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An Evening of Grace and Passion

As the silken melody of Indian classical violin rang out, a hush fell over the auditorium, and the rhythmic peal of a pair of ghungroos welcomed Guru Sangeeta Dash to the stage. SPICMACAY’s Odissi Dance was an event to behold – not only for its fancy footwork, but also for its endeavour in educating MIT’s youth about different aspects of the Indian heritage – and the admiration could be plainly seen by the respectable turnout and presence of Dr G K Prabhu (Director of MIT, Manipal).

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The event adhered to the traditional Indian ways throughout, starting off by the lighting of a lamp and an aarti for Guru Dash, which ensured that proper respects were paid before she assumed the stage. The professional dancer soon engaged the crowd with a plethora of powerful postures (most of which originated from the confines of ancient temples, as she would later explain), adorned grounded, yet graceful movements. Her steps seemed to exude devotion and gratitude; she rested her hands and knees on stage in various positions of worship several times over. Her expressions, or abhinay, changed with the music, and she explained how faces were as much a part of the dance as the steps, going so far as to make a variety of impressions that portrayed a range of emotions, from humor and camaraderie to hatred and hostility.

IMG_0120Guru Sangeeta Dash then went on to show the audience basic techniques of Odissi dance, such as the tribhanga (an impressive three-fold bending of the body), where staying still was as important as maintaining fluidity. Her explanations for each step and for each story weaved through her dancing, completely engrossed the audience and it was an awe-inspiring treat to watch as she told two stories of Lord Krishna – tales befitting the spiritual art of her craft. Playing all the characters herself, it was easy, through her guidance, to make out the sequence of the story, even if one was a novice to Hinduism. She ended with a playful, energetic dance she had choreographed herself, known as natangi – an informal routine which depicted Radha and Sakhi playing together, leaving the audience on a high note.

Odissi Dance therefore was not only a success, but also played an important role in ensuring that the holistic development of students is achieved through unique ways, which allow them to keep in touch with their Indian heritage. The age-old adage rings true – ‘Dancers are the athletes of God‘.

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