She’s been acclaimed from New Delhi to New York for infusing the ancient, sculpturesque art of odissi with a greatly refined sensibility. She is legendary odissi exponent Madhavi Mudgal, and together with her ensemble of dancers, will enthrall audiences with the unique beauty of odissi.
An Ancient Dance Form
Onstage, the dancer strikes a pose, resembling a sculpture in a Hindu temple. A beat, and she breaks into vigorous movements, ankle bells keeping rhythm with the beat of the pakhawaj, head, torso, hands and feet moving in patterns at once breathtaking, precise, sensual and tender.
Dating back to 1st century BC, odissi from Odissa, East India, is said to be India’s oldest dance form. Originally a temple dance, odissi developed over the centuries into three formal schools. Then it almost became extinct under British colonial rule, but was resuscitated by post-colonial reconstruction efforts and soon blossomed to life again and became what it is today.
Odissi’s top exponent
Contributing to the evolution of odissi with her expansive artistic vision and extraordinary talent is Madhavi Mudgal, renowned odissi dancer, choreographer and teacher. Architecture graduate Madhavi began her training in bharathanatyam and kathak but fell in love with odissi when Guru Hare Krishna Bahera introduced her to it and trained her. Since then, she has become an odissi legend, garnering awards and acclaim for sustaining odissi’s authenticity and pushing it beyond the constraints of tradition.
Be enchanted as Madhavi, with six dancers and five musicians, takes you through a fascinating and varied odissi repertoire.
“There are almost no dancers today to whom I apply that dangerous label “great”.
There is just one… her name is Madhavi Mudgal… ” - Financial Times, London, 2005
1. Ganga Stavan:
The sacred waters of the river Ganga are invoked. Descending from the peaks of the snow-clad Himalayas, through Shiva’s matted locks, Ganga playfully cascades down to purify the earth. May the sacred waters protect and enrich us. Danced by Madhavi Mudgal with Arushi Mudgal, Sudha Mallik, Diya Sen, Sanchita Bhattacharya, A. Snehasini, Samayita Das.
Rhythms and visual patterns play in a duet. Tala (rhythmic cycle) and raga (melodic mode) are delineated. Forms converge and diverge. Danced by Madhavi Mudgal with Arushi Mudgal.
This excerpt from 6th century Sanskrit poet Kalidas’ Ritusamhar describes the advent of spring, its flower-laden trees, ponds abloom with lotus and lovelorn maidens. Danced by Madhavi Mudgal.
4. Krishna Raas:
In this lively excerpt from Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, the handsome Krishna charms maidens who vie for his attention. The season is jubilant spring. The air is suffused with love. Danced by Arushi Mudgal, Sudha Mallik, Diya Sen, Sanchita Bhattacharya, A Snehasini, Samayita Das.
Basic stances and postures combine to form composite movements. Odissi’s rhythmic structure (tala and laya) provides a framework around which an efflorescence (pallavan) takes place. Danced by Madhavi Mudgal with Arushi Mudgal, Sudha Mallik, Diya Sen, Sanchita Bhattacharya, A Snehasini, Samayita Das.
Choreography: Madhavi Mudgal
Music: Madhup Mudgal
Lights : Gautam Bhattacharya
Dancers: Madhavi Mudgal with Arushi Mudgal, Sudha Mallik, Diya Sen, Sanchita Bhattacharya, A. Snehasini, Samayita Das
Musicians: Gandhi Mallik(Pakhawaj), Purna Chandra Majhi (Vocal and Harmonium), Manikuntala Bhowmik
(Vocal and Manjira), Srinibas Satapathy (Flute), Yar Mohd (Sitar)
Madhavi was born into a family devoted to classical Indian music. Her father, Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya was the founder of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, New Delhi in 1939. Initially studying bharatanatyam and kathak under eminent gurus, she finally chose odissi as her medium of expression under Guru Hare Krishna Behera. She continued her career later, as a disciple of the legendary Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, and is credited with bringing a greatly refined sensibility to her art form.
She has received acclaim for her many performances overseas at festivals such as the Edinburgh International Festival, U.K, the Cervantino Festival, Mexico, Festival de la Mer, Mauritius, Vienna Dance Festival, Austria, Festival of Indian Culture, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Days of Indian Culture, Hungary, Festival of Indian Arts, London, the Avignon Festival, France, Lyon Biennale, France, Festival Solo Donna at the Venice Biennale, Italy, and many more in these and other countries such as Spain, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan and the Indian subcontinent.
She has been involved in the making of several films and audio-visuals on odissi as well as with the organisation of dance festivals in Delhi, such as Angahar, the first odissi dance festival (1985) to bring together the major gurus, scholars, dancers and traditional groups. Madhavi has also performed with eminent dancers like Leela Samson and Alarmel Valli. Apart from establishing a niche in the international dance scene as a soloist, she has received critical acclaim for her choreographic works. She is one of the foremost teachers in her generation, initiating beginners as well as senior students into the finer nuances of odissi at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, New Delhi. She has also conducted odissi workshops all over the world.
Numerous awards and honours have come her way, including the Sanskriti Award, 1984, President of India’s award of Padma Shri, 1990, the Orissa State Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, 1996, Grande Medaille de la Ville by the city of Paris, 1997, and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, 2000, the Delhi State Parishad Samman, 2002 and the Nritya Choodamani in 2004. She has also been awarded the Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres by the Government of France.
Arushi Mudgal (dancer)
Arushi has been fortunate in having an in-depth exposure to music and dance through the
Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, an institute currently headed by her father, Padmashri Madhup
Mudgal. She started learning Odissi dance formally at the age of five from her aunt Padmashri
Arushi has toured extensively in India and overseas as a soloist as well as part of her guru’s dance
An ‘A’ grade artiste, she has performed for Doordarshan (National TV) at Delhi and Ahmedabad, and
is also empanelled with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
She has conducted dance workshops at the Kadam International Summer School in Manchester, UK,
and continues to assist her guru in her teaching assignments.
She is a recipient of the Indian President’s Bal Shree Award, 2002, the Original Mind Award, 2002 in
the category of performing arts, and the Sanatan Nritya Puraskar, 2006.
Sudha Mallik (dancer)
Daughter of a senior pakhavaj player of Delhi, Shri Gandhi Mallik, Sudha has been studying Odissi
since 1992 under Smt. Madhavi Mudgal at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, New Delhi.
She has toured extensively with her guru in India and abroad, as part of her dance troupe.
Sudha has attended dance workshops conducted by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra periodically at the
Vidyalaya; and by other leading gurus like Smt. Leela Samson and Guru Banamali Maharana.
Presently she assists her guru in her classes.
Snehasini comes from a family of musicians. Since the year 2000 she has had the privilege of learning
Odissi under Padmashri Madhavi Mudgal.
She has had the opportunity to perform as a member of her guru’s troupe in the United States of
America, Bangkok and Malaysia.
Snehasini has given a few solo performances in India and is a ‘B’ graded artiste of Doordarshan
Diya Sen (dancer)
Diya started learning Odissi under Madhavi Mudgal from the year 2000 after her initial training in
Since 2003 she has had the opportunity to perform with her guru in group choreographies both in
India and abroad. She has also given a few solo performances in India.
Diya has been teaching at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya since 2006 and is a ‘B’ graded artiste of
Samayita Das (dancer)
Samayita Das started learning Odissi dance at the age of 10, from Guru Padmashri Madhavi Mudgal,
at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, New Delhi.
As a member of her guru’s dance troupe, she has participated in dance festivals in India and abroad.
She has graduated with Zoology honours from Delhi University and is also a graduate in Odissi
Sanchita Bhattacharya (dancer)
For over a decade now, as a student of the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya and under Padmashri Guru
Smt. Madhavi Mudgal’s tutelage Sanchita has performed both in India and abroad, frequently as a
part of her guru’s troupe, as well as a soloist.
She is an empanelled artist of ICCR and a registered Odissi dance teacher under Akhil Bharatiya
She also privately teaches students, in a more dedicated ambience, in the same guru-shishya
parampara from which she has benefited so immensely.
Esplanade: What was it about odissi that drew you to it and eventually made you decide to make it your sole medium of expression even though you received your initial training in kathak and bharathanatyam?
Madhavi: The unexplored vistas of a still nascent form, when I took it up in the seventies. Also its lyricism and subtlety. In terms of movement, Odissi has a continuity which is not as evident in the others.
Esplanade: You have helped to give odissi a great deal of exposure and raised its popularity in India and abroad, particularly over the past decade through your teaching, performing, collaborations and organizing of collaborations and festivals. What have been your greatest challenges so far in all you’ve done for the dance form?
Madhavi: One challenge has been to find, and often to create, a pedagogy for transference of the grammar of the form. The second is with regard to its music, and the training of accompanists. The third has been to create new repertoire within the tradition and not out of it.
Esplanade: There seem to be have been many innovations to odissi in the past decade. What are your views on the modernization of odissi and do you think odissi today is headed in the right direction?
Madhavi: I am not sure I understand the word modernization. If it implies innovation for the sake of novelty, then I am somewhat sceptical of many attempts. The form itself offers enough to innovate within rather than without. It requires a life-long dedication to and understanding of the roots of the form, as well as a firm grounding in aesthetics, to create something lasting.