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.