Vishnu Tatva Das


East Indian Odissi dance

Odissi is the oldest of the eight classical dance forms of India, dating back to the 1st century BCE.  A devotional dance typically performed by temple dancers in the east Indian state of Odisha, Odissi was suppressed under British rule (the colonial rulers considered it immoral).  It was revived in the 1950’s, after India became independent.  What sets Odissi apart from other classical Indian dance forms is the importance it places upon the Tribhangi – the independent movement of head, chest, and pelvis – and the Chaukha – the basic square stance that symbolizes the Hindu deity Lord Jagannath.  These two stances form the basis for all choreography for the dance, which comprises flowing movements set off by the stamping of the foot and striking various postures as seen in Indian sculptures.

Vishnu Tatva Das began his initial Odissi training in 1989 under Jhelum Paranjape of the renowned Odissi Smitaly school in Mumbai, India.  In 1990, Vishnu moved to Bhubaneswar, Orissa, where he spent two years training at the Odissi Research Center under the late Guru Kelucharan Mohapata, who is credited for the revival of this classical dance form in the 20th century. For the past 25 years, Vishnu has been learning, teaching, choreographing, performing, and producing Odissi dance in the United States and India.  He is the founder of Odissa Vilas: Sacred Dance of India, a San Francisco Bay Area-based school and dance company.

As a current master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program, Vishnu will work with apprentice Maureen Nandini Mitra.  Their apprenticeship will focus on Maureen’s mastery of a new, more complex pallavi, or dance piece set to a particular raga (musical melody), thereby helping Maureen move toward the next level of Odissi repertoire: abhinaya, or acting and storytelling through dance.

The following video features Vishnu Tatva Das (center) performing Odissi dance.

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