LITTLETON, NH–After several months of looking forward to her weeklong residency with Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire (AANNH), which works to introduce arts and culture from around the world to communities in the northern part of New Hampshire, Odissi dancer Mouli Pal had her chance last month.
She demonstrated her powerfully choreographed Odissi dancing on various locations, including at the Littleton Opera House in Littleton, NH. Her each performance had a story to tell with mastered movements, revealing both gracefulness and imagination in presentations at school assemblies, workshops in schools and yoga studios, performances at nursing homes and senior centers and three full-length solo concerts.
“Certain days were extremely busy with several workshops and presentations throughout the day leading to a concert at night, but such are the days I live for,” said Pal. “It was an incredibly fulfilling experience to share my passion with children and youth in schools along with yogi’s, seniors and other community members while travelling through the White Mountain area.”
Pal, a Massachusetts resident, is an Odissi exponent, trained under the personal tutelage of the legendary Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, the undisputed master and architect of Odissi. A talented and vibrant performer, Mouli has been mesmerizing audiences with her lyrical grace and depths of emotions. With numerous solo concerts to her credit, she is also a dedicated teacher, competent director, emerging choreographer and a passionate proponent of the dance form.
Pal’s concerts were held at the Starr King Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Plymouth, Littleton Opera House in Littleton and the finale at the Medallion Opera House in Gorham, where she was joined by her senior student, Melissa Huser.
“The evening concerts featured a traditional Odissi repertoire, and I decided to present separate choreographies each night,” said Pal. “The standing ovation at the Gorham concert filled my heart and it concluded with a reception featuring Indian delicacy from Shalimar restaurant in North Conway.”
At her performances, Pal provided detailed background information about the dance form and the particular choreography and followed up the performance with a Q/A session.
“Each night I found the audience leaving in wonder, captivated by the richness of Indian classical dance, the storytelling ,costumes, postures and facial expressions,” Pal said. “There were questions and discussions on how the dance related to the Temples of Orissa and its evolution to the present day stylized version. Some in the audience had visited India and wanted to revisit the mystical land through my performance.”
Pal was with five schools thorough the week presenting “Discover India Thorough Dance” program at the assemblies where the students learnt about the diversity and rich cultural heritage of India through videos, slide shows and dance.
“Later at workshops I would use traditional Mudras to help the students recreate the mountains around them with forests coming to life with animals, birds, lakes and rivers. They were fascinated at how simply they could use their fingers to tell stories,” Pal said. “The high school students at Woodsville High School enthusiastically learnt a Sun Salutation choreography and it was amazing to see majority of the students participate in what was an optional activity. Most of these schools are located in remote rural area where the population has limited resources and access to international culture. It was truly an enriching and enjoyable experience for them as well as myself.”
Other schools Pal visited were: Russell Elementary School, Rumney, NH; Woodland Community School; Josiah Bartlett Elementary School, Bartlett; and Linwood Public School.
“I offered two Yoga workshops at two unique yoga studios the Balance in Bethlehem and the Dragon fly Yoga barn in North Sandwich. These workshops explored the deep connection of Yoga with Indian Classical dance and discussed the similarities and differences,” Pal said. “Attended by adult yogis, the participants were enthralled at my demonstration about dance mudras having healing powers for specific ailments.”
Pal said that the most challenging and touching moment for her as an artist during this residency was her interaction with seniors at nursing homes and community centers including at a State home for elderly and people with chronic and mental illness.
PaI was presented at the following nursing homes: Morrison Nursing Home, Whitefield, NH; Glencliff Home for the Elderly, Glencliff; and Gibson Center for Senior Services.
“The audience in the nursing homes were unlike my regular, happy healthy audience. While beginning to perform, I was wondering if I am able to reach out to them,” Pal said. “However, their warm feedback was encouraging and I realized that the music, footwork and sound of the ghungroos were much needed stimulation that brightened up the day. Some of them also tried the mudras and requested to see more pieces.”
Each night Pal was hosted by families in beautiful mountain cottages, whose warmth and hospitality refreshed her.
“I felt as if I am returning home. Conversations revolved about India, Boston, food, family and life and I ended up making friends I have to return to,” Pal said.
Pal said that her residency was supported in part by the New England States Touring Program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies, including the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.
“I am grateful to Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire for giving me the opportunity to bring a glimpse of India to communities in the White mountain area,” said Pal, who is the founder of Upasana, a non-profit organization for the promotion and preservation of Odissi.
Upasana organizes open concerts, provides affordable instructions and raises funds for charitable organizations. She continues to perfect her art under the guidance of acclaimed dancer Nandini Ghosal in India and collaborates with eminent musicians to create innovative new work. She is regularly presented by libraries across Massachusetts and has been featured at Wellesley College concert series, Peabody Essex Museum, Mass Dance Festival, Figment Boston and at numerous other events and festivals. Pal also appears at concerts in India. Her recent presentation in Kolkata organized by “Sur O Kavya Trust”, was widely acclaimed and also telecast by Tara Music channel.
Pal, regularly presents at schools and universities and has been invited to offer lecture demonstrations at Boston University, MIT, Tufts University, Wellesley College and Wheaton College. She has received several honors and awards including a grant from NEFA- New England Foundation for the Arts. She is a member of International Dance Council- CID UNESCO and was recently invited to perform at their first congress in United States held in Florida in September.