Maitree: fusion of Odissi and Sri Lankan Dance forms

The Association For Learning Performing Arts & Normative Action (ALPANA) in collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Government of India and the University of the Visual and Performing Arts (UVPA), Colombo, Sri Lanka presented “Maitree: Fusion of Odissi and Sri Lankan Dance Forms” at Azad Bhavan Auditorium of ICCR in New Delhi on 29 March 2014. ALPANA was launched in 2003 as a registered Society in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. In a short span of its coming into being, ALPANA has made significant contribution to its espoused cause of spreading awareness among today’s youth about the rich cultural heritage of India, especially Odissi Dance, Vocal and Instrumental Music.

The most important achievement of ALPANA so far, has been the operationalization of its collaboration with UVPA. An MoU was signed on 20 May 2012 between ALPANA and UVPA on promoting areas of mutual interest such as faculty development and cultural exchange. Towards achievement of this goal, Guru Smt Alpana Nayak was invited by UVPA to conduct a workshop on Odissi Dance for three weeks in May, 2013. In reciprocation, ALPANA took a bold step to moot the idea of staging a joint production which found immediate support from UVPA, India Cultural Centre Colombo, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the High Commission of Sri Lanka in New Delhi. Both UVPA and ALPANA embarked upon this uncharted territory and conceived Maitree as a fusion of Odissi and Sri Lankan Dance forms to be staged at New Delhi.

The hallmark of the joint production was active personal involvement in music composition of and, in performance on stage by the Vice Chancellor, UVPA Snr. Prof Jayasena Kottegoda, the Dean of the Faculty of Dance, UVPA Prof. Ariyarathna Kaluarachchi, the Head of Department of Indian Dance, UVPA Mrs Palika Samanthi and the President, ALPANA Guru Smt Alpana Nayak.

On 29 March 2014 evening at the prestigious Azad Bhavan Auditorium, Maitree started with Mangalacharana, an Odissi item where the dancer dedicates herself to the Almighty and pleads forgiveness from the Mother Earth for stamping feet on her, begs apology from the audience for any shortcomings and pays obeisance to her Guru. Smt. Alpana Nayak began the Mangalacharana with a prayer to the Goddess Saraswati: Manikya Veena Mupala Layanti…….. written by Mahakavi Kalidasa. In this shloka the Goddess has been depicted as “Jagat Janani” (mother of the Universe), “Vak Vilasini” (connoisseur of spoken language), “Sangeet Rasike” (music aficionado) and “Kalyani” (ever benevolent). It was followed by an Odia song “Ayile Maa Saraswati Nirmala Varne……... The uniqueness of this item was that Sri Lankan dancers of UVPA performed along with the Indian dancers of ALPANA.

The next item was, Poojabhinandana or Invocation Dance. It was presented by UVPA artists. This dance is specially performed with the intention of invoking the blessings of the Triple Gem and the deities on the performers and the audience.

Kirvani Pallavi followed next. It was presented by artists of ALPANA. The word “Pallavi” is derived from the Sanskrit word “pallava” which means bud of a leaf, or shoots of a plant. Like the tender shoots a mesmerizing experience of tenderness is conveyed through this item. As a small seed grows gradually into a large tree, in Pallavi, a tune is sung in a particular raga and it develops gradually into different varieties. In this item equal importance is given to dance as well as music and rhythm. The movements in this item are extremely graceful and lyrical.

Then followed Ves, presented by UVPA. It is in the characteristic traditional attire of the Kandyan Dance form and is considered as a white magic ritual related to the Up Country Main Dance tradition known as "Khoba Kan Kariya". Basically classical in concept, the dancer uses intricate rhythmic pattern rising to vigorous and lively climax.

After Ves dance, next was an Abhinaya based on a Sinhala song in Odissi Dance style. It was presented by Smt Alpana Nayak. The song is written by Snr Prof Jayasena Kottegoda, Vice Chancellor, UVPA and the music was also composed by him.

The next item was Suraba Walliya. This is a dance item in the Low-country traditional mask play in Sri Lanka. Traditionally, it is performed by male dancers using mask. But, in Maitree, the female dancers presented this item without mask.

Then next item presented by UVPA was Thelme which was a brilliant expression of pure rhythmical and classical dance form of the Low-Country tradition. It is a dance highlight in the ritual "Devol Maduwa" or "Gammaduwa" performed in honour of Goddess Paththini or Amman.

The last item of the evening was another joint production titled "Maitree" based on the ancient history of Sri Lanka. The artists from ALPANA and UVPA performed together.

The theme of Maitree item is as follows. A prince named Vijaya and his seven hundred followers went from India and landed in Lanka on the day of the Parinirvana (Parinibbana) of the Lord Buddha. When they landed, the island was occupied by Yakkhas (Demons) and Nagas. Yakkhas and Nagas may refer to the aborigines who occupied the island before Vijaya's arrival. Vijaya allied himself with an aboriginal princess named Kuveni and married her. With her influence Vijaya defeated Yakkhas and Nagas and soon became the ruler of the country. With this a new era of friendship began which culminated into “Maitree”.

The accompanying musicians were, Sri Prashanta Behera as the Vocalist, Sri Pradeepta Maharana on pakhawaj, Snr. Prof Jayasena Kottegoda on Drums, Mr D.L.Idunil Sadun Ranchamara on Drums, Sri Dhiraj Pandey on flute, Sri Gopinath Swain on violin, Sri Lavinya Ambade on sitar. Smt Alpana Nayak conceived and directed; Sri Prasanta Behera, Sri Pradeepta Moharana and Prof. Ariyarathna Kaluarachchi composed music. Guru Smt Alpana Nayak, Ms Ayushi Nayak and Mrs Palika Samanthi choreographed the dance tems.

Shri Satish C. Mehta, Director General, ICCR was the Chief Guest and HE Mr Prasad Kariyawasam, High Commissioner Sri Lanka and Ms. Suchitra Durai, Joint Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs were the Distinguished Guests of the evening. Shri Satish C. Mehta admired the performances and blessed the talented young dancers with lots of good wishes to do good in future. He appreciated the hard work of ALPANA to promote cultural relationships between India and Sri Lanka.