Dance in its most stylish, experimental and modern forms unfolded before aficionados during the contemporary dance festival, ‘Samakala’ presented by Odisha Tourism and organised by Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi.
A string of internationally known dancers performed during the three-day event, which was organised in the city for the second time on June 11.
Choreographer and dancer Padmini Chettur opened the festival at Rabindra Mandap with her production ‘Beautiful Thing 2’ on different positions of the body. The performance prescribed nine ‘lines’ in space. ‘’My task in this production,’’ she said, ‘’was of marking certain spatial forms within the body that also demand from me a certain re-learning of how to be in these positions.’’
Despite the structure of her production, ‘’it was like a poem of nine lines that remain somewhat unfinished and suspended.’’ The performance remained constantly on the edge of ‘performing’ and not performing.
The inaugural ceremony was followed by an experimental dance performance by Ashavari Majumdar who dwelt upon diverse versions from Ramayan to script new perspectives on Surpanakha through her relationships with Ravana, Sita and Rama.
On the second evening, Anita Ratnam unravelled myriad expressions of womanhood through a fusion of Bharatanatyam and a variety of foreign dance forms.
Anita presented three solo pieces based on womanhood choosing Sita from Ramayana, Rabindranath Tagore’s Minakshi Basanta and Avani: A Handful of Dust. Choosing to portray love, longing, hope, eternity, nature, nurture and divinity in the context of the everyday life, she freely drew from personal experience in ‘Avani’ and set her work in a familiar backyard environment.
One of the highlights of the festival was Mumbai-based veteran artiste Astad Deboo, the man behind Indian contemporary dance. Deboo showcased a fusion of Indian classical and western contemporary dance that beautifully interpreted Tagore’s works. He performed to some of Tagore’s most famous poems namely, Akla Cholo, Your Grace and Every Fragment of Dust is Awakened.
On the day, US-based contemporary dancer, scholar, Uttara Asha Coorlawala gave a talk on modern dance showing her own artistic journey as a performer and choreographer.
The final day saw Navatej Johar from New Delhi and Ramli Ibrahim perform their unique compositions. Navtej’s ‘Dravya Kaya’ was a Ramayana-based dance about the materiality in the epic. The piece highlighted that the props in the epic have power to impact the human body and compel it to respond accordingly.
The focus was on the ‘archetypal’ objects from the Ramayana - the ‘kodanda’ bow, the ‘valakala vastra’ or the bark garment that Sita wears when leaving for the forest and the rice or ‘anna’ which she wills away as alms before crossing the ‘Lakshman Rekha’.
‘’The Ramayana is an epic that talks about ethics of interpersonal relationships and materiality. The material things or props we use in our daily lives facilitate expression. They are tangible, represent reality and are part of the here and now. They need to be handled respectfully, excitingly and creatively,’’ he said.
The concluding performer of the festival was Ramli Ibrahim, the seasoned Odissi dancer from Malaysia, who presented a series of fusion containing Bharatnatyam, Odissi and Modern Dance.