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Sanskrit symphony

The festival of ancient arts comes with an unusual fusion of Odissi and Romanian ballet

Avantika Bhuyan  |  New Delhi 

Sanskrit. The word fills the mind with sounds and images of the chanting of mantras, the incantations by Vedic scholars during hawans and yajnas, and verses of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Now, for the first time, the focus is on the healing powers of Sanskrit. The fourth edition of the International Sacred Arts Festival brings to fore the therapeutic relevance of the language to the modern man. The two-day event will also highlight clinical research about the power of dance and music on the various processes in the human body.

The power of sound and movement will be explored through a series of talks. While Mandara Cromwell, founder of the US-based International Sound Therapy Association, will talk about the healing properties of sound, Sue Daniel from Australia will make a presentation about psychodrama as a living process. The soothing nature of Indian classical music will be demonstrated by Khayal singers Rajan and Sajan Mishra. Yet, the most awaited performance of the festival is a collaboration between Odissi exponent Reela Hota and performers from the Bucharest National Opera House, titled 'Sanskrit: the Mantra Bhasha; Fusion Dance on the Healing Aspect of Ancient Languages'.

"First came sound and then light," says Hota, spiritualist and founder-member of the cultural organisation, Rays of Wisdom Society. "Scientists believe that the Big Bang explosion resulted in a great sound. And from that emerged the primordial sound of aum." This one sound broke into different sounds, which, when used in different permutations and combinations, laid the basis for language. The ballet-Odissi performance focuses on the 50 original sounds that have held the molecules of the physical world in a state of constant vibration. One dance piece, titled 'Abhinaya', focuses on how some common Sanskrit words stimulate the body chakras. For instance, the frequent utterance of the mantra of Manipura may help keep serious digestive problems at bay by re-activating the system.

Bogdan Canila, the lead performer from the Bucharest National Opera House, agrees with Hota about physical entities like the sun and moon being nothing but manifestations of the wavelength of sound. "As living beings, our lives are situated between the earth and the sky. Whether it's birds or humans, we carry out our daily tasks surrounded between these two bodies. Hence, our dance focuses on the elements that surround us," explains Canila who will be performing with Andra Lonete and Cristina Dijmaru.

The idea for such collaboration came to Hota a few months ago when she was looking to do something unique for this year's festival. Each year, she experiments with choreography and styles to stretch her creative limits. While last year Hota celebrated the spirit of Tagore using six different classical dance styles, the year before that saw her exploring the power of tantra. "Artists get frustrated repeating the same pieces every year," she says. "One should always strive to take one's creative energies to newer heights." With this aim in mind, Hota embarked on a search for an international group that could match her vision. Finally, five-months ago, a friend from Romania came to her rescue. The woman, who used to learn yoga with her from Satyananda Saraswati, suggested contacting the famous Bucharest National Opera House.

Hota mailed videos of her choreography to Canila who then began work on the ballet pieces. After endless Skype sessions and late-night calls, the choreography began to take shape. When asked about the challenges of blending two such diverse dance forms, Hota says, "When it comes to representing the different elements, no two dance forms could have been more perfect. Classical ballet is so light, with pirouettes and flights in the air and artiste standing on their toes. Odissi, on the other hand, is earthy; our feet is always touching the ground that we dance on."

The International Ancient Arts Festival will be held at Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi, on May 22 and 23, at 6.30 pm

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First Published: Sat, May 18 2013. 20:26 IST