An all-male 8-member dance group from Odisha, India was in Ipoh for a rare presentation in the city. This semi-classical Indian dance performance was composed of five dances for an hour, expertly choreographed with elements of martial arts, tribal culture, and folk tradition. Led by Padmashri Maestro Pandit Shashadhar Acharya, the group also conducted a workshop with Kumpulan Selendang Perak, the official state dance troupe.
This cultural treat was made possible with the collaboration of the Greentown Indian Cultural Society (GICS), High Commission of India in Kuala Lumpur, Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose Indian Cultural Centre, Office of Perak Tourism, Industry, Investment & Corridor Development, plus Majlis Kebudayaan Negeri Perak.
Chhau dance, also Chau or Chhaau, is a semi-classical Indian dance that originated in East India. It was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Known for its graceful movements, intricate footwork, mysterious-looking paper mache masks, and colourful costumes, Chhau is usually performed at cultural celebrations. The dance movements are accompanied by traditional music, along with percussion instruments such as the dhol, nagada, and shehnai, as well as the bells tied to the ankles of the dancers. As a highly skilled dance form that requires years of training and practice, Padmashri Maestro Pandit Shashadhar Acharya is a fifth-generation dancer, while his son, who was also a member of the group who came to Ipoh, is a sixth-generation dancer.
The Chhau presentation in Ipoh kicked off with the first dance known as Radha-Krishna.
The eternal love of Radha-Krishna, a metaphor for the union between the supreme and human consciousness is a common motif that finds abundant representations in Indian art. In this particular dance composition, Krishna’s mellifluous flute which forms an intrinsic part of their love imagery becomes the centre of focus. Their love-play is given a unique dimension as Radha takes the flute from Krishna in an attempt to learn… and he as always, is willing to please his beloved.
In the second dance, the beautiful maiden Chandrabhaga is amidst nature-gentle waves and the golden sands- elements that glorify her resplendent beauty.
Stunned by her striking looks, she is being watched by the Sun God. Much to her horror, lust overcomes his sense of discretion as he begins to pursue her. In a feeble attempt, she tries to escape from him, but is forced to seek protection in the ocean. This tragic end casts an eternal shadow on the Sun God, as he plunges into the darkness of remorse and guilt.
This sorrowful dance was followed by Mayura, a peacock dance. This is a bird known for its grandeur and beauty. Its dance, at the sight of rain-laden clouds and the spreading of its resplendent plumage, epitomises an almost divine grace. This bird of extraordinary elegance – its feelings of joy and vanity, the qualities of grace in its movements are given an anthropomorphic representation.
The fourth dance was titled Nabik. A boatman and his wife navigating waters create a unique allegorical interpretation of the metaphoric journey of life. The boatman tenaciously faces the joys and perils with the silent strength of his beloved, who in turn seeks his protection. Revelling in each other’s love and support, they thus sail on their tiny boat through the changing times of life.
Hansa was the closing dance. With the dancer dressed in white, it depicts the beauty of the stately swan as it swims in its natural habitat of water. The gliding movements of its graceful flight and the preening of its feathers are all given a literal translation into well-choreographed movements. Watch this video below for the Chhau Dance Presentation by Padmashri Maestro Pandit Shashadhar Acharya and his dancers.
Video: Chhau Dance Presentation
Earlier in the day, Padmashri Maestro Pandit Shashadhar Acharya and his dancers conducted a workshop for members of Kumpulan Selendang Perak, the official dance troupe for Perak state. The maestro guided the dancers on animal movements, such as the tiger and peacock. He praised the talented dancers, who grasped the movements in just one short hour.
Event: Chhau – Semi-classical Indian Dance Presentation from Odisha, India
Venue: Dewan Bankuet, Bangungan SUK, Ipoh
Date: 25th Oct, 2022