Mumbai: Rhythm and Krishna

Watch this tribute to Krishna by Odisha’s ‘gotipua’ dancers


Aloka Kanungo will present an Odissi recital with her troupe this weekend.
Aloka Kanungo will present an Odissi recital with her troupe this weekend.

Our history of performance arts can seldom be called linear. It has gone through several changes, including the very definition of what should be included in classical dance,” says Odissi dancer Aloka Kanungo.

Kanungo and her troupe will present Sthapatya Satya—a performance based on bandha nritya (acrobatic yogic postures)—today at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA). This hour-long act is one of two dance performances that will be presented at the cultural centre. The second one is Mera Shyam—a homage to the women in Lord Krishna’s life. 

Explaining the concept of bandha nritya, Kanungo says: “It is an acrobatic dance form which was practised in the Odissi repertoire. Post-independence, however, the gurus and scholars decided to redefine what would be called Odissi, and thus bandha, along with sabda nritya, where a shloka in praise of a deity is recited rhythmically while dancing, was left out.”

Kanungo’s performance, which will also include dancers from Odisha’s Lakshmipriya Gotipua Nrutya Kendra, is divided into four acts, showcasing bandha (acrobatic in Odia) in different art forms—chitra (painting), kavya (literature), nritya (dance) and geeta (music).

The first act, Ranga Puja, is inspired by the bandha chitra, a type of patta painting which shows gopis in acrobatic postures forming a vehicle for Krishna. The next act is based on kavya bandha, the 17th century art of writing poems while arranging the letters in a pictorial shape. The third act, Nritya Villash, embodies the rustic gotipua and contemporary Odissi styles. The final act will be Dashavatara—the story of the 10 avatars of Vishnu, narrated in the Chhanda style, which stresses rhythm. 

Bandha dance, which is generally performed by men, is slowly losing its significance since it’s no longer part of the main Odissi repertoire. Through our NCPA performance (which will include both men and women), we are doing our bit to revive this style,” says Kanungo.

The other performance of the day, Mera Shyam, has been conceptualized by Churchill Pandian, founder of the Utsav Academy of Fine Arts in Chennai. It combines five classical dance forms through a single theme—love for Krishna.

There will be five dances in Mera Shyam—each 15 minutes long. Kathak dancer Meghranjani Medhi will show Meera Bai’s undying love for Krishna. Rukmini Vijayakumar will use Bharatanatyam to tell the story of gopikas, while Odissi dancer Arushi Mudgal will showcase the motherly love of Yashoda. Satyabhama will be portrayed by Prateeksha Kashi in the Kuchipudi style, while Radha’s love will be portrayed by Sufi-Kathak dancer Astha Dixit. The five women will come together in the finale, Madhuram, a composition by M.S. Subbulakshmi.

“The individual dances are new compositions or have been tweaked to highlight the main characteristics of the women in Krishna’s life. And through their stories, Krishna’s philosophy of attachment and detachment are presented,” explains Kashi. 

Sthapatya Satya and Mera Shyam will be performed on 17 March, 7pm onwards, at the NCPA. Tickets Rs180, Rs200, Rs270 and Rs300, available at the venue and on
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