Odissi dance is one of the oldest Indian classical dance forms, which originates in Odisha, an eastern state of India.Its history is said to date back to 100 BC, and it is known to be performed predominantly by the Mahari (temple dancers) at the Jagannath Temple in the holy land, Puri.
Despite a period of religious attack and destruction, it overcame the danger of decline and continued to evolve as a performance art form. Today, Odissi dance is not only known locally, but it has become a major form of Indian classical dance recognized throughout the world.
Since many dance poses in the sculptures of Odissi Hindu temples are woven into the dance, it is often referred to as the “moving sculpture,” and it is know to be an elegant and beautiful dance. Oddisi dance-dramas are deeply rooted in the Hindu religion. With deep spirituality and aesthetic beauty, the dancers express their devotion to the Gods as Maharis.
There are seven major classical Indian dance styles, and among them, Odissi dance is a sacred dance with a history of being danced inside temples.
I encountered Odissi dance in 2014, during my first visit to India.
When I travel, I search for the music and dance of that country.
At the village I was staying at, I saw a flier for Indian classical dance lessons and decided to take part. As I started taking lessons and learned the moves, I became more and more immersed in the world of Odissi dance. Since then, every year, I stay in India long term to take lessons.
Odissi dance has very fixed movements, which is why I believe it could be passed on from ancient times to today, while evolving at the same time.
I’m usually not very good at dancing anything fixed or choreographed, so it was refreshing to see myself become so attracted to this dance.
Odissi dance is a beautiful and sensitive dance, in which the dancer becomes a medium of divinity, and the dance becomes a prayer. I believe I’m especially drawn to the sacred aspect of Odissi dance – a dance that is danced inside a temple.
Every year, I travel to Bhubaneswar, Odisha, the home of Odissi dance, to learn the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra style under Saroj Dehury, and practice on a daily basis.