Swagata-OdissiBy Patricia Kaowthumrong | Asian Avenue magazine

Swagata Banerjee brings ancient history to stages around the world through Odissi, one of the eight classical dance forms of India. A native of India who resides near Longmont, Swagata performs Odissi dance regularly and conducts workshops in the U.S. and around the world.

“My goal is to promote Odissi through my performance and choreography throughout the world,” she says.

Swagata was sent to Mexico and Belize by the government of India to showcase Indian culture and tradition through Odissi dance. Swagata was awarded the title of “Singar Mani” for her extraordinary performance in Odissi among all other Indian dance forms.

Swagata started learning classical dance when she was four years old. She learned Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Odissi simultaneously, but was most attracted to the Odissi form. She realized that concentrating on one dance form that she loved the most would help her reach perfection and tune her body to replicate the style of Odissi.

Odissi was originated in 2nd century BC in the eastern part of India in the state called Odisha. Archaeological evidence has designated Odissi as the oldest surviving dance form of India. Odissi has been practiced for the last two millennia and is loved, researched and widely performed today, Swagata says. The essence of Odissi dance is in its sculpturesque form, and the elegant poses of the dance closely resemble the sculptures of the temples that once nourished the art.

“This dance has certain rules of body movements that make it entirely different from the other dance forms. The subtlety of the dance movements along with the cultural richness of the sculptures of the temples of Odisha enthralled me and made me fall in love with Odissi.”

Swagata says. “Odissi gives me a grand opportunity to be a part of such a rich and ancient history. Dance is within me, and without dance, I am a body without soul. This gives me immense pleasure and satisfaction.”

Because her family is also passionate about music and dance, Swagata grew up listening to classical Indian music. Her mother, Srilekha Banerjee, a leading vocalist in India specializing in a very rare field of traditional Bengali songs, has always been Swagata’s biggest source of inspiration.

“She is the one who has channelized me since my childhood to fall in love with the rare and difficult things,” Swagata says. “The dance movements of Odissi appear to be soft and subtle, however, achieving the subtlety are very challenging and rigorous to execute and requires immense body control, practice and dedication.”

Swagata is also grateful for the teachers—Manimala Chakraborty, Aditi Bandyopadhyay and her present guru, Rina Jana—who have taught and helped her throughout her long journey. She encourages others seeking success to have a love for their art.

“Without loving and understanding the basics of a specific art form, it is difficult to succeed,” Swagata says. “Love for whatever we do take us beyond the classroom lessons.”

When Swagata isn’t dancing, she loves exploring her creativity and playing with colors.

“I love to play with colors,” she says. “I try to bring color through dance, choreography and the dresses I wear. I enjoy doing anything associated with colors. I enjoy painting and photography! Things that I find in nature give me inspiration to draw and paint. I often use real twigs, leaves, branches of trees as well as clay for creating my canvas.”

Swagata will present a lecture, demonstration and performance on April 26 at the University of Colorado at Denver. For more details about her performances, visit www.swagatabanerjee.com.

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