OdishaPlus Bureau

Pic Courtesy: Sanjay Koul

Extremely exhausted & extremely satisfied. That’s the feeling of all the 25 Odissi dancers, including Anita Babu, the organizer of the 4 days Odissi workshop at her institute Odissi Natya Sala, Delhi. It was a long pending dream of Anita to get her mentor and guide Guru Aruna Mohanty (Padmashree) to conduct an Odissi workshop in Delhi at Odissi Natya Sala. Finally, the dream came true and from 19th April to 22nd April 25 Odissi dancers who are disciples of various Gurus came together during this workshop to learn a new composition of Guru Aruna Mohanty – BANSHI SWANA.

Two different batches of more than 10 dancers in each, two 4 hours sessions in a day, 1 full day of rehearsals and choreography resulting in a mega performance on the 5th day on 23rd April 2024 titled SANKALAN at Triveni Kala Sangam, Delhi. A 12-minute composition taught in 3 days, rehearsals on the 4th day and performance on the 5th day…. the impossible was achieved.

And credit goes to all involved – to Guru Aruna Mohanty, to the organizer Anita Babu and to all the 25 dancers who put in their best foot forward, taking leave from their jobs, or school/college, spending long hours learning from the doyen while the mercury rose. Sweaty foreheads and smelly armpits were acceptable, small niggles were ignored, only thing that mattered to all was the learning and the desire to give a stunning performance on 23rd April.

All this culminated on 23rd April 2024 at Triveni Kala Sangam, Delhi. And SANKALAN was a big hit. A full house and the audience not just had luminaries Like Padmashree Madhavi Mudgal, Padmashree Ranjana Gauhar, DG ICCR Shree Kumar Tuhin, noted Odissi dancer Sharon Lowen, eminent scholar and critic Leela Venkataraman, Ambassador Lalit Mansingh, Alpana Nayak Dansuese Vani Madhav, Chandana Roul and many aspiring your dancers, young theatre students and the general art loving public.

Pic Courtesy: Sanjay Koul

The performance started with a traditional Mangalacharan composition of Anita Babu in praise of Goddess Saraswati which was performed by her disciples. This was followed by an Abhinaya piece by the doyen herself – Aruna Mohanty. She displayed her finesse in Odissi through this Abhinaya titled Ramate Yamuna Pulina Bane, an extract from the Ashtapadis. While the audience were bedazzled by Aruna Mohanty’s performance, there was more to come.

And then came the group performance of the composition which the workshop attendees had learnt in 4 days – BANSHI SWANA accompanied to the beautiful lilting sone Ki Nada Re. The sound of the magical flute of Krishna bearing the signature of nada, mesmerizes Radha, the supreme beloved and her Sakhis, who get enchanted by the melody of the flute.

Mesmerized Gopis follows the magical call of the flute. And when the entire Prakriti, including all living beings go into a trance with the Naada. The penultimate performance was Shankarabaranam Pallavi by a group of 11 dancers which was arranged by Guru Aruna Mohanty. Then came the grand finale for which all were waiting – Aswathama by Aruna Mohanty. This is one of her most powerful creations which showcases every intricacy of Odissi. The way she portrays the character – someone who is blessed not to die, to be immortal by at the same time life is nothing but betrayal for him. The feeling of pain, despair and torture of Aswathama that Aruna Mohanty projected on stage kept the audience spell bound.

As Sandeep Dutta, SNA awardee, who was in charge of the light designing said after the performance “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra”. This quote sums up everything. Not for nothing is Aruna Mohanty considered arguably the best among her peers from the classical dance fraternity of all genres.

At the end all the workshop attendees were given certificates for having attended the workshop. Renowned presenter Sadhana Shrivastav was the master of ceremonies and Sangeeta Das Bannerjee (one frame story) captured the precious moments of the evening through her lenses.