverish pitch.
Kanungo experimented with the costumes, which allowed the dancers to change the angrakhas and the fans swiftly for the back-to-back performances. While the dancers lived up to the high standard in Odissi set by their Guru, the stage lighting failed them. The group could have made a better use of it to enliven the performances and create a synergy between the dancers. What it offered to the audience was Odissi in its purest form.
For Kanungo, dance is an intense feeling of joy and happiness. These feelings find ample space in her choreographies, both nritya and nritta. She also believes in nurturing the traditional art and keeping it in it pristine form for future generations.
Initially trained by Guru Raghunatha Dutta and Guru Mayadhar Rout, she blossomed into a fine dancer under the tutelage and watchful eyes of Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra. She started dancing at the age of three. She was the youngest actress at the All India Radio, Cuttack, and played the pivotal roles in plays like “Matira Phoola”, “Bissa Piyusa” and “Dukhi”. She chose dance over acting and soon became a name to be reckoned with in the field of Odissi.
For her choreographies, Kanungo has worked on ancient scriptures and extinct forms with contemporary sensibilities. She used power point presentation to project Ravan Chhaya pictures and Jantras. The innovations, however, are always restricted within the parameter of tradition.
Kanungo strongly believes in guru-sishya parampara. For her, teaching is a two-way process as she learns while she teaches. “Performing in Bhubaneswar to a learned audience is always a pleasure,” she added. Musician, singer, lyricist and writer Prafulla Kar was chief guest for the evening.