Great dancing shines despite delays and glitches

The dancers at this event were accomplished and skilled, and the cause was a lofty one, but as for the event itself, the less said the better. The motive was charitable - to raise awareness about the plight of poor rural women in Odisha. They are uneducated and  have to walk long distances for their basic needs, and in the process are vulnerable to violence and harassment. The grandmother of one such victim, who passed away after she was brutally raped and left for dead, was brought to Delhi for this award function.
The event was organized by Manasi Pradhan from Odisha. She comes from a rural background – her father was a farmer and mother a housewife, but she was encouraged to go to school. She was the first woman from her village to pass high school and currently, she is the only breadwinner for her family.
OYSS is an organization from Odisha which is working for rural women. The recipients for the awards that evening were all illustrious names – Shabana Azmi,  actor and social activist, Chanda Kochhar, CEO of ICICI Bank, Kamla Bhasin, social activist, Meenakshi Gopinath, educationist and former principal of LSR, Geeta Chandran, a leading Bharatnatyam dancer, Deepa Malik, a medal-winning para-athlete, and Madhusmita Panda, a fashion designer from Odisha. We went a little early, expecting a shortage of seats owing to the illustrious gathering, and many of the recipients were also there on time. But it is the political guests who usually come late, and then the event becomes all about waiting for them. Finally, when they came, there were the usual speeches, the awards, but the long awaited speeches by the awardees were sacrificed.
The performances later, which were also way behind their schedule, were the saving grace. But despite the noble intentions, the brave organizer and the famous awardees, the event was so badly organized that I felt ashamed to see Lipsa Das sitting on the floor outside the toilet doing her makeup.
Arushi Mudgal (Pic; Anoop Arora)
The first dancer on stage, nearly two hours behind schedule, was Aarushi Mudgal. Aarushi has trained under her aunt and guru Madhavi Mudgal at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. She has toured extensively as a soloist within India and abroad. She is empanelled with the ICCR, Sangeet Natak Akademi has presented her with the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar, and she has been awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award in 2014.
(Pic: Anoop Arora)
The piece that Aarushi presented for the evening was Sopan, which means ‘steps’. Sopan talks about the journey of mankind. There are crimes and violence, the root cause of which is desire, which keeps us away from each other. The music was by Madhup Mudgal. The life of a human being moves one step at a time. As you step from your childhood to your youth, you are trapped by maya, which shows you money, power and desire. And as you age, the veils – avaran – are removed. You realise the destructible nature of all material things, that they are all short-lived. A young woman may dress herself with ornaments, but all is finally going to become ashes. In the same narrative, Aarushi went on to relate the life of a lotus to the development of chakras of a body. The lotus grows in the marsh, the mooldhara chakra, and as the shackles of maya are broken, the chakras awaken and the lotus blooms in the sahasrara chakra.
(Pic: Anoop Arora)
Aarushi is a very fine dancer. Her technique in Odissi is impeccable. The tribhanga and the footwork are excellent. Her feet during footwork arch amazingly and she has been following strictly in the footsteps of Madhaviji. Her abhinaya for the piece was very sensitively executed, interspersed with nritta and good stage coverage.
Swati Tiwari (Pic: Anoop Arora)
Next up on stage was Swati Tiwari. She is the disciple of Geetanjali Lal under the Jaipur gharana, and she is known for her choreographies. The first composition was an ode to Shiva and Durga, portraying the goddess as jagat janani, mahishasurmardini, himnandini. The dance had footwork, chakkars with footwork, tihais and tukdas. She did abhinaya on a piece of poetry on female infanticide and female empowerment. Her technique was sound but the pace looked slightly slow.
(Pic: Anoop Arora)
However, I sympathised with her heartily because she had to exit the stage multiple times to play the correct tracks when the wrong ones were played repeatedly, and her performance was also interrupted for a political guest.
Lipsa Dash (Pic: Anoop Arora)

The third dancer for the evening was Lipsa Dash. She has trained under Padmashree Guru Shri Gangadhar Pradhan, and has a Masters in Sociology from Utkal University, Odisha, besides having completed her Alankar Purna from Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Mumbai. She has been awarded the Singaramani, Sur Singar Samsad, Mumbai, among other awards and accolades. She is an ICCR-empanelled artist.
(Pic: Anoop Arora)
Her performance was called Navarasa, and was about the nine emotions or feelings that are the quintessence of any art, be it music, dance or drama. The motive was to convey these thoughts or feelings to the audience, for which incidences from the Ramayana were used. Hasya ras – Surpanakha has her nose chopped off by Lakshman as she goes around trying to attract both the brothers to herself. Bhayam – the Bhimakar of Ravana scares Sita, who is staying as his captive. Karuna – Rama goes around the woods calling out for Sita when she is kidnapped. Jatayu finds the demon king and fights him, but has his wing slashed. That’s how Rama finds him as he is lying there, almost dead. Rama pours water in his mouth, giving him the position of his father. Raudram – Rama and Ravana fight a ferocious battle and Ravana is vanquished. Shanti – in ‘Munijan ananda pradam’, Rama is a generous lord giving shanti rasa to his devotees.
(Pic: Anoop Arora)
Lipsa has faultless Odissi technique, incorporating a lot of movement and footwork. Her abhinaya too was appreciated. She did her piece very expressively and energetically, with many high leaps. It was sad to see a performance by a dancer of such a calibre so late in the evening, when most of the audience had left. Ranjini Nair, who was the next performer, must have been watched not even by a handful of them. Lipsa said that this choreography “is close to my heart, since it was taught to me by my guru and is one of the oldest ones. We would do it as a group, and so doing a solo was a challenge, since one person is playing all the characters. I feel my guru’s blessings on me all the time.”
Ranjini Nair (Pic: Anoop Arora)