Samskriti to Present the Sixth Annual Incredible India Program at the Miller Outdoor Theatre


HOUSTON: For the past five years Samskriti has been presenting two outstanding shows at the wonderful state-of-the-art Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park – Incredible India and Bollywood Blast. Last year, two amazing dance teams, Nadam and Stem Dance Kampni, from Bangalore, India, presented the very exciting North Indian dance style of Kathak to an audience of more than 2000. For its sixth Miller Theatre season, Samskriti’s Artistic Director, Rathna Kumar, has chosen one of India’s most renowned dance ensembles from the East Indian state of Orissa to showcase Incredible India and its incredibly rich and diverse artistic traditions. May being the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, it seems so appropriate to end the month with a bang, with a memorable performance, and on Friday, May 31, the Miller Outdoor Theatre  will come alive with the drumming of the pakhawaj, the steady metallic tinkling of the manjira (cymbals), and the sounds of twelve pairs of feet striking the ground in syncopated rhythmic sequences, as the curtain rises on Gatha Odissi, a performance tracing the rich history of Odissi, one of the eight classical dance styles of India, and perhaps the most elegant and lyrical of them all.

Gatha OdissiA Journey from the Temple to the Stage will be performed by the prestigious Orissa Dance Academy, led by the eminent dancer Aruna Mohanty. The performance takes the audience on an exciting artistic journey of Odissi, from the halls of the ancient Jagannath Temple of Puri to the modern stage.  Stone sculptures spring to life from temple walls in the classic chouka (square stance) and tribhanga (triple-bend) to inspire the classic repertoire: Mangalacharan, Pallavi, and Abhinaya.  The audience will also discover the allied art forms and dance styles of Mahari, Gotipua, Sakhi Nata, Raasa and Leela – all of which are equally beloved by both artists and audiences and which so enriched the style of Odissi.


Odissi (or Orissi) is a traditional style of dance which originated in the temples of Orissa, where it was originally performed by devadasis (temple dancers). Sculptures of Odissi dancers adorn many temple walls in Orissa. It is one of the oldest surviving forms of Indian classical dance, dating back to almost 1st century B.C. There are a number of characteristics of the Odissi dance. The style may be seen as a conglomeration of aesthetic and technical details. It is characterized by fluidity of the upper torso (the waves of the ocean on the shores of Puri) and gracefulness in gestures and wristwork (swaying of the palm trees), juxtaposed with firm footwork (heartbeat of Mother Earth). All Indian classical dance forms include both pure ‘rhythmic dances’ and acting or ‘story dances’. The rhythmic dances of Odissi are called batu / sthayi (foundation), pallavi (flowering) and moksha (liberation). The ‘acting dances’ are called abhinaya.

Aruna Mohanty, the lead dancer in Gatha Odissi, was trained by the late Guru extraordinaire, Padma Shree Gangadhar Pradhan. She is the Artistic Director of the Orissa Dance Academy and is recognized today as a leading Odissi dancer, teacher, and choreographer and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar, one of the highest artistic honors given by the government of India in the field of performing arts.

The Orissa Dance Academy was founded in 1975 by the late Padma Shree Guru Gangadhar Pradhan and its dance company is renowned for its innovative compositions. Many of today’s leading Odissi dancers are ODA alumni, including Houston’s very own Shipra Avantica Mehrotra.  As a senior student of the Orissa Dance Academy, Shipra has performed all over the United States and India.  The New York Times described her performance as “wholly poetic” and “the truest revelation of dance itself”.

INCREDIBLE INDIA is funded in part by the City of Houston through the Miller Theatre Advisory Board, and its community partners are the Asia Society Texas Center, Orissa Cultural Association, HUM magazine and the Anjali Center for Performing Arts. Gatha Odissi is FREE to the public, but those interested in securing reserved seats may email or call 832 275 9656.