Under the sway of Indian folkways, Italian wayward hippie turned into ace Danseuse

For Italian born exponent of Odissi, Ileana Citaristi, coming to Odisha in 1979 as a messy haired hippy and getting transcended into suave classical dancer was no less than two births in one life.

Conferred with Padam Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in 2006, a rebel Italian girl in 20s had embarked the journey in pursuit of mastering the odissi and Mayurbhanj Chhau classical dance of Odisha after struck with the stroke of self- realisation. She had come to Indian dance after years of experience in the traditional as well as experimental theatre in Europe.

Earlier she was dropped from many group performances because of height and offered male roles which she refused and started solo programmes much before her contemporaries to become an ace dancer. In 1996, she started Art Vision Dance Academy with just three students back in 1996 in Bhubaneswar.

She has improvised several unique concepts like Festival of films on performing and visual arts through “Art Vision”. These include ‘ which has reached the 6th edition, the ‘Kalinga Mahotsav’, a Festival of Martial Dances held in front of the Dheuli stupa at Bhubaneswar annually since 2003 and Sangam Festival since the year 2005.

She always advises her student to invest time and energy in whatever they do, some pick up dance as adults, in which case, it becomes a life choice for them. But in most cases, they are sent at a young age by the parents and withdrawn at an ‘appropriate age’. If it is not the pressure to get married, there is pressure to build a career around a more lucrative job than dance.

Cover image by Tntribune

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