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Music in the Mind

By Uday Dandavate | PUBLISHED: 10, Apr 2012, 17:41 pm IST | UPDATED: 10, Apr 2012, 17:41 pm IST

Music in the Mind I had an amazing experience yesterday, which I am sharing with you. Though I did not experience Beethoven live, but yesterday I witnessed what his audience may have experienced. Beethoven gave the premier performance of his famous 9th symphony on the stage when he was completely deaf. "For the premier concert of the 9th Symphony he stood before the lectern and gesticulated furiously. At times he rose, at other times he shrank to the ground, he moved as if he wanted to play all the instruments himself and sing for the whole chorus. All the musicians minded his rhythm alone while playing".

When the audience applauded Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting. Because of that, the contralto Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience' cheers and applause". (from Wikipedia). Though I have heard this legend before I just experienced something that reminded me of this story.

April 7, 2012 was the 8th death anniversary of the legendary Odissi dance Maestro Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Every year on his death anniversary his students from around the world get together in their respective cities and perform his choreographies to celebrate his creativity and life. I joined my wife Rohini who is also one of Guruji’s senior students in Sunnyvale, California. The event was organized by Srjan (an organization headed by Guruji’s son Ratikant Mohapatra), Guru Shraddha, a Bay Area Odissi dance school run by Niharika Mohanty and Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose.

Guruji’s students of all age groups from different parts of U.S. came together to celebrate the occasion. Right in the middle of the second number, Batu Nritya, the audio system failed and the speakers turned silent. The six dancers on the stage continued to dance in perfect synchronicity until the end in rapt silence. The next number was Pallavi, based on the raga Arabhi. The system failed again. There was a total silence in the auditorium. The girls did not wink for a moment. They continued to dance.

Several disciples of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, including Sukanya Mukherjee (Maryland), Shraddha Balakrishnan (San Francisco), Aparupa Chatterjee (Houston), Mouli Pal (Boston), Enakshi Das Sinha (Windsor, Canada) and Rohini Dandavate (San Francisco), and Sangeeta Rangala (Chicago) sitting in the front rows immediately picked up the notes and started singing the notes. The bols (notes), were in perfect synchronicity. Tears were rolling down their cheeks.

The audience was mesmerized. Most of the dancers singing the notes in the audience were probably two generations apart from the girls dancing on the stage, yet their singing was in perfect sync with the steps of the girls on the stage. The dance continued for the next 20 minutes. At the end of the performance the audience gave the artists a standing ovation.

It was a great tribute to tradition and perfection of Odissi dance brought to the world stage by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. I myself could not hold back my tears. I could imagine that the girls on the stage were feeling the presence and the voice of Guruji reciting the notes and playing the pakhawaj. At that moment I could imagine how Beethoven would have pictured his 9th symphony in his mind while conducting it to a live audience. This was an amazing experience. I did not experience Beethoven, but I witnessed what his audience must have experienced.