Orissi Dance of the Yogini: Program Notes

MANJUSHREE (raga: Bibhas; tala: ektali): dancer: Jamie Lynn Colley. Choreography: Ratna Roy. In this invocation dance, the dancer enters the stage (Mancha Pravesh) and does her salutation to Mother Earth (Bhumi Pranam), in the tradition of the Natya Shastra (2nd century AC). Then she invokes the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushree, who came over the mountains from China, and created the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal by letting the waters out with his sword of Knowledge. He has four arms that hold the sword in the right hand symbolizing the light of knowledge penetrating the darkness of ignorance. In his left hand he generally holds the book Prajnaparamita, the source of transcendental knowledge. The other two arms hold the bow and arrow. On his right side is seated white Ganesa, and on his left the blue Mahakala (Shiva). The poet Surata Vajra offers this song to you, the audience. That invocation is followed by an offering of dance to the audience (Sabha Pranam)

SANKARABHARANAM PALLAVI (raga: Sankarabharanam; tala: ektali): dancer: Ratna Roy. Choreography: Padmabibhusan Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra. A pure dance, the pallavi sung to a specific raga is the flowering of the music, rhythm, and the dance that is known as Orissi.

VASANTA PALLAVI (raga: Vasanta; tala: ektali): dancers: Jamie Lynn Colley & Frank Casey). Choreography: Padmabibhusan Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra. Re-envisioned by Ratna Roy as the flowering of the female and the male body in the Orissi idiom. The dance opens with a description of spring as the time of the peacock, Krishna, blooming flowers, mango blossoms, young hearts, Kama, the god of love, rutting elephants.

VASANTA PALLAVI (Friday night): (raga: Vasanta; ektali): dancers: Scheherazaad Cooper & Sitara Thobani. Choreography: Padmashree Guru Pankaj Chaan Das

SAVERI PALLAVI (Saturday night): (raga: Saveri; misra tala): dancer: Gargy Banerjee. Choreography: Padmabibhusan Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra.

AHE NILA SAILA: (ragamallika; jati tala): dancer: Ratna Roy. Choreography: Padmabibhusan Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra. Reinterpreted by Ratna Roy. The Muslim poet, Salabega, who is so revered by the Jagannatha culture that once a year when Lord Jagannatha’s chariot rolls down the streets of Puri, it stops at the Muslim cemetery to pay homage to Salabega. Salabega implores Lord Jagannatha to destroy his ravaged body, eaten by leprosy as callously as an elephant destroys a lotus flower, so his soul can be released. He writes of the time when the elephant king, Gajaraj, was caught by the crocodile, and how using his discus, Jagannatha released the foot of the elephant. He then writes of the time when Draupadi was humiliated in the Kaurava court, and he saved her honor by giving her unending yardages of fabric. Finally, the poet writes of the time Jagannatha came in the form of a Lion Man, Narasimha, to save Prahlada from the cruelties of his arrogant father, Hiranayakasipu. Finally, Salabega, writes of himself, a Muslim, casteless, and offers his prayers.


KALI MANGALACHARANA (Bahiraga; tala: ektali): dancer: Ratna Roy; drummer/mardala player: John Merrell; drummer/tabla: John Abrahams. Choreography: Ratna Roy. It begins with a bhumi pranam and continues on to describe Kali and her appearance as a powerful deity, symbolizing the cycle of life and death, with her necklace of skulls and her tongue symbolizing sexuality. Kali, the one who is beautiful, with her long, unbound, streaming hair, the one who is powerful, equal to Lord Siva, the one who also is Sarasvati, the primordial Goddess, Ganga, and Devi herself. The dance ends with Kali’s tandava dance--the dance of power.

BATU: (dancers: Frank Casey, Sitara Thobani, Scheherazaad Cooper. Musicians: Mardala (percussion): John Merrell, Voice: Jamie Lynn Colley & C. J. Hanekamp, Sitar: Forrest Stone, Manjira (cymbals): Ana Aguinaga). Choreography: Padmabibhusan Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra. Batu is the foundation dance in the Orissi repertoire. In this dance, for the first time we are introducing live music by students and alumni of Evergreen.

DRUM EXTRAVAGANZA: John Abrahams and John Merrell. Accompaniment: Forrest Stone on the sitar.

TARA (ragamallika; talamallika): dancer: Ratna Roy. Choreography: Padmashree Guru Pankaj Charan Das. For this performance, the introduction (Parts I and II) to the Panchakanya (Five Virtuous Women) will not be performed.

Part III: Description of Lord Rama (the antagonist), his brother Lakshmana, and his wife Sita. Worshipped by Hanumana, the monkey-god, Rama is the son of King Dasaratha, of royal descent, dark complexioned, and calm in bearing.

Part IV: Introduction of the protagonist, Tara, the wife of the ferocious and invincible monkey-king, Vali: she is fiery and motherly.

Part V: Lord Rama tells Sugriva, the brother of Vali, that he will help him in his fight against his royal brother. However, when Rama tries to shoot his arrow, he realizes that both the monkey brothers look alike and he cannot tell the difference. Sugriva, hurt badly, complains to Rama, who explains his predicament and gives Sugriva a garland (lei) to identify him. Now Rama is able to kill Vali from behind a clump of trees.

Part VI: Widowed Tara accuses Rama of deception and cowardice. Rama explains to her that Vali was a womanizer and needed to be killed. Tara is not convinced. First, the battle was unfair. Second, whatever be the reason for Rama's slaying Vali, the monkey-King was not tried and convicted. There was no justice. And finally, Rama had no right to relegate Tara to the realm of abject widowhood. She recalls his past slayings, including that of a woman, Taraka, and accuses him of injustice. To appease her, Rama proposes that she marry Sugriva and thus erase the stigma of widowhood. Tara does not accede until her own terms are met.

Part VII: Tara's marriage with Sugriva.

Part VIII: The dance ends with a reminder of the five great women and their incredible power.

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