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Breathing Odissi

chandigarh Updated: Apr 21, 2015 16:21 IST
Rameshinder Sandhu
Rameshinder Sandhu
Martha Graham


American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham once said, ‘Dance is the hidden language of the soul’. Geeta Mahalik, a Delhibased professional Odissi dancer, couldn’t agree more. In Ludhiana to perform for students of two schools over the weekend, HT City spoke to Mahalik, who is a Padma Shri awardee, about the impact of dance on various platforms. Organised by the Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth (SPIC MACAY), Mahalik’s performance aimed to introduce and inspire young minds towards Odissi. To make the event more engaging, Mahalik also held interactive sessions with the students.

“Odissi is a prayer for me and it is more than a form of art. Ever since I learnt it at the age of six, I have felt it’s more of a powerful poem that is brimful of energy, emotions, feelings, expressions and offers sheer satisfaction to my soul. I thank my gurus Deva Prasad Das and Maya Dhar Raut who continue to inspire me. Learning is an ongoing process,” said the dance-enthusiast, who has also been conferred with the Orissa State Natak Akademi Award in 2011 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2009.

World's her stage

While talking to us backstage, she shared how classical dances, like music, had the power to touch the hearts of people from any part of the world. “I have performed across the world and wherever I have performed, I have noticed that audience easily gets captivated and is eager to explore not only about the dance but also about the traditional attire and jewellery I wear during the show. I can never forget that a few years ago, when I performed in Berlin, the German audience wanted me to perform again. It was touching!” she said. She was also of the opinion that like SPIC MACAY, all educational institutions should make efforts to popularise classical dances and the fading Indian culture among students.

Eyes hold emotions

Asked about the involvement of ‘rituals’ during performances, she said, “Typically, an Odissi dance performance, begins with a prayer to God, the earth and finally to the gurus and audience. Post this, begins the action: the whole body dances, including the eyes that help express varied emotions.”

“Most importantly, one can express even stories at one go but it requires lot of passion and zeal,” she said. For those who believe learning classical dance is an arduous affair, she termed the statement a myth and maintained that nothing is impossible as practice makes one perfect.

“One should remember that difficult is done at once and the impossible takes a bit longer. In other words, everything is possible if our will is strong,” she said.At present, running her Odissi school ‘Upasana’ in Delhi, she has also developed high adulation in teaching the form like her gurus.

On a lighter note, when asked about her age she said, “It’s just a number for me but I know that my love for Odissi will never let me turn old.”