About 15 months ago, an online dance recital was unthinkable. Today, it is the norm. “Now we need to know about lights, camera and sound,” says Odissi dancer Prachi Hota, who has conceived Samanubhāsanā a series of seminars on creating a virtual space for practitioners, scholars and lovers of Indian art to engage with each other on issues that affect their disciplines. Previously the performer and the audience shared physical space and conversation to enable a seamless performance. “A dance routine can be performed differently before different audiences. In an auditorium, people share an experience which will never be replicated since each act is unique. This conversation is muted online,” rues Hota, who has been dancing professionally for the last 12 years.
She was initiated into Odissi at the age of three. The optimist in Hota believes that Covid-19 has made her art accessible to people who previously would never visit an auditorium. “Besides, we can watch performances of international fellow artists online. Subsequently, academic engagement with art has increased. Exchanging information and learning from our fellow artists and elders in the fraternity are easier now,” she elaborates.
This is not the first time Hota is performing online. At Param, a global online classical dance festival, Prachi performed Hamsadhwani Pallavi and Madhurashtakam. The former is choreography by Guru Shri Kelucharan Mohapatra and focuses on the technique of Odissi dance and music, highlighting the
lyricism and complexity of the form. The latter was originally choreographed by Adiguru Shri Pankaj Charan Das, who is credited for scripting the grammar of Odissi as we know it today, and re-choreographed by Padma Shri awardee, Guru Aruna Mohanty. Madhurashtakam is embedded in the ideals of the Bhakti movement, describing Lord Krishna as the epitome of beauty, who is to be loved, not merely worshipped.
“All Indian art and craft traditions are inherently flexible, and as practitioners, scholars and patrons, it is important to engage with each other,” she believes. Hota has also written, edited and directed Aseem, a short documentary on the life of the Adiguru. Like many GenNxt artists, Hota too is versatile. She can play the sitar, is a Hindustani music vocalist and a filmmaker, who is currently doing her Master’s in Filmmaking at the London Film School. She is conscious of the legacy of the great masters.
Today’s artists singularly go beyond the confines of their gurukuls to democratise the inclusive nuances of art. Hota and her colleagues conduct workshops in Delhi government schools as part of Project Anjuman to teach students to expand their creativity and critical thinking. The first episode of her new online series will be available online in a few weeks. Hota abides by Odissi Guru Madhavi Mudgal’s advice: “It is our responsibility to cultivate the audience.”