Classicism on the threshold of modernity : expanding the physical parameters of Odissi Dance for contemporary audiences
This thesis examines the present practice of Odissi, the classical dance form of Orissa in Eastern India, with the view to identifying its strengths as a performing art and building on them. The objectives were to share this dance tradition both on stage and in the studio, not just as a stylised Indian movement form of limited interest, but as an integrating dance experience of relevance to today's multicultural world. The primary concern has been determining parallels with yoga and ritual and addressing the question of transcendence through dance, as understood in the Indian tradition. A choreological perspective has been adopted for this study and Odissi viewed from the position of the student, performer, choreographer, teacher and audience member, all roles which this researcher has performed personally. The basic parameters of Odissi's movement and dance techniques have been analysed informed by this discipline. Odissi has been reviewed historically, both when it was a medieval temple ritual and more recently when it was reconstructed as a classical Indian art after the country's Independence. The hypothesis that the practice of this dance was unconsciously governed by a bedrock of tantric thought forming its covert structures has been explored. Choreographic works have been created in collaboration with traditional musicians using established forms of composition to explain working methods within the tradition and experience its limitations. An alternate way of embodying Odissi based on tantric practices has been outlined. Works that explore this and that stretch the traditional sound-movement nexus of this dance form in the process, have also been created. The results of this research project hence fall broadly into the following inter-related areas: an understanding of Odissi dance and movement in relation to its culture and society; a hypothesis about the phenomenological nature of the medieval Orissan temple dance ritual; an outline of an alternate way of practicing Odissi based on tantric principles; and a choreological documentation of compositions created that make the practice of dance a form of yoga as defined by the Indian tradition.