Upasana, a Wilmington, Mass-based Odissi dance school presented “Vandana”, a full-length dance concert on Sep. 22 at Chinmaya Mission Boston in Andover. Through the efforts of founder Mouli Pal, Upasana has been engaged in the work of promoting the classical dance form of Odissi in the New England area. Known for movements that are reminiscent of temple sculptures, this ancient dance form from Orissa experienced a revival through the initiatives of one of its most celebrated exponents, Kelucharan Mohapatra. Mouli Pal, a disciple of gurus Kelucharan Mohapatra and Nandini Ghosal, presented a well-conceived program through “Vandana” which also featured strong performances by Upasana’s students.
Befitting the venue, “Vandana” was a homage to bhakti rasa, each performance an ode to a Hindu God ranging from Ganesha, Vishnu and Shiva to Hanuman and Ganga, among others. Beginning with an admirable Ganesh Vandana by Upasana’s junior artists, the concert presented a total of 11 dance items. Including two solo performances, the child artists showed patience and maturity in executing Odissi’s demanding movements and postures.
The concert gained momentum with “Jaya Mahesha,” a Shiva Stuti presented by Shamoyita Mukherjee. Choreographed by Rathikant Mohapatra, the dance showcased both nritta and abhinaya as Mukherjee portrayed Lord Shiva in the aspects of creation, preservation and destruction. A dancer who moves with effortless grace, Mukherjee held the audience’s interest throughout the performance. This is an artist to watch. The Pallavi in raga Megh was brought to life by a group of Upasana’s senior artists. The mood of the dance was vibrant, captured well through not only the dancers’ skilful movements but also the colorful costumes. The group also performed a Ganga Stuti, choreographed to striking effect by Mouli Pal and the Upasana Ensemble. Chand Sripad rendered Tulsidas’ “Sri Ramchandra Kripalu” in a solo performance in which her own bhakti was transparent.
Mouli Pal’s Sabhinaya Pallavi and Abhinaya solos were highlights of the evening. Choreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, the Sabhinaya Pallavi depicted Lord Krishna’s dance with gopis. Remarkably light-footed, Pal conveyed the playfulness in the choreography as she negotiated the fast-paced rhythms and delivered the graceful pirouettes that are hallmarks of the Odissi dance form. Pal was also in her element in the Abhinaya piece titled “Ahe Nila Saila” which enacted the stories of Gajendra moksham, the Narasimha avatar and the disrobing of Draupadi. A dancer who exudes calm, Pal was nevertheless at ease in this abhinaya-laden piece, her eyes effectively conveying meaning. The Moksha by Upasana’s ensemble of senior artists was a prayer to Goddess Durga and served as a fitting conclusion.
At the end of the event, Mouli Pal’s introduction of her senior artists who lead thriving professional lives beyond Odissi was an inspiring reminder that professional success need not preclude artistic pursuits. As she thanked the audience, Pal said, “When we dance, our worries go away, and the world becomes a better place. We wanted to share this with you through the concert.”