Madhavi Mudgal - Odissi Dance Par Excellence
Meru Education Foundation Inc. proudly presents renowned Odissi dancer
Madhavi Mudgal and the Gandharva Dance Ensemble at the National
Heritage Museum, in Lexington, MA on Saturday, September 10, 2005.
Madhavi Mudgal is a dancer who reflects excellence in all aspects, and
her performances are highly aesthetic and moving. She has won
wide-acclaim all over the world. In 2002, the The Times of London wrote
that, “ the high point of Edinburgh Dance Festival was the Odissi by
Madhavi Mudgal ... it emanated from an inner calm, with decisive
architecture in time and space”. The New York Times wrote, “… Madhavi
Mudgal’s seasoned virtuosity was a foregone conclusion, she is a
She is especially known for her subtle Abhinaya and
choreography, and she has won many awards. These include the Sanskriti
Award in 1985, the Padmashri, a President of India award, for her
contribution to classical dance in 1991. Among other awards she has
received are the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, and the Chevalier des
l’ordre des arts et des lettres by the Govt. of France.
Odissi, The Dance Form
Odissi refers to the dance style of the state of Orissa in eastern
India. Like other classical arts of India, this ancient dance style had
suffered a decline as temples and artists lost the patronage of local
rulers and princely states and by the 1930s, there were very few
surviving practitioners of the art.
Dedicated scholars and
dance enthusiasts carefully researched manuscripts and studied the
sculpture, painting and poetry of the region, and observed the few
existing performers. Then they revived and restructured Odissi as a
unique classical dance style adapted to the requirements of formal
stage presentation. Over the years Odissi has evolved into one of the
most popular classical dance styles.
A number of people
helped the process by crystallizing the repertoire and training new
performers and teachers including great gurus like Kelu Charan
Mohapatra, Pankaj Charan Das, Mayadhar Raut, Deba Prasad Das and Hare
Like other Indian classical dance forms,
Odissi has two major facets: Nritta or non-representational dance, in
which sculpturesque patterns are created using body movements in space
and time, and Abhinaya, or stylized mime in which symbolic hand
movements and facial expressions are used to interpret a story or
The two unique aspects of Odissi dance includes the
repeated use of the tribhangi, or thrice-deflected posture, in which
the body is bent in three places, approximating the shape of a helix.
This posture and the characteristic shifting of the torso from side to
side, adds a particular style to Odissi. When mastered, it is the
epitome of fluid grace and has a distinctively lyrical quality of this
form. The second aspect is the chauk, or the representation of the
square, which highlights the tandav aspect of the dance.
Odissi repertoire is made up of traditional dance pieces formulated in
the distant past when it was used in temple worship, others arise from
the great Indian spiritual writings, such as poetry and epics, and
finally there are modern pieces, which are the inspired work of great
The divine love tales of Radha and the cowherd
Krishna are favorite themes for interpretation, and a typical recital
of Odissi will contain at least one or two ashtapadis (poem of eight
couplets) from Jayadeva's Gita Govinda, which describes in exquisite
Sanskrit poetry the complex relationship between Radha and her Lord.
My Guru, Madhavi Mudgal
Madhavi was born into a family steeped in classical Indian arts. Her
father, Pandit Vinay Chandra Maudgalya was the founder of Gandharva
Mahavidyalaya, New Delhi's highly reputed institution for the teaching
of Hindustani music and classical dance.
Madhavi began her
training in dance at a very young age and learnt Kathak and
Bharatnatyam before she turned to Odissi as her preferred medium. Her
initial training in Odissi began under Guru Hare Krishna Bahera and
later she became a leading disciple of legendary Guru Kelucharan
Mohapatra of Orissa. Madhavi Mudgal embodies the elegance and
sophistication that result from blending modern sensibilities with the
ancient ethos of eastern India that epitomizes the highly lyrical dance
form of Odissi.
Madhavi's command over the nritta or the
pure dance aspect of Odissi is striking. Her delicate postures and
strong rhythmic footwork combine in an appealing flow of sculpturesque
movements. Her subtle Abhinaya (expressional dance), musical knowledge
and aesthetic sense add to the highly distinctive character of her
recitals and bring a greatly refined sensibility to her art form.
Through teaching and performing, Madhavi has been actively involved in
propagating the art of Odissi all over the world. She has trained a
number of accomplished students who are celebrated performers in their
own right. Madhavi firmly believes that tradition is an incessant,
rejuvenating stream, which is reflected in her choreography.
It is indeed a great honor to host Madhavi, my guru, friend and mentor
and bring her performance to the Boston area. Her performance on
September 10th will be a presentation of her current Odissi
choreography as she and her troupe explore its potential in both group
and solo presentations. This is a rare opportunity to see her and the
Gandharva troupe and I invite you all to the performance this Saturday,
September 10th at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA at 6:30
For more information visit www.merufoundation.org or at www.sulekha.com/boston.
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