Monday, 13 June 2022

17th Sangam Festival 2021, by Art Vision, Bhubaneswar

Distinguished Odissi dancer Ileana Citeristi’s institution Art Vision planned their 17th Sangam Festival with the hope that this year the doors of Rabindra Mandap auditorium will open in time for their annual festival of the confluence of Odissi with another classical dance style. The anxiety laced with optimism was whisked off and lady luck smiled four days before their scheduled date of performance, 24 November 2021. So Rabindra  Mandap’s opening event was a bouquet of Odissi by Art Vision and Kuchipudi by Saila Sudha, Chennai, spearheaded by dancer Sailaja, presented with the usual grandeur in the one-day annual festival. The festival had an added advantage of having renowned Odissi singer Sangita Gossain to compere the programme and introduce the performances.

Art Vision opened with a short piece Sabdaswara Pata,  based on the shabda nritya woven around the four bhangi’s  Alasa, Manini, Taranga and Biraja, featuring the lasya shaili (elements) in Sabdaswara Pata composed by acclaimed guru Gajendra Panda and performed gracefully with well-rehearsed ease by three dancers. Alasa appealed most. The Ektali elaboration in raga Ananda Kedar had lovely formations and poised stances choreographed by Ileana and sung by Sangeeta Panda to the music of Ramesh Chandra Das and Surendra Maharana.

The production Suta, the Thread, was an ode to the creativity of the Odia weavers, by Art Vision, conceived by Ileana Citeristi and scripted by Devdas Chhotray with her dance composition set to music composed electronically by Annada Prassana Patnaik.

What inspired her to choose this as a performance text? She mentions, “I was inspired by watching the rhythmic movements of the tana-buna (warp-weft) of the weavers and the analogy of the thread with the fabric as well as with the tale, the story of life. I imagined the lives of these village girls linked to the making and interlocking of threads of different colors, projecting into the fabric all their dreams, fears, imagination and aspirations. They weave not only sarees but also the story of their own life and at the end, their life is symbolised by the fabrics they have woven. It is an ode to the creativity of the Odia weavers, their resilience and perseverance, their skill and simplicity of life.”

The performance begins with a prelude (recited)

Like the lines of the palm, are the threads

Some straight, some curved.

Some slow and some run in haste

Telling the stories of our lives.


Threads tell the tales

Woven in the softness of dreams

On the anchal, play the fishes and deer horns

The timeless thread moves on

This is followed by a soul-stirring song Mita re mor mita re, (Friend, Oh my friend your and my lives are entwined to no end) that runs throughout the production as the bonding line between the five soul-stirring songs.

The five dancers depicting reels of the thread of five colours were successful in advocating a co-relation of the narrative, singing and choreography in a spectacular manner, complete with sensations and gestures, rhythms and tones. The intelligent juxtaposition of movements of handlooms with dancing, complete with details like the movement of the shuttle, and the sound of the wooden looms, brilliantly emphasised the drama of the situation. Another memorable moment was the eyes behind the window at the backdrop when these women visit the city and the final drop of a wonderfully embroidered sari at the end to wrap the coffin to create a tragic climax!

While preserving recognisable character to classical dance form this acclaimed dancer uses her research, perception and experience to get inspired to bring forth the dream, trials and tribulations of women weavers through her production where poetry inspires music, music inspires dance and dance celebrates the journey and lives of these weavers.

Annada Prassana Patnaik’s (Butto) brilliant, imaginative music was a powerful musical aid. He contributes single-handed to steer the production ahead with music, from folk to symphony, from bamboo flutes to metallic sound to suit every ambience, of course with his mellifluous vocals and his recitation. At certain moments, the music overpowers the dancers. The dancers do justice to Ileana’s choreography of melding folk moves with classical and her signature intertwining of hands and lovely diagonals.

The production reminds one of the age-old  Nakshikatha embroidery tradition of the women of Bengal who embroidered their aspirations and story generally on old saris.

Acclaimed Kuchipudi dancer Sailaja and the dancers of her institution Saila Sudha offered three riveting performances beginning with Suryashtakam in raga Surya and tala Adi, composed by Sailaja. The ode to Sun God was beautifully ushered in with Twam Suryam pranamayaham by the consummate Sailaja whose body inflexions and strong stylised movements with traditional grace displayed her prowess on the dance form. She was accompanied by her three dancers Arati Vasudevan, Sreshta S. Kumar and Daphnie. Swati Tirunal kriti, Sankara Srigiri in raga Hamsanandi, tala Adi, composed by Sailaja portrayed the magnificence of the cosmic dance of Lord Siva through fast-paced nritta and abhinaya and was the most appealing of the three items, for its interesting blend of jatis and sancharis and the sculpturesque poses. The performance on the rim of a brass plate always earns audience applause and the exactitude and dexterity of the dancers together with Sailaja’s execution on it was unmatched in competence at the tail end of this piece.

They closed the festival with Apsara, composed by Sailaja’s guru, Vempati Chinna Satyam, in ragamalika set to Adi tala, depicting the beauty of the four dancers Rambha, Urvashi, Menaka and Tilottama, dancing in the court of Lord Indra. Saila Sudha’s dancers have displayed uniform training and gave good account of themselves.


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