Friday, December 16, 2005

My life in myth

Ileana Citaristi Hindustan Times Friday, December 16, 2005
I have now been in India for twenty six years. I have a house in Bhubaneswar, overlooking the sacred lake, Bindu Sagar. Since 1979, my life is that of an Odissi dancer. I was born in Bergamo in North Italy and was raised as a good Catholic girl. I rebelled at sixteen and began to gather all kinds of new experiences in life. I first saw Indian dance in a Kathakali demonstration in my hometown by Guru Krishna Namboodiri in January 1978. Within six months, I was in Kerala and after a three-month workshop gave a full-dress Kathakali performance. I was so charged by this, that I could not go back quietly home as if nothing had happened.
My guru directed me to Orissa and reigning dancer Sanjukta Panigrahi. I saw Odissi for the first time but I was still under the spell of Kerala. I went home to Bergamo, with new movements to use in my original metier as a theatre person. In 1979, when I came back and planned to divide the year between Kerala and Orissa, to research movement for my own production of the Greek myth of Narcissus. I went to Cuttack and met Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra - and stayed put for six years. I am often asked what attracts me to the content of Odissi, which is a rich world of mythology. The Gita Govinda of Jayadeva enchanted me from day one, with its poetic beauty. I am an incurable romantic and the love of Radha-Krishna touched my soul.
Since I came from a doctorate in philosophy (with my thesis on `Psychoanalysis and Eastern Mythology'), Odissi became a seamless continuation of my intellectual and spiritual search. Odissi is my language and Hindu myth and its content which is rich in symbols and emotions. Its universal appeal seems to work for every kind of audience. And no matter how many new items I prepare, my mother always wants to see Sita Haran with Jatayu Moksham. The drama element is personally important to me and my repertoire has strong characters with strong emotions: Draupadi, Ekalavya, Chitrangada and Sita. Among the aspects of God, I can never tire of addressing Shiva and dance many items about him in both Odissi and Chhau.

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