An Exclusive interview with Guru Ratikant Mohapatra published in INDIA! magazine in Germany – by Avijit Das

Seemingly endless in the fertility of his imaginative choreographic and literary resources, Honoured by Indian Performing Arts Promotion Inc., Washington Dc, and USA for the valued contribution in Odissi dance in 2003.
Ratikanth Mohapatra the outstanding Oddisi guru, has been enriching the dance form, resourcefully drawing from his treasure-trove of training under great guru who is none other than his father Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra , integrating the traditions of Orissa, who lives for his dance and his students, who love and respect his immensely, managed time to answer some questions.

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1. When did you start learning oddisi?

at the age of 4 I started my dance carrier under my father and a legend of ODDISI guru KELUCHARAN MOHAPATRA(died 2004 at 7th April)

2. You were under a teacher who was a performer, great guru and also your father. Did you find any difference in his approach towards you?

NO, it was never like that. My father never treated me special in dance class even if I stand behind the class room and dance; he never called me in front and makes me stand. Because he use to look at every single student and correct them. He was equal to all his student including me,

But of course as a father he was different at home, he was like other normal father, he never makes me feel that I was a son of great legend. One word of his I always remember and follow in my life “BE SIMPLE” and “SIMPICITY MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL”

3. Do you feel that you have evolved your own style what guruji has done?

Yes I did, but sticking to the grammar of oddisi I evolved, I always love to do some creative things stick to the tradition. And whatever guruji (my father) has done on top there is nothing much to do and create a new style, as we all know he is known as a god father of oddisi.

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4. Arts are said to mould a person’s mind and personality. How has dance helped you?

YES, I born and bought up in a family where i used to wake up with sounds of music, without my knowledge I knew so much. From the morning to late night we had a dance classes every day, so my sense of art became more strong in my small age with sense of humor.

5. How would you differentiate the technique and style oddisi?

Through word it is difficult to describe about the difference between technique and stayle of any for the performing art such like dance form. Technique is same like alphabets to built or create a word, and style is how you use the word to make beautiful sentence.

6. Do you think then male dancer has less value then the female dancer opportunity ways.

Yes I do believe that female dancer has much more opportunities then a male dancer in the field, till today I believe a group of audience comes to watch performance to see beauty and the organizer also look for a dancer who is beautiful rather than talented, because of sponsors. So in that way male dancer go so much behind in this competition of performance, but still only male dancer exists in the dance field till their end after a time most of the female dancer stop dancing. MALE dancer always ruled the dance field till today.

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7. Have you tried contemporary choreography? As we know RAVANA is one of your famous choreography, where do you like to put ravana as a contemporary or a traditional piece?

Yes I do lot of contemporary choreography using the technique of oddisi and which I enjoy, give me so much of freedom on my creative world to input my own idea. But I never change the costume or techniques. I more concentrate into create good music using the same traditional instrument; it gives different feelings to audience,
I did a piece call “RAVANA”, here I showed the character “Ravana” as a great yogi taken from different Ramayana ( Indian great mythological text) who fight with almighty for his salvation rather doing tapas for years and years. There I used contemporary technique to established the character but I did not move from oddisi technique, I worked on the music and the script, which was great success and I travel so many countries with this particular piece, got a good response from audience too. So audience always waits for good work it can be done by a male or a female dancer.

8. What do you think about so call contemporary dance?

I have great respect for contemporary dance and the dancer, I personally do so much experimental work and I feel it is all about your creativity, what you are and how do you relate dance to your life. So there is no harm of doing some creative work let people call it contemporary work.

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9. Do you think that the audience prefer contemporary more than traditional dance?

It depends on the audience, there are group of people who only like to watch the same choreography for years and years and some of them like to watch new things in the dance field and we have good response for both. As I said we have demand for good work it can be contemporary or traditional dance.

10. What is your opinion about present day oddisi and the male dancer in oddisi.

Present day oddisi has walk so long from where it was started. Why only oddisi I feel most of the Indian classical dance has walked long, and it is not possible also to stick to the same what have done 10 years or 15 years back. Every art form has their own growth, I am seeing so many new dancers are doing such a great work and I always feel happy to see good work, like in srajan (institute of oddisi dance) we do so many new production with a new concept.

For a male dancer it’s not easy to survive only with performance , now days dance field has much more competition than before , if you put your concentrate into teaching line rather then performances I feel there is much more scope of sustain in the field, or if you have a permanent job then it is alright to only concentrate in performing.

Ratikant with Guruji

11. How you manage with dancing and “SRAJAN” (institute of oddisi dance) and being the part of so many other cultural committee.

It is my love towards art or Dance which keeps me always busy and work hard to give something to the society and the new generation whatever I can, I never felt that I am working hard, all this very normally I handle. Since you told me then I realize that I do so much of work at the same time (he laughed…………).

12. Do you think that dancing can be taken as a full time profession for a male?

Yes dance can be taken as a full time profession like other art field, again it is depend on what you expect from dance like money, fame and name. More than money a dancer earn so much of respect from the society which you never can compair with money.

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13. As Indian classical dance mostly related to god and goddess are you consider yourself a spiritual person?

NO, I never consider myself as a spiritual person, but yes I believe in supreme power who protect me and bring me towards my creativity
14. How do you see your role in the society as a dancer apart from being on stage?

Before I am a dancer I feel I am a human being, so as a human being I have some responsibility to the society where I belongs to. I try as much as a can do to the dance fertility apart from being on stage. Now I am colletecting the history of oddisi from different state and put them together and get a concrete history of ODDISI.

15. Have you ever perform with GURUJI on same stage, Which is your most memorable performance?

Yes, we performed so many times on stage. I started performing with him from so young age and I learned so much from him being on same stage.

Most memorable performance was on 1st of april 2004 at Lacknow,
We (my father and myself) were not decided for performing together in that evening but suddenly he told me that organizer wanted us to perform together, we decide to do “MANGALACHARANAM”(beginning item of a oddisi repertoire) and it was wonderful experience without a rehearsal we did the whole performance. Feedback was amazing from the audience. After 6days my father passed away on 7th of April 2004, it was my last performance with my father and the most memorable performance.

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16. How do you feel being a son of a great legend and a leading male oddisi dancer in india? Does audience ever compare you with your father?

It is always wonderful being son of a great legend, but it’s not easy at all to maintain the image. Because people starts compare you with your father, they forget that you are an individual and you have your own capacity of doing things.

And as a male dancer I feel very happy whatever I achieved today, it was never easy without my father support and my family. I am here to do good work

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