Behind the Poses

We hope you all are doing well in quarantine. While it doesn’t look like we are going to go back to normal any time soon, I am happy to bring to you an informative article about two unique Odissi poses. 

Darpan is a sculpturesque pose from the walls of ancient Orissa temples. Vaguely put, this pose shows a woman looking at her own reflection in a mirror (see picture on the left). With a modern peripheral lens, one might see narcissism. But if one goes a bit deeper, it all unravels. First, she looks at her beauty astonishingly. Then, she recognizes the potential inside of her. Thirdly, she takes pleasure and pride in that experience. To me, this pose is about self-love. Every time I hold this pose, a natural smile appears on my face. In the middle of dancing in front of a big crowd, I can take a deep breath during this pose, and enjoy the moment.

Odissi is characterized by various Bhangas (stances). The first example that comes to any Odissi dancer’s mind is Tribhanga, because it is one of the most common poses that act as a base for Odissi. Tribhanga means a pose in three parts. A dancer’s body has three bends in this pose: neck, waist and knee. The waist and the neck are curved oppositely looking like the shape of the English alphabet ‘S.’ The emphasis on this pose sets Odissi apart from other Indian classical dances, giving rise to movements that highlight the range of motion in the torso. This pose is often seen in traditional Indian sculptures, a common example being the deity of Lord Krishna playing the flute (see picture on the right).  

Jahnavee (Ritu) Chakravarty

Age of COVID-19

I am pleased to bring to you a timely article regarding the current COVID-19 crisis and its effects on dance classes at Mayur. It has been over five weeks since Mayur’s dance classes shifted to be held over Zoom. While this is the best option as of now, teachers realize that it is a different learning experience, especially regarding space. They know that one’s surroundings play a big role in their ability to be productive. One may argue that without other dancers around, there are fewer distractions. While that is true, there will be a lack of socialization in classes. Moreover, the structures of some homes are just not compatible with dancing, and that is why the teachers have been genuinely thanking all of us who are attending class every week because by doing so, we are helping them hold on to the feelings of normality and familiarity.

The teachers realize that expectations of dance class should adapt to respond to the changes going on, and that not everyone has access to large open spaces. A student’s safety is the first priority for teachers. How can we make sure that online classes are as accessible and effective as before? Here are some tips:
If you don’t have proper flooring, or have people living under you, then try to avoid jumping with force.
Avoid turns if you are dancing on carpet to avoid burns.
If possible, ask your family to remain quiet for the duration of your class. Oftentimes concentrating is hard when there is a lot of noise around you.
Keep a water bottle or a glass of water nearby so that if you feel thirsty you don’t have to miss out on instruction to grab a drink.
Warm up before class if you don’t already do so. Jumping jacks, high knees, butt kickers, and hamstring stretches are just some of the many examples.

At the same time, a couple of expectations for us as students must remain to ensure that the efficacy of classes remains just as high:
Practice dance items before class to save time, which will also prevent the teachers having to go over the same remark multiple times.
Dance in proper attire. Just because classes are going to be conducted at home doesn’t mean you can show up in your pajamas.

It is totally normal to feel sad, insecure, scared, and frustrated during this quarantine. But the required result is physical isolation, not social isolation. Aren’t we lucky that the virus cannot travel through one screen to another? During these unprecedented times, we should stay connected to our families, friends, and communities to maintain our mental health. Although we all miss the fun times during class, staying indoors is a requisite for the well-being of the entire community. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.”

Community Events

Mayur’s director is one of the founding members of Indian Dance Educators’ Association (IDEA); since 1995, this organization has helped establish Indian Classical dance as a serious art form in the Washington Metropolitan Area, and has offered organizational support to countless self-employed teachers and artists. Mayur dancers have chaired committees within the IDEA, served on the organization’s board, and regularly participate in IDEA productions.
Indian Dancers Educators Association

Since 1993, we have been grateful for the support of Sanskriti, a regional Bengali cultural organization. Many of Mayur’s early performances were staged at Sanskriti’s annual events, and we enjoy opportunities to return to their stage.
Sanskriti-DC

Mayur dancers have enjoyed performing at events organized by Prantik, an Bengali cultural organization in the Baltimore metropolitan area.
Prantik:Bengali Association of the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area

Most years, Mayur dancers represent Montgomery County’s Indian population and culture at the World of Montgomery Festival, where performers from various ethnic groups in the area share their talents.
Montgomery County Calendar

Individuals and groups from Mayur perform at various events for causes that are important to them. In the past, they have performed at a fundraiser for disaster relief in Uttarakhand, organized by the Association for India’s Development (AID); a fundraiser for the Tanker Foundation for kidney research in Tamil Nadu; a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood organized by regional dance educators; and numerous others.

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