Ode to Odissi

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Monica Singh and her students present an epic Odissi program

Melbourne has a new Odissi star, Monica Singh.  She and her students presented an epic four-hour dance performance at the Dance House in Carlton on 9 April.

Odissi Monica Singh.Indian Link

The first half of the program was a series of group performances by her students of all ages and background.

It started with a traditional Ganapati Vandana, which was a brisk and crisp invocation to the Remover of Obstacles. This was followed by Battu, an item not frequently seen Odissi performances these days. Filled with pure dance movements, it was presented with gusto.

This was followed by a Dasavatara dance based on Jayadeva’s Ashtapadi, and the students brought out the natya/dance and abhinaya of the ten avatars of Vishnu quite well. Although the music was pre-recorded, it was melodious and beautifully rendered.

Odissi Monica Singh.Indian Link

The next item Jatapati, was a rather novel one. Composed by the great dancer Kelucharan Mahapatra, it was a reimagining of the Ramayana: it was aptly called Ravana’s Song as the great epic is being retold here from Ravana’s perspective.  Another contemporary composition came next, and this time it was based on a poem by Gopal Krishna Das. This was on Radha (and by extension on Krishna as well) and her predicament – and was presented as a series of solo performances.

Monica explained the significance of the multi-layered meanings in many Indian shringara compositions: although ostensibly they seem erotic, the deeper/inner meanings are quite profound and about the union of the individual soul with god.

A pallavi – another pure dance item – followed, presented by a large group of dancers who weaved patterns and formations that were quite beautiful.

Many students spoke briefly about why they choose to learn Odissi and what appeals to them about the dance form. It is to Monica’s credit that she was able to present such an accomplished and quality show with a student cohort that is so diverse, within a few short years of her starting her school in Melbourne.

Odissi Monica Singh.Indian Link

Dancer, teacher and choreographer, Monica Singh performed in the second half. She began with an interesting item Ardhanareeshwara, the representation of both Shiva and Shakti in the one form.

The pallavi which followed next had all the ingredients of a good pure dance item: it was lively and energetic, and kept pace with the pakhawaj. A slower paced item from Jayadeva’s Geeta Govinda, called Kuruyaduvadanam gave Monica ample opportunities to showcase her abhinaya skills.

The evening concluded with a traditional mangalam in which all the dancers joined in.

Although the Dance House struggled to accommodate the small audience, it nevertheless was able to attract a diverse one, given its location.