A choreographer, performer and a dance teacher. in addition to these roles, Odissi exponent Mahika Sampat is now taking online workshops on Odissi in a bid to popularise the dance form. Through the eight-day (45 minutes per day) workshop, Sampat throws light on the history and evolution of this dance form, and keeps the last day for fun quizzes and mini dance shows by students.
“Odissi is culturally as rich as Kathak and Bharatanatayam, but it is comparatively under-rated; not many talk about it. I want to motivate youngsters, who are into Western dances, to learn Odissi. I have nothing against Western dance forms, but we must propagate our own cultural heritage, lest we stand to lose it,” says the 17-year-old, with a maturity beyond her years.
Sampat, a Gurugram resident, began learning Odissi at four, when her mother spotted her affinity for dance and put her under the tutelage of Guru Shagun Bhutani. “Other than giving me inner happiness, Odissi has helped me deal with the anxiety issues I had for a major part of my school life. That’s the reason I am a vocal proponent of dance therapy.” The young danseuse is currently pursuing a degree in psychology with a minor in performing arts from Ashoka University. “I want to delve into Expressive Art Therapy. It uses body movement to promote intellectual, emotional, and motor functioning, which makes dance a natural antidepressant. A daily session of dance helps you to stay in a good mood. Dance addresses psychological and anxiety issues, especially of teenagers,” says Sampat.
“This therapy (dance) is based on the interconnectivity of both emotion and motion. By resorting to different dance techniques and movements, people can express creatively, and also enhance their communication skills while inspiring dynamic relationships. So, whether you are dealing with stress or other mental health issues like eating disorders, depression, poor self-esteem or post-traumatic stress, dance therapy is the answer to all your woes. It is also effective in dealing with physical health and cognitive issues, such as dementia, aggression, cancer, and communication problems,” she elaborates.
Sampat has had several performances; notable ones being at the Governor’s meet in Mumbai and the 90th anniversary of the Allahabad Museum, India’s oldest museum. In March 2020, she was a part of project Fluid Stones, along with her Guru Shagun Butani. Fluid Stones is an on-going research and documentation project supported by the Interglobe Foundation that focuses on the sculptural portrayal of women in India, and documents the depiction of feminine figures in the historical sculptural motifs of India — Yakshis, Shaalabhanjikas and Alasakanyas the liberated, accomplished, confident woman who proudly proclaims her own femininity.
“We performed at the Sunder Nursery Amphitheatre on March 05. Performing on stage is like magic. It helps me evolve mentally and physically,” says Sampat, adding, “Dance is my pillar of strength through thick and thin. It is what makes me, me.”
In a nutshell
Sampat began learning Odissi at four, when her mother spotted her affinity for dance and put her under the tutelage of Guru Shagun Bhutani. She is currently pursuing a degree in psychology with a minor in Performing Arts from Ashoka University