There are few moments in my life that I feel blessed for,where I have been in the right place at the right time. In other words I have been chosen to be a part of the greater universal plan. One such moment was my initiation into Orissa Dance Academy in 1980, then headed by Ganga Sir. As I look at more and more dancers today, my belief gets only stronger that most of the better dancers today come from his lineage.
Even though I was never directly taught by Sir, I received his sense of a strong foundation in technique through all the amazing teachers he entrusted us with. I am ever so grateful to him for the clarity with which he lead his team of teachers.
I remember when I had to leave for Nrityagram to join the ensemble on their first tour to USA in 1993, he sat me down to give me pearls of advice that have become my self-discipline. I was to dance with the ensemble temporarily and return after the tour. He felt proud that one of his dancers was the one to be chosen by Gaurima, as well as the greater responsibility that I be a worthy representative of his philosophy. He said, "Maa, go to class well before time and completely prepared." He took it for granted that a dancer must come prepared with dance lessons already taught. He emphasized, "Always bring your water bottle to class and a few biscuits. You never know when the class will finish. You must have the mental strength to go through till the end and not disturb the flow of rehearsal. Take a break only when given." There is not a single day till now that I have broken this ritual and I have only gained tremendously from this practice.
As a young student I saw him angry, very angry and frustrated all the time. He played the mardala for rehearsals and often broke into long speeches regarding self-motivation, hardwork, and loyality. I was scared to see him in our class and dreaded rehearsals with him. I do not remember him ever satisfied or happy. My chioce to move to Nrityagram hurt him deeply and I believe he held it close to his heart forever. His pain over it was so intense that he perhaps never saw the grains of his teaching in my dance. He never came to my performances till the international festival in Malaysia. However, I believe that our differences resolved when one day after my performance in Bhubaneswar he called to say, "Maa, even though I didn't see you dance, I feel proud with what the fifty eyes that saw you had to say. Carry on your work." I had been troubled that he had not forgiven me. May be I didn't recognise the largesse of his heart. That day I let it go.
I believe Odissi is young and still growing to fulfill and complete its identity. The work of Ganga Sir has certainly influenced the course of this evolution significantly and will continue to do so till his philosophy is passed on through the blessed ones that were there in the right place at the right time as I was.