Odissi

Photo courtesy Natya

The Odissi Indian classical dance form is possibly the oldest classical dance form of India, dating back to the 2nd century B.C. Odissi is a temple dance form deeply rooted in Hindu devotion. This dance style from the state of Orissa in Eastern India was traditionally performed as a devadasi, or temple dance, tradition. Dances were dedicated to Lord Krishna (known as Lord Jagannath in Orissa).

With the suppression of Odissi dance by British authorities, this dance style was repressed and virtually exterminated except in a few outlying villages where it was kept alive by gotipuas (young male dancers). The revival of Odissi began in 1949 with India's independence. The dance form was regenerated from research of the temples in Orissa where the dance form was stored in sculptures that depicted Odissi's intricate positions and meanings.

Like other forms of India, Odissi has two major facets: pure, non- representational dance (Nritta) and expressional dance (Abhinaya). Fluid movements of the torso in combination with the crisp movements of the lower body characterize Odissi. Furthermore, the bent body positions give the Odissi style the distinction of being most closely related to sculpture. The music in Odissi dance is a blend of both the Carnatic and Hindustani classical traditions of India.


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