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60 years of Odissi

SHYAMHARI CHAKRA

Minati Mishra proved that age is no bar for a dancer through her hour-long solo recital.



Evergreen danseuse Minati Mishra.

History was created a week ago when Minati Mishra, the oldest performing Odissi dancer of the world today, performed as a soloist for nearly an hour at Rabindra Mandap in Bhubaneswar during the concluding evening of a two-day dance festival staged to celebrate the eminent danseuse and cine actress' 60 years of commitment to and continuity with Odissi.

The festival, hosted by UDRA (Utkal Dance and Research Academy, Bhubaneswar) and supported by Sangeet Natak Akademi, the national academy of arts, was aptly captioned Odissi Nrutya Sankalp as it showed how for the dancer, now nearing her 75th birthday, dance is a way of life. “I salute your spirit and your commitment to Odissi,” stated celebrated dance critic Leela Venkatraman while honouring the dancer and the audience gave a standing ovation to Minati Mishra.

The hour-long recital was poetry in motion. Distinctly different from the Odissi of today that is more physical with more dependence on exploration of the body kinetic and eroticism, Minati's presentation of Jagannath Stotra, Ananda Tandav, Astapadi and Nirbikalpa Stotra exhibited the poetic and spiritual elements of Odissi that was missing from most of the performances these days. And her incredible ability to perform with the difficult sitting postures of chowka would have made today's star dancers envious of her. With able accompaniment on music by stalwarts like Banamali Moharana, Dhaneswar Swain and Sachidananda Das (on mardal) and Ramahari Das and Bijay Kumar Jena (on vocal), the concert ascended newer heights.

Humility personified, Minati, in her brief address, duly acknowledged the support and encouragement that she had from her husband's family that enabled her to be a dancer at a time when dance as a profession was looked down upon. And the true spirit of a guru and a mentor, she invited several of her senior disciples like Guru Gobind Pal, Guru Durga Charan Ranbir, Chapala Mishra, Minakshi Behera, Anita Singhdeo, Bimbadhar Das and Sanjukta Das who have almost stopped dancing on stage for years, to perform. The disciples staged the highly popular dance drama Katha Kuha based on the story of the dancing sculptures of Konark temple that Minati had choreographed 40 years ago.

“Age should never be a bar for a dancer to perform and I wished to prove it by performing and by bringing back to stage my senior disciples who had stopped dancing,” she said.

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