Home Culture Explore the Rich Heritage of Odissi dance

Explore the Rich Heritage of Odissi dance

by Nita Mishra

Odissi, also known as Orissi, is a captivating classical dance that traces its roots to the temples of Odisha, a coastal state in eastern India. In this article, we’ll delve into the rich history, styles, and revival of Odissi, exploring its connection to ancient texts, suppression under British rule, and its vibrant resurgence post-independence.

Origins and Theoretical Foundations

Odissi finds its theoretical roots in the ancient Sanskrit text Natya Shastra, with evidence of its existence depicted in the sculptures of Kalingan temples. The dance, once flourishing, faced suppression during British rule, only to be revived and reconstructed after India gained independence.

Dance as a Spiritual Art Form

Traditionally, Odissi is a dance-drama genre that narrates stories and spiritual messages through symbolic costumes, expressive movements, and hand gestures known as mudras. The dance involves three sources of expression – lower body (footwork), mid body (torso), and upper body (hand and head).

Two Styles, Many Expressions

Odissi comes in two major styles – one perfected by women, focusing on spiritual temple dance, and the other by boys dressed as girls, incorporating acrobatic moves. Modern Odissi productions have pushed boundaries with experimental ideas and cultural fusions.

Odissi in History

The dance form has a remarkable historical presence, with evidence found in archaeological sites, cave carvings, and temple reliefs dating back to the 1st century BCE. Despite facing challenges during the Mughal and British periods, Odissi managed to evolve and adapt.

Revival and Recognition

The ban on temple dancing during British rule led to a decline in Odissi, but post-independence, there was a resurgence driven by efforts to challenge stereotypes and revive regional arts. Recognition came in the 1950s, and Odissi gained prominence among classical Indian dances.

Odissi Repertoire and Performance

Odissi performances follow a sequence, starting with an invocation, pure dance, expressive dance, dance drama, and a climactic dance climax signifying spiritual release. The dance repertoire includes intricate hand gestures known as mudras and a variety of movements, poses, and expressions.

Costumes and Aesthetics

Odissi dancers don vibrant sarees, adorned with traditional jewelry. The makeup and hairstyles are intricate, creating a visual spectacle that complements the grace and elegance of the dance.

Odissi Music and Accompaniment

Accompanied by the traditional classical music of Odisha, Odissi dance integrates ragas and raginis. The dance ensemble includes instruments like the tanpura, mardala, tabla, and melodic instruments like harmonium, bansuri, or sarangi.

Guinness World Records and Global Recognition

Odissi has made its mark on the global stage, with Guinness World Records recognizing the largest congregation of Odissi dancers in a single event. More than 1000 Odissi dancers showcased their art at the World Cultural Festival in 2016.

Oxford Odissi Centre

Highlighting the global appeal of Odissi, an Odissi dance centre was established at the University of Oxford. The Oxford Odissi Centre, initiated by dancer and choreographer Baisali Mohanty, not only offers regular classes but also conducts workshops across the United Kingdom.

In conclusion, Odissi stands as a testament to the resilience of cultural heritage, blending tradition with innovation, and captivating audiences worldwide with its beauty and grace.

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