"I could remember I would wake up and go to sleep to the sound of Odissi music; I wanted to dance.. I wanted to share the joy of dancing with everyone around me. Dance Movement is a language which always has a meaning to my life............".

I was born in a very conservative Bengali family from Orissa, the heart of Odissi. My father was a technocrat through out. He believed in creating dams and bridges more than creating the ragas. There was no freedom and creativity in our home. Everyone in the house was expected to follow the inclinations of my father, with only one rule: moral accountability. My mother, wanting ‘the best’ for her daughters, expected us to initially learn the art of living in a social set up pleasing people from all walks of life. During my early childhood, I remember, my mother used to listen to the recorded dance drama of Gurudeb Rabindranath Tagore. The first dance lesson I ever took was from the inspiration of ‘Chitrangada’.

My time used to be pretty occupied with dancing and my sisters used to complete their class lessons while I danced. Dancing was more of a passion to me than a hobby. It wasn't until the forth grade when I joined my dance school. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have my Guruji, Guru Gangadhar Pradhan for the entire span of my dancing career.

It wasn't too long until my Guruji persuaded me to become a serious learner. Though I wanted to tone down my dancing after every practice session, Guruji used to motivate me for the next one. He punished me to perfect the expressions and touch my feet to show the exact form of postures. Early in the morning, under the strict guidance of my mother I practiced a great deal. The rhythm in sound and movement, music and dance of Odissi was my source of inspiration. I always wanted my father to extend his hands at that tender age. I wanted to prove a point.. I am a born dancer. My dream came to be true when one day my father spent some time to see his little girl dancing.

Probably then, my journey to the beautiful world of Odissi began. I could remember I would wake up and go to sleep to the sound of Odissi music. I wanted to dance and share the joy of dancing with everyone around me. My father took me to the school early in the morning and my Guruji introduced me to the swaying and graceful movements of Odissi. The performance and enjoyment of Odissi dance recital, so tender and vigorous and devotional, moving in sculpturesque poses, was an unique experience; a constant source of delight & inspiration to me. For me, it transcends all the limits of communication leading to a rich aesthetic & spirtual experience.

Dance Movement is a language which always has a meaning to my life. I gradually started believing that art activity is a basic human need and that dance, the art of body movement, is the primary, central art, to movement as the material of dance.

I last performed on stage just ten days before my marriage. I got married to a computer consultant from Calcutta. I knew I had to convince another person in my life. My husband never had seen any performance of classical dance style. Fortunately, he came to watch my farewell dance performance. With that little exposure, now he admits, he strongly feels that dance is a manifestation of the divine "innerself". This time I did not have to take much effort convincing another technocrat.

Very soon I got my first baby. We shifted to a company sponsored accommodation very soon. These three years, I had to create my virtual world of Odissi. I enjoyed cooking in the kitchen singing the music. I knew I was in right path as the flat was located exactly opposite to Mrs. Amala Shankar.

A month went by and one fine morning my doorbell rang. I opened the door and my whole world changed after that. Amala Mashima, as we call her now was standing in front of my flat with an offer to serve her institute, Udai Shankar India Cultural Centre. She was the person who continuously motivated me in the second part of my cultural life. I never felt alone.

My journey to this Odissi world started as an educator (I do consider myself an educator more than an artist now). I am a dancer who has become deeply involved in teaching because I have needed to share with others my great love of dance as a creative art activity. It provides me with understanding of what I had been taught or means of passing it on to others.

In contrast to normal teaching of Odissi, my teaching subordinated routine exercise to expression. I stressed improvisation because I considered it the most creative approach to dance. By this time I had collected a number of students who had studied with me long enough to show some ripeness in my way of work.

Odissi Kala Kendra is born with the blessings of my Guruji. I owe a lot to him and it is my turn to show my respect to him. I could fulfil his long cherished dream to open a school in Calcutta.

I have completed a full circle in life. My daughter is learning Odissi from me reminding me of my childhood. I was alone there. But she has her parents behind her.

Susmita Sarkar, email: stulip@hotmail.com