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)


Crankshaft said...

Have you seen it?

I was rather impressed by the diversity of the audience.

It is evident that appreciation of the Odissi is not limited to Indians alone.

At moments like this, it's good to be Malaysian.

Siryn said...

Hi crankshaft, I just saw your comment.

Yes, I watched a few performances... gotipua (utterly, amazingly acrobatic), male dancers (the night guruji Ramli performed) and female dancers (on the nights January Low, and Nishah Devi & Tan Mei Mei performed). I also went for the Stirring Odissi art exhibition launch at Galeri Petronas, where Madhavi and Arushi Mudgal did an absolutely gorgeous duet.

And yes, it feels good when you look around during a show and see people of many different races in the audience... all drawn by the magic of Odissi. :)

Did you go for any of the group performances? I couldn't make it to any as I'd gone abroad.

Crankshaft said...

Hi Siryn,

Unfortunately, I couldn't make it for the group performances except the male dancers in Amphisutra.


shibu said...

Hi all,
That Gotipua Dance from India name KOnark Natya Mandap.
its one cultural village founded by padmashree guru gangadhar Pradhan,

ujjwal said...

Here is a Gotipua video that I recorded:

Manasi INDIA said...

Namaskara! Anyone interested in reading detailed information, viewing pictures or needing buy a book on Gotipua may write to me on: - Best wishes, Manasi Raghunandan, Director "Odissi Dance school" Bangalore, India

Manasi INDIA said...

Namaskara. Anyone interested to buy books on "Gotipua" dance may write to me at , Best wishes - Manasi Raghunandan, Director "Odissi Dance School" Bangalore, India