Dancing Out of the Margins - Bhubaneswar

When I relocated to Bhubaneswar (Odisha) from New York, dance was the anchor that helped transition from one life/lifestyle to the other.  The new-ness of married life: people, house/household, way of life, and expectations, left me feeling quite homesick and overwhelmed.  Much to everyone’s surprise, I returned to dance class a week after my wedding, and took to the stage not long after that. Being around my Gurus and co-dancers during that time gave me the feeling of familiarity and comfort that I was yearning for at the time -moreover it was a distraction from the constant feeling of homesickness. Having a daily practice routine helped quell some of my anxieties and settle into my new life.

This new chapter allowed me the opportunity to pursue dance fulltime, which was a welcome change from having to juggle two careers, but the transition was far less seamless than I had imagined. I no longer had the monopoly of being one of the few Odissi dancers in the area – I was right in the mecca of Odissi dance. I did not resemble what was conventionally understood as ‘foreigner,’ which meant I would be expected to demonstrate level of expertise and ability comparable my India-born peers, despite having been born and raised outside India and lacking access to regular classes and resources. This was a skill that went beyond having good technique, it was to absorb the ethos and spirit of Odissi, to imbibe its subtle nuances and bhav. While it was challenging, I am grateful that my Gurus never lowered the bar and in fact, pushed me beyond what I ever believed was possible. My initial years in India were focused mostly in training and practice, to continue to develop and evolve as an artiste. Living in Odisha was also a critical turning point for me as an artiste – Odissi is a dance form that is so deeply rooted in the life, culture, and customs of the state, it is difficult to separate the form from the soil where it originated. Life in Odisha gave dance a different depth and meaning for me.

My transition to India as a resident also allowed me the opportunity to experience the cultural landscape in India, one of the highlights of which was a greater proximity to art and artists of different styles and disciplines from around the country. It was humbling to meet stalwarts of Indian dance and music, who had spent countless years in pursuit of their craft. Witnessing their performances was to be transported to a different world altogether. The exposure to the depth and caliber of artistes In India not only deepened my sense of aesthetics, but also strengthened my commitment to remain on this path with the understanding that it would be a lifetime of learning and evolving. The opportunity and scope for artistic growth in India was what I found most appealing. I particularly appreciated the respect for traditional art practices and the system (s)  from which they had evolved from. The freedom to practice art that could be presented and evaluated in the context of its own culture and aesthetics was a welcome change, one that allowed me the opportunity to develop and focus on my arts practice with more depth.

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