Carrying forth a legacy

Arushi Mudgal’s thoughts are as crystal as exquisite is her art. As an artiste, you have certain creative
Pic: Ajay Lal
convictions and you try to bring them out through your work, she feels. In the process, the work may create a small or a large wave in the ocean. But you do your work regardless of the size of the wave. And the intention is to create work that you have faith in, that you put your heart and soul into. If your work has the power, the change will come about on its own. Change is subjective, too. “By watching my dance, someone’s perspective on arts, or even life may change. For another, it may not. But you keep giving your best and with the right intention,” says Arushi, the Odissi dancer of repute. Watching her solo recital on National television yesterday night, I kept wondering how profound is this observation.
Pic: Akash Das
Daughter of Padmashri Madhup Mudgal and niece of the famous Madhavi Mudgal, Arushi doesn’t believe in adding elements to her dance for the sake of contemporising it or making it better-suited for a wider audience. Anything that you create must come from within, naturally and organically, she reinforces. “I try to find newness within my art, and that is a creatively stimulating process for me,” elaborates one of the foremost talents in the discipline of Odissi, known for her technical virtuosity and creative approach to tradition. She has trained under her aunt Madhavi Mudgal and been guided by maestros such as Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and Vidushi Leela Samson, who once said about this dancer, “There is sensitivity and intelligence in her dance that is evident due to her absorption of arts.”
Saying that, Arushi is not against borrowing elements from other arts at all, but there has to be a creative
Pic: Inni Singh
logic behind it. Recently, she did a production called ‘Sama’ with a French contemporary percussionist, Roland Auzet which was presented across Europe and Taiwan. Even though they were featured at various contemporary festivals, her part in it stemmed essentially from Odissi. “So far, I have not incorporated modern moves in my dance, since I have not yet felt the need. In dance, there are ways of arriving from one posture to another. I try to create new ways of moving from one posture to another, which at once lends a certain degree of freshness, yet it is rooted. The aim is to strike the right balance; incidentally, life is all about finding that point of balance,” she adds.
Recently the extremely talented dancer created a new production called ‘Sopaan’ with four pieces and has been presenting some of the pieces individually at performances. The responses have been hearty, which sticks to her belief, “I do think that people connect with anything that is honest and comes from the heart. Technically, one can be skilful but beyond that is involvement; how involved you are with and in your art. If you are both, technically sound and totally immersed in your art, I don’t think anything can stop you from reaching out to the audience.”
Pic: Divakar Mani
And not just reaching out, she wins them over every single time with her sensual movements and beautiful eyes. Said dance critic Rupa Srikanth about Arushi’s act once, “Here is a young dancer who seems to have found her space; she is flowering beautifully as a soloist and should mature into a torchbearer of the dance tradition.”
This beautiful artist has performed at France’s Theatre de la Ville, Musee Guimet, Cite de la Musique and Maison de la Danse, and danced at respected festivals in USA, UK, Austria, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Greece, China, Malaysia and Singapore. Arushi has also co-authored a book on the aesthetics of Odissi dance called The Bud and the Blossom by senior scholar and aesthetician Professor S K Saxena. She is also empanelled with the ICCR and conducts dance workshops in France, USA, United Kingdom and Singapore and is a regular performer for SPICMACAY.
She is undaunted by the fact that even today with such talented artists like her championing the cause of
Pic: Inni Singh
classical dance, the audience for the classical arts may not be huge. But that for her is not the major point of concern. The concern, she thinks, is how to develop an audience that understands the distinction between excellence and mediocrity. Says Arushi, “If quality flourishes, it will on its own lead to an increase in the numbers of the rasikas, and we, then, do not have to strive hard to find audiences for classical arts. It is when people are exposed to mediocre work, that they either grow weary of classical arts in general (due to the poor quality of what they have witnessed), or they come to terms with it and start accepting it as the norm. Neither is an ideal situation. I, on my part, try to remain as loyal and truthful to quality as I can in order to counter this issue.”
Arushi knows that no art functions in isolation, and Odissi is no exception. An art and an artiste are bound to be influenced, inspired by things around. Trying to look at the scenario from an outsider’s perspective, she feels that the trend these days is to find ways of attracting the audience by offering something that is unusual and different. “Again, nothing is wrong with that ifit is achieved through an organic process, and not done for the sake of doing something new. It is hard for me to say how my style of performing is impacting the state of Odissa. I’ll let the audience decide that. But like I said, one should not create with the intention to bring about a change, rather the work should be so impactful that it brings about a change on its own,” says Arushi.

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