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Home » Dance » “Raavan” depicts the lesser-known life of evil villain in Odissi way

“Raavan” depicts the lesser-known life of evil villain in Odissi way

In celebration of its 25th Anniversary, Maryland based Mayur Dance Academy premiered a feature presentation titled “Raavan”, which was performed by academy’s senior dancers.

“Raavan” highlighted excerpts from the life of the well-known character Raavan from Hindu mythology, focusing on his knowledge, devotion, perseverance, and righteousness. Episode 1 provided a vibrant opening that set the scene in Lord Shiva’s abode in the Himalayas, where Raavan was called upon to perform religious rituals. This opening was followed by a powerful introduction of Raavan, in which dancers creatively integrated group choreography and formations with traditional Odissi movements. The use of scarves to depict fire added intensity when enacting religious rituals onstage.

Episode 2 began with a comedic interaction between Nandi and Raavan at the entry of Mount Kailash, with Raavan wanting to enter and pay respects to Lord Shiva, while Nandi, the bodyguard, prevented Raavan from disturbing the majestic thandav dance being performed by Shiva and Parvati. The jathi depicting Raavan’s rage in this episode was a true testament of the Raavan ensemble dancers’ strong and powerful footwork.

In Episode 3, Raavan made a promise to his mother, Kaikesi, that he will bring her the revered Atmalinga in order for her to peacefully perform her daily prayers to Lord Shiva. However, along with this journey, he was distracted by Maya Devi, the goddess of illusion, who placed many obstacles in his path. The apsara dancers in this section performed with such grace and beauty, creating the ambience of a heavenly abode onstage. The brief interaction between Lord Ganesh and Raavan in this episode added lightness and an element of comedy to the otherwise serious and dark character that is Raavan.

mayur dance academy, raavan, odissi
A still from Raavana | Pic: supplied

The fourth and final episode depicted the great war between Raavan and Ram detailed in the Ramayana. The initial duet between Raavan and Mandodari in this segment showcased the care, compassion, and love Mandodari has towards her husband. Raavan’s righteous determination to fight for his people and his land are exemplified by his bravery to fight Ram directly. The Raavan ensemble dancers once again excelled at showing Raavan’s undefeated power and strength.

Sukanya Mukherji

Based in Potomac, Maryland, Mayur Dance Academy is an institution that aims to preserve, master, and build on the traditional Indian classical dance style of Odissi. The company’s productions bring together teachings of Odissi gurus, folk traditions, ancient and contemporary poetry, and the artists’ own aesthetic sensibilities. Sukanya Mukherji, artistic director of Mayur Dance Academy, trained in Odissi under the late Padmavibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, and she founded the academy in Maryland in 1993. Since then, Sukanya and her students have been teaching and performing widely in the United States and internationally to broaden conversations within the sphere of performing arts.

Mayur Dance Academy’s presentation of “Raavan” brought together unique, less-known episodes from the life of a character who is often perceived as an evil villain. However, after this production, viewers left the auditorium with a more well-rounded picture of Raavan, comprised of both strengths (devotion and determination) and weaknesses (arrogance and overconfidence). Many traditional texts and stotras were incorporated into the musical score to further highlight Raavan’s bhakti and devotion towards Lord Shiva. A wonderful effort by all the performers of Mayur Dance Company!

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