Bhubaneswar, 4th August 2016 (OdishaLIVE Bureau): Antar Yatra, The Journey Within, a dance narrative organized by Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Sharmila Biswas at Rabindra Mandap yesterday. She works for National Voluntary organization ‘All India Movement (AIM) for Seva’, which is a NGO involved in providing value based education to rural and tribal children across India.

DSC_0176Antar Yatra reflects the artistic vision of a group of special women, the women dancers of India. It is not a story performed as dance. It is a journey to be interpreted by each person individually – a personal journey of discovery.

Apsaras, the celestial dancers, occupy a major space in Indian mythology. The temple dancers, the court dancers and other professional dancers of the past considered themselves the incarnations of the Apsaras- rising from the churning of the milk ocean. They engaged in intimate dialogue with the abstract- be it inspiration- concept of creativity- and bought the essence of it to the Public.

Antar Yatra is a reflection on the space of an artist. Giving continuity to the entire narrative is the Sutradhar using elusive translucent hues of fabric to weave the thread. Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi, are the three classical dance forms represented in Antar Yatra. We look at these three dances as a series of dances from the Coromandel Coast, each form blending into the other.

In Antar Yatra, the dancers, together and individually convey, depict and narrate their journey within.

Kuchipudi interlude

In the twilight- Sandhya- when day meets night- the diffused light is her medium to discover. A part of her sees the magical lights, even while she is surrounded by the mundane. The fleeting lights of the evening transports her to the extraordinary. She sees glimpses of the Divine. But the colors are momentary. They fade, as easily as they come. Her world turns colorless.

Bharatnatyam interlude

The dancer seeks to find the inspiring spirit- sound is her medium to discover the abstract- which note of the temple bells echoes the spirit in her heart? The sacred space the divine she finds. Ecstatic at her discovery- she reveals in the joy within. She plays with the Divine to create. She nurtures her creation within her heart. It is hers alone.

But she is also the medium between the real and the abstract. Thus, a part of her finds a language to communicate. She transforms the unexplainable, the abstract, and shares with the audience, in the magical space she creates on stage.

Odissi Interlude

Drawing on the imagery of Rama pursuing the golden deer of Maya: seeking her discovery in the capture. Chasing Maya- she herself is entangled and caught within Maya- in her myriad colors of creativity. Each step she takes brings her closer to her art, the only thing she believes as sacred.DSC_0146

The journey concludes with all three dancers- along with the Sutradhar- realizing that it is not the destination, but the journey, that matters- not the temple, but the road leading to it….. this makes the artist grow more and more beautiful, as the time passes. She may age physically, but in spirit, in the unending journey, she is forever playing with her beloved. It is her eternal leela. Her personal discovery.

It I sour hope that the Antar Yatra is not only for dancers- it is for each one of us seeking to find the divine within. We can read layers of meaning within the concept.

Each one of us then takes away his or her own appreciation and understanding of this inner journey Antar Yatra.

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