I wish I could tell you all I know there is to know about Odissi. I can only tell you of my personal experiences, and the little bit of research that I have done on it.
Odissi is one of the eight classical dances of India, with origins in Orissa [or Odisha] – east India. A dance once performed within the temples of Orissa, what we see of Odissi today is not necessarily what it once was millenia ago. However, a unique characteristic of this dance is its fluid and graceful torso movements, framed within its lyrical and subtle embodiment of movement.
The dance, before colonization, was a temple [ritualistic] dance and matrilineal tradition – taught from mother to adopted daughter. The dancers within the temples were known as the maharis – and this is where Odissi originates: the Mahari tradition.
I’ll provide links at the end of this page that will provide information on what is known about Odissi today. What I will focus on beyond this page is how I came to know Odissi…or how it came into my awareness. This does not mean I do not know how Odissi is defined, taught or experienced today; I do. It is difficult for me to separate myself from my first hand experience of this dance form, jettison those experiences and fully embrace how it is presented today. I embrace today’s expression as an art form with a beginner’s mind; however, what I embody and honor is something different. So to explain what Odissi is as it is expressed today, for you, the unsuspecting reader, I do need to direct your attention to those that have learned it from flesh and blood gurus; from those that have done the academic and cultural work and research on the found objects of this art form.
The way in which I have been taught is through my dreams. In my dreams, I have been taught how to move, philosophy, the concept of embodiment, and maybe three specific movements that can be used in Odissi. But the most important teachings I’ve received through dreams have been philosophy and movement. This is what I bring to the Odissi of today. This is what comes through when I dance Odissi…
Priyadarshini (Roy) Banerjee – My first formal classes were with Priyadarshini