Song of Surrender

Friday, 13 March 2015

Shakti Swarupa: overcoming disability


By Nita Vidyarthi


A pleasant surprise was in store for the audience at the Guru Krupa Nritya Samaroha 2015, organised in mid-February by the  Debaprasad Nrutya Pratisthan at  Jayadeva Bhawan in Bhubaneswar,   Shakti Swarupa Bir, a sensitive, graceful and competent dancer, can neither hear nor speak, yet she performed Jayadeva’s ashtapadi Sakhi hey Kesi mathanamudaram  without slipping a single beat. She has been trained  by guru Chittaranjan Acharya, a senior disciple of eminent guru Pankajcharan Das.

As you watched Shakti’s  soulful abhinaya  for the song in Pahadi raga set in Yati tala, you could not at any point question her hearing disability or training. Even though she cannot hear the sound of her own ankle bells, she matched her steps with the vibrations of the mardala and percussions accurately to live music. She perhaps employs some method of calculation of numbers to maintain the laya and tala. While performing solo with musicians she follows the hand movements of  the pakhawaj player. While performing duet with her guru she does not need any instructions and that is easiest for her. But in her performance in the festival, she, very skilfully managed to distract the audience from observing it. 

The one-day celebration of Odissi dance spearheaded  by Gayatri Chand, senior  disciple of Guru Debaprasad Das and Founder-cum-Trustee of the Pratisthan, was a maiden venture of the charitable organisation. Organised in  memory of guru Debaprasad Das, the aim was to   provide  a platform to talented young  dancers. Shakti Swarupa is Gayatri’s find. Shakti’s father Durgamadhab Bir was a clerk and Odissi guru Chittaranjan Acharya an engineer at Talcher Thermal in Dhenkanal district in  Odisha. As guru Chittaranjan Acharya lived close to Durgamadhab Bir's house,  Shakti started learning Odissi from him at the age of seven along with his daughter who is also an Odissi dancer. Acharya took pains to explain the techniques and nuances to her and today Shakti is quite a competent dancer. Having watched Shakti in  Chittaranjan Acharya's classes,  Gayatri Chand decided to promote her as a student of the Pankajcharan Das style. During 1985-86 Shakti performed  solo at the Kala Bikas Kendra in Cuttack, under the aegis of the State Sangeet Natak Academy, at the Kalavikas Kendra, and in 1996  she presented a duet with her guru at Rabindra Mandap under the banner of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi. Shakti  acted in the  Bollywood film 'Hamari Beti' which was sent as an entry to the 42nd Chicago International Film Festival 2006. At present she is working as a dance teacher at the Sai International School.

Shakti has set an example with her will power, perseverance, ambition and courage, to emerge as a dedicated  and  graceful dancer.

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