Abhayalakshmi’s tryst with Odissi may have happened quite late in her life, but it soon became her identity. She was not an alien to dance and had trained in Bharathanatyam from childhood, but when Odissi began to invade her body and mind, Abhayalakshmi found that it satiated the dancer in her.
The Bengaloru-based dancer, who is originally from Palakkad, has ever since embarked on a mission to popularise Odissi in Kerala and is set to give Kochi the flavour of this temple dance form. Disciple of Sharmila Mukherjee, Abhayalakshmi will come down to Kochi twice a month to teach students at Kadavanthara and Tripunithura.
“Odissi may be popular all over the world, but it is disappointing that many in Kerala, especially in the suburbs, have not even seen it, forget appreciate it. Recently, I had performed at Vaikkom and has ever since wanted to give classes in Kochi, thereby expose people to this highly-refined dance form,” says Abhayalakshmi.
She spent her entire childhood in Coimbatore learning Bharathanatyam and was among the performers of The Temple of Fine Arts. After completing graduation in engineering, she gave up her career at National Aerospace Lab for Odissi.
“Meeting my guru, Sharmila Mukerjee, a direct disciple of Guru Sri Kelucharan Mohapatra, was decisive. My first challenge was to unlearn
the subtle nuances of Bharathanatyam engraved in my movements. Though many may find Bharathanatyam and Odissi somewhat similar, there is a sea of difference in body movements and expressions,”
she says.Abhayalakshmi represents Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Gharana of Odissi, the most popular of haranas.
“In Kelucharan Mohapatra Gharana, the footwork is more intricate and unique. So is the torso movement. The technique is to control body, but be expressive,” says the dancer who is also a Doordarshan-graded artist.
She is known for giving emphasis on strong technical aspects of Odissi and has been vocal about having theoretical knowledge for a complete performance, and naturally Abhayalakshmi is not in favour of experimentation.
“The uniqueness of Odissi is its purity and history. Experimentation will give it a different form. A lot of people are trying it and some pieces are aesthetically pleasing too. However, I attempt collaborative pieces like blending Odissi and Bharatanatyam together. That way, both is retained in its original form and at the same time the uniqueness of the dance forms are
highlighted,” says Abhayalakshmi.
The graceful dancer, who was named one of the top 10 Odissi talents during Odissi International 2013 held at Bhuvaneshwar, is now working with Bharatanatyam dancer Paris Laxmi on a duet blending both the dance forms.
“I also plan to choreograph an item by adapting a few Malayalam folk stories and dances. I do have a few concepts in mind, and while I am not teaching, I am working to popularise Odissi,” says Abhayalakshmi.
The new batches will start from August 10 at Dazzlers Studio, Kadavanthara. For details 9846098464.