The Odissi Dance
The Odissi Dance, also known as Orissi is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It comes from the state of Odisha and is the most ancient dance of India and probably one of the oldest in all the world.
This dance is known for its difficulty both physical and mental. It is particularly distinguished from other classical dance forms by the importance it places upon the Tribhangi (literally: three parts break), the independent movement of head, chest and pelvis and upon the basic square stance known as Chauka or Chouka that symbolizes Lord Jagannath (the God of this dance).The bond between this God and the dancers is very deep and meaningful.
The Guru is the Master, the teacher that has to teach the art and be a spiritual guide for the dancers. He’s the one that normally plays the music during the performances with impressive skill, but he is also able to dance and join the dancers for the choreographies.
The relationship between the Master and the students is crucial to create a great affinity that would improve also the performance of the dancers.
The physical effort of the dancers is constant to reproduce movements that must be always very precise and often almost unnatural.
The workouts which are behind this discipline are very tough and tiring, so much that once you learn this dance, your body is trained and built in such a way that every other dance is much easier to learn. Train everyday to build up your resistance, your strength and your body’s flexibility.
Essential are the feet that must become strong like iron. During the dance, the dancers are used to hitting the floor with their feet many times. They hit the timing of the music and play the bell tied around their ankles.
Everyday before starting the training, there are some rituals to respect and follow. Before they begin training they give a floral donation to Lord Jagannath and light up an incense.
This dance is the representation of stories normally linked to the Hindu culture: battles, love stories, all the various reincarnations of the Hindu Goddess, like Lord Shiva, there is a bit of everything.
For this reason the expressivity of the dancer and her precise movements are crucial to take the audience into the story. If the dance is well done, an expert audience that knows about the meaning of the gestures, and at least a little bit about the Hindu belief, would enjoy the show like reading a spectacular book performed live.
The eyes language is what makes the difference during a performance between a beautiful show and a common one. The dancers are not allowed to speak, all their words, all their emotions pass through their eyes.
Then the postures and the precise gestures make the rest. Everything to bring these ancient stories back to life. Eyes are very important as they play the role of telling the story. You will always see the dancers make up in such a way to enhance the glance, without forgetting the third eye.
For an Odissi dancer the preparations are very long and can take more than 2 hours.
Make up and costumes are a crucial part of the show and must be always spectacular.
The appearance of the Odissi dancers is famous for being always very colourful… indeed beautiful.
The Odissi dance can be performed alone or in group, depends always on the representation that has been chosen, depends on the story that they want to tell.
Strength, elegance, sensuality and also emotions like fear, anger, sorrow, love… all in one dance. This is the beauty of the Odissi dance.
In the ancient tradition of this dance, the dancers were used to perform in temples and palaces for religious occasions or to entertain the court. Nowadays, after the dark period of the British Raj, the dance is mostly performed in occasions like festivals or shows for tourist from all over the world.