Published: March 10, 2011 17:29 IST | Updated: March 10, 2011 17:29 IST
Guru Bichitrananda Swain
A few months ago, Bhubaneswar-based internationally acclaimed Rudrakshya Odissi ensemble represented India in the Asian male dancers' festival — Nartaka Utsav — hosted in Chennai. It was renowned Malayasian Odissi and Bharatanatyam dancer-choreographer, Ramli Ibrahim who recommended the Rudrakshya troupe for the festival and described Rudrakshya's founder-director, Guru Bichitrananda Swain, as “the most authentic choreographer in Odissi today.”
“It is a misconception that Odissi is a predominantly feminine dance style,” remarked one of the most prolific choreographers amongst the new generation of Odissi gurus and choreographers today, who has groomed the largest number of gifted male Odissi dancers and teachers like Ramesh Chandra Jena, Yudhisthir Nayak, Pabitra Pradhan, Bijay Kumar Sahoo, Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Prativa Puraskar awardee Lingaraj Pradhan and Amulya Balabantaray who have been acknowledged worldwide. “And that conviction provoked me to work on the purush and aspects in Odissi choreography,” revealed Guru Bichitrananda.
Although the Guru gives much attention to the grooming of male dancers, he is not averse to female dancers. “I have groomed some of the most gifted female Odissi dancers like Bijayini Satapathy and Madhusmita Mohanty. Both have been awarded the prestigious Ustad Bismillah Khan young talent awards from Sangeet Natak Akademi. But there is a specific reason for me behind grooming the male Odissi dancers,” he says.
He rewinds, “As a young student at Guru Gangadhar Pradhan's Orissa Dance Academy, at Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya and at Odissi Research Centre, I always aspired to dance on stage. But, during those days, male dancers were never preferred for stage and they were expected to end up as teachers. Even for the role of Krishna, the gurus would choose a female dancer. This obsession of the gurus for female dancers killed my dream to be a dancer and I was terribly depressed. So, when I became the principal at Orissa Dance Academy, I took special initiative to groom male dancers,” he confided.
Guru Bichitrananda humbly acknowledges the crucial role of his late Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, founder of the world-famous Orissa Dance Academy, in the shaping of his career. “He was a visionary. Because of him, you find so many male dancers in Odissi scene today. In fact, he groomed me and recommended me to learn under Sanjukta Panigrahi who took personal care to promote me,” said the young Guru who was also under the tutelage of legendary Kelucharan Mohapatra.
Guru Bichitrananda maintained that he composes dance movements and training modules differently for the male and female dancers. “Since the male dancers perform in bare body, I warn them to keep their body in proper shape. I have observed that women are more suitable for Odissi's exclusive postures. But male dancers have stronger body and footwork that meets the demand of some exclusive characters and movements as well. However, it is easier to train a girl than a boy as in the case of the latter, the body takes a longer time to be tuned,” he signed off.