Though in his early thirties Odissi dancer Saswat Joshi , the Artistic Director of Lasya Kala has successfully presented his 9th edition of dance recently at Kuala Lampur. Besides being a performer he has natural instincts for scripting and choreographing productions on various subjects. During his tour to Kuala Lampur Odissi dancer Saswat Joshi in an exclusive interview to Tapati Chowdhurie for OdishaDiary.
How has your guru influenced your life and made you the kind of positive person you are?
I learnt Odissi under Guru Kumkum Mohanty and Dr. Ileana Citarishti . In the strictest sense of the term my parents have been my real gurus. They have been my driving force. Their influence on me has always been very positive. I am grateful to Dr. Ileana Citarishti. She has taught me to be confident and courageous and follow my goal. Positivity is an attitude that can be cultivated.
What according to you is the role of a guru?
A guru has a big role to play in a person’s life. A guru not only passes on his or her art form to you, but also directs your entire life to the achievement of your goals and imparts a value system by setting an example to you , which will stand you in good stead in the ups and downs of your life. He should have the power to mould you and lead you from ignorance to knowledge.
How did dance win you?
A previous Chief Minister of odisha, Dr Giridhar Gamang had told my mother “you have given birth to an artist .” My mother took it to heart and worked towards it. Incredible as it may seem when my father had decided that I should join an engineering college, a chance meeting with the then Chief Minister of odisha, Shri Janaki Ballav Pattanaik’s words that in the hands of a proper guide I could grow up to be a fine dancer, made him give up his plan of making me an engineer.
I wanted to be so many things, but ultimately it was dance I chose.
Which dancer or dancers appeal to you most and what qualities would you like to adopt from them?
I am purely an Odissi dancer although I have been exposed to many dance forms in my life. I love to watch classical ballet, I have seen many ballet dancers. I love everything about them. Their music is specially endearing to me. I have seen them do warming up exercises before a performance and cooling down after. I have been influenced greatly by these two aspects. Thanks to my mentor Ileana Citarishti , on one occasion I had the opportunity to work with Bepe Menegatti, a theatre Director of Europe for their production “I have a Dream “. Luciano carnito was its Choreographer. I have learnt from him the art of choreography; the use of lights and sets to my advantage. Besides many other things, I have also learnt innovative ways of entering and leaving the stage.
To see which dancer’s performance would you not think twice before buying a high priced ticket?
In India you rarely have ticketed shows. In Western countries the scenario is totally different. Where ever I have gone abroad for a performance, people have bought highly priced tickets for my shows. I have felt honoured. I don’t mind buying highly priced tickets for renowned classical ballet shows of Numero Uno ballerina Carla Fracci, Alexandra ferri, Savigniano, and Maurice Bezzar.
At some point of time you have probably pondered a career in the performing arts. Not all those who have so wished managed it? How did you make it all happen?
I started off with the idea of making a career in dance. When I started dancing and teaching dance in all seriousness, I was focussing on many things. Through social networking I got enough exposure to showcase my talent. Now that I am an Odissi dancer by profession it is not an easy cake walk any more. It is a tough and risky career, but I enjoy it and don’t mind the risks.
What are some of the obstacles you have faced in your dance journey?
Frankly speaking I didn’t have to face very many obstacles, because I don’t easily get put off by minor incidents. My ultimate aim from my childhood has been to be an Odissi dancer. So impediments are stepping stones to success. I make no compromises. To fulfil my goal I am willing to make sacrifices if needed. Life is a journey, which may not always be smooth.
Why did you plan your 9th edition to be held in Kuala lampur?
I made it international, because it was my dream to to present Indian classical dance traditions to people outside the country. In my festival, which I named Aekalavya, audiences had the opportunity to see Bharatanatyam and Kathak as well, because I had invited performers of these genres to dance in my festival. Aekalavya is a platform to promote the guru and the shishya. My guru Ileana Citarishti performed Navarasa , a choreographic work of her guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. From now onwards Aekalavya will travel abroad so that dancers may get a chance to perform to an international audience.
How satisfying is your profession?
I am satisfied, because my passion has become my profession. What could be better.