Odissi Dance and Akari
My first encounter with Odissi
dance was when my teacher, Sarala Dandekar
performed at an event in 2005. I was mesmerized by her performance. As beautiful as it was, I did not think that I would dare to learn the dance form because it looked very complicated with the eye, torso, and percussive feet movements - not to mention the hand gestures (called Mudrah) that she was doing simultaneously. (Please go to “About Odissi
” for more information.)
However, with her welcoming invitation to her class, I thought, “Well, there’s nothing to lose if I try once.” And the rest is history. Its intricacy actually fascinated me. For the first few months, it was like learning a totally new language
. My body didn’t know what my brain was trying to signal, so the stubborn part of me wanted to figure it out. But the desire to resolve the curiosity itself would not have kept me on this path for this long.
The fundamental reason why I fell in love with Odissi was due to its strong spiritual background
, which resonated with the spiritual seeker in me. It was like attaining English skills has helped me to communicate with people around the world, learning the Odissi dance helped me to communicate with the divine.
I went to India for a month in 2013 and studied Odissi with Sarala’s teacher, Guru Jhelum Paranjape
, who is an expert in this art form. This one-month visit did not satisfy my desire to be immersed in the art form, but fueled more.
In India, I was given a chance to perform with Guru Jhelum and her senior students. When I watched her solo piece from the wings of the stage, something profound touched me. It was similar to when I saw Sarala dancing for the first time, but this time, it echoed at a deeper place in my soul. I found myself crying. I had a full make up on my face, especially around my eyes, and I still had one more piece to dance. Despite every attempt to hold back the tears, my eyes welled up. I looked straight down keeping my face parallel to the floor, so that tears would drop straight to the floor. At that moment, I realized how much my soul yarns to study this ancient art form
In May 2016, I had blessing to begin teaching beginners
. I did not have any prospective student, but I somehow strongly felt that it was my time to begin teaching. Until then, I always firmly believed that it was too early for me. I am not quite sure how the shift happened, but I assume that the time in me had ripened. As I trusted the inspiration and began teaching, I was blessed to meet wonderful students, and they have been working very hard to hone their skill in this quite challenging dance form. I am very appreciative of their effort. Through teaching, I am learning so much.
In January and February of 2018, I was able to visit Guru Jhelum Paranjape
’s school again and study there.
I will continue to devote myself to the pursuit of this art form.