When Local Goes Global: Odissi’s Identity Crises

 

Odissi is one of many cultural practices in the world that has expanded beyond its local roots to a national and international framework. Considered a relatively new style in the pantheon of Indian classical dance, Odissi’s continued evolution on a global, rather than local [or semi-local] scale has raised concerns with regards to the loss of its unique cultural identity. Debates regarding authenticity, purity and dilution of the dance form have dominated many a seminar in the Odissi community in Odisha. Odissi’s growing popularity internationally asks that we re-examine tradition and modernity in a changing context, where the parameters that once defined the form are now blurred. The challenge for this generation of dance practitioners is to evolve the form in a modern context whilst maintaining the unique distinguishing elements of Odissi. To do so requires a thorough understanding of the dance form, as well as a willingness to explore new ideas.

Continue reading “When Local Goes Global: Odissi’s Identity Crises”

Value Systems: A Quiet Rant

Hello Lovely Readers: Odissi Nomad (yours truly) went on a rather extended sabbatical, hence the long gap. The last few weeks/months have been intense both professionally and personally. As life would have it, circumstances have forced me to take a step back for once, out of a momentum that had been going fairly strong since the beginning of the year. Of late, recent events have made me think quite long and hard about the dance world and the dance field in general. Continue reading “Value Systems: A Quiet Rant”

Long-Distance Learning

Hello Readers! Apologies for the delay – I was enjoying a small bit of downtime before leaving again tomorrow for Murcia (in Spain) for the last leg of my tour. The last several weeks have been a blur – minus the few days here and there, it has been a whirlwind of activity but in that very wonderful way of opening many new ideas and possibilities. It is hard to believe that by this time next week I will be back in India and back to my life there.

Continue reading “Long-Distance Learning”

Educate to Engage: Building New Audiences

In a few days, I will be leaving for a 1-month dance tour of Europe. I having been doing these tours for the last couple of years, traveling to different cities to present Odissi through performances, workshops and lecture-demonstrations.  My time in Europe has been an incredibly eye-opening experience on many levels, and is something I look forward to every year. Besides the opportunity to visit and learn about these beautiful countries with their vast histories and culture, it is particularly interesting to understand the relationship between Indian culture and performing arts in the local cultural context.

Continue reading “Educate to Engage: Building New Audiences”

Negotiating Values

Of late, I have been thinking a lot about the implications of cultural values in the in the teaching/learning process. When I started my dance training in the US/Canada, the system under which I learned was more or less on the conservative side, I imagine it was [somewhat] modeled after the Guru-Shishya parampara system in India. The expected behaviors were made clear from the very beginning: how we addressed our teachers/Gurus, how we treated the physical dance space, our dress, attitudes, etc. The learning expanded beyond the classroom and permeated into our day-to-day lives. Even from a young age we had to learn to develop the necessary discipline to incorporate dance into our daily activities. Our teachers/Gurus had a much larger role in our lives than just learning movements in a classroom. When I began traveling to India, transitioning into that system was not that difficult since that grounding had been established from early on. Despite having been born and raised outside of India, I never questioned the system under which I learned, rather I rationalized it as part of the process of the classical arts and accepted it as the way, really the only way to imbibe the essence of the art form. I learned what I was taught and left it to my teachers to determine what I would learn and when. I completely surrendered to this system with full faith.

Continue reading “Negotiating Values”