Spiritual performances

Spiritual performances
Reaching for the heavens: Sujata Mohapatra will be performing Odissi dance, which is a 200 year old art form, at Dancefest India in Downtown.
Sujata Mohapatra

An internationally acclaimed dancer will star — as a performer and instructor — in the six-day festival DanceFest India this month.

Sujata Mohapatra is one of the leading contemporary performers of Odissi, one of India’s oldest surviving dance forms, close to 2,000 years old.

Mohapatra studied under the tutelage of several of the best Odissi experts, and credits her mentors as her inspiration.

“For me, passion, patience, perfection and faith in my Gurus’ blessings give me the inspiration to continue to strive to achieve my best artistically,” she said.

When decked out in full garb, Mohapatra is the vision of a venerable goddess. Her floral headdress completes the look, appearing not unlike a halo. She said it takes her a minimum of two hours to get ready for a program.

The time consuming process of getting dressed is the least of her worries.

“Unfortunately, injury is part and parcel of a professional dancer’s life,” she said.

“While it is unavoidable, I always try to explore various means to prevent injury. I am a regular practitioner of yoga. I also enjoy walking, jogging, and stretching. The mind is just as important as the body; meditation is another way to keep oneself balanced and focused.”

Among DanceFest India’s highlights is “Sacred Vision,” a concert held in association with Kumble Theater for The Performing Arts, during which Mohapatra will appear alongside other classical Indian dancers.

The pieces she will be presenting are part of the traditional Odissi repertoire: Mangalacharan, an invocation dance, Pallavi, a pure dance piece, and Abhinaya, an expressional dance that uses facial expressions and codified hand gestures to convey a story.

The festival’s schedule of events also includes in-depth workshops, several of which will be led by Mohapatra.

“The workshops are educational and dynamic and beautifully illustrate Classical Indian Dance,” said Mohapatra.

Newcomers need not be intimidated, she added, as Mohapatra offers patient counsel — but she said the learning processes teaches a spiritual calm to students as well.

“I always advise newcomers to practice ‘Sadhana,’ which roughly translates to ‘practice’ or ‘self-discipline,’ ” said Mohapatra. “ ‘Sadhana’ gives one the spiritual inspiration to evolve through his or her art, and the confidence to stand on one’s own.”

DanceFest India’s “Sacred Vision” concert at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts, LIU [Flatbush Avenue between DeKalb Avenue and Willoughby Street, (718) 488–1624, www.dancefestindia.com]. June 29, 7:30 pm, $25 in advance, $30 day of show, $20 students, seniors.

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