RDM Studio Newsletter August 2021

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RDM Studio Newsletter
August 2021

Happy Janmashtami!



Jayadev’s lyrical poem Gita Govinda is a unique work and source of religious inspiration in Vaishnavism.

Poet Jayadev grew up in Kenduli Sasan and studied in the Prachi valley, Khurda district of Orissa that had a history of worshiping Krishna. His wife Padmavati was an accomplished dancer herself. Written in the 12th century, the Sanskrit songs became popular in Orissa, Bengal and South India. Gita Govinda became a part of the daily temple rituals at Puri, performed every evening for Jagannath (another form of Vishnu). The book is organized in 12 chapters. Each chapter has 24 prabandhas or divisions. These divisions contain couplets grouped into eight called Ashtapadis. In 1792 Sir William Jones translated them into English.
While writing the eternal love story of Radha and Krishna, legend has it that Poet Jayadev was hesitant with the moment where Radha places her feet on Krishna’s head as a gesture of victory. He took a break from his writing and went for a bath. In his absence the couplet was completed and the food prepared by Padmavati was eaten. This was seen as a divine blessing from Krishna himself.


Shringaar ras is beautifully expressed as Radha waits for Krishna endlessly, expressing jealousy when he is with other maidens. She dresses up for him, fights with him, pleads with him, begs his forgiveness and is ecstatic when they are finally together. At the same time the verses also depict Krishna’s 12 moods ranging from exuberance to being apologetic to becoming a passionate lover. The entire gamut of emotions of an epic love story or Raas Leela (Dance of divine love) is expressed in the Gita Govinda. On a deeper spiritual level, Radha is the Atma or individual soul longing to unite with the Brahman or Krishna.
Considering the subject matter these verses are taught after students attain maturity to express such a depth of emotions. Famous compositions include Sakhe hey, Priya charu sheley, Kuru yadunandana, and Ya he madhava. My favorite piece on stage is Lalita Labanga lata where Radha is waiting in the season of spring for Krishna to show up. Younger students work on pieces like Chandana Charchita that depict Krishna in his joyful, exuberant mood dancing happily with the maidens or Gopis of Vrindavan.
The Gita Govinda was written over 800 years ago and still remains fresh to this day. It was instrumental for the Bhakti movement, Vaishnavism and is also the very core of Indian classical dancing.



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“Dance is a poem of which each movement is a word. ”

– Mata Hari



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RDM Studio Newsletter July 2021

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RDM Studio Newsletter
July 2021

Mahari Repertoire



In 1971 Ritha Devi became the only dancer to have presented Panchkanya in a marathon 4 hour recital.

Dr. Ratna Roy, Rupashree Mohapatra, Pallavi Das and Nila’s Guruma, Suhaag Nalini Das are the foremost Mahari Gurus. At RDM Studio students learn and perform many of these age old pieces choreographed by Adiguru alongside those of Adigurus student Guru Muralidhar Majhi.


  • Mangalarpan – Entrance of a mahari, her invocation of the five deities ending with the sabha pranam.
  • Shantakaram – Invocation to Lord Vishnu based on the Sanskrit sloka shantakaram bhujaga shayanam.
  • Shantakaram – An invocatory-meditative piece danced on a brass plate with two plates of candles in the dancer’s hands. Other Temple dances in India have similar Thali dances.
  • Naba Durga – The most popular piece of the repertoire is the invocation to Goddess Durga, the destroyer of Sumbha and Nisumbha, Kali: the killer of Raktabija, the one who is also Shakti, mother, maya (illusion), and peace. She is all Naba (nine) forms in one Devi.
  • Gativilas Pallavi – The ten gaits from the Abhinaya Darpan of different animals and humans: the swan, the peacock, the deer, the elephant, the horse, the frog, the lion, the serpent, the human, and the warrior. Other pallavis like Arabi and Shankarabarnam are Adigurus (well-known choreographies).
  • Mahari Suchi Sringar – A temple dancer getting dressed to perform in the temple. It ends with a khanda pallavi (pure dance).
  • Madhurastaka – Krishna described through the eyes of his mother, Yashoda, as madhura (sweet) in every way. The life of Krishna is enacted in Madhurastaka. Songs in Oriya and Jayadev’s Gita Govinda were an essential part of the temple services of Jagannath. They are part of the Mahari repertoire.
  • Natyapesara – Grammar of Odissi passed through dance in this centuries old piece taught to the Maharis.
  • Panchkanya – The 5 elements – earth, water, fire, air, and ether – represent the five virtuous women; Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara, and Mandodari. Our sins are absolved when we meditate on them. Panchkanya is a dance drama where the dancer enacts the lives of these women.



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“Dance as the narration of a magical story; that recites on lips, illuminates imaginations and embraces the most sacred depths of souls.”

– Shah Asad Rizvi



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RDM Studio Newsletter June 2021

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RDM Studio Newsletter
June 2021

Maharis



The term Maharis means “Divine Damsels.”

These were the holy brides of Lord Jagannath. Young girls were initiated into temple service around the age of eight or nine. The sari-bandhan ceremony formalized their marriage with Jagannath and the new maharis received training in music and dance.


Maharis were assigned different sevas (services):


  • Bhitara Gauni – Those who sang in the inner quarters of the temple when Jagannath would sleep.
  • Bahara Gauni – Those that sang outside the temple.
  • Nachuni – Dancers who performed outside the sanctum sanctorum.
  • Raj Angila – Attendants of the king.
  • Patuaris – Those that provided costumes for the Lord.
  • Gahana Mahari – Those who performed at religious festivals and ceremonies.

They were richly attired and adorned with gold ornaments. Being wives of Lord Jagannath, the Maharis were forbidden from marrying anyone. They enjoyed special status in society and their presence was considered to bring good luck.
In the twelfth century, Chodaganga Deva gave the dance a legal status, maharis were allotted a place to stay and a new ceremony for the deity was started. Dances performed in the morning were pure dance pieces and those at night when Jagannath retired were abhinaya pieces. During the 15th century, Maharis started performing the verses from the Gita Govinda. Mahari dances were patronized by Ramachandra, the Raja of Khurda and it is from his time that they came to be patronized by royal courts.
With the abolition of the Devadasi system in British India, Mahari dance entered a period of steady decline. Its revival and adaptation for stage performances is credited to AdiGuru Pankaj Charan Das, adopted son of Mahari Ratna Prabha Devi. The last of the professional maharis was Sashimani Devi.
Odissi today is revived from this age old Maharis dance tradition. Nilanjana has been fortunate enough to have learned these pieces directly from Adigurus’ son and daughter-in-law.



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“To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak.”

– Hopi Saying



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RDM Studio Newsletter May 2021

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RDM Studio Newsletter
May 2021

Gotipua and Male Odissi Dancers



Odissi with its fluid movements, sensuous curves, sculpturesque poses, and strong yet delicate gestures has become synonymous with femininity and women dancers.

The ancient Parsurameswar, Brahmeswar, Megheswar, Kapileswar temples in Bhubaneswar, Jagannath temple in Puri, and the Sun temple in Konark, built between the 12th and 13th centuries, have depictions of male dancers.

The first generation of women dancers, Sanjukta Pannigrahi, Indrani Rehman and Kumkum Mohanty, all came from well-to-do families with enough career support whereas male dancers came from poorer backgrounds and had to resort to teaching in order to earn a living. In 1964 at the All-India Classical Dance Festival, Ramani Ranjan Jena, disciple of Guru Kelucharan became the first male solo dancer to present Odissi on a national platform. He received rave reviews for his performances but little else changed.

In 1975 Guru Gangadhar Pradhan started Orissa Dance Academy to train male dancers. Bichitrananda Swain and his students took this training to another level with his special choreographs and compositions highlighting the purushang or male body and movements. In 2000 he established the Rudrakshya Ensemble with whom he toured globally showcasing male dancers with their grand athleticism and acrobatic movements.

The most celebrated male dancer is Ramli Ibrahim from Malaysia. Others who have created a name for themselves are Rahul Acharya, Lingaraj Pradhan, Manoranjan Pradhan and Yudhisthir Nayak.



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“Dance is the timeless interpretation of life.”

– Shah Asad Rizvi



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RDM Studio Newsletter April 2021

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RDM Studio Newsletter
April 2021

Gotipua Dance



It was the first generation Gotipua Gurus that introduced the Pallavis to the Odissi repertoire.

Gotipuas wear the traditional Kanchula or bright cotton sarees with a bright blouse. The cloth around their waist is the Nibibandha. They also wear the Pattasari made with one piece of tissue which is worn tightly by having equal lengths of material on both sides, and by tying a knot on the waist.

Their jewelry is handmade with beads not metals. They have long hair tied into a bun adorned with flowers and pith or sola. Like the women dancers they too wear a red bindi, Kajal, elaborate chandan or sandalwood pattern on their forehead and cheeks and alta on their hands and feet.


Gotipua dance starts with the Manglacharan performed to Guru or Ganesh vandana. It is followed by the Sa Ri Ga Ma Nrutya or a pure dance piece and the abhinaya. The Gotipuas themselves sing the songs of Radha and Krishna mostly taken from Kishore Chandrananda Champu.

The Bandha Nrutya is the last piece. In the 15th century text of Abhinaya Chandrika and the 17th century text of Sangita Darpan, there are twenty five varieties of Bandhas elaborated. Bandhas are acrobatic yoga postures like Chira or welcome pose, Nauka or boat pose and creations of Radha Krishna figures as depicted in the Pattachitras, the traditional Oriya paintings. Super supple bodies and flexibility is needed for the bandhas. Special oil herb massages and nutrition is provided in the Gurukuls to the boys undergoing this training.



Odissi Dance Group Lessons – Sundays at 8:00 and 9.00 PST




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“There is no other knowledge, no other learning, no other art, not even yoga or action that is not found in dance.”

– Natya Shastra



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RDM Studio Newsletter March 2021

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RDM Studio Newsletter
March 2021

Gotipuas



Gotipua dance is the precursor to Odissi dance.
Goti means single and pua means boy.

Young boys would dress up as women and dance in public. As the Maharis (women temple dancers) started losing royal patronage and protection, the Gotipuas came to the forefront. In the 16th century under the Bhoi Dynasty, Gotipuas gained prominence. They performed in socio-religious events in temples and mathas.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the great Bhakti saint and the Vaishnavism movement had a big role in encouraging boy dancers and the culture of sakhi bhava to preach the stories of Radha and Krishna. The Mathas provided the boys patronage. They traveled in groups entertaining the audience with their acrobatic skills or Bandhas. It was in an Akhada that little boys were trained in acrobatics, dance, singing and playing the harmonium and khol (percussion). Once they grew older, lost their flexibility and could not get away with their long haired androgynous looks they became Gurus or teachers.


First Generation Gurus Kelucharan Mohapatra, Mayadhar Raut and Gangadhar Pradhan were Gotipuas in their childhood. Guru Raut and Guru Kelucharan also worked in the Jatra or the traveling theatre companies. This was another career pathway for Gotipuas.

The most celebrated Gotipua Guru is Guru Maguni Charan Das of Raghurajpur and the founder of Dasabhuja Gotipua Odisha Nrutya Parishad. Raghurajpur is Guru Kelucharan’s birthplace considered to be the historic Gotipua village associated with the ancient Pattachitra paintings. Even today 50 to 60 dancers live and train here in the ancient Gurukul system performing in the Rath Yatra of Puri.



Odissi Dance Group Lessons – Sundays at 8:00 and 9.00 PST




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“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.”

– Wayne Dyer



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RDM Studio Newsletter February 2021

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RDM Studio Newsletter
February 2021

Superstars of Odissi



There have been many famous dancers who have dedicated their lives to popularizing Odissi. However no one can come close to these Superstars!

Today we talk of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s most famous students who were synonymous with Odissi. Guru Kelucharan had many stalwart students like Kumkum Mohanty, Madhavi Mudgal, Sharon Lowen, Illena Chitarasti but none matched the talent of Sanjukta Panigrahi, his perfect student.
Sanjukta was born to dance. She was the first professional Odissi dancer (not a temple dancer or Mahari) who belonged to a middle class family. Seeing her prodigious talent her parents started teaching her Odissi at age 4. She went onto Kalakshetra to study Bharatnatyam and Kathakali. By age 14 she had become famous as Baby Sanjukta. Her career took a turn when her Guru won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. Together with her Guru and her husband Raghunath Panigrahi, her lifelong vocalist, they revived Odissi and created many path breaking new choreographies. Sanjukta received the Padma Shri Award. She was a simple spiritual soul whose life was dedicated to Odissi and her Guru. Tragically, she succumbed to cancer in 1997.
Protima Bedi was a bold, feminist icon way ahead of her times. She was India’s top model married to an International movie star. One evening she accidentally walked into an Odissi recital. This was her life changing moment! The next day Protima packed her bags, said goodbye to her glamorous Mumbai high society life and traveled to the home of Guru Kelucharan. At age 26, she started learning Odissi, which in itself was unheard of. She earned a name for herself as she performed worldwide. Odissi dhoti (decorative front pleated garment) as worn currently, was popularized by this beautiful diva.
In 1990 Protima Bedi established India’s first dance village Nrityagram modeled after the ancient Gurukuls. She started with one adult student Surupa Sen then she enrolled Bijoyini. In the next decade these two students of the Nrityagram ensemble took the world by storm with their fresh approach to traditional choreographies. Unfortunately, Protima Bedi never had the chance to see this as she perished in a landslide in 1997.
Both these dancers left behind a lasting legacy that has a deep impact on the current generation of Odissi teachers and performers.



Odissi Dance Group Lessons – Sundays at 8:00 and 9.00 PST




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“Indian classical dance is sustained by a profound philosophy. Form seeks to merge with the formless, motion seeks to become part of the motionless, and the dancer seeks to become one with the eternal cosmos.”

– Nita Ambani



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RDM Studio Newsletter January 2021

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RDM Studio Newsletter
January 2021

Happy New Year!

My Tryst with Odissi



Nila Banerjee shares her story.

Odissi was relatively unknown in the 60’s. There was a mystery and aura about it. Very few people had even seen this dance. My father happened to watch a performance by the dancing goddess Sanjukta Pannigrahi. That day he decided that his newborn baby would learn this beautiful dance. Coincidentally Jagannath Puri, where Odissi was performed for centuries as part of the rituals, was the first temple I was taken to for blessings. The family soon left for Delhi and the hunt for an Odissi Guru began. In those days, Gurus were not open to teaching kids so we waited until I turned 8. The next few years my life revolved around school and dance class. I did not perform until I turned 12. It was a very strict program under one of the main Odissi revivalists Guru Mayadhar Raut.
My parents sacrificed hours chaperoning me to my classes. I was fortunate to see Delhi’s top dancers learning. On finishing my dance diploma, I spent a few years learning with another legend, Aloka Panniker. On turning 16, I performed my first solo recital in Hartford, Connecticut to an appreciative audience who were seeing this dance for the first time.
My last performance was before my wedding when I performed for Youth TV. Little did I know that there would soon be no dance in my life! For the next 12 years marriage and motherhood took priority. Dance was a closed chapter, buried in my heart.
On moving to the US my family encouraged me to take up dancing. At age 34, I started re-learning Odissi from scratch. I would have to mold myself to a different dance – gharanna. I was a challenge and an experiment for Guru Mitra Purkayastha. Initially people found it difficult to accept me on stage. At that time dancers were local kids or esteemed professionals from India. I took this as a challenge! Age was not going to be my handicap!


I practiced every day, training single-mindedly, until I perfected my routine. My Guru and I became a team. She envisioned my looks, my postures, gave me songs to emote and I translated them thru dance. Choreographies were stored in my memory. Summers were spent training with professional Indian choreographers as we did big budget productions. It was a boot camp style training that molded my body, taught me to work in groups and above all brought professionalism. I would memorize complex music and choreographies overnight. This endless pressure catapulted me into a professional league where I became synonymous with any show in NJ.
If the audience did not love me this journey would not have been possible. After performing over 150 shows throughout the US, acceptance from the harshest cultural critics of New Jersey would be my ultimate test. For 12 years I dedicated myself to dance and family. There were no other distractions. I drove over 2 hours every weekend to be by my Guru’s side, the first one to reach and the last to leave whether it was a class or a show.
In 2015 I moved to California with my Guru’s blessings to start a new chapter in my life. I opened my dance studio. Every year I still go back to Jersey to see my Guru as I continue to learn. Passion is what defines me! Dance has not only given me an identity but also given me the power to connect, love and energize people. I consider myself a cultural ambassador who transcends cultural barrier and reaches out to the wider community.



Odissi Dance Group Lessons – Sundays at 8:00 and 9.00 PST




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“To touch, to move, to inspire. This is the true gift of dance.”

– Aubrey Lynch



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RDM Studio Newsletter December 2020

AS Newsletter

RDM Studio Newsletter
December 2020

Happy Holidays!

Stalwarts of Odissi



Here we discuss the path-breaking, pioneering women who presented Odissi to the world and opened the doors for generations of dancers.

Indrani Rehman was the glamour girl of Indian classical dance. In 1952 she became the first Indian to participate in the Miss Universe pageant. She was well versed in Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Odissi. She performed for President Kennedy in DC and was the prima-donna at cultural functions organized by the then Indian Prime Minister Nehru. She taught at Harvard and other universities and was a faculty member at Julliard School, NYC. Indrani learned Odissi from Guru Deb Prasad Das and was instrumental in presenting Odissi on a bigger world platform.
Ritha Devi was the grandniece of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. She learned from the Master Gurus all 8 Indian classical styles: Manipuri, Bharatnatyam, Mohiniattam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Sattriya and Odissi from Adiguru Pankaj Charan Das. In 1971 she became the only dancer to have performed Panchkanya dance drama portraying the 5 tragic women of Hindu mythology in a marathon 4 hour recital. Until then these centuries’ old pieces were confined to the Jagannath temple in Puri. Ritha Devi toured Europe and the US and taught Indian dance at NYU. She was awarded fellowships from US cultural bodies and her work has been preserved in the archives.
These brilliant, educated, liberal minded, independent women were instrumental in giving classical dance respect in Indian society. They removed the stigma and made it acceptable for urban middle class Indians to pursue dance. Thanks to them classical dance has become a respectable art form.



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“Caution not spirit, let it roam wild; for in that natural state, dance embraces divine frequency.”

– Shah Asad Rizvi



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RDM Studio Newsletter November 2020

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RDM Studio Newsletter
November 2020

Happy Diwali!
Celebrating 150 dance performances in the US since 2004!

The allure of Odissi dance.



Let’s continue our study of Aharya Abhinaya this month and focus on hair style and makeup used in the traditional dance of Odissi.

There are three hairstyles in Odissi dance – namely the ardh-bathaka or semicircular bun; the pushpa-chanda with the hair coiled into the shape of a flower and the kati-beni, which is a single plait or braid.
The makeup of an Odissi dancer is in the traditional form as well. The distinctive black eyeliner known as Kajal, is applied around the eyes with a broad outline to give them an elongated look. The exaggerated, winged eyes are important for emulating facial expressions.
Makeup is used on the face to highlight one’s features. A bindi (red dot) is applied on the forehead with a pattern made from sandalwood around it. The applied lip color is dark and vibrant, usually red or maroon.
Tips for stage performance: Enhance your cheekbones and add contour to your face so that stage lighting does not create a washed-out look. Keep makeup heavy when on stage and make sure to use waterproof mascara and eyeliner. Seal your makeup with finishing powder to maintain its freshness.



New Sunday Odissi Group Classes 9.00 PST




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“In a society that worships love, freedom, and beauty, dance is sacred. It is a prayer for the future, a remembrance of the past and a joyful exclamation of thanks for the present.”

– Amelia Atwater-Rhodes



You can find out more on our Events page.
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Don’t forget that RDM Studio offers studio dance lessons and dance lessons online!