Odissi Classical Dance

Odissi Classical Dance

Odissi Classical Dance - Odissi Dance - Odissi - Odissi India - Indian Odissi Dance » The Indian Classical Dance Of OdissiLike other forms of Indian classical dance, Odissi from the eastern state of Orissa traces its origins back to antiquity. With a long, yet broken tradition, the Odissi dance form can be traced back more than 2000 years. However, the colonial period almost brought it to near extinction and at present it is in a phase of reconstruction.

Over the centuries three schools of Odissi classical dance developed i.e. the Mahari tradition or devadasi tradition used by women attached to deities in the temple, the Nartaki tradition which developed in the royal courts, and Gotipau a style characterised by using young boys dressed up in female clothing to perform female roles. Held in high esteem before the 17th century, Indian nobility was famous its patronage of the arts, and it was not unheard of for royalty of both sexes to be accomplished dancers. However, after the 17th century, the social position of dancers began to decline. Dancing girls were considered to be little more than prostitutes, and the Anti-Nautch movement by the British brought the Indian classical dance form of Odissi to near extinction.

However, independence brought a major change in official attitudes toward Indian Dance, which like other classical arts was seen as a way to define India’s national identity. Governmental and non-governmental patronage increased and the few remaining Odissi dancers were given employment, and the reconstruction of the dance form began by combing through ancient texts, and closely examining dance poses represented in various temple bas-reliefs e.g. the sculptures in the temples of Brahmeswara and the dancing hall of the Sun Temple at Konark. Today Odissi dance is once again deemed a viable and classical dance.

Exclusively religious in nature, the Odissi dance themes most commonly revolve around Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu. Similar to Bharatnatyam in respect of mudras and expressions, then Tribhang or division of the body into 3-parts, head, bust and torso is a striking feature of Odissi. Tracing its origins to the ritual dances performed in the temples of ancient northern India, like other classical arts of India, this ancient dance style suffered a decline as temples and artists lost the patronage of feudal rulers and princely states.

The divine love tales of Radha and the cowherd God Krishna are favourite 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 Govindam, which describes in exquisite Sanskrit poetry the complex relationship between Radha and her Lord.

Making repeated use of tribhangi, this posture and the characteristic shifting of the torso from side to side, make Odissi a difficult style to execute. However, when mastered, it is the epitome of fluid grace and has a distinctively lyrical quality that is very appealing.

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