Alien feet that dances to Odissi

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  • Published 13.11.10

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 12: Danseuse Masako Ono, who hails from Japan, has made Bhubaneswar her home, all for the love of Odissi. Today Ono, who is trained in modern dance and hip-hop, is regarded as one of the most promising Odissi dancers.

“My parents loved to attend Martha Graham’s modern dance as a hobby,” says Ono, who started learning dance from the age of four.

The classes initially attracted her to dance but gradually she learnt some contemporary dance forms at American dancer Martha Graham’s dance academy in Tokyo. However, this wasn’t the only thing that attracted her to India.

“I had read about the Taj Mahal and since I was a student of architecture I visited India to see this wonderful monument in 1994,” she says.

“During that trip, I also found about the various dance forms in this country. Gradually, I developed an interest in Bharatnatyam, Mohiniattam and other south Indian classical dance forms,” she adds.

After returning to Tokyo, Ono enrolled for a Bharatnatyam class there.

“Though I was good at Bharatnatyam, but I was not enjoying it. So my teacher introduced me to Odissi dance and showed me a video of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s performance. He also suggested that Odissi would suit my personality,” she says.

“I was completely mesmerised by Guruji’s performance and immediately decided that I would pursue Odissi,” says Ono who had never considered taking up dancing as a profession till then.

She joined Nrityagram in Bangalore and trained for five years under reputed dancer Protima Gauri Bedi.

“Odissi dance steps require a lot of flexibility. To develop that, I had to practice yoga and learn about Indian mythology,” she says.

After her training in Nrityagram, Ono decided to be a soloist and moved to Bhubaneswar in 2002.

“I had visited Bhubaneswar many times before and had taken tips from Guruji (Kelucharan Mohapatra). But after I settled here, I received a lot of help from people such as Giridhar Gamang, our Japanese ambassador, and many local dancers,” she says.

Ono feels people here love to see foreigners perform and that gives her a lot of courage to try out new things or perform on contemporary pieces of dance. Today, Ono runs the Masako Ono Performing Arts Centre close to the aerodrome area. “I have a lot of students who learn yoga, hip-hop, Odissi and even contemporary dance forms,” she says.

Ono wishes to organise a few group performances now by experimenting with the choreography. She also has a centre for Odissi in Tokyo.

“Since Odissi dance suits the personality of Japanese, it is gaining in popularity there,” she says.Ono has already performed many times in the city and at various dance festivals in the state. She has also performed in various parts of the country and abroad.