Odissi is a dance of love and passion touching on the divine and the human, the sublime and the mundane.
Archaeological evidence of this dance form dating back to the 2nd century B.C. is found in the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri near Bhubaneshwar.
Odissi closely follows the tenets laid down by the Natya Shastra.
Facial expressions, hand gestures and body movements are used to suggest a certain feeling, an emotion or one of the nine rasas.
The techniques of movement are built around the two basic postures of the Chowkand the Tribhanga.
The chowk is a position imitating a square – a very masculine stance with the weight of the body equally balanced.
The tribhanga is a very feminine stance where the body is deflected at the neck, torso and the knees.
The torso movement is very important and is an unique feature of the Odissi style.
With the lower half of the body remaining static, the torso moves from one side to the other along the axis passing through the centre of the upper half of the body.
Great training is required for this control so as to avoid any shoulder or hip movement.
There are certain foot positions with flat, toe or heel contact.
There are also numerous possibilities of leg movements. Almost all leg movements are spiral or circular, whether in space or on the ground.
In addition to the leg movement, there are a variety of gaits for doing pirouettes and jumps and also certain postures inspired by the sculptures.
Hand gestures play an important role both in nritta where they are used only as decorative embellishments and in nritya where they are used for communication.
(The opening item is Mangalacharan where the dancer slowly enters the stage with flowers in her hands and makes an offering to mother earth. This is followed by an invocation to the deity of the dancer’s choice. Generally, Ganesha is called upon to grant an auspicious beginning. The item ends with a nritta sequence with salutations to God, the Guru and the audience.)
An Odissi orchestra essentially consists of a pakhawaj player (usually the Guru himself), a singer, a flutist, a sitar or violin player and a manjira player.