Between the lines…

On Day 5 of the Dance India Asia Pacific 2020, Padmashri Dr Ileana Citaristi took participants on a journey of sancharis in the world of Odissi. Drawing from her own rich experience in traditional and experimental theatre from her place of birth, Italy, followed by her extensive training and mentoring in Odissi by the legendary Guru Padma Vibhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra and Chhau Guru Sri Hari Nayak, Ileana brings to the stage shed light through a series of excerpts the concept of sancharis in the context of the dance she literally owns — Odissi.

This session was hosted by Soumee Dee, an Odissi dancer and teacher at Apsaras Arts.

Explaining the concept of the sanchari bhava, Ileana allowed participants to deep dive into the process of how a choreography with a central abhinaya and emotion lends itself to the possibility of “amplifications and auxiliaries that support and complement the main subject or the sthayi brava that the composition is laden with”.

Dance, after all, is about reading not a poem as it is, but reading in between the many lines that it’s made up of and using her/his imagination, and creativity to layer the narrative with expressions and subtexts that are subservient to the sthayi brava but accentuate it, nonetheless.

Her presentation comprised three excerpts from legendary Odissi exponent, Guru Kelucharana Mohapatra’s choreographies. The first excerpt was from the Ashtapdi, Yahi Madhava and brought to light a Radha who waits patiently and passionately for Krishna to arrive; she is adorned with garlands, the bed is full of flowers and studded with decorations, she waits for Krishna to arrive but when he does the morning light has almost arrived and it’s evident that he has spent the night with another woman. How does one therefore expand this narrative, the conversations, spoken and unspoken between the two, in a way that the pain Radha’s pain is enforced in a way that the dance becomes a visual allegory.

Dr Ileana also spoke about the principle of inclusion and expansion. While working on sancharis, it is important for a dancer to not only understand the context of the narrative well but also to think deliberately upon how much to include and what really to expand upon.

Her second excerpt was from the Ashtapadi, Sakhi Re, where Radha tells her sakhi to go and fetch Krishna as she is full of desire. And in a typical way that friends converse and like to share details of their many adventures, big and small, Dr Ileana used sancharis sensitively to create for the audience an atmosphere of that secretive-ness and suspense that makes her little exploits with Krishna so fun and exciting. “One has to look carefully within the poem to understand what the poet is trying to actually elaborate and go beyond the literal translation of the meaning of the poem.”

After all, dance is all about the possibilities and in the world of a genius like Dr Ileana Citaristi, those possibilities become endless, and timeless at the same time.

Up next 

Re-imagining Dance during the lockdown by Aditi Mangaldas

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