A traditional performance begins with Initiation – “auspicious opening of the way”, continuous with rhythmical-technical foundation – “setting the ground”, proceeds to melodious ecstatic expression – “opening the channels of creativity”, then dives into emotional expression – the depth of the heart, and climax with spiritual culmination – liberation.
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There are evidences of dance worship in temples during all of these eras, in particular after the 8th century CE, a unique time period in which Buddhism, Shaktism, Saivism, and Tantrism had become amalgamated into one practice. You can see many evidences of this hybrid in the ancient temples around Odisha. For example, the temple of Vaital in Bhubaneswar combines imagery of Chamunda (the goddess), Bhairava (Shiva), Ardhanadishvara (Tantric Deity half shakti /half shiva), Buddha, Shiva nataraj (the cosmic dancer), and more.
Commitment may have a bit of a negative air for some. It sounds like a chore, an obligation. Yet it could just as well translate as “devotion” and “dedication”. It is an integral ingredient in the formula to success.
The most profound role of a dancer is her ability to touch her audience deeply; her offering of an opportunity to transcend ‘ordinary’ moments into ‘extraordinary'.
Her presence is the center axis between heaven and earth, a pillar of light, connecting above and below, letting all manifestation revolve, rise and fall.
Despite the layers of tradition and ancient views embedded in this carefully structured classical dance form, it is alive and breathing with the movement of time. It is intricate and complex, yet inherently devotional and natural, as it is aiming to connect us with nature and the movement of the cosmos.
The intricacy of subtle movements, performed in unison with complex rhythms, demands heightened awareness and concentration, which can deliver the dancer and audience into a state of unwavering Presence.
Odissi Dance is based in the Tantric-Yogic philosophy originated in East India. It suggests we all come from the same source, and head toward the same goal. Yet, source and the goal are no different, they are one and the same. What is this mysterious source / goal of our existence?