‘Discipline of mind and body comes from dance’

By Rajiv Roy

SHILLONG: One of India’s most celebrated Odissi dancer Geeta Mahalik mesmerized the city’s audience on the second last day with “Geeta’s Upasana presentation of Krishna Lila and Ramayan” at the campus of Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture (SAIIC) as part of the ongoing International Youth Camp.

A recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship 2009, her dance form, whose antiquity is testified to Udaygiri near Bhubaneswar, is distinguished from other classical Indian dance forms by the importance it places upon the Tribhangi (literally: three parts break), the independent movement of head, chest and pelvis and upon the basic square stance known as Chauka or Chouka that symbolises Lord Jagannath.

This dance is characterized by various Bhangas (stance), which involves stamping of the foot and striking various postures as seen in Indian sculptures.

The Odissi connoisseur spoke to the The Shillong Times in an exclusive interview. Following are the excerpts.

Why do you love dancing?

Dancing is my passion. From the beginning I was in love with Odissi dance, learnt and mastered it to an extent. I got inspired not directly or indirectly by anybody but it was inside me and learnt it from my gurus were Devaprasad Dass, Kalicharan Dass, Pankaj Charan Dass and Mayadhar.

Odissi is the oldest surviving dance forms of India according to archaeological evidences and is one among eight classical dances.

How according to you is Odissi different from other classical dances?

We follow the Natya Sastra and Abhinay Mantra. In Odissi difference is in costume, jewelry, makeup and Tahiya. Odissi was born inside the Jagannath Temple the dance used to take place in front of the gods and goddesses and this was a part of the daily rituals and started from there. Tahiya was taken from Jagannath Temple and Rath Yatra apart from postures like Chauka with bended knees etc. with half view and Tribhanga – three bends of the body are totally exclusive in Odissi dance.

How do you see the acceptability of India’s classical dance in India and abroad?

India is famous for its classical dance but in the west I have noticed they are interested to know and learn our classical dance and want to know every detail of it like costumes, make-up, gestures the signage and techniques.

Is there any fusion in classical dance forms like what we get to see in music? What is your take on fusion?

Fusion in dance is there as you can see in the reality shows mixing of Spanish and Indian classical dances etc. But they are perhaps okay in the television but I always wanted to keep my dance style pure not diluted with any other form of dance.

Which has been your favorite destination, so far, and why?

Rajendra Prasad Ghat, Varanasi. I have performed many a time at Sankat Mochan Festival, Ganga Mahotsav at Rajendra Prasad Ghat and the whole atmosphere, ambience is so divine that I can hear the bells from the temple while I dance and from the corner of my the eyes the dancing sadhus on my Shiva Stuti.

What has dance taught you?

Dance taught me many things to have patience, to control my anger, given me peace, mental satisfaction, discipline of mind and body.

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