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Lokvani Talks To Aruna Mohanty

Ranjani Saigal

Padmashree Aruna Mohanty is the choreographer extraordinaire who has created a wonderful production : Seven Shades of Dance which showcases on one stage seven major dance forms of India: Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kuchupudi, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Manipuri, and Contemporary. The presentation will be held on Saturday, September 21 at the Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington, MA. 

Tickets may be bought at http://lokvani.com/lokvani/cal.php?stage=1&event_id=14558. Readers of Lokvani would receive a 30% discount by using discount code LOKVANI.

She talked to Lokvani about the production.

Dynamism, charisma and astounding talent makes Padmashree Aruna Mohanty one of the finest Odissi Dancers in the field of Odissi Dance. Smt. Mohanty has always defied stereotyping. She was trained and nurtured under the able guidance of Padmashree  Guru Gangadhar Pradhan. She especially excels in the abhinaya aspect of Odissi.   She has received many awards and accolades for her contribution to the arts, including the Mahari Award (1997), Sanjukta Panigrahi Memorial National Award (2001), Fellowship by Ministry of HRD, Government of India, and the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar Award in 2010.

She is not only an eloquent dancer and performer. She has also has tremendous knowledge about the evolution of Odissi as a distinct art form in India. Thus she combines extensive research, lessons from her Guru, and innovative thinking to produce provocative choreography. Some of the items in her repertoire include the dance ballet ‘Shrusti O Pralay’, ‘Varsha-Abhisara’, ‘Sravana Kumar’, ‘Kharavela’ , ‘Jatra Baramasi’, ‘Gatha Odishi’, ‘Krupa Nidhaana’, ‘Swargadapi Gariyasi’, ‘ Arjuna Dui Adhyaya’,  ‘Pratinayak’, ‘Krishna Sharanam’, ‘Pratinayaka’ and ‘Khamaj Pallavi.

Could you describe your journey as a dancer? 

My father was a theater artist. I used to participate as a child artist in many of his productions.  In the productions there often used to be little dances that I would copy standing in the wings. People noticed my talent and I was encouraged to learn dance. So I started formal training in Odissi. I hated it in the beginning for my teacher was very strict and used to hit me if I made a mistake.  However I struck with it and as I started being appreciated for my performance felt I should pursue it.

I used to perform and teach part time. Sanjukta Panigrahi was my mentor and when she was really sick in the hospital she asked me to take this on full-time for the sake of keeping up this fine art. 

Classical dance is not an easy profession. What is the secret to your success? 

For me dance is passion not profession.    My father always encouraged me to go deep into everything.  I think the combination of passion and deep learning has helped me deeply.

Could you tell us a little about Saptavarna?

Saptavarna: Seven Shades of Dance will showcase on one stage seven major dance forms of India: Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kuchupudi, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Manipuri, and Contemporary. Each of the seven dance forms will be presented by eminent exponents of that form, comprising a total of twenty accomplished dancers from India. The program will feature an item entitled “The Bhagavad Gita: The Journey of Life,” which will explore—in dance and music—the spirituality and timeless lessons of that sacred text.

What motivated you to create this piece? 

The motivation was two fold. I had worked in the past on a few productions where we had multiple dance forms. But usually it was just a jugalbandi. Charishnu by Leela Samson was a wonderful  experience where individual dancers performed and the final item was a joint choreography. 

I was asked by the then External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj ji to create a multi-dance form production for a special event. That spurred the idea of Saptavarna. Later Kalavardini, a group that focuses on spreading Vedanta through culture asked me to present Bhagavad Gita. So I decided to use multi dance forms to share the philosophy of Gita in a way that is entertaining and enlightening. 

What can people expect in the show? 

It is a spectacular musical with several dance forms and music. We will have English narration to ensure that people can understand all the pieces. The audience will be able to visualize the verses of the Geeta in a multi-media way. 

Any message for our viewers? 

We have put a lot of effort to create this show. It is a one of kind show by great artists. Come support us and be enlightened and entertained. 

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