Dance is a struggle to communicate an idea through movement: Surupa Sen

The dancer will present her latest work titled ‘Vinati’ in the city this week

Bhoomija Trust will present a solo Odissi dance recital by Surupa Sen, the artistic director of Nritygram and a legendary dancer in her own right at ‘Vinati’. The event featuring songs from the Gita Govinda, will be performed at Chowdiah Memorial Hall on December 4, at 7 pm accompanied by Nrityagram’s live orchestra.

Surupa is one of the first students of Nrityagram and trained by the legendary gurus the late Kelucharan Mohapatra and the late Protima Gauri, known as ‘Gauri ma’. The prolific dancer-choreographer talks to MetroPlus about her passion for Odissi.

Edited excerpts

Tell us about ‘Vinati’.

‘Vinati’ for me represents my own journey as a dancer. I believe that I am the repository of all the work that has come out from Nrityagram and I hope to present that to the best of my ability through ‘Vinati’.

What does ‘Vinati’ represent?

It means beseeching and yearning. Most songs in the Gita Govinda are love songs. And the first song in the book sets the mood for the entire collection, which starts off with Radha yearning for Krishna.

How many songs from the Gita Govinda will be staged?

We have chosen six songs from the Gita Govinda — two songs by Krishna, two by Radha and two songs by a sakhi (female friend). We have also added the ‘Kuru Yadunandana’ dance as a tribute to my gurus Gauri ma and Kelu babu. Except for the last dance, every other dance is choreographed by me.

Will it be a purely classical dance form or will we see glimpses of a contemporary vocabulary too?

This will be a traditional Odissi dance recital, the style that I have practised for the last 31 years. So, I would call it a traditional work as I do not think of any creation as contemporary. I believe it is all about the sensibility one brings to the form through the manner in which he/she thinks. Hence, my dance definitely does not fall into the contemporary category, but I am not sure if the audience will perceive my work in the same way.

You worked on ‘Vinati’ during the pandemic years. Will your dance reflect the challenges of the lockdown?

My life has been one of extreme focus and sacrifice. Even though I work with a lot of people, my journey has been solitary. I have let go of certain things so I could do what I love the best — Odissi — and have created a movement called the Nrityagram bani (style). COVID gave me the time to focus on my own dancing rather than teaching and performing as I never have time for that as a leader of the ensemble. The lockdown has been a time of complete immersion in my art for which I am deeply grateful.

You have lived three distinctive roles as a dancer, teacher and choreographer. Which is closest to your heart?

Dance will always come first, then teaching and choreography. I enjoy the process of choreography and have fun creating movement. Being a dancer is a lifetime struggle of finding a better way of communicating an idea through movement and expressing your idea through your body. Dance will always be a challenge. I do not judge what I do, but lend myself to the text, music and movement, channelling the energy from everything around me. I do not have too much ownership when it comes to being a dancer. As a teacher, I try and give my best, in sharing all the knowledge I have learned from my gurus.

Vinati is scheduled for December 4 at 7 pm at Chowdiah Memorial Hall. Tickets priced ₹ 500, are available on

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