HansikaSharmila Mukherjee

From Odisha With Love: Watch An Odissi Rendition Of Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake'

Tranquil yet berserk; beautiful yet haunting; blessed with divinity yet roaring with sinistral energies; a true masterpiece. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake unearths emotions from the deepest crevices of my soul, lets me access feelings never felt before, and moves me in a way very few pieces of music or literature ever could. A tragedy cuts deeper when something beautiful dies and no piece expresses it more profoundly and poetically than Swan Lake.

The piece's backstory revolves around the tragic love between Prince Siegfried and Princess Odette. While out hunting, Prince Siegfried encounters a flock of swans, and one of them undergoes a magical transformation into a young woman named Odette. She shares with the Prince the story of how she and her companions were cursed to take the form of swans by the malevolent Baron Von Rothbart. The curse can only be lifted if someone who has never experienced love before pledges eternal love and agrees to marry her. Moved and enamored, the Prince professes his undying love for Odette and vows to remain faithful to her forever.

At a grand reception at the palace, the Prince must choose a bride – but the besotted Prince can only think of Odette. Suddenly a fanfaronade announces the arrival of two guests – much to the Prince's elation it's the beautiful Odette! He takes her hand and a magnificent dance follows. He then asks for her hand in marriage. But alas! it’s not Odette – the mystery woman is the daughter of the evil von Rothbart, Odile, posing as Odette. The Prince has tragically fallen for an evil illusion cast by the sinister Baron.

Odette has been a witness to the whole affair. Siegfried realizes his mistake but its too late. The Prince follows Odette to the lake and begs her forgiveness. She forgives him but iterates that nothing can change the fact he broke his oath. The lovers decide to die together. They drown themselves in the lake. The ending reminds me of a haunting line from Shelley’s poem Adonais ‘No more let life divide what death can join together’.

Swan Lake is the most performed ballet piece in history. It is performed by ballet troupes both old and new from the elegant Waltz in Act I to the exuberant Dance of the Cygnets. The dance piece reaches its climax with the death of the lovers as they find union in a higher realm beyond the veil of death. Most ballet dancers have expressed how difficult it is to comprehend the emotional depth of Tchaikovsky’s composition and express it through dance.

Odette, as seen in a ballet production by the Royal Opera House
Odette, as seen in a ballet production by the Royal Opera HouseRoyal Opera House
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Well, like me, most of us haven’t been fortunate enough to watch a production of Swan Lake in Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. Oh, how I wish I could! But there is something closer to home that promises to bring to life the dance of the swans. Renowned Odissi exponent Sharmila Mukerjee has wonderfully reimagined the Russian masterpiece through a homegrown lens and expressed it through the ancient Indian classical dance form from Odisha. The entire dance drama production, titled Hansika, has been choreographed and conceptualized by her.

Along with an ensemble of 25 artists, Sharmila artistically interprets the graceful movements and elegant postures seen in the Russian ballet and recreates them through fluid Odissi movements. The sculpturesque poses and intricate footwork in Odissi lend themselves naturally to the fabric of ballet. The stage design, costumes, and soundtrack have been meticulously created to capture the essence of the original composition. The production’s music has been written by music director and composer Praveen D Rao. Hansika premiered in 2018 and now you can attend the fourth presentation of this magical production in the city of Bengaluru.

A snippet from a performance of 'Hansika'
A snippet from a performance of 'Hansika'Sharmila Mukerjee


Date: February 4 (Sunday)

Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: ADA Rangamandira, JC Road, Bangalore