Odissi’s Abbreviated HERstory, by Tenley Wallace
Odissi Indian Classical Dance is the daughter to a very ancient system of Temple Dance from India’s East Coast state of Orissa. For 1000’s of years, society looked upon and entrusted Temple Dancers as the embodiment of fertility, abundance, sensuality, and the life-giving energy called Shakti. They were advanced Yoginis, and intensively trained Dancers, starting at a very young age. Their life was single focused on their training and Ritual Dance duties. They were literally married to the God, thus were Wives of the God, and appropriately had their own Matriarchal caste at the highest level of society, next to the Deity.
After India got independence from England in 1947, a great cultural revolution began. Odissi was a result of this renaissance, with a few dedicated men piecing together the remains of a nearly forgotten Temple Dance tradition and practice.
Ancient Temple Dance included rhythm of the feet with bells, and Odissi has continued this tradition. Feet and bells act as musical instruments. Yet also, since Temple Dancers were the ambassadors of Shakti to society, they also learned various methods to cultivate and channel Shakti.
Feet slapping earth and stone of ancient Temples calls forth the bountiful and powerful Shakti of the earth, directly into the Dancer’s body, igniting the physical, energetic, spiritual system, and beyond. Hand gestures, called mudras, are sourced from this Shakti, as are the facial expressions, and this dance in general.
Come to class to learn more of this fascinating and nearly forgotten tradition.
It is with great delight, honor, and devotion to bring this powerful practice and art to Bend.
In Devotion, Tenley