Touching people with her Art
``A DANCER is not just a dancer. She is a part of this environment. She exists in a society and its happenings and experiences the impact all the time. If her art does not reflect the existing milieu, it (the art) will stagnate," said Sonal Mansingh, outstanding exponent of Odissi, who was in the city recently to perform and present lecture-demonstration under the auspices of Brahma Gana Sabha, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Kalapradarsini.
Vanavil Panpattu Mayyam, in its annual Bharathiyar festival held at the poet-patriot's residence in Triplicane, honoured her with the Bharati Award 2003. This centre devoted to the memory of the great poet, has so far honoured eminent personalities, foremost among them being the President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Sonal, fifth woman recipient of this award, began her speech on this occasion aptly with a verse from Pancha Kanya, her own production (focussing on the independent spirit of Five Women down the ages) which goes thus: ``Pancha Kanya, Desa Dhanya, Bhoomi Dhanya, Bharati," and there she received an instant ovation from the audience.
Sonal a social activist, thinker, orator, researcher, choreographer, and teacher blends all these beautifully with her dancing. She has travelled widely and is respected and acknowledged for her exquisite artistry. Her holistic approach to her art is born out of her decades of training, and experience that she communicates constantly to the world at large through her artistic interpretations. She is the recipient of several awards and honours that include Padma Vibhushan from the President of India. As an administrator, Sonal plays a vital role in fostering and propagating our arts through institutional efforts. Talking about her experiences in the field, Sonal Mansingh said, ``My exposure to other art traditions of the world, the universality of the power inherent in each of them, their role as a major binding force, are assimilated by me for the benefit of humanity." Those who have seen her moving portrayal of Mary of Magdalene would understand how effortlessly she transforms her artistic discipline to immerse the individual in spiritual bliss and reach out to society at large on issues like religious tolerance etc., through cross-cultural endeavours.
Sonal's basic training in Bharatanatyam, Chhau, Indian Music and her deep study of Sanskrit literature, have enabled her to compose several original works with intense philosophical insight, both in their form and content. ``I feel it is always a learning process, be it a seminar or a panel discussion, concerning women, environment, or re-interpreting our ancient myths, I share my perceptions and concerns and that fulfils my artistic goal of aiming at life here and beyond," said this Grand Lady of Odissi whose interpretation of the symbolic Kshana Vidya, the Ashta Cakras, threeDhatus (Kaama, Roopa, Aroopa) all from the Buddhistic discipline, that were beautifully narrated in a piece called Soonya Mahari in spoken Oriya (mixture of Prakrit). Sabari, the living energy within the individual, calls out for the relinquishing of the constant restlessness of the Self and come to Her for refuge. As Sonal depicted Sabari who resides in the fourth Loka among the seven Lokas, she was indeed the feminine force that pervaded the entire space, holding the audience as though under a magical spell and transporting them to a higher plane altogether. Does this not reflect the statement given by the doyen at the outset?
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