Where my body and soul become one

Samir Panigrahi

My Grandparents were always indulged in art & culture. In 1997, they opened a dance and music school in my village in Bhadrak district. I initially started learning music there but my grandmother pushed me to come to odissi classes. Soon I lost all my interest and used to hide around in the village before dance class. When villagers comment on me not having a ‘stable’ career, it's my family who asks me to shut my ears and focus. I had to go bald for my thread ceremony as I am a Brahmin but even then my father and I cycled all night to go and perform in a village nearby. Grandma always used to say I will be traveling and dancing and she’ll be gone and the same happened. Next day we had a program in Delhi called ‘SARASWATI UNTOLD’ and my grandmother's name was Saraswati.

That was the only time my family had asked me not to go for the performance but for me, I couldn’t see my Grandmother for the last time but the least I could do was to perform something based on her very name. When I came to Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyala I was the least focused. I even joined a modern dance group to do reality shows. I really believe in god as I had the realisation that if I don’t leave this lifestyle I will ruin my life. I saw Rudrakshya perform in Dhauli and just couldn’t get the performance out of my mind. In 2012 I came here with a senior dancer. Now, I can never leave this place and betray my conscience because this place has given me my life. Guruji selected me to go to the USA in 2014. The decision was opposed a lot as I was barely 18 and the youngest but I made it.

Authenticity, logic and sense. That's how i can describe guruji's choreography. Seeing his creativity, I have a strong longing and passion for choreographing. It's my dream to take Odissi on a big and public scale. My advice to my fellow dancers is to focus on our own culture and help build it together like a member of their own house. I believe in making the basics of dance so strong so that the dance can adapt to my body uniquely.

Dance is a channel to reach god and I have witnessed this each time I step on stage where my body, mind and spirit become one.

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