The Odisha Biennale 2017. A general art festival held once every two years in Bhubaneshwar. The lineup of artists who will be performing has been updated by the performing arts division. A nine-day program from 28th October to 5th November. What scenes will unfold?

What is remarkable is the contrast between the traditional and the contemporary.
What form will Japanese dance, a tradition of a foreign country, assume for an Indian audience? Mr. Rankoh Fujima, a Japanese dance artist active in Japan as well as abroad, will be presenting the performance.

Contemporary dance productions created as performance artworks with new Indian values can be seen at the Biennale.

‘Queen Size’, a work dealing with transgenders by Mandeep Raikhy, who was invited from
Delhi, is a controversial piece that choreographs movements suggestive of homosexual intercourse between men on a set consisting of a bed. Performing it in a place of conservative character like Bhubaneswar is provocative by itself.

(In India, there are people who are called ‘hijra’, implying a ‘third gender’. On the other hand, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code prohibits sexual activities “against the order of nature”. While the Supreme ruled that homesexuality was illegal in 2013, the civil rights of hijras were recognised in 2014, and there is a fierce debate around these recent circumstances.)

A program by the performing arts department, calling together artists from within India and Japan, as well as internationally active artists from Europe and other places. It will be supervised by Ms. Naomi Inata, with Mr. Matsuo Kunihiko, a media art director, serving as the representative for the Japanese side.

ODISHA BIENNALE – A new festival of dance and art launched in India
Odisha Biennale 2017
Date : 28th October – 5th November 2017
Location : Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
Venue : Mindtree Kalinga Campus, MOPA Studio

“Body ± Cloth =”

At the Odisha Biennale, with an aim to link the global and the local closely, various kinds of projects where visitors can participate easily will be held, in addition to the appreciation of stage performances.

・Exhibition of local Odissi handicrafts, Design seminar / Workshop on craft arts (details)
・Workshops by artists appearing in the performing arts department (details)

Timetable of the entire program (details)

Organisers (co-hosted)
India : Mudra Foundation (NPO)
Japan : Tokyo-Odisha Cultural Exchange (General Association)


[Performing Artists] (as follows, titles omitted)

・Masako Ono (Odissi dance)
Opening ceremony 28.10.2017 (Fri) 18:00 ~
Having learned modern dance and classical ballet since her childhood, she moved to India alone for Odissi traditional dance. After being active as a dancer of Nrityagram, which has reared world-class Indian dancers done after another, she made her solo debut in 2001.

Based in Bhubaneswar, she has received acclaim at many public performances in India and abroad, becoming the first Japanese person to become an Odissi dancer recognised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Govt. of India.

[Artists appearing from the performing arts department and the titles of their performances]
2 groups of artists invited from Japan

・Rankoh Fujima (Nihonbuyo – Japanese Traditional Dance)
『Sagi Musume (Heron Maiden)』

Rankoh Fujima, successor to the Fujima line which has continued since the Edo period, shows the movements of Japanese dance and the connection between Japanese traditional clothing and Japanese dance with care through his performance of ⎡suodori⎦ – without the use of costumes, wigs or makeup. He will also be performing a collaborative piece with Tomoya Rikiishi / antymark (filmmaker).

・Tomoya Rikiishi (filmmaker)
antymark started his activities as a live VJ unit. He is currently involved in directing many events for leading companies. Focussing on projection mapping, he is active in the field of video direction such as spatial design involving lighting and installations with sensors.

・Rui Rui (contemporary dance / pantomime)
A silent play unit by contemporary dancer Yoshihiro Fujita / mime performer Kazuaki Maruyama
『Otoshimono (Falling Things)』

A work that conveys the story in a way that is easy to understand using pantomime, conveying the idea of transformation through the frequent changing of costumes. A world of appearances where all everyday objects change in the blink of an eye, presented in a gripping way that is fantastical and unique.

3 groups of artists invited from India

・Mandeep Raikhy (contemporary dance, Delhi)

A piece that challenges and is a response to Section 377 of the Indian Penal code, an archaic law that criminalises gay sex. It will be performed in over 20 cities in India and in London between 2016 and 2017.

・Ronita Mookerji (contemporary dance, Bengaluru)

Who? Is a dynamic piece on self-discovery from inside of a small wooden box, or a state of being ‘’stuck to a mould’. Ronita started dancing Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance from the age of 5, and currently continues to practice it.

・Hemabharathy Palani (contemporary dance, Bengaluru)

Hema is a choreographer and performer said to be one of promising ability. Her expressive, graceful movements have their roots in the Indian classical dance forms of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi.
Yashti is a tale about women that creates sensuous, multi-faceted portraits such as those on conflict, love, and envy, with an ongoing monologue throughout the performance.

Both the artists from Bengaluru are core members of the Attakalari Centre for Movement Arts, a contemporary dance company that represents India.
Also, Ms. Naomi Inada, who screened the artists for the biennale, describes Hemabharathy Palani and Ronita Mookerji in an article in The Dance Times as follows :

“Acquiring classical dance as their base method and making classical dance forms the base of their dances, they attempt expressions that deviate from there and also present the self.

From these strong expressions, the exploration of one’s identity as an artist of one’s own, who creates between the fields of classical or contemporary dance, and one’s individual identity in terms of a woman’s social and economic status and relations in India, are directly transmitted.

Their presence full of concentration and their facial expressions, and their stiff and beautiful forms as if moulded from a tightly-knit bundle of nerves with the unbroken movements born from them, are things that make one feel the restrictions on women’s expression in India and their fervent desires, and left a strong impression on the viewers.”

The performances of the two artists presenting various values of the new Indian woman as staged contemporary dances will be one of the highlights of the Biennale.

2 artist groups invited from Europe and other regions

・VEDANZA (contemporary dance, Luxembourg)
『Project O』

Project O is a charming contemporary fairy-tale aimed at children aged 4 and above. Three dancers and a musician go on a treasure hunt to find the moon which has disappeared. In that dream-like world where the real and the abstract intersect, games and surprises unfold. Can they find the moon and return it to the sky?

・Moya Michael (contemporary dance, Belgium / South Africa)

JMBINS is a unique project that brings together twelve exciting artists from Europe, the U.S., Japan and India, juxtaposing their varied disciplines as well as artistic & personal backgrounds.

The work explores cultures of collaboration and examines the idea of ‘transference’ and exchange; about how this transference could occur across contexts, practices, geographies and cultures; and how it could be experienced/shared through the ephemerality of the physical body.

・Gombe Cultural Troupe (African music and dance, Uganda)
A student enterprise in the form of an African ensemble taken up by students who possess skills related to music, dance and musical instruments.
Different traditional dances from various tribal societies and regions such as Otwege (West of the Nile), Lakaraka (Northern Uganda), Kintagululo (Western Uganda), Ding Ding (Eastern Uganda) and Kiganda (Central Uganda), shown as contemporary productions while also maintaining their original character. The closing performance of the Biennale, brought to a climax by over twenty members.

[Artist in residence]
・Ichiko Funai (contemporary artist / costume designer)
An enquiry into wearing garments details
A contemporary artist and costume designer residing in Paris, France. Living in Bhubaneshwar for about a month now, she works with local craftspeople and artists to create her work and will be presenting it. In addition, she plans to collaborate with the artists who will be appearing from the performing arts department in the Biennale. She will be creating new developments for performing artists, resident artists, and local artists by collaborating across genres.

31.10.2017 (Sat) 13:00 – 16:00
Design / Moderation : Naomi Inada (dance critic, researcher), Sadananda Menon (critic, editor, journalist)

[Participating speakers]
Jayachandran Palazhy (director, Attakkalari Bengaluru Biennale, India), Takako Sakurai (dance critic), Mandeep Raikhy (director, IGNITE, India) Masako Ono (CEO, Mudra Foundation, Japan · Odissi dancer · choreographer), Rankoh Fujima (Japanese dancer), Yoshihiro Fujita (director and performer, Rui Rui), Kunihiko Matsuo (media artist).

We would also like to call your attention to the symposium held in order to deeply comprehend Indian and Japanese classical dance and contemporary dance as navigated by dance critics and commentators. They will be discussing the traditional and modern, as well as preservation, succession, and creation, from a wide range of expertise.

Mr. Jayachandran Palazhy, director of Attakkalari, which leads the scene in Bengaluru, where modern dance in India thrives, will also be taking the stage.

The culture and art scene will mature as audiences that can critically view pieces with sensitivity and give feedback to the artists start to attend. Learning about its essence from the reviews and opinions of professionals, the audience will be able to enjoy art appreciation in the future by cultivating their perspective.

Symposium held during the previous Biennale

[About our supporters]
The expenses for organising the Odisha Biennale 2017 are being supported by donations from individuals and sponsorships from companies. The crowdfunding projects on Makuake (Japanese) and Kickstarter (English), are currently live.

In India, there seems to be a general fixed notion that public performances such as classical dance and music are events where the wealthy are invited and the masses watch for free. The mature society required to create a new scene doesn’t exist yet, nor has the value of paying for art appreciation taken root, so the entrance fees cannot cover the administrative costs in the current circumstances.

Supporting local communities through art is one of the objectives of the Biennale, and workshops have been planned for children from local orphanages and those with disabilities.

In Odisha, the treasure trove of classical culture where the Indian classical dance Odissi began, how will modern art and contemporary dance be received? We would like people who can participate to visit the site and observe.

Those who are unable to participate in person may still do so in the form of supporting the Biennale, which will be a catalyst for creating an open future for socially disadvantaged communities, children, and youth.

Corporate sponsorships start from publishing the company name and logo, developing advertisements for the performance stage, and arrangements have been made to accommodate the deployment of a special booth at the sponsorship area. The state of Odisha boasts of abundant mining resources, and its capital city of Bhubaneshwar was selected in 2016 to be developed according to the ‘smart city’ concept led by the Indian government. We believe that Japanese companies which are thinking of expanding into India – and even Indian companies – can make use of the sponsorships and advertisement tie-ups.

Contact us at :
Indian website here
Japanese website here

Note : The information stated here is as of the end of September 2017, and both the contents and the URL may be changed without notice.
Reference : The Dance Times, April 05, 2017, Naomi Inada「Attakkalari INDIA BIENNIAL 2017」

Text : reproduced with permission from the official page of the Odisha Biennale, Yoko Kobayashi (translated by Aumurto)
Images : reproduced with permission from the official page of the Odisha Biennale

This post is also available in Japanese.