Defining devil and divinity through dance

Existential monologue can be a difficult concept but Odissi exponent and guru Aruna Mohanty is best known for translating the most difficult of ideas into dance.

Published: 30th September 2018 05:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th September 2018 05:53 AM   |  A+A-

Artistes of Orissa Dance Academy performing mangalacharan to pay homage to Lord Rama at Odisha Literary Festival-2018 in Bhubaneswar on Saturday | Express

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR:Existential monologue can be a difficult concept but Odissi exponent and guru Aruna Mohanty is best known for translating the most difficult of ideas into dance. ‘Pratinayaka’ - a special solo dance recital by Mohanty on the inaugural evening of Odisha Literary Festival  - was a beautiful example of this.

“My fall is your rise, my defeat your victory. I am, therefore you are.” Beginning with this existential monologue of Pratinayaka, an anti-hero, the innovative dance choreography traced the concept of the devil and divine in one’s life through different mythological characters from different ages. Based on Indian aesthetics where Pratinayaka is not an anti-hero or opposite to the hero but a prototype of Nayaka, the choreography showcased many movements which were held by the award-winning danseuse with intensity.

Known for creating unconventional choreography while remaining pure to the structure and aesthetics of Odissi, Mohanty began with Nayakaveda where she depicted the importance of Pratinayaka behind the success of Nayaka. With fluid movements, the graceful dancer shifted to the story of Narasimha and Hiranyakashipu in Satya Yuga, then to Lord Rama and Ravana in Tretaya and Lord Krishna and Kansasura in Dwapara Yuga.

(From left) Governor Prof Ganeshi Lal lighting the inaugural lamp, a member of the audience asking questions to panelists, the Governor clicking selfies with youths and Editorial Director of The New Indian Express Prabhu Chawla greeting Prof Lal on the inaugural day of
the seventh edition of Odisha Literary Festival-2018 in Bhubaneswar on Saturday I Biswanath swain/Irfana

Portraying Kali, who signifies time, as Pratinayaka in Kali Yuga, Mohanty showed that entry of Kali in Bhagabata Mahapurana signifies the victory of truth despite the darker attack of time. Here, Nayaka and Pratinayaka become synonymous with time. Trained under Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, Mohanty’s narrative integrated each of the stories into a stunning piece of choreography.

Albeit a solo performance, Pratinayaka had a visual impact. Such was the ‘abhinaya’ of the 59-year-old dancer that every idea of Nayaka and Pratinayaka came alive before the audience. Combining stories from different ages, the story moved at fast pace at times but the ‘thinking dancer’, as Mohanty is popularly called, did not sacrifice the rhythm or melody. Voice-overs helped summarise the concept.

She ended the dance session saying, “A human being is both a victor and victim. Devil and divinity represented by both Nayaka  and Pratinayaka can be discovered in every soul, in every human being.”  
Prior to Pratinayaka, the dance session started with a mangalacharan paying homage to Lord Rama by six dancers of Orissa Dance Academy that is founded and headed by Mohanty.

“Rama and Ramayana are two common threads that bind Odisha and South East Asia. Predominantly, South East Asian dancers perform Ramayana in all their cultural  performances. Therefore, I chose Odissi and Indonesian classical dance to show that emotionally, people of both the culturally-rich regions are connected. This is called Bhava Sangama,” said the dancer who had choreographed a dance ballet titled ‘Bhava Sangama’ last year tracing the cultural similarities and maritime trade connection between Kalinga and Indonesia.

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