A performance of traditional dance repertoire as prescribed many centuries ago by the kings and priests of the Lord Jagannath temple in Odisha, continues today as a staged classical art style. Elaborate costumes, devotional music, thrilling percussive rhythms and tinkling ankle bells have the effect of transporting the audience through time and space while imparting an understanding of the Devdasi ritual that was once practiced centuries ago in India. Today, the dancers perform in public spaces but the traditional Odissi repertoire of dances still follows a prescribed sequence.
A dance creating a sacred space through an offering of flowers, to meditate on the deity and acknowledge the
importance of the Guru and the clan. This dance is traditionally dedicated to Lord Ganapati, the elephant headed God, the One who removes all obstacles.
A dance depicting the lineage of dancers as inscribed on the temple walls of dancers in sculptured movements. The dance honors the cosmic God Shiva, the creator of movement of the Universe. .
Interweaving music and movement with expression to create a dance that shows the lyrical and graceful style is a distinct characteristic of Odissi. Sometimes, poetry can be incorporated. Traditionally, the vocals are sung or chanted as mnemonic syllables, copying the sounds of the drum but within classical melodic patterns.
Songs from the Gita-Govinda, a 12th century religio-erotic poetic work by Jayadeva were prescribed as songs to be danced in the Odissi style.Popular even today, these songs recount the love of the God Krishna with his consort Radha and weave the re-telling of the legends of Krishna’s life and his relationship with mortals. Other poetic compositions by Oriya poets have also been included as also devotional hymns from poet saints as Mira Bai
Traditionally, the closing dance of the classical repertoire it signifies becoming one with God. Many new and revived and re-arranged dances are also now included in the Odissi repertoire.
Within its repertory, Nataraj Dancers maintains the following major dance-theater productions choreographed by Guru Ranjanaa Devi:
Gita Govinda: The Song of the Dark Lord by Jayadeva
An allegorical love poem about Krishna and Radha enacted as a dance-theatre production.
Based on the Hindu scriptural text Devi Mahatmyam, the production highlights the dramatic legends of the great goddess Durga/Kali, Destroyer of Demons and Protector of Mankind.
One of the famous musical plays written by India’s Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore shining light on the plight of an Untouchable girl to tries to rise above her caste and ends with tragedy. This work is imaginatively choreographed in a theatrical style with a multi-ethnic cast by Ranjanaa Devi.
A series of seasonal songs written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore has been imaginatively choreographed with reflecting Bengali folk style dances to a live music score.
Conceived by Ranjanaa, Moksha is a compelling story of a western-trained dancer, her inner struggles with contemporary life patterns, of visions and understanding philosophy of life through Indian dance ritual. Beyond physical movement is the dance of the Mind; beyond that is Moksha, Liberation.
Raga Mala: The Nine Jewels
The Nine Jewels is a dance theater production that draws its inspiration from the traditions of Sanskrit drama and Miniature paintings in India dating from the 15th to 20th centuries. The selected nine paintings act as representations of nine Rasas (human emotions) that are brought to life as short vignettes within the frame of a play.
Pooja: The Five Elements in Prayer
This is a collaborative dance theater work that depicts the creation of the Universe in a juxtaposition of dance, theater, sculpture, poetry and narrative with the theme of the Five Elements in Nature. This work deviates in many ways from the classical choreographic style and explores a more abstract territory of movements that draw heavily upon the Indian folk and theatrical vocabulary with masks and props to create visions and impressions of the Elements. Based on a sculpture of four charred trees by Japanese sculptor Thomas Matsuda, a selection of world music compilations, masks and set design by well- known theater and visual artists Tim Holcomb, Henry Lappen, Steven Korns, and light designer Kathe DeVault, Pooja is visual feast of stunning images of the Five Elements -Space, Water, Earth, Fire and Wind in movement and color.
The Dance of the Dieties
An Indo-Tibetan Tantric Dance Theater work Combining dance, ritual and visual dioramas of Tibetan and Indian landscapes, this work highlights the life of Buddha Sakyamani from his miraculous birth to renunciation and enlightenment; essence of prayer to Mahakala the Tibetan wrathful deity who is universally recognized as one of the great protectors of the Buddhist Dharma and Green Tara, the gentle and heartfelt deity who symbolizes compassionate activity. She represents the mothers of the Buddhas of the past, present and future.
In Praise of Tara
Using the Indo-Buddhist liturgical text “Homage to Twenty-One Taras”, a prayer that is recited and meditated upon daily by millions of Tibetan Buddhists all over the world and has its roots in ancient Hindu Tantric traditions. This work represents the twenty- one emanations of the Goddess Tara, the goddess of compassion who arose from the tears of Buddha Avalokitesavara and upon being invoked through prayer swiftly responds to those in need by granting refuge and bestowing fearlessness. The work is conceived as experiencing a vision of this Goddess through surrealistic and saturated pools of light ever changing to enhance the choreography The music sung in Sanskrit lyrics and danced using the Odissi style to show ancient connections of tantric worship that existed between Orissa -Odisha and Tibet.
Mudra: The Gesture Speaks
Mudra is a spectacular work linking classical dance, yoga, live music and theater. Drawing upon ancient ritual, dialogue, poetry, and imagery, the work creates a remarkable visual tapestry of ideas that are expressed through gestures- abstract and literal, and movements and spoken words. Mudra exposes its audiences to the sheer beauty, power and skill of the hand; it highlights the importance of the hand as a vital part of the human body and shows how the fingers help to communicate and express thoughts and emotions in their fullest sense.
Mudra is the Sanskrit word for a hand gesture depicting a thought, an idea or a word in classical Indian dance. Used in narrative and poetic dance sequences, Mudras uniquely tell the story in a literal way making the words of the song almost inconsequential for those educated in Indian classical dance. Mudra is also contemporary, as simple and complex hand gestures are used by people as a tool for communication on a daily basis. The Mudra includes video projections, along with Nataraj Dancers, guest musicians, dancers and theater artists in its production.
For more choreographic works, please contact Ranjanaa Devi