Alok Utsav: An Evening of Exquisite Odissi Dance Recitals


By Sanchali Basu

HOUSTON: The Kalaangan school of Odissi dance led by its inimitable artistic director, Supradipta Datta held its annual function on Saturday, January 16 at the Sugar Land Auditorium. The evening started off with a sumptuous array of delectable snacks including samosas, egg rolls, brownies and jalebis.

This was the fifth year that Alok Utsav was being celebrated and this year’s celebration, like past ones, was dedicated to all Gurus. Smt. Datta commenced the proceedings by paying tribute to her guru Smt. Aloka Kanungo.  Councilman Harish Jajoo, chief guest after  the ceremonial lighting of the lamp addressed the audience and sought their support in his Sugar Land mayoral candidacy. Emcee for the evening Shyama Mishra, then led us through the rest of the evening very capably.

The evening’s recital started with an invocatory item Namo Ganesha, as is ritualistic in Hindu traditions, to worship Lord Ganesh at the commencement of any occasion.  It was commendable how the very young kids adapted to last minute changes as 2 of the 5 dancers dropped out due to ill health. This was followed by  a Mangalacharan (Shantakaram), which is  yet another invocation, marking the entrance of the dancers on the stage. It was a spiritual number dedicated to Lord Vishnu seeking his blessings for an auspicious beginning.


The next item of an Odissi repertoire is always a Nritta, a non-interpretative pure dance composition  Pallavi based on Raag Patadeep, featuring fast tempo of complex patterns highlighting several rhythmic variations and various mudras or hand gestures, the two basic stances, the Chouka (or the square position) and the Tribhangi (or the three-bend postures) as well as sculpturesque poses. This was followed by Aradhana, the first Odissi performance of the junior most group. Though not perfect at all, their enthusiasm and high spirits more than made up for the imperfections.

The next dance Basant Pallavi, a composition combining an abhinaya section describing Lord Krishna enjoying the season of spring followed by a pure dance piece based on Raag Basant was again impeccably performed by six well-trained young dancers. The next Abhinaya piece, Swagatam Krishna again welcoming Lord Krishna  was performed by the Rath sisters, who have  a very promising future.

The evening went on to include another Mangalacharan (Gurur Brahma), Megh pallavi,  evoking the ambience of the rainy season with movements that depict raindrops, dancing peacocks and overcast skies, and Bilahari Pallavi  by 3 senior dancers, featuring steps and poses bringing out the quintessential beauty of the Odissi form.


The  next presentation was an Abhinaya named Mahadeva, a hymn in praise of Lord Shiva, describing his power and beauty, perhaps the most vibrant presentation, had powerful choreography with stunning poses. This was followed by  Rageshree Pallavi, a total treat to watch. Patadeep Pallavi and Rageshree Pallavi were performed by senior dancers of the school who have all completed their Ranga Pravesh and still continue to dance, even though some of them are off to college or working mothers just for their sheer love for Odissi.

The last dance of the evening very appropriately was the Mokshya Mangalam, which is the spiritual culmination where the dancers attempt to attain the ultimate goal of life – the reintegration of the soul with the Absolute.

The entire evening was well coordinated and enjoyed by all. Senior and junior students shared their experiences of dance class, anxiety and training for their upcoming Ranga Pravesh and the joy and sense of accomplishment on completing it. Kalaangan is consistently improving and gaining in strength.