Story-telling is an age-old Indian tradition. It has strong roots in the various strands of performing arts. To depict this unique association, Sharmila Biswas, Bickram Ghosh and Siddha Live in India organized the Calcutta International Performing Arts Festival at the G.D. Birla Sabhagar on November 27 and 28. Conceptualized by Biswas, Storytellers showcased two dance productions based on Odissi and Kuchipudi.
Chaturmukhi offered innovative insights. It presented the conventional style of Odissi in a new way that included a contemporary flavour. Very few performers seem to possess such vision. Performed by the students of the Odissi Vision and Movement Centre under the guidance of Biswas, Chaturmukhi was a four-part production, each part capturing the mood and expressions of a different rural art form of Odisha.
It started with Devi Bharni, which evoked the mystical spirit of Sambaleswari Devi. This was followed by Trikayee, which presented the musical motif and free spirit of Prahlad Natak. In Pancharasavali, the sakhi in the role of the guru showed Radha the five-fold path to salvation. The climactic number was Patuar, the processional dance of rathyatra.
The traditional sequence of Odissi was recreated by the choreographer, who adopted an original approach. Neelay Sengupta was impressive, and his duet with Biswas enjoyable.
A dancer evolves through experience and learning. The selection of costumes, the pattern of choreography and a willingness to accept mature roles play an important part in a senior dancer’s performance. Biswas’s movements and her stage presence reflected these truths. Shaswati Garai Ghosh was another talented performer whose lyrical movements were praiseworthy. The entire team demonstrated a perfect understanding of the art form through its scintillating performance. The artists were accompanied by Bijaya Kumar Barik (pakhawaj), Rajendra Kumar Swain (vocals), Soumya Joshi (flute), Nibedita Bhattacharya (narrator), and others.
Another dance production of the festival was titled Yajna. Conceived and choreographed by Vyjayanthi Kashi, it celebrated womanhood through the stories of Renuka, Sita and Ambe. It portrayed the strength of these women through precise dance movements and diverse choreography patterns. The students of the Shambhavi School of Dance, Bangalore, showed their talents. Vyjayanthi Kashi, Prateeksha Kashi, Vidya, Sandhya Rao, Meghana Venkat, Mahalaxmi, Banupriya, Gururaj, and others were the performers.