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New odds in Odissi



The Phenomenol Woman and other tales... Rekha Tandon in New Delhi. Photo: Sandeep Saxena.

IT IS the definitive era of fusion. Watertight compartments in the arts, originally constructed by us, are finally yielding to osmosis. And as the waves criss-cross, there are bound to be some tremors. That's evolution for you. This Friday evening at the India Habitat Centre promises one such experience, as Odissi dancer Rekha Tandon performs Odissi Mandala, a series of choreographic pieces set to various soundtracks, including English commentary, Bach's Cello Suite and other `non-traditional' accompaniments for Odissi.

The performance, says Rekha, who collaborates with her musician husband Michael Weston, is "very much geared for a contemporary Indian urban audience". Rekha's research and experimentation have led her through hatha yoga, with a special emphasis on movements as projections from the spinal chord, and various texts, besides her PhD, just submitted, on "Expanding the Physical Parameters of Odissi Dance for Contemporary Audiences."

Working on the concept of continuous movement as a parallel for still postures in yoga, Rekha says, "It has become a wonderful meditative state. I just don't want to dance now unless it comes from a still state of mind."

Odissi Mandala, feels Rekha, reaffirms Odissi as "a very current, relevant, `for you', `for us' kind of art form". Trained under Madhavi Mudgal, Rekha finds that while dance compositions based on Sanskrit poetry or other ancient sources "are wonderful", they also "alienate the audience" concluding, "That's why people enjoy theatre so much."

Authors, poets, linguists agree that English `kills' the poetry of classical languages. Yet Rekha has chosen English lyrics. "I wanted to work in English," she declares. "I don't dream or think in Oriya."

Starting with a prayer to Saraswati, Rekha takes off on a journey peopled with characters like the Phenomenal Woman, who explores "what a woman can and can't do in love and in life".

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