Dance of India
is considered to be one of the oldest surviving dance
forms based on archaeological evidence. The traditional
dance form of Orissa, it owes its origin to the temple
dances of the devadasis (temple dancers). Possibly,
the oldest classical dance form in the country, Odissi
has been mentioned in inscriptions, depicted on scultures,
in temples like the Brahmeswara and the dancing hall
of the Sun Temple at Konark. In the 1950s, the entire
dance form was revitalised, thanks to the Abhinaya Chandrika
and sculpted dance poses found in temples.
Odissi as we know it today is the result of a long process
of reconstruction from various dance traditions of Orissa,
for instance the Maharis, the Goti puas and the Bhandanritya
traditions. Maharis are the counterparts of the Devadasis
of the South. Goti puas are men who dressed as female
dancers and danced like the Maharis. These artistes
are not allowed to dance in temples after the age of
Kelucharan Mohapatra, an erstwhile Goti Pua, is the
greatest exponent and guru of this ancient dance form.
While the form is curvaceous, concentrating on the tribhang
or the division of the body into three parts, head,
bust and torso; the mudras and the expressions are similar
to those of Bharatnatyam. Odissi performances are replete
with lores of the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, Lord
Krishna. It is a soft, lyrical classical dance which
depicts the ambience of Orissa and the philosophy of
its most popular deity, Lord Jagannath.
Odissi is based on the popular devotion to Lord Krishna
and the verses of the Sanskrit play Geet Govinda are
used to depict the love and devotion to God. The Odissi
dancers use their head, bust and torso in soft flowing
movements to express specific moods and emotions.