Shall We Dance

It’s strange how there’s a story in almost every small corner of our country. And it’s even stranger how several of these wonderful stories are lost on this generation.

Published:February 22, 2009 2:13 am

Piyasree Dasgupta in conversation with Odissi exponent Rekha Tandon who wants to give gotipuas a reason to smile

It’s strange how there’s a story in almost every small corner of our country. And it’s even stranger how several of these wonderful stories are lost on this generation. However,with people like Bhubaneswar-based danseuse Rekha Tandon around,the stories would probably survive. Tandon was in the city recently where she started her Dhara project. Tandon,who is an Odissi performer,choreographer and researcher,came up with Dhara,an initiative that took ancient traditional forms of expression,first to Indians completely unaware of them,and then to enthusiasts across the world. It all started in Kolkata way back in 2006 when Tandon gave the first performance of her Dhara initiative at EZCC.

Dhara is an initiative which brings alive folk performing traditions,near-extinct patachitra paintings in fusion with Odissi. “The aim of Dhara is to demonstrate how rural artistes,when given supplementary training and a professional presentation,could successfully turn into serious competition for classical urban artistes in an urban stage,” explains Tandon.

Her organisation,Dance Routes,conducted several workshops around the Raghurajpur village in Orissa working with gotipua dancers,sahi yatra performers and jugglers.

“It’s wonderful how boys (gotipuas) in the village still dress up as devdasis and perform to traditional forms of music. As they grow up,they can no more dress up as girls and go back to occupations like farming etc. But several of these boys want to pursue the art and that is what we intended to let them do,” says Tandon. So,one of the primary tasks that Tandon had at hand was to groom the rural dancers. “Most of these boys are too much into acrobatics,so at times their performances don’t have the finesse of dance,” says Tandon. Her task includes toning down their acrobatics and instilling the sophistication of the dance form in them. Another interesting bit of Tandon’s endeavour is the incorporation of the art of the patuas in the performances.

“The patachitra remains as a continuous narrative,” says Tandon. “They are used like props to complement the narrative of the performance.”

Dhara,which travelled to Berlin and UK,was received with a lot of enthusiasm there.

“Initially,there were reservations. The mention of gotipua and other such dance forms made people feel that it would be a rustic creation that might not go down well with an urban audience. But it proved to be otherwise,” says Tandon. The Oriya narrative,in most projection screens,comes with subtitles. So it’s even more arresting.

“My first Dhara performance was in Kolkata with kids from gurukuls. The production has come a long way since then. I would love to perform in Kolkata some time soon,” adds Tandon. Also,she is looking forward to working with patuas from Bengal too. “They have a very rich body of work,” she says.

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