Swati Chattopadhyay and Jaya Mehta come together as a beautiful team to create and present richly innovative recitals, demonstrations and workshops, such as those at the Nehru Cultural Centre, London and the World Book Fair, Delhi (2017).
Swaati is a performer in the Odissi style of Guru Surendra Nath Jena, and has trained and performed with her guru Pratibha Jena Singh, for the last 19 years. She has performed widely in India, in both solo as well as duet and group presentations, at various dance festivals such as the Odissi International Festival in Jaipur, Delhi and Bhubhaneswar. She was awarded the 'OdissiJyoti' title at the Naveen Kalakar Festival '08 in Bhubhaneswar and the 'Pratibha Sanskritik Samman' in New Delhi in 2011.
Her love for the dance is fuelled by her training in literature and fine arts, and her Masters degree in Arts & Aesthetics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has published widely on the subject of Indian arts, for over 7 years, as a feature journalist with First City (Delhi's sole art and culture magazine), and has worked in the area of cultural insight for several years after.
Swaati chronicles her thoughts about Odissi on her page www.facebook.com/odissiwithme
For me, dance is a parallel universe, an incredible ocean of allegories and analogies that makes my daily life so much more meaningful, deep and enjoyable.
Dance is a gift to me by Guru Surendra Nath Jena and my Guru Pratibha Jena Singh. This universe is the gift I am most thankful for; and it is also the phenomenon I find most wondrous in the world. Once I step inside this world, I live my life differently; I leave my mundane endless worries at the classroom door, “along with the slippers” as Guruji would say. Here, I am no longer afraid to be alone. On a lucky day, I feel emotions in a way I would never in life: pure and enormous.
I have spent the last 12 years in the company of Guruji’s dances. By turns, they have left me awestruck, afraid, smiling, struggling, peaceful, blissed out. Their beauty, like Guruji’s twinkle-eyed riddle rhymes, is in the fact that they unfurl suddenly, and then become elusive again. Ever since I have come in touch with Guruji’s dances, they spill into my life even after I step out of the classroom, the practice session, or the dance auditorium. Dance has so often sent me looking for things in life --- and discover much, much more, by wonderful accident. A most simple instance, I would say, is of how the wonderful metaphors of classicial dance - trees wrapped with twirling creepers, fully-bloomed lotuses and hibiscus, the intimacy between stars and the expanse of sky - have instilled in me a love for nature that I never had before. Similies in art have led me to their source in life; I find it no mere coincidence that I met my first Kadamb tree years after I first heard of it, but only days after I began trying to enter a dance that described its sweet-smelling, voluptuous, ball-like fruits. I now know that there is endless delight in the change of seasons, in the shape of trees, the grace of flowers, and the personality reflected in their varied fragrances. While I trudge through the mundanities of life, I keep bumping into these small pebbles of experiences. These emotions, experienced first in dance and then in life, perfume my days and make them perennially wondrous.
My desire, now, is to share this wonder and joy, with as many people as is possible. When Jaya and I dance, talk, tell stories during our events with Dance Travels and Mum, ME and Odissi, I feel as if our worlds are expanding even further, and so are the walls of my heart.