It was during her studies Painting at College of Arts in New Delhi that Jaya Mehta got mesmerized by the rich context and ancient background of Odissi. Observing and studying the temple sculptures started a connection with the essentials of this Indian classical dance form. ‘When I visited the Khajuraho Dance Festival in this monumental temple with beautiful sculptures and saw the dancers perform within this context, it immediately felt so strongly to me. That the dancers where nothing but the sculptures and motions. And the sculpture is nothing but the freeze of the dance.’ After that experience Mehta quit her job to start dancing. ‘Once I found dance, I never painted again. I was so satisfied. Now I don’t make a painting and put it out there, I am the painting: my body is the line, my emotions are the colours and the space is my canvas.’
During that time of realization Mehta got in touch with her Guru Pratibha Jena Singh in New Delhi following the style of Guru Surendra Nath Jena. A unique way of approaching Odissi. A range of Indian art forms brought into Odissi, such as sculptures, architecture, painting and poetry: ‘When it comes to poetry, Guruji did not only use the Gita govinda, he also used local Orissa poets. He always understood: dance is expressing the emotions of real life. He always connects with life of the people.’ For example, Guru Surendra Nath Jena wrote a poem Benu Gatha about Radha & Krishna, where Radha is urging to know about the 7 notes of Krishna flute and Krishna explains how every note is connected to many aspects of the universe. A choreography Jaya Mehta will also share on stage during her upcoming India Yatra in The Hague & Rotterdam, a duo dance journey with Dutch Kathak danseuse Anima Jhagroe-Ruissen.
Ancient times, current emotions
‘The context is always important. In India there are so many people who are not familiar with Indian classical music and dance. You have to contextualise them once more. And to do that the dancer has to invoke what he or she is going to elaborate in the dance. All the Indian Gods are mirroring our lives, that’s why there are so many of them. They are not far away from us. They all have emotions and stories, husbands, wives, kids and sakhis (friends). The Gods are connected to our lives today.’ According to Jaya Mehta it’s also the philosophy of Indian aesthetics running through todays’ Odissi: ’By the seventh note of Krishna’s flute in Guruji’s poem all the nine aesthetic emotions (navarasas) start to play in your heart. So, a lot of what you feel in life is the divine play of emotions, it’s helps you a lot to understand the things that happen in your life, whether it’s something you like or don’t like. There is a spectrum of emotions and things that come your way. Once you are able to zoom out and look at life like that, you make a better connection within yourself.’
With the visions of her Guru and Guruji in her heart Jaya Mehta is continue to share Odissi in a way which is deeply rooted in nature. Organic lines, truthful emotions with a pure softness, but grounded like a tree. To dance is to live, like a religion from a different source. As an artist of various art forms, it makes the fundamentals endless and open to express the human existence.
Jaya Mehta is currently in The Netherlands to share Odissi through workshops and performances;
- From the East to the North: an Indian dance journey with your own travel guides Odissi exponent Jaya Mehta from New Delhi and Dutch Kathak key figure Anima Jhagroe-Ruissen, May 27th in The Hague and the 2th of June in Rotterdam.
- This upcoming May 28th Jaya Mehta’s closing workshop will be focusing on the nine aesthetic emotions (navarasas) and learning about the Odissi costume & draping the saree as a costume.
Thanks to Savitri Sattoe of saktiisha yoga centre.
Photos: Sarah van Soldt
Sarah schrijft freelance voor o.a. indiaseklassiekedans.nl en ook op haar eigen blog https://sarahvansoldt.wordpress.com/
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