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Alok Utsav 2017 a Beautiful Display of Odissi Splendor

Photos: Pradeep Samantaray

Photos: Pradeep Samantaray

By Correspondent

HOUSTON: April 15 marked the seventh year of completion of the Kalaangan school of Odissi dance and was celebrated as the Alok Utsav at the Sugar Land auditorium with utmost sincerity. An inviting array of delectable snacks welcomed the attendees at the front lobby.

Founder, director Supradipta Datta commenced the proceedings by paying homage to all Gurus and a special tribute to her guru Smt. Aloka Kanungo after whom the festival is named. Aloka won the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award this year in India. Supradipta went on to introduce the chief guest, resident monk of the Vedanta Society of Greater Houston, Swami Vedaswarupananda. He performed the ceremonial lamp lighting and chanted a mantra. In his speech, he encouraged and commended the young Odissi students for pursuing this ancient classical dance form and asked them to take pride in it since dance is another form of worshipping God and personifying the divinity within oneself.

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Emcee Sanchali Basu was introduced and the Odissi galore ensued. As is the ritual, the evening’s first dance was Jaya Jagannath, since Lord Jagannath is the presiding God of Orissa, the birthplace of Odissi. This was performed by very young students who were performing for the first time and was well received by the audience. The evening continued with a Mangalacharan, which marks the entrance of the dancers on stage, and includes Mancha Pravesh, Bhoomi Pranam, Istadev Stuti, Sabhaa Pranam and Trikhandi Pranam, the latter being a three-part salutation to the Gods, the Guru and the audience.

Bottu, a vigorous Tandava based pure dance item followed describing one of the 64 aspects of Lord Shiva, highlighting a series of sculpturesque poses adopted from the engravings of Orissa temple walls. The next item was also an ode to the Lord Shiva, Shiva Panchaksharastuti the 5 letters or aksharas being Na-Ma-Si-Va-Ya, well performed by senior students. Mukhari Pallavi, a non-interpretive, pure dance composition ensued with intense, rhythmic, intricate footwork, beautiful mudras, Chouka, and the Tribhangi.

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Dasavatar, the next dance in the repertoire, describing the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu was very well executed. NamoGanesha, a tribute to Lord Ganesh was performed by enthusiastic beginners and Mahadeva, a hymn in praise of Lord Shiva ensued. The latter described his power and beauty with stunning poses.

The breathtaking sculpture of the Konarak temple inspired the next dance Konarak Kanti, which showcased the graceful and lyrical movements of the dancers’ eyes, neck, torso and feet. It brought temple sculptures to life by three Rangapravesh graduates of the academy. Durga, an abhinaya piece, performed by senior students beautifully depicted Goddess Durga as the embodiment of strength, benevolence, energy, destruction, illusion, Nature and peace.

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Last, but not the least was Mokshya Mangalam, the ritualistic finale to any Odissi repertoire where the dancers combine Nritta and Abhinaya to signify that despite the busy lives we lead, the attainment of salvation is the ultimate goal of life.

Supradipta delivered her vote of thanks. The entire program was carried out seamlessly without any glitches and all the dancers performed to their best capabilities. Since there were almost fifty students of all age groups and skill levels who performed at the festival, it was delightful to see how students progress in refinement of technique and understanding of the form over the years of training. The evening’s entire program was conducted competently by emcee Ms. Sanchali Basu, with clear introductions to each composition. Kalaangan has grown in leaps and bounds over the years and continues to go from strength to strength.

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