Renowned Bangladeshi dance school Nritya Nandan recently organised a three-day long Odishi dance workshop at the Daily Star-Bengal Arts Precinct at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka. Kolkata-based Odishi dancer Shashwati Garai Ghosh conducted the workshop, where around 50 Bangladeshi students participated.
The dancer-choreographer performed two dance pieces, and talked about the classical dance form in an interactive session with Bangladeshi dance exponents, including the likes of Amanul Haque, Benazir Salam, Belayet Hossain Khan and the workshop participants on the concluding day (August 21) of the workshop.
Sharmila Banerjee, Director of Nritya Nandan, along with her daughter and talented dancer Sudeshna Swayamprabha Tathoi coordinated the workshop. Holding such events regularly will definitely encourage the young dancers of Bangladesh to properly learn the aesthetic and methodological aspects and practices of the classical dance form.
Born in a family of artists, Shashwati transitioned from being a young girl who was far too restless to sit in one place, to a graceful and poised danseuse travelling the world. Her father, Tarak Garai, is a renowned sculptor, while her mother Minakshi Garai is a painter. From her early childhood, Shashwati has been a believer of the idea that art reflects life, and in light of that belief, she chose to experience life through the art of dance.
She began receiving Odishi lessons under the tutelage of eminent dancer-choreographer Smt Sharmila Biswas in 1999. She has had the privilege of receiving special training from legends like Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Smt Kalanidhi Narayanan, Smt Sonal Mansingh, Shri Durgacharan Ranbir. She also received dance medicine and fitness training from Dr Kannan Pughazendi. She enrolled in a pre-degree course in dance at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata in 1998 and completed her MA in Odishi dance from there.
Angashuddhi - Home for Odishi, is her own Odishi dance institute based in Kolkata. The school is an initiative to nurture and pass on the experience of learning Odishi dance to the next generation.
Shashwati regularly conducts workshops for schools and institutions around India and abroad. She has travelled extensively in India, and abroad, with the Odissi Vision and Movement Center ensemble, and individually, giving notable performances at prestigious festivals.
“A classically trained artiste never aspires to attain stardom overnight,” said the dancer, who harshly criticised the subpar dance festivals that are frequently taking place in Kolkata, where the festival organisers take money from dancers with little to no training or expertise to let them perform at the festivals.
“A classical dancer must know and understand the essence of classical music, raga, rhythm, light, set, stage, theatre and the various aspects of the musical accompaniment to perform the art form,” Shashwati asserted.
The dancer has great memories with renowned filmmaker-actor Rituparno Ghosh, whom she regards as a true artiste. “Very few people know that Ritu Da was a regular visitor at my Guru’s place for around seven months, and was taking Odishi lessons from her for his film Chitrangada. My Guru and I performed solo pieces in it as well,” said Shashwati, while elaborating on her experience of working for the Geeto Gobinda Festival.
Shashwati’s prolific career has been embellished with many awards, accolades and fellowships throughout, including -- Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Yuva Pratibha Samman (first recipient), Sanskriti-Madhobi Chatterjee Memorial Fellowship, Kalavaahini Senior Fellowship, Nalanda Nritya Nipuna Award, Odissi Jyoti Award, Shringar Mani Award and National Scholarship from Ministry of Culture, Government of India.