Bijayini Satpathy: Returns to Singapore with her international bestseller ABHIPSAA – A Seeking

In the few years since she left her long-time home, the famed dance community Nrityagram in southern India, Odissi dance doyen Bijayini Satpathy has utilised the full reach of her extensive research and presented her innovative choreography through her own body, which she calls “my instrument”.

Satpathy returns to Singapore this month, to present her internationally acclaimed show ABHIPSAA – A Seeking (Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay; May 12 and 13, 8pm and May 14, 3pm), which gets its Asian premiere here. She also holds a ‘movement and dance workshop’ at Esplanade Studio 219 (May 10, 6pm) as part of her Singapore performance.

In an exclusive pre-event conversation with Connected to India, Satpathy said that before leaving Nrityagram, “all my vocabulary research [on Odissi dance] was tested on other bodies”. During the isolation of the pandemic, she started practising her movement innovations on her own, and new worlds opened up to her.

Odissi is a 2,000-year-old dance tradition, though the “reconstruction” of this Indian classical dance form began about 70 years ago, with three great gurus who created tridhara (three lines) of Odissi. It evolved further with the second and the third generation of Odissi teachers.

Satpathy, a firm believer in innovation, has done some groundbreaking work with Odissi, for instance, as the artist-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, where she “tested new waters”. She said in the CtoI interview, “I took the movement language and stripped it down. I created something very different, even though every movement is drawn from Odissi. I feel it is important that people think differently; reinterpreting is important for the tradition to grow.”
For this celebrated international artiste, innovation is the only constant. “Every day, after 40 years of dancing, I find something new — or so much new — in these movements,” she said.

Talking about her return to Singapore, Satpathy cited her bond with Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay, saying, “Only some venues stay in my mind. Esplanade is a place that has stayed [with me]… To show my work here is very exciting. I am really looking forward to it.”