Asian Music and Dance

Odissi training in Orissa

Rani Natalie Rout was granted a travelling scholarship by Milapfest to study at Srjan, the Institute established by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. She describes the challenges and achievements of her two-week training in July 2009.

It was 47 degrees centigrade the day I reached Orissa and I doubted how far I’d be able to get with my dancing in the heat. Luckily, the temperatures became more bearable over the next few days as I began my intense period of training. I was initially sceptical about learning without air conditioning under such hot conditions, but I forgot about the heat while I was dancing and quite enjoyed training under electric fans. There was, of course, the problem of frequent power cuts. 

“It was her(Rajashreeji’s) performance that secured in my mind my desire to only learn odissi from the Kelucharan Mohapatra gharana”

Guru Ratikant Mohapatra (son of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra) was a delight to learn from. Moreover, I was privileged to learn from Sujata Mohapatra and Rajashree Praharaj at the same time. I had only been expecting one guru, but my good fortune brought me three of the best odissi dancers in the business. I had previously learnt odissi from Sujata ji via Dance-India and already knew how great she was, but I witnessed Rajashree ji’s dance for the first time on my first night in Orissa. 

I was lucky to be present in Bhubaneswar at the same time as the Guru Debaprasad award performances. For three nights we travelled to ‘Rabindra Mandap’ to witness several odissi, kuchipudi and kathak dancers. It was here that I saw Rajashree ji perform. It was her performance that secured in my mind my desire to only learn odissi from the Kelucharan Mohapatra gharana, especially from Srjan, at his own institute.  

Over the duration of my stay I received sole attention and this proved to be invaluable. I learnt two dances within the period of two weeks: Hamsadhwani Pallavi, a beautiful pure dance item and ‘Lalita Lavanga Lata’, an ashtapadi abhinaya choreographed by Guru Ratikant Mohapatra to the music of Pandit Jasraj (raga: Basant, tala: Ekatali). The Pallavi (implying elaboration) “is an exposition not only of the dance but also of the music that accompanies it. The graceful and lyrical movement of the dancer’s form is supported by intricate rhythm patterns of exceptional beauty. Together they create a beautiful tapestry of rhythm, music and movement. Raga: Hamsadhwani, tala: Ekatali, choreography: Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Music: Pandit Bubaneshwar Mishra” (Guru Ratikant Mohapatra).              

My daily time slots devoted to dancing were 8am to 10am and 4pm to 6pm. There were challenges with both time slots. In the mornings, it involved waking up early and travelling. And by the afternoon,  the day’s heat would have worn me out, leaving me with very little energy. The interval between the lessons involved practice and understanding of the music involved by studying tala and laya. 

Ratikant ji is a perfectionist and this was reflected in his teaching. Every small movement was criticised and corrected and although I only spent two weeks under his guidance, I feel that my body awareness has certainly changed and I know exactly what I have to work on by myself.  

I applied for this travelling scholarship with the intention of reaching a new level of perfection in my dance. I will let you be the judge of the outcome. 



Join the weekly Pulse newsletter and we will send you the latest news and articles straight to your inbox