Upcoming Documentary: Odissi - From the Temples to the Contemporary Stage

Thursday, March 1, 2012
One of my favorite classical-dance related blogs, Sacred Space, recently posted a teaser from the upcoming documentary film Odissi - From the Temples to the Contemporary Stage by Sandrine Da Costa (with collaboration by the Sacred Space blog author herself, Isabel Putinja).  The film is beautifully shot and looks to feature an excellent array of Odissi artists and performances. 

Click on the teaser screencap collage below to link to the original Sacred Space post to watch the teaser:

What struck me most was the recent footage of young male gotipua dancers!  A cursory look into Odissi history usually reveals its origins in the dances of the maharis and nartakis (Oriya temple and court dancers), the gotipuas (pre-pubescent boys apparently trained in acrobatic and mahari-imitative dance and dressed like girls), and perhaps the martial arts and dance theater traditions of the area.  Some writings allude that modern Odissi actually largely came from the gotipua and theater traditions (and it's interesting to note most of the men who came together to form "Odissi" were former gotipua and theater dancers).  For more on the subject, I would recommend the section "Odissi, Temple Rituals and Temple Sculptures" from Alessandra Lopez y Royo's online book ReConstructing and RePresenting Dance: Exploring the Dance/Archeology Conjunction hosted at the Stanford Humanities Lab website [Update: The Stanford site is no longer available, but the book can be viewed at Lopez y Royo's Academia page].  (Sidenote: I've just discovered her writings in a couple hardcopy dance books I've been reading and she looks to have some fascinating information/theories.)

So while I had heard of the gotipua dancers from decades ago, I had always been under the impression that the gotipua tradition died out around the time modern Odissi took shape in the 1950s and was no more after that!  I was amazed at the gotipua footage in the teaser- the boys' training footage reminds me if videos I've seen of young boys initiated into Kathakali with the oil massages and limbering and bending exercises.  The gotipua dance is highly acrobatic - like Odissi and gymnastics melded into one!  Apparently the gotipua tradition has gotten a boost lately with some new state patronage and a festival for the form as noted in this The Telegraph article

Beyond the fascinating gotipua footage, it was a treat to see well-known Indian classical dance historian Sunil Kothari in the flesh since I've seen his writings pop up quite a bit during my research.  And there is footage of performers from the Odissi residential dance school Nrityagram!  Photos of these dancers on Flickr have captured my heart from the moment I saw them years ago- just beautiful.  The teaser also features interview and dance clips of the excellent Sujata Mohapatra (is she not one of the best Odissi dancers!) and Italian-born Illeana Citaristi.

Last - Sandrine Da Costa's Vimeo site also reveals a video about Sujata Mohapatra with interview and dance clips (and some gotipua footage).  Doesn't Sujata look so different from her stage appearances?


  1. Hi Minai,
    If you are in US in April, then you can catch Nrityagram on their US tour. March 04 NOTRE DAME, IN
    2PM @ Leighton Concert Hall
    Debartolo Performing Arts Center
    University of Notre Dame, IN 46556
    W: http://performingarts.nd.edu/

    March 05 - 14 SOUTH BEND, IN
    c/o Samir & Sudesh Bose
    52318 North Tally Ho Drive,
    South Bend, IN 46635

    730P @ The Wildey Theatre
    Southern Illinois University
    Edwardsville, MO 62026
    W: www.artsandissues.com

    March 20 - 25 NEW YORK, NY
    The Joyce Theater
    175 8th Avenue
    New York City, NY 10011
    JoyceCharge 212-242-0800
    W: www.joyce.org

    March 26 - April 02 BATON ROUGE, LA
    c/o Carlos & Saroj Welch
    1690 Denver Drive,
    Baton Rouge, LA 70810

    April 03 LAFAYETTE, LA
    730P @ Heymann Center
    Performing Arts Society of Acadania
    Lafayette, LA 70505
    W: www.pasa-online.org

    April 07 AMES, IA
    6P @ Ames City Auditorium
    India Cultural Association of Central Iowa
    Ames, IA 50014
    W: https://sites.google.com/site/icaiowaames/

    April 09 - 16 MEXICO
    3 Performance Dates & Venues TBA

    April 17 - 20 NEW YORK, NY
    Workshop at The Mark Morris Dance Center (12 - 130P)
    3 Lafayette Avenue
    Brooklyn, NY 11217
    Register at www.mmdg.org/school

    See their facebook page for more updates.

  2. Hi Minai,
    I just discovered this amazing blog about Indian classical dance. I don't know if you already know about it. Here is the link:

  3. ragothaman - thanks for the information! Had no idea they were touring the US now. They seem to tour quite a bit from what I read.

    anon - Yes, that's the blog I mentioned in the first sentence of the post. :)

  4. Hi MinaiMinai, Thanks for your all your appreciate comments on Sacred Space and the documentary! Sandrine plans to have the film ready later this year.

    I'm so happy to stumble upon this blog. I'll include a link to it on Sacred Space.

    1. Isabel - So nice to see you here! :) I will be on the lookout for the documentary release, thank you for the information.


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