In memory of a guru
A dance residency celebrates Odissi legend Kelucharan Mohapatra, at a venue he was associated with for decades
"Practising hard makes you a good dancer. But the day you embrace humility is when you become an artiste." When disciples of Odissi exponent Kelucharan Mohapatra speak of him, they remember this life lesson with as much fondness as his training sessions. This perhaps is testimony to the personality of the Padma Vibhushan recipient, who despite his accomplishments, remained the humble village man that he was until he breathed his last in 2004.
Starting this Saturday, the August Dance Residency organised by the NCPA will pay tribute to Mohapatra, who, through the month-long dance workshops that he conducted at the venue in the 1980s and '90s, created a strong base for Odissi in Mumbai. The residency will begin with a performance by Mohapatra's son, Ratikant, a noted dancer, percussionist, teacher and archivist; senior students of Mohapatra and accomplished dancers Jhelum Paranjape and Daksha Mashruwala; and students of Srjan, a dance academy that the guru founded with his wife.
"The opening performance will be staged at the Tata Theatre because that's where Guruji would perform the production that emerged from the workshops. A film on his life will be screened at the Godrej Dance Theatre; it's where he would train students," shares Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, head – programming, dance, at the NCPA. For Dasgupta, the residency is a special one, for she has herself been a student of Mohapatra.
"My first memory of Guruji was of him talking about everyday things with his students. But then he got up to dance. Here was an ageing man portraying the beauty of Radha with such grace that I saw art transcend the body before my eyes," recalls Dasgupta.
Hailing from the artist village of Raghurajpur, Mohapatra was also a percussionist and patta chitra artist. And his sense of rhythm informed his art form, as did his power of observation. "Guruji would keenly observe temple sculpture, and that, he would say, was his grammar for dance. He shaped Odissi with his own artistry," says Mashruwala.
The humility that Mohapatra's students speak of also touched the audience. Says Dasgupta, "You didn't have to be trained in dance to come away mesmerised when he was on stage."
FROM: August 11 to 13
AT: NCPA, Nariman Point.
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