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Sharmila Biswas (Kolkata) - Odissi - 19 October 2010 (Tuesday)

A leading dancer and choreographer of Odissi, Sharmila Biswas was initiated by Kalavati Devi and Guru Bipin Singh at Children’s Little Theatre, Calcutta. She, then, came under the tutelage of the doyen of Odissi, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra at the Padatik Dance Centre. Sharmila learnt abhinaya with Kalanidhi Narayanan. Her interest in the origins of Odissi led her to study the vocabularies of Oriya creative arts, including the life and works of the Maharis. She has also trained in several folk and tribal dance and music traditions of the state. Sharmila attended in 1990 the Young Choreographers' Workshop organized by the American Dance Festival where she interacted with eminent choreographers of world repute. Sharmila’s choreography reflects her strong groundwork in the traditional movement skills of India. Proficient equally in classical Odissi and experimental choreographic work, her originality in composition, technique and stage design allows her to explore and create new forms of expression. Variously honoured, Sharmila is the founder chairperson of the Odissi Vision and Movement Centre that promotes Indian dance and music through research, training and performances.


The four-part presentation ABAHANI commences with Abahan. Abahan, or Invocation, traditionally seeks to invite the divine to bless the performance. Each dance style has evolved its own gestural and musical expressions for this ritual. Abahan explores these expressions in Odissi. The next piece, Gativilas, is inspired by a Sanskrit verse commonly chanted by rural mridanga players of Orissa. It describes the attributes of an ideal performer, comparing her gait, stance, energy and expressions with those of different animals. Katha Surpanakha, done in the kathakar style, portrays the many contrasting emotions that exist simultaneously in a person. Here, the dancer moves away from the grossness of Surpanakha’s appearance and mind, and attempts to create a more convincing character – her absolute focus on Rama when she sees him, her volatile reactions after, the life-changing realization that follows, and, finally, the grief of rejection. The music for this segment draws on the popular styles of Coastal Orissa and well-known medieval texts, such as Baidihesa Bilasa by Kavisurya Upendra Bhanja and Bichitra Ramayan by Biswanath Khuntia. The fourth and final piece is Murchhana that highlights the special features of Odissi mridanga, and the form of Odissi dance that emerges when accompanied by it.