International Odissi Festival 2003: Seminar - Aloka Kanungo on Rabindra Sangeet
Duration: 00:34:20; Aspect Ratio: 1.364:1; Hue: 27.955; Saturation: 0.042; Lightness: 0.227; Volume: 0.136; Cuts per Minute: 1.892; Words per Minute: 21.778
Summary: The 2nd International Odissi Festival was organised by IPAP between August 28 - 31, 2003, in Washington D.C. Dedicated to the memory of Guru Pankaj Charan Das, who passed away in June 2003, it brought together Odissi dancers and scholars from all over the world.
Aloka Kanungo has been a dancer, actor and AIR artist since childhood. Initially trained by Guru Raghunatha Dutta and Guru Mayadhar Rout, she blossomed into a dancer under the tutelage and watchful eyes of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. She received “Nritya Shree”,”Nritya Visharad” and “Nritya Praveen” from Kala Vikash Kendra, Cuttack. She has received many prestigious awards , including the Shiromoni Puroshkar and the Mahari Award. She runs her own institution, Shinjan Nrityalaya, in Kolkata.
Jayant Kastuar emphasises on how the seminar topics are connected to the performances. There are differences between stotras and slokas when it comes to setting dance to them. They both have distinct aural characters.
He goes on to introduce Aloka Kanungo. Though much of Odissi literature is in Oriya, the moment it is seen as a national art a need is felt to interpret it using other languages.
Artists have worked in languages such as Hindi, Bengali and Gujarati. There have also been attempts to use poetry in the English language.
Aloka Kanungo speaks,
Songs are indispensable for any Odissi recital. They are indicative of the relationship between vachika abhinaya and satvika abhinaya. The importance of language cannot be underestimated. As a resident of Kolkata, Aloka Kanungo decided to choreograph some of Tagore's poems for the Bengali audience. She believes that Tagore wrote at a time when Bangla needed that attention. He wanted that everybody should sing and dance so his lyrics are meant for the common people, simple and lyrical.
Rabindra Sangeet is more bhavapradhan (emotion) than arthapradhan (meaning). The totality of the bhava takes more precedence. Kanungo chooses a 'barsar gaan', a poem on nature.
The heart dances like a peacock; much like the feathers of the peacock, the thoughts that course through my mind are joyous, myriad specks of colour. And when I see the monsoon, I am swayed. In the rains, the branches of the bakul tree swing merrily; my heart follows them too. My braid has come undone and hair covers my eyes. My anchal is in disarray; there are flowers scattered around and the swollen river brings water to the village.
Kanungo explains that such a poem is meant to connect with the audience and attempt to evoke rasa in them. An experiment in another language can also be readily followed by an audience who can understand her gestures.
The nayika enters, after a series of preliminary dance steps covering the stage, the songs begin.
She mimics the dancing motions of a peacock in different ways to bring out the similarity in her feelings and the many-hued peacock feathers.
Then swaying from side, she shows the branches of the bakul tree; her heart sways in much the same way.
The river, swollen with the rains, flows steadily towards the village, bringing with it the promise of growth, a new crop, new beginnings.
Kanungo speaks - when I started composing this, as we do, while treating a poem, we are at liberty to change a poem. But this cannot be done with Rabindra Sangeet. Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra comments on the percussion instruments used.
DN Patnaik asks her about her experience of setting Tagore's poetry to Odissi music.
"As I have danced it, I am..."
Shaina: Is it rigid - she cannot repeat a line or extend a narrative (?)?
Madhavi Mudgal: You can repeat a full line but you cannot cut a line in half.
When you pick up a piece of poetry which is widely followed in a region and belongs to an accepted tradition, the dancer works with the dual issues of respecting the musical structure of that tradition and working with Odissi.
Right now we are talking about sahitya and not sangeet. I have done Karna-Kunti samvad which has never been sung before, I have used Odissi music but used the bhava from Tagore's writing. We can't sacrifice one element for the other because you have to respect the tenets of Odissi even as you work with a different text.
You take the sabdaratna - the language but use it in the idiom of Odissi. He talks about the chhanda of Odissi and how it could meld with such poetry. We have to maintain the chhanda of Odissi.
This is a delicate issue and one could take sides. Sonal Mansingh once danced to Rabindra Sangeet and some people from Bengal felt very strongly about the repetition of lines and the use of certain percussion instruments. They said - you're not keeping Tagore's tradition. But she said - this is my dance and I have to maintain that tradition too.
She cites the example of a Kathak dancer who tried to dance to the shabd kirtan from the Sikh tradition. In India it also comes down to cultural and religious sensitivities, so no conclusive solutions to these issues exist.
Shaina: "We are the young dancers or artists who want to look for new texts. You need to know your form and collaborate with other artists perhaps. But we need to know where the ground opens."
You could study a dance form for a sustained period of time and then look to other texts and music, and create new texts.
Kastuar again talks.
The point is for the younger generation to know that when you take up something like Rabindra Sangeet which has a set pattern of performance, you need to respect it. This is the problem with 'gyeya' (?) parampara - sung poetry; you need to be careful when they are used popularly by a certain culture.