Proma Abonti, a leading Odissi exponent from Bangladesh, has promoted and taught the dance form across the country for 16 years. Her institution Odissi and Tagore Dance Movement Centre has represented Bangladesh throughout the world. The institution celebrated its long innings through dance festivals in Dhaka and Chittagong. The second phase of the festival ended recently at Theatre Institute Chittagong to a houseful audience.
The Daily Star had an opportunity to talk to Proma where she shared less known facts about herself, her institution and the dance movement.
How did you venture into the dance world?
Proma Abonti: My aunt initiated me into dance. At the age of four I was enrolled at Alauddin Lalitakala Academy. After that I went on to do my Higher Secondary, Honours and Masters from Rabindra Bharati University.
Why have you chosen Odissi?
Proma Abonti: Of the eight Indian classical dance forms. Odissi is the best genre to express human emotions. When I saw a performance by the great Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, I decided at once that I would pursue Odissi. Odissi is a dance form with the most humour, sentiment and feelings.
What was the principle behind Odissi and Tagore Dance Movement Centre?
Proma Abonti: All I wanted was to popularise the art form among later generations, to promote one of the most ancient dance forms so that-pure practice continued uninterrupted. That's a duty vested in me as a disciple of this art.
How can an art form be pure?
Proma Abonti: No matter how far an artiste traverses, at the end of the day he will return to his roots. It is the nature of art. 'Pure', the word used by classical artistes, is always misunderstood. We mean 'the original' by that word.
How do you look back at your institution 16 years later?
Proma Abonti: A lot could have been done in this span of time. The thought of what I could have done, won't let me rest. Everything could have been done with more excellence. I could use Odissi dance to promote empowerment of women and it could be used as an artistic expression of protest against the atrocities in society. I could do all of that, it is late but not too late I hope.
What obstacles did you encounter in your journey?
Proma Abonti: The lack of patrons. Less evolved art forms get the attention of the patrons as they are assured of easy returns. It is very hard to find even a single organisation to patronise a classical art programme. If there were sufficient patrons around, artistes could do much better work.
What is your advice to young Odissi dancers?
Proma Abonti: Practice, that's all it takes. If you are determined you will find a way forward. And of course, love what you do and respect it, and don't ruin it in the name of experimentation.