‘Discipline makes a good dancer’
Pressure to meet expectations made Sujata Mohapatra excel.
Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
Extraordinary danseuse Sujata Mohapatra.
Off stage, she appears as any ordinary Indian woman meeting the demands of domesticity. And on stage, she is simply extraordinary; arguably, the best Odissi danseuse of the world today.
She is Sujata Mohapatra, disciple and daughter-in-law of the legendary Odissi maestro Kelucharan Mohapatra, and a globe-trotting dancer. In an interview, the gifted artiste shares her thoughts on the life of a female dancer who has to excel each time she performs.
When did you decide to take up dance as a career?
It was after meeting my Guruji. He was so inspiring that I could not dream of anything other than dancing. I was in my early 20s then and had not imagined that I would be his daughter-in-law one day.
What were the advantages and disadvantages of being the daughter-in-law of dancing greats? Your mother-in-law and husband are also great dancers.
I had the opportunity to be with Guruji for 24 hours a day; not only learning dance, but also observing the qualities of the great master, who was simply great as a guru, as an artiste and a human being.
Being with him all the time, I was also able to share his vision of dance and life. The only disadvantage was the great expectations from me as the daughter-in-law of Guruji.
More than the people around me, I put pressure on myself to keep his legacy alive as a teacher and as a dancer.
How difficult is it for a woman to maintain a happy family life and a career in dance? Do you think marriage helps a dancer in any way?
Yes, it is difficult, but sometimes you have to take it as a challenge and overcome it to be both a good wife and mother along with being a good artiste. Of course, for me marriage helped a lot. But this may not be the case for everyone. It depends on each individual’s situation.
Do you think being Guru Kelucharan’s daughter-in-law helped you gain fame ?
Carrying the name of Guruji is a great honour and a responsibility as well. By God’s grace and with Guruji’s blessings, I have been able to receive the recognition that I have today.
But, fame, if any, has come through hard work.
You have to teach so many students and conduct workshops all through the year. Does teaching consume much of your time and take away your concentration as a performer?
Not all. Rather, it helps me grow as a dancer.
Do you think it is possible to make a comfortable career as a classical dancer like a doctor or an engineer for that matter?
It’s possible. But it requires a lot of hard work, dedication and talent.
The spiritual satisfaction outweighs the monetary gains as a dancer.
What is the secret of your success? Talent, hard work, Guruji, ambition, luck… .
All of the above have played their roles in my success, if any.
What are the qualities that go into the making of a good dancer?
Discipline, dedication and hard work.
Send this article to Friends by
Chennai and Tamil Nadu