In a tribute to Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, a crowd filled Rudder Forum almost to capacity Sunday for the fourth annual Odissi Dance Show. The event featured Odissi dancers from Texas and New York.
Most of the items were choreographed by Mahapatra and by his son, so the show is an opportunity to pay tribute to him, said Yashswini Raghuram, assistant artistic director to the ODC dance company.
The shows’ dances focused on the oldest surviving classical Indian dance style, called Odissi. Aparupa Chatterjee, artistic director and agricultural research assistant, said the dance style it is a great platform for people today to connect with their heritage.
Chatterjee said the event is a way for Indian-American students to learn about their culture and be connected with home.
For students who are not Indian-American, there is still much to learn from Indian dancing, said sociology freshman Victoria Heriford.
“I saw a flier and am really interested in the Indian culture so I thought it’d be a really cool experience to come check out,” Heriford said.
Especially in Chatterjee’s dance, hands, eyes and motions are used to tell a story. The dancers use their feet and bells tied around their ankles to accentuate the beat of the raga and thala of the song.
“This isn’t something you do everyday. When you dance you train different parts of your muscles to do something different for you which you don’t need for everyday life, so you have to do some body conditioning to be able to do this for a long, long time,” Raghuram said. “We don’t just jump on stage, we do a lot of warm-up taken from yoga, and after the performance we do a cool down. A lot of attention [is given] to physical health.”
Staying in shape is only one part of the preparation and work that goes into putting on a show like this, said Raghuram.
“The kids were practicing for this show for the past three months and it took us around that time to organize the travel for the artists, the stage, the workshops and the stage management…it takes about three months and rigorous effort in the last two weeks to put something like this on,” Raghuram said.
Chatterjee and Raghuram said the main concern is for the audience to experience a new genre of dance and to come away with a little bit of knowledge of a different culture.
“I mean this isn’t religious…I just want the audience to have a good time and learn about the Indian culture,” Chatterjee said.
At this year’s show, donations were held for the injured Indian student, Akshay Jain.
“This is the fourth annual show for Odissi dance and although it isn’t specifically for Akshay Jain, we do have compassion for him and have a donation box at the front where all the money donated will go to him, but first and foremost this is about spreading the Indian culture and Odissi dance,” Chatterjee said.