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Selection row trips Konark dance fest

- Question mark over choice of artistes

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 7: The Konark Dance Festival that concluded on Wednesday has disappointed many art lovers not only because it was a low-key affair, but also for the selection of artistes who performed.

This was arguably the first time in the history of the festival that none with any background in dance were present in the final selection committee.

A panel, including members from the dance fraternity and the departments of culture and dance related organisations, had decided on the arrangements and selection for the fest by June. But, after the previous culture and tourism secretary, Ashok Tripathy, was transferred on June 29, the newly appointed tourism secretary, Sudarshanpal Thakur, made changes in the selection panel.

The previous jury members for selection of artistes included the tourism and culture secretary, director of the culture department, president, vice-president and secretary of the Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi, dancers Illeana Citaristi and Ratikant Mohapatra, chief executive officer of the Odissi Research Centre and members of prominent cultural organisations such as former president of the Bhubaneswar Music Circle and the Odisha Chapter convenor of SPIC MACAY. But, the new committee included the Odisha Cine Critic Association secretary, the tourism department director, CEO of the Odissi Research Centre, the akademi secretary and dance critic Shyamhari Chakra.

“By July 15, the tourism department had finalised the artistes recommended by our committee. But then they said they would make another final list. When I was informed, I came down from Chennai to attend a meeting that was never conducted. And when they decided the final list, I was not there,” said Chakra, the only member with a background of classical dance.

While previous committee members feel the present tourism secretary has arbitrarily struck off exponent Ranjana Gauhar’s name and included Purnashree Raut’s group, Thakur was not available for an elaborate clarification.

“How many groups did I remove? I am in Cuttack and cannot discuss these issues on phone right now,” he said when The Telegraph called him.

The fest that attracts thousands of tourists every year usually showcases at least one celebrity dancer or living legends of the likes of Pandit Birju Maharaj. But this year, apart from Padmashri awardee Illeana Citaristi, there were hardly any prominent names.

“I feel the previous committee was definitely more competent that the new one since no dancer or critic was present in the committee. I’m guessing they wished to take suggestions from people of various fields,” said Citaristi.