Promoting a diverse array of artistic mediums and using a variety of venues, Sunderland Stages have a wonderful philosophy in putting theatre first and promoting as many forms as time allows. It’s an inventiveness that manages to thrive despite the arts’ cuts of recent years, and after an award-winning 2016, this year’s programme continues to strive ever higher. This performance of Gods and Mortals by the Odissi Ensemble takes place in the Grade II-listed Sunderland Minster, a wonderful setting for the intimate performance that follows.
With its origins in ancient Sanskrit, the odissi form originated in Hindu Temples. Following years of suppression under colonial rule, oddissi experienced a resurgence after India gained independence. This performance shows the form to not only be thriving in the modern era, but promotes its respectful evolution from being a traditional female dance to one performed by a mixed-gender quartet, featuring dancers and musicians from around the world.
The Odissi Ensemble – the only group of its kind within the UK – comprises four dancers and four musicians, who combine traditional odissi with a modern inventiveness. In keeping with odissi traditions, the six pieces performed detail a narrative, with quartet presentations interspersed with solo and duo dances, plus musical interludes and accompaniment.
As a whole, Gods and Mortals looks at the relationship between gods and humans. Detailing the highs and lows of the gods, parallels are drawn with human lives and the lines of separation occurring between ourselves and divine beings is seen to grow ever closer.
From the opening Mangalacharan – the traditional beginning to any odissi – in which a salutation is made to both the Supreme Being and the audience; to the closing Kali Sloka and Moksha in which the dancers break away from their earthly bonds, Gods and Mortals manages to tread a balance between the delicate and powerful, resulting in a beautiful, unforgettable performance. It is a joy from beginning to end, and a delight to see the odissi form come alive on an international scale.