Legendary Sonal Mansingh

For those of you, who have limited exposure to Odissi, it is a beautiful dance form that has sculptural quality. It is uniquely graceful. The poses freeze after rounded motions. Its serene beauty casts a spell on many. Sonal Mansingh, the Legend in Odissi, in fact started learning Bharatanatyam and then after her arangetram, moved on to learning Odissi. She was the first dancer to bring Odissi to South India back in 1969, where Bharatanatyam was the main dance form.

Sonal enthralled audience with her performance at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Karthik Fine Arts, Chennai, on 24th December 2009. The opening invocatory piece was on Lord Krishna, whose Rasas were performed with great subtlety. The next item was based on Sabari Moksham, an episode from Valmiki Ramayana. Sonal portrayed the character Sabari who had utmost Shraddha and bhakti for Rama, so beautifully. This was a very well choreographed piece.

The final piece was performed with extract from Siva Puranam. In this, Sonal brought out the Navarasa on Lord Shiva. This piece was very unique.

With this performance, Sonal Mansingh once again proved to Chennai audience that she is a Legend & a force to reckon with.

Excerpts from my short interview with Sonal Mansingh:

How is Odissi, as a dance form faring in the modern world?

Odissi, is growing, but only horizontally. There are only few serious dancers. Nowadays students are not devoting full time to their dance. They are juggling it with many activities and dance happens to be one of them. Lot of sacrifice and hard work is required in the process of becoming a dancer. One should take dance as a form of Thapasya/Sadhana. People should realise that to be a dancer is a commitment for a lifetime.

Have you performed Odissi to music set in South Indian languages? Is it possible?

Yes, very much so. I started learning Bharatanatyam when I was young. In fact, I did my arangetram in 1961. I was instrumental in bringing Odissi to South India in 1969. I have danced to music set in all Indian languages. One can perform for any song from any language in the Odissi style of dancing as long as its purity is maintained and not diluted.

Please don’t mind my ignorance; do you have similar format/Margam like that of Bharatanatyam in Odissi?

Firstly, let me correct you (she politely says).  All forms of dance should neither be compared nor measured against Bharatanatyam. Each dance form has its own structure. As one becomes proficient or experienced, one should experiment without losing the basics.

What is your opinion on contemporary style of dancing?

Traditional Indian classical dance has changed. We are not performing dance as it was done a hundred years ago. But the core, which is the collective memory, does not change. We are living in contemporary times. Of course, there will be emerging contemporary styles of dance. If a dance form is performed with faulty ideals, then it is not contemporary, is it? A dancer makes a traditional item modern through her imagination and interpretation.

When do you plan on visiting Australia?

I have been to Australia back in late 1960s. I would love to visit Australia & give performances. I don’t get any invite from there. Would you arrange for one for me? (Sonal laughs & bids goodbye, after giving her contact details).

Wow! A true legend! It was a great honour interviewing her.

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