The Peak (Malaysia) - - Travel -

A curved fig­ure, slen­der yet strong, draped in a colour­ful sa­ree and an elab­o­rate bun dec­o­rated with Seen­thi crowns her head. This breath­tak­ing fig­ure is an Odissi dancer. She moves with grace and pre­ci­sion, her fingers el­e­gantly curved in var­i­ous mu­dras while her eyes be­lies emo­tions that her body nar­rates through the In­dian clas­si­cal dance that emerged from the an­cient Hindu tem­ples of Odisha in India. She dances across the stage, her feet stamp­ing to the beats of the mardala (a two-headed bar­rel drum) in­ter­twined with the lilt­ing notes of the flute and el­e­gant strum of the sitar. As an enraptured au­di­ence ad­mire her ev­ery move, it is ev­i­dent that this is no mere dance as her fluid form chan­nels the spirit of cen­turies of Odissi dancers be­fore her – and it is a tale worth telling.

To im­merse one­self fully into the roots of this ex­quis­ite dance, a so­journ to the birth­place of Odissi is called for. This is how I found my­self in Odisha, an unas­sum­ing coastal state on the east­ern se­aboard of India. And my guru to this his­toric land is none other than Datuk Ramli Ibrahim, the doyen of dance, the mae­stro Odissi, who re­turns to Odisha with Su­tra Dance The­atre to per­form the tale of Gan­jam at the Konark Dance Fes­ti­val, one of the big­gest dance fes­ti­vals in India. It’s also no se­cret that Datuk Ramli is a stal­wart of Odissi. Since his in­tro­duc­tion to the dance in the 1970s, he has been one of the strong­est ad­vo­cates for Odissi and this decades-long ded­i­ca­tion has earned him nu­mer­ous ac­co­lades, in­clud­ing a Life­time Achieve­ment Award re­cently be­stowed upon him by the Karthik Fine Arts in Chennai, India.

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