Ramli Ibrahim and his Sutra Foundation are the dynamic force behind the vibrant art and culture scenario of Malaysia. Trained in classical ballet, modern dance and Indian classical dances like Bharatanatyam under Adyar K Lakshman and Odissi under the late Guru Deba Prasad Das, Ramli is an imaginative creator and visionary, who brings marvel to all the artistic endeavours at Sutra. As a Guru he has groomed some of the finest dancers from Malaysia and as the artistic director of Sutra Dance Theatre, he has always envisioned his creativity as a holistic universal experience, one that transcends all cultural boundaries.

Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, in association with the Sutra Foundation, Malaysia, presented Sutra’s latest production Ganjam Odissi, showcasing the magic of Ramli’s excellence as a brilliant dancer, choreographer and costume designer, carrying forward the traditional, folk and classical dance traditions of Odisha, particularly the art heritage of the culture-rich Ganjam, transformed into a contemporary crescendo. The mesmerising performance, held at the Kamani Auditorium this past week, was followed by the book launch of Dancing Ganjam, edited by Dr Dinanath Pathy, who was also the literary and visual consultant of this spectacular production conceived and directed by Ramli Ibrahim.

Inspired by the rich folk and tribal dance, music and folk art of Ganjam district in South Odisha, Ganjam Odissi was premiered at Diversity-2015, the International Kuala Lumpur Arts Festival last year. It is traveling this year to four places in India, including the Capital. The Delhi premier of the magnificent show, with Ramli and his chiseled dancers, reflected the sensitive use of light, ethnic stage backdrop, sophisticated costumes and imaginative choreography, where the tribal and folk dances were beautifully integrated with classical Odissi.

Ganjam Odissi opened with the auspicious Mangalacharan, invoking Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, and Lakshmi Narasimha, the ferocious Man-Lion God in his benevolent form with Goddess Lakshmi on his lap. It was based on the signature prayer of Prahlad Natak, the folk theatre form of Ganjam. Sthai, the pure dance item, depicted the Nayika-Nayaka Lakshan Rs the attributes of heroine and the hero as individual sculptures. This was inspired by the Sakhi-Naat, an indigenous tradition of Ganjam, where young boys dance in female attires, quite similar to the Gotipua tradition.

Ram-Bhajan, inspired by the Nagar-Kirtan tradition of Ganjam, came next as an Abhinaya piece steeped in Bhakti-Rasa. Pallavi in raga Rasamanjari that sounded very similar to Hindustani Jhinjhoti, was a comely contrast, where the  abstract and figurative tableaux emulated the amorous poses of the palm leaf figures of Ganjam. The Pallavi reminded one of the Tridhara concept of Guru Debaprasad Das, who reiterated that the folk and the tribal are integral to Odissi tradition.

The book launch of Dancing Ganjam, edited by Dr Dinanath and Saubhagya Pathy after the Pallavi, was followed by Yogini Moksha, the vibrant yet meditative climax of the memorable evening. Yogini Moksha, inspired by the Shaivite and the Tantrik tradition, was on the theme of Yogini, their emergence from the energy of the great Yogi Shiva seated in embrace with his consort Parvati. The ¬†earthly Lila of the Chaunsath (64) Yoginis celebrates their eventual merging with the energy of Shiva, the Supreme Self. The articulate “Sabda-Swara-Path”, interspersed with mesmerising music, was the special feature and signature of Guru Debaprasad Bani of Odissi, distinctly different from what one is used to seeing very often.

Ganjam Odissi was, in fact, a visual delight and a sumptuous treat! The well- researched production of Sutra Foundation with the artistic direction and concept of Ramli Ibrahim and literary and visual inputs by Dr Dinanath Pathy was performed by the attractive artistes of Sutra Dance Theatre. The dynamic dance work, with original dance compositions by Guru Gajendra Panda, had the most authentic music by Guru Gopal Chandra Panda with Shabda, Ukkuta and Manjira by Guru Gajendra Panda, vocals by Sangeeta Panda and Satya Brata Katha, Mardal by Ramchandra Behera, Flute by Jawahar Mishra and Sitar by Swapneshwar Chakravarty.