This concert, held on November 5, was organized by SPIC MACAY (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth). While I love seeing student performances, I like that SPIC MACAY brings professional performers to campus because it is also really interesting to compare student work and professional work. This concert was an evening of Odissi dance, which is a classical dance form that originated in the Indian state of Odisha, and featured performances by two Odissi dancers, Dr. Ileana Citaristi and Sreyashi Dey. Interestingly enough, one of the performers, Dr. Citaristi, is of Italian extraction, which is, I think, the first time I’ve encountered a performer of classical Indian arts who is not Indian. Indian classical dance is, more often than not, very heavily based on Hindu mythology, and it was interesting to think about how she would have had to really immerse herself in the religion to gain the understanding of the mythology that an Indian by heritage might have ingrained.
The difference in the two ladies’ styles was another interesting aspect of the performances. Ms. Dey had much more resounding footsteps – it was the first thing I noticed about her technique – and in a dance where one of the main features is the sound of the dancer’s feet on the ground, this was very effective. Dr. Citaristi didn’t step as loudly, and this makes me wonder if, perhaps, the loudness of the footsteps is a personal choice, or something that varies according to the mood of the dance.
In the previous SPIC MACAY-hosted performance I attended, the dancer took time before each dance she did to explain the story she would be illustrating and gestures she would be using to do so. This was done here as well, but not, I think, to the extent of the other performance. This kind of explanation greatly helps an audience, since many are not intimately acquainted with the art form, and allows the audience to spend less time wondering about what is happening, and more time appreciating the dancer’s technique. I also liked that there was a Q&A session with Dr. Citaristi and Sreyashi Dey afterward: I think that is very helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of the art form and the way in which the dancers approach their art.