International Odissi Dance Festival: A fest remembering the maestro | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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International Odissi Dance Festival: A fest remembering the maestro

The recent International Odissi Dance Festival was a celebration of Guru Surendra Nath Jena’s unique style of Odissi. With a touch of the devotional element and inspired by the sculptural architecture of Odisha’s temples, his dance form tells beautiful stories.

art and culture Updated: Jan 29, 2017 15:07 IST
Nikita Saxena
Students from across the globe performed at the International Odissi Dance Festival in Delhi.
Students from across the globe performed at the International Odissi Dance Festival in Delhi.

Known for his unique style of Odissi, guru Surendra Nath Jena’s dance vocabulary was recently celebrated at the International Odissi Dance Festival. From the navarasas to the sculptural architecture of Odisha’s temples, his choreography drew inspiration from a wide range. It was to celebrate his unique style that the two-day festival was organised by Nrityashilp Dance Foundation at India Habitat Centre. 

Nirmal Chandra Jena with Pratibha Jena Singh.

“My father, guru Surendra Nath Jena ji, developed his style of Odissi during the years 1968 to 1999. He was inspired by the architecture of the temples of Odisha. He imagined the sculptures as moving. He wanted his dance form to be devotional and has tried to bring in these elements,” says Pratibha Jena Singh, kathak exponent and organiser of the festival. She adds, “Along with being an Odissi dancer, he was also a poet and a theatre artist.” 

“We thought this event would be a good chance to have the students come together as a family, and give them a stage to perform.” Pratibha Jena Singh

The event included a photography exhibition, a movie screening dedicated to the guru, a seminar and a number of performances by his students from across the globe. “We don’t perform his style frequently as it’s devotional. We thought this event would be a good chance to have the students come together as a family, and give them a stage to perform,” says Singh.

The artists, at the event, included guru Pratibha Jena Singh, guru Nirmal Chandra Jena, Saudamini Ayde and Jaya Mehta. What attracted them to this dance form? “Guruji was particular about observing people in the village and their lifestyle. He replicated the same in the dances he choreographed. The way a woman stands and talks to her friends, a woman fetching a pale of water — all these acts can be noted in his choreography and are reflected through the poses and mudras,” says Ayde. While Adye was attracted by the storytelling element of her guru’s dance style, some mentioned that the devotional aspect of Surendra Nath Jena‘s choreography was the highlight.