In an attempt to find an odissi summer workshop I googled Odissi+Bangalore and what popped up was a video of the world’s 1st odissi flashmob! Conceptualized and executed by Ashwin Raghupathy, bunch of beautiful dancers break into a pallavi performance in the middle of Bangalore’s plush UB city courtyard. Absolutely fascinated and extremely jealous of these dancers I look up other videos of Ashwini Raghupathy and come across a video called the Odissi Odesey. Aptly named, this video had Ashwini perform Moksh along the length and breath of my beautiful city Bangalore. This video really made me rethink my understanding of performance and performance spaces.
We have always been made to believe that dance requires a stage, an audience, sound, lights, make up & costume; but here is a dancer who pushes aside all other requirements and just makes dance the hero of her story.
Ashwini Raghupathy is a dancer with a lot of laurels resting on her petite shoulders. A classical Odissi exponent who is a graduate out of the renowned Nrityagram Dance Village, Raghupathy also has over 6 years of experience with contemporary dance troupe Nrityarutya and has performed in many major festivals in India.
She is the director of ARPANA, an organization which deals with Indian traditional dance training, performances and dance outreach.
A Limca Book awardee, a TEDx speaker and an entrant of the Guinness World Book of Records, Ashwini is an innovative dancer with an itch to rewrite every rule there is about traditional classical dance.
What’s cool about her?
One of the things Raghupathy has constantly attempted is to bring classical dance out of the traditional, ‘artistic’ spaces that it has always been reigned in, into more inclusive spaces and communities.
All the world’s a stage quite literally for Ashwini. She dances her way through parks, markets, temples, villages, malls and schools. She’s danced for waste management and danced to fight against domestic abuse.
“Couple of years back, when I started off as an independent artist, I faced a lot of challenges in terms of resources. The two basic activities of a dancer: rehearsing and performing, were proving to be difficult. I could not find an affordable studio space to practise. The complicated procedure of performance, networking and an insufficient audience frustrated me, although for some, this is conveniently done.
So instead of complaining about overbooked studio slots and high rents, I looked at spaces that were free. Our city has one of the most beautiful spaces in Cubbon Park. This was the seed which grew into a full-fledged journey of exploration of public spaces for dance.” A simple solution to a complicated and expensive problem explained by Ashwini.
Another beautiful projects at ARPANA is their village outreach program. Carried out at little villages across Karnataka and village temples, jatres/fairs and community centers.
Through this program artists get to meet, interact and learn from folk artists. It broadens their horizons as they travel together and strengthen the bond between them as a group. It is a chance for the students of ARPANA to unwind and escape from the bustle of city life for a short period of time.
Dance as a form of communication
I have a strong background in development work, working with marginalised communities in collaboration with NGOs such as APD, Greenpeace, Oxfam GB etc . The more I involve myself in this work- the more I see compelling evidence of how important dance is as a medium for social and individual change. Dance is a primal form of communication and can cross several barriers. I once did a workshop with Infosys using dance as a means for talking about Waste Management!
Message from Ashwini
Remember that no one owns the dance. Train hard, immerse yourself in the technique but don’t forget to try something new.
Megh Pallavi performed by ARPANA
TEDx Talk by Ashwini Raghupathy
Want to know more?
ARPANA:Odissi Dance Classes