Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stirring Odissi: Gotipua

Articles on the Gotipua performances for Stirring Odissi, collected from various media in Malaysia.


The Odissi that we see today is largely inspired by the Gotipua (meaning ‘one boy’) dancers. Gotipua is a living tradition indigenous to the Puri district of the Indian state of Orissa whereby pre-puberty boys are trained in Odissi dance since childhood and they perform dressed in traditional female attire. When the Mahari (temple dancers) tradition has almost died completely, these boy dancers kept the Odissi dance alive.

The present day reconstructed Odissi is largely derived from the Gotipua tradition where a lot of the repertoire and idioms come from. In fact, many Odissi gurus who brought about the revival of Odissi in the mid-fifties are either Gotipua dancers themselves or are closely associated with this tradition. It is an important point of embarkation from which Odissi can later on be inspired by sculpture and music, and in addition to re-looking at treatises of dance and enduring new movements, expand its vocabulary and repertoire.

However, what’s interesting about the Gotipuas is that compared to the more refined and sophisticated form of Odissi, theirs still retain a sense of rawness, which can be refreshing to watch. The Gotipua’s interpretation of the Odissi is not confined to the veneer of sophistication and artifice associated with the contemporary stage.

Suited to their young and supple bodies, the Gotipuas are also known for their bandha nrutyas, which is a series of acrobatic poses, much like yoga, incorporated into their repertoire. This aspect of Odissi is seldom explored in the contemporary form. This is THE performance to watch at the Stirring Odissi festival if you are interested to study the evolution of Odissi as dance. Gotipua dancers are performing as part of the Stirring Odissi festival.

Source: Time Out KL

The Origin of Odissi
Odissi, the beautiful classical Indian dance from Orissa, has its roots in gotipua, local dance doyen Ramli Ibrahim tells AREF OMAR
Published: 10th May 2008

“YOU must see a gotipua performance before you can claim to be an odissi dancer,” says Ramli Ibrahim.

In the cosy confines of Sutra House in Taman Tasik Titiwangsa, headquarters of Ramli’s Sutra Dance Theatre, the renowned dance guru elaborates on the traditional dance form.

“Odissi has two protagonists, the gotipua and the Mahari temple dancers which are now extinct.

“And it is from the gotipua that most of the materials of the present odissi repertoire were distilled,” says the 54-year-old odissi master, who has studied ballet, modern dance and Indian classical dance.

“Our dance group would always make it a point to catch a gotipua performance at Raghurajpur whenever we visit Puri, one of the four major pilgrimage centres in India, where the Jagannath temple is located.

“In Raghurajpur there are villages in the vicinities of the temples which also produce the Indian folk art patta chitra (miniature paintings on cloth),” he says.

The gotipua tradition found in Orissa features pre-pubescent boys, trained in dance since childhood, who dress in traditional female dance attire.

They undergo rigorous training under the strict supervision of their gurus from physical exercises and yoga to oil massages and vocal training.

The dance form includes striking intricate acrobatic poses and a performance is accompanied by a simple orchestra, consisting of the guru wielding the gini (cymbals), a singer strumming a harmonium and a mardal (drum) player.

“The gotipua is usually performed in the villages during festivals.

“It’s very raw and exuberant. You can’t expect the refinement or sophistication of the contemporary odissi,” says Ramli, who goes on to demonstrate physically the stances and positions with grace and elegance.

“The movements are the same but the style and approach is different. Of course there are also acrobatic movements derived from yoga, as well as tribal and folk movements.

“But all the characteristics of odissi can be found in gotipua,” he says.

The gotipua dancers, recognisable by their top knot hairstyles, dance until they reach puberty then go on to other things like teaching gotipua or becoming musicians with the troupe.

Ramli has invited a group of dancers from Konark Natya Mandap in Orissa to

perform in Kuala Lumpur as part of Stirring Odissi: International Odissi Festival.

“This is a fantastic way for all odissi dancers to come and see a traditional system that is still living and that has inspired the birth of a full-fledged classical system that is now odissi,” he says.

The festival is organised in conjuction with Sutra’s 25th anniversary.

“It is the first extensive exposition of odissi in Malaysia with 120 participants from around the world,” he says.

Besides performances there will also be exhibitions of odissi-inspired paintings and photographs by Malaysian and Indian visual artists and photographers.

The position of odissi, a reconstructed and evolving traditional performing art form, in the global context will be discussed in a two-day seminar, entitled Making Odissi Relevant In The 21st century.

Performances will be held at Amphi-Sutra, the Malaysia Tourist Centre and the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, while exhibitions will be showcased at the Petronas Gallery and Sutra Gallery.

“We’ve been doing something cross-cultural for 25 years, believing in it inherently and unconditionally,” says Ramli, who, together with his team, will be heading to the picturesque region of Tuscany, Italy, for performances, as well as to Carnegie Hall in New York this September.

“Our only agenda is the arts and we plan to keep going for as long as we can.”

* Catch Stirring Odissi: International Odissi Festival 2008 from May 21 to June 22. Call Sutra House at 03-40211092/03-40229669, e-mail or visit for details.

Source: The New Sunday Times (Malaysia)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Malaysia's inaugural Stirring Odissi festival

For over 25 years, KL-based Sutra Dance Theatre has been preparing the grounds for a major event like Stirring Odissi, which brings together over a hundred of the world’s best Odissi dancers and musicians, as well as visual artists and scholars—all of whom have been inspired by Odissi, a form of Indian classical dance from Orissa, Eastern India. This festival, which celebrates creativity, excellence with a global vision and a passion for this elegant, sensual and lyrical dance form, is the brainchild of its most tireless exponent in Malaysia: Sutra Dance Theatre’s artistic founder and director, Ramli Ibrahim—a direct disciple of the pioneer Guru, Deba Prasad.

For more than two decades, Ramli has consistently exposed Malaysian audiences to Odissi, and has over that period produced internationally recognized Odissi dancers. Stirring Odissi, which will be the most extensive Odissi exposition ever staged in Malaysia, showcases solo and group performances, exhibitions of paintings and photographs and a seminar which will discuss relevant topics in preparing this dynamic dance style for the 21st century. Hailing from around Malaysia as well as from various parts of India, the UK, Japan, USA, Singapore and Switzerland, some of the world-renowned performers participating include Madhavi Mudgal, Minati Mishra and Masako Ono; as well as our very own January Low, Revathi Tamilselvam and Ramli himself. This major event in the performing arts calendar for 2008 in Malaysia and India is also held in conjunction with Sutra Dance Theatre’s 25th anniversary.

21 May—14 June, various times
Venues: Amphi Sutra, Malaysia Tourism Centre,
KLPac and Petronas Gallery
Admission: RM103, RM73, RM53, RM38 (performances)
Tel: 03–4021 1092/4022 9669

Check out the Stirring Odissi TV promo video here.

Source: Vision KL magazine
Writer: Mavis Hooi

Saturday, May 10, 2008


In Indian performing arts, a rasa is an emotion inspired in an audience by a performer. They are described by Bharata Muni in the Nātyasāstra, an ancient work of dramatic theory. Rasas are created by bhavas: the gestures and facial expressions of the actors. Expressing Rasa in classical Indian dance form is referred to as Rasa-abhinaya. The Nātyasāstra carefully delineates the bhavas used to create each rasa.

Natyasatra describes only eight rasas. The ninth rasa, Santham or tranquil, was suggested by Abhinavagupta on the grounds that actors may need this expression occasionally in their performances.

Originally written for the Sanskrit drama of the age of Kalidasa, the theory of rasas still forms the aesthetic underpinning of all Indian classical dance and theatre, such as Kudiyattam, Bharatha Natyam, and Kathakali.

The Navarasas
The nine principal rasas are called the navarasas:

Śriṛngāram (शृन्गाारं), Sringara - Love, Erotic Love
Hāsyam (हास्यं), Hasya - Laughter, Mirth
Karuṇam (करुणं), Karuna - Compassion, Kindness
Raudram (रौद्रं) - Anger
Vīram (वीरं), Veera - Valour
Bhayānakam (भयानकं), Bhaya - Terror, Danger
Bībhatsam (बीभत्सं) - Disgust, Odiousness
Adbhutam (अद्भुतं) - Wonderment
Śāntam (शान्तं), Shanta - Tranquility, Peace

The Bhavas
The Natyasastra identifies the first eight rasas with eight corresponding bhava:

Rati (Love)
Hasya (Mirth)
Soka (Sorrow)
Utsaha (Energy)
Bhaya (Terror)
Jugupsa (Disgust)
Vismaya (Astonishment)

Sources: Wikipedia plus my own notes and observations from class.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Indian Musical Instruments

Dhol - Drum

Dholak - Drum

Harmonium - The British introduced harmoniums to India during the colonial period. It is a free-standing musical keyboard instrument (similar to a Reed Organ or Pipe Organ). Sound is produced by air being blown through reeds resulting in a sound similar to that of an accordion. The air is supplied by foot-operated (or, as with the type of harmonium used in Indian music, hand-operated) bellows alternately depressed by the player.

Mridangam - The most used drum in South Indian music

Nagaswaram - A popular South Indian wind instrument used in devotional music

Sitar - Long-necked stringed instrument (North Indian)

Tabla - A popular Indian drum/percussion instrument

Veena - This is a plucked stringed instrument used in Carnatic (South Indian) music. It gets its characteristic sound from the slight curve at the top of the neck. There are several variations of the veena, which in its South Indian form is a member of the lute family. One who plays the veena is referred to as a vainika.