Please enjoy a few words from Douglas Ridings, Odissi dancer and teacher, performing at the 2015 Northwest Folklife Festival. Here he has shared with us the background of this unique dance form and what audiences can expect to see in his Festival performance.
“Odissi” A classical Indian Dance that has a 2000+ plus history and was suppressed under British Imperialism and nearly lost until it was reconstructed after Indian Independence through textual research, sculptural evidence, remnants of old traditions in the Jatra (roving theaters), and the temple tradition sustained by the Maharis, temple priestesses who were married to the deity of the temple and performed dance as part of their offering. I have learned Odissi dance from Dr. Ratna Roy since 2005. Her teacher was Pankaj Charan Das, the adopted son of a Mahari and a seasoned performer in the Jatra. Combining his knowledge of temple ritual and and theatrical savvy of the Jatra, he was a primary force in the modern reconstruction of Odissi and is today acknowledged as the “Guru of Gurus”.
The piece is an invocation to Shiva in his form as Nataraj (King of the Dancers) and Yogiraj (King of the Yogis). The music I had commissioned while I was India with Dr. Ratna Roy’s help, so I was in the studio dancing with the drummer while the recording was being made. Odia music has elements of both Karnatic and Hindustani Classical Music as well as it’s own distinctive elements. The costume was custom made from an embroidered silk saree as well as filigree silver jewelry and ankle bells. Odisha is well-known not only for its dance but also its textiles, jewelry, painting and cuisine. Odissi dance itself is characterized by its capacity to blend sacredness and sensuality, its lyricism and gracefulness, and its intricate, subtle complexity and isolations.
I have performed many times at Folklife but always before with Dr. Ratna Roy and her group Urvasi. This is the first year I have been invited to dance as a soloist.
I perform regularly in India, under Dr. Roy’s guidance. When I’m there, I teach Yoga to dancers in Bhubaneswara (Rudrakshya) in exchange for dance training with them and home-cooked food!
YOU can learn Odissi!
Dr. Roy teaches Beginning Odissi at Velocity Dance Center on Sundays at 3 pm and Douglas Ridings assists her.
Douglas Ridings also teaches a class on Fridays at 7pm at Culture Shakti Dance.