Thursday, 20 September 2012

Odissi Dance by Two Italians

Almost everyone is aware about the most famous Italian face in India but here are two more Italian faces in India which are not as widely known. They are the Odissi danseuses Illeana Citaristi and Sanatani Rombola.

Illeana came to India (Kerala) in 1978. In Kerala she started learning Kathakali but was not very happy with it. She visited Odisha and met the legendary Odissi exponent the Late Sanjukta Panigrahi who introduced her to the great Odissi maestro and her own Guru the Late Kelu Charan Mohapatra, who took Illeana under his tutelage. She permanently shifted to Odisha in 1979 and is living here since then. She presented her first public performance of Odissi in 1981. She has devoted herself to Odissi dance. She is equally at home in Chhau, the martial dance form of Mayurbhanj in Odisha. Her dance academy, Art Vision, set up in Bhubaneswar, is functioning since1995.

She was awarded ‘Padmashree’ in 2006.

I have had the occasion of watching her spell-binding performance several times, including the one as a part of the International Odissi Dance Festival last year.

 One can view her dance in this video.

 This candid interview gives an insight into her life.

The other Italian who has taken to Odissi dance like fish to water is Sanatani Rombola. She was born in Florence in Italy in 1982. Her parents were very attached to Indian culture and gave her the Indian name Sanatani. Hinduism is called Sanatan Dharma (eternal religion).(Hinduism is called so because it is believed to have been there ever since the appearance of human beings in the world. There is no one who started it as in the case Christianity, Islam or Buddhism which were started by Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammad and The Buddha respectively.) Being a girl, she was named Sanatani.The family joined International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON) and moved to Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath in Odisha in 1985. (It is beleved that Lord Jagannath is the manifestation of Lord Krishna.Hence the association of ISKON with Lord Jagannath.) Sanatani lived with her first Guru Bijayalakshmi Das for 6 years. She studied in an Odia medium school and fully imbibed the traditional Odia lifestyle. After Graduation in Puri, she went back to Italy when she was 21 and explored other options in the Western world but “finally realized that I can’t live without Odissi”. While Illeana learnt Odissi dance from Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra, Sanatani is a disciple of his daughter-in-law, the famous Odissi danseuse Guru Sujata Mohapatra, whom she met in 2006. After this meeting, she came back to India. (It is interesting to add here that Guru Kelu Charan’s son, Ratikanta Mohapatra is an accomplished Odissi danseur and Guru). Sanatani divides her time between Bhubaneswar and Vrindaban. Her dance guru is in Bhubaneswar and her spiritual guru, in Vrindavan. Her profile is available at this link.
Interestingly, in the International Dance Festival organised at Bhubaneswar, Illeana was one of the participants representing India and Sanatani represented Italy.

POST SCRIPT- February, 2015:

Illeana Citaristi was one of the guests at my niece's recent wedding. Here is a photo of hers with my niece:


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