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Vandana – An Engaging Odissi Dance Performance

Shuchita Rao

Mouli Pal, dancer/choreographer and disciple of Legendary Late Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and Nandini Ghoshal led the audience into an evening of bliss and beauty with the presentation of Odissi dances in a program entitled “Vandana” on Sep 22 at Chinmaya Mission auditorium. Students of Upasana, a non-profit Odissi dance school that Mouli Pal runs in the Boston area, participated in the two hour long presentation.

Odissi, a lyrical dance form originated in the temples of eastern Indian state, Orissa. It is highly stylized in nature and uses powerful, energetic footwork with graceful postures and movements to create an illusion of sculpture coming to life. Odissi differs 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.”

Beautiful female dancers dressed in gorgeous traditional dance costumes and adorned with splendid silver jewelery, fine recorded music rich in orchestral sounds, prayer dances to different Indian deities Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna, Lord Ram, Lord Hanuman and to Goddess Ganga, group dances celebrating the arrival of rain and solo dances by Mouli, Medha, Chand Sripad. and Shamoyita Mukherjee formed the core of the evening's delightful presentation.

The stage was decorated in a simple manner. Red and white flower garlands laced the stage. Colorful flower and fruit offerings to an idol of Lord Jagannatha graced the right side of the stage while a garlanded picture of the renowned Odissi Guru, Late Shri Kelucharan Mahaptra faced the audience on the left side.

The dance concert began with a prayer to Lord Ganesha. “Padabande Gananatha” had six young children in pure white costumes with resplendent maroon borders showing command over intricate footwork and ending the piece in a beautiful group formation.

Mangalacharan -an invocational piece to Lord Jagannatha and “Sreetha Kamala Kucha Mangala” describing Lord Vishnu by Mouli Pal and Chand Sripad was performed next. Whole body movements and expressive mudras aptly brought out the lyrical meaning of the song describing Lord Vishnu and also the essence of Odissi.

Young Medha Pal showed wonderful facial expressions in a tribute to the Guru in an item entitled “Guru Bramha, Guru Vishnu.” Shamoyita Mukherjee showed grace and perfection in rhythm in a “Jaya Mahesh”, a prayer dance offered to Lord Shiva.

A group of women dancers enchanted the audience with a presentation of dance in Raag Megh, heralding the season of rain. The coordination of lights created a mood of gathering rain clouds and the sound of six pairs of jingling anklets filled the air with a spirit of celebration.

Krishna Tandava, the next item by Mouli Pal showed the joyous play of Lord Krishna and Gopikas. The clever use of space on stage, head movements, body spins and a combination of jumping and fluid movements highlighted Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra's exemplary skills in choreography.

Young Urvi Chakraborty performed a dance saluting Lord Hanuman and engaged the audience with her sweet smiling presence. Chand Sripad then danced to “Sri Ramachadra Kripalu Bhajamana” choreographed by Mouli Pal. Chand showed a range of emotions such as courage, bravery, fear and happiness effortlessly through mature facial expressions.

Fast movements and vibrancy marked Mouli's choreography of the next titem – a prayer to “Goddess Ganga”. Elegant dancers who danced with speed and grace breathed life into the melodious song on Goddess Ganga.

“Ahe Nila Saila” , the next dance item by Mouli Pal was a fine example of Abhinaya. Mouli first narrated three short stories to the audience through mudra(hand gestures) and facial expressions. She then danced with energy and grace to depict the stories through the medium of dance.

A fitting finale to the concert was a pure dance item showing joy, ecstasy and liberation performed by a group of Odissi dancers.

Mouli Pal, founder of Upasana deserves accolades for the fine effort in preserving classical dance and for training the next generation to carry the precious legacy of Odissi forward.

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