Wednesday, May 23, 2018 | Last Update : 10:29 PM IST

A dancer with the Midas touch

THE ASIAN AGE. | SANDIP SOPARRKAR
Published : Jan 29, 2018, 1:22 am IST
Updated : Jan 29, 2018, 1:23 am IST

In the dance scene in India there is one lady who is blessed with the same magical Midas Touch.

Under the tutelage of both the gurus she has mastered the art and technique of Odissi dance.
 Under the tutelage of both the gurus she has mastered the art and technique of Odissi dance.

The most famous King Midas is popularly remembered in the Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. This came to be called the golden touch or the Midas Touch.

In the dance scene in India there is one lady who is blessed with the same magical Midas Touch. Each dance related festival she curates becomes super hit. It is not always that one comes across a person like her who has the ability to beautifully blend various dancers and dance forms together. Bringing everyone together, making all feel at home, in the bargain handling a few egos and at the same time turning everything she puts her hands on into gold. This dynamic and elegant lady is Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, the head of dance — programming at National Centre of Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai. Who is also an accomplished Oddisi dancer with many awards under her Kamarband (belt).

In 2001, she was one of the countries youngest dancers who received the prestigious India National Scholarship (Senior) for Odissi dance by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. So you can imagine the fire this lady carries in her belly. Apart from this Sapnokalpa Dasgupta (Roychowdhury), an outstanding disciple of legendary Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and Guru Poushali Mukherjee, Since her early childhood she has trained under Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and was considered by him as one of his talented disciples and an established, dedicated and devoted Odissi dancer with a sense of neat artistry and discipline. After his untimely death in 2004, Swapnokalpa started training under Guru Poushali Mukherjee. Under the tutelage of both the gurus she has mastered the art and technique of Odissi dance.

Swapnokalpa has been pursuing a professional career as a performer and teacher since last several years. She has performed in a number of prestigious venues and events in India, UK and France as a solo artist, which has earned her wide appreciation. When one sees her perform on stage she charms her audience with her expression and grace, combined with an excellent blend of sensuous moves and graceful foot work.

She was also awarded and recognized as a 'Nabin Pratibha' (New Talent) by the Paschim Banga Rajya Sangeet Academy (Directorate of Culture), Government of West Bengal State, India in 1999. In 2002, the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre of the Government of India awarded her in the Prativa Utsav (Talent Festival) organized in Kolkata (Calcutta), India for her proficiency in Odissi dance. She is currently in the panel of artists selected by the national television network of India, Doordarshan for dance and other cultural programs organized by Doordarshan (Bangla).

She is one person who can never rest at one spot, if not a performing one can see Swapnokalpa give her vast knowledge to the next generation. She is often busy teaching Odissi dance at the prestigious Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London, UK - Indian Institute for Art & Culture. Apart from conducting dance classes she regularly organises workshops in various schools and institutions in India, UK and France. She has, on various occasions, been an instructor in the Dance Appreciation Course conducted by the Paschim Banga Rajya Sangeet Academy (Directorate of Culture), Government of West Bengal State, India.   

Apart from having the god gifted talent of performance and teaching, she is women who constantly believe in giving back to the society through her dance. Swapnokalpa has been actively involved in working with underprivileged children of the society. She works with a charitable institute in Kolkata (Calcutta), India and regularly teaches dance to underprivileged children. She is also trained in Dance Movement Therapy and uses this art therapy technique to build on self-esteem, confidence and communication skills among these underprivileged children. She also performs at charitable events and programs on a regular basis.

For the last five years as the Dance head of NCPA she has been successfully crafting many dance festivals. Currently she is in the middle of putting together two totally different dance festivals. One that includes all eight styles of Indian classical dances and another that totally supports International dance forms. I sneaked her out of her busy schedule and asked the lady with the Midas touch a few questions:

Dance head of NCPA is a post with lots of responsibility, what challenges do you face?

I am blessed to have been bestowed this responsibility by the NCPA and the support I get from my seniors here and in the dance community. I am very grateful to my mentor Mr Khushroo Suntook, the Chairman of NCPA who has been a pillar of strength. He motivates and guides me to make my ideas inclusive and my thought process unbiased. I strongly believe anyone who has devoted years of service to an art form has some very unique knowledge to teach us and as a programmer my biggest challenge is to unearth that unique aspect and make it available to my audience.

Each festival at NCPA is unique, how do you curate dance festivals what is your style?

My curation is very organic. I go by what I would love to see as an audience. My style is inclusion (she laughs) I am a very demanding audience you see ! I want all and thus I have shows of classical dance to folk dance to now through our new festival SPECTRUM (in february), Latinballroom dances, jazz and ballet.

You are an accomplished Odissi dancer yourself, but we have never seen you favour a particular form. How do you manage to keep this difficult balance?

The national centre cannot be a place for a selected few and I feel the dance community and the NCPA has bestowed their trust on me to keep it that way. And I am trying to achieve that with all my sincerity.

What do you think is your responsibility as a dance?
I am interested in working on preserving the centuries-old rich and diverse traditions of Indian classical dances. I want to work on the ways and means of preserving this valuable heritage in an effective manner and disseminating this knowledge to the largest possible number of people in India and abroad, particularly the younger generation.

With such positive thought backed with equally positive energy and zeal Swapnokalpa is one rare dancer who knows the pulse of today’s society and bends backwards to make sure that she achieves what she sets out to be. On behalf of all the dance lovers In India especially Mumbai, I would like to say a Pranam (thank you) to Swapnokalpa and her entire team at NCPA for making us experience one unique dance festival to another. Best wishes always and keep shining like this.

Sandip Soparrkar is a World Book Record holder, a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with two National Excellence awards and one National Achievement Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on sandipsoparrkar06@gmail.com  

Tags: king midas, national centre of performing arts