Mukut – The Crown of the Rasas is the title given to an evening of odissi, performed by Mitali Dev and Enakshi Das Sinha, respectively based in the UK and in Canada, both trained in the Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra style of odissi and both successful soloists.
It was an evening of classical odissi, presenting choreographic works by the late Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, his son Guru Ratikant Mahapatra and dancer/choreographer Sharmila Biswas.
A looped powerpoint projection was shown prior to the performance and during the interval, explaining in great detail the principles of Indian classical dance, in particular the bhava/rasa relationship, giving a short ‘history’ of odissi, presenting it as a thousand-year-old dance of devotion. This at times felt a little too didactic, particularly so in this instance as this was not an educational workshop but a ticketed performance. The ‘dance of devotion’ narrative is also a little trite and could have been toned down: it is widely known that odissi is not a thousand years old but barely pushing sixty.
The first half of the performance saw the dancers presenting in tandem three different pieces, with two pallavis, one of which was the hauntingly beautiful Arabhi – named as customary for pallavis after the rāga used for the musical accompaniment – heard through the mellifluous voice of Debashish Sarkar. Arabhi pallavi is one of the masterpieces of Guru Kelucharan and it was indeed well executed by the two dancers. Though both highly accomplished, they are nevertheless very different performers and it would have been better if they had not both danced all the pieces in the first half of the programme together, as they were indeed much more comfortable when they performed individually. This they did in the second half and the individual performances were of very high calibre. Mitali Das’ abhinaya was well calibrated and powerful, Enakshi Das’ dancing skills were captivating and she excelled at both nrtta and abhinaya. The final Mira Bhajan, a piece with a strong narrative theme about the god Krishna, was danced by both with great skill and conviction, taking on different roles as per the story.
There is not much odissi to be seen in the UK, therefore the efforts of Manchester-based Mitali Dev and the organisation Nrityakunj, which was responsible for presenting this dance performance deserve much praise.