Media Reviews

Critical Acclaim for Performances

Diverse blend of delineations

Katha Angika was a festival of dance and theatre, which celebrated five genres of Indian classical dance. The festival was rounded off with Kalaripayattu — an Indian martial art from the hoary past. Moving on, Sreyashi Dey presented Shiva-Shakti in the Odissi style. The style is known for its grace, sculpture-like stances and intense lyricism in its movements. She showcased two opposites — one with form and the other formless, energy and consciousness in the cosmos as a whole as well as in every individual.

The first hymn from Shiva Panchaka, described Lord Shiva who is the most mercurial God of the Hindu Trinity. The power and energy of Shiva as portrayed by Dey in the rich style of her mentor Guru Gangadhar Pradhan was commendable. Her huge chaukas and pronounced bhangas were pleasing to behold. The piece vividly and reverentially described the physical attributes of Lord Shiva. Choreography was by Guru Gangadhar Pradhan.

On the other hand, Mahakali Stuti was in praise Mahakali or the Dark Mother. She liberates, and along with her counterpart Lord Shiva, grants moksha and is famed as the destroyer of ego. Dey evocatively described her outer appearance and beautifully etched the Goddess’ multiple forms. Literature, stories of mythology and the great Indian epics are generally the traditional source grounds of classical dance and therefore its value will never to be lost as long as they are performed on stage. The choreography of Mahakali was by Guru Bichitrananda Swain.

Sreyashi Dey with her admirable academic record of teaching at Michigan University is the founder-president of Akshara, which is a platform to create, perform and promote the arts from India both in their traditional forms and in more dynamic and contemporary expressions. She is also the president and artistic director of Shristi, which specialises in performance and preservation of Indian classical dance. Katha Angika was her presentation in Kolkata to fulfill her pledge to the arts.

— Tapati Choudhurie, The Statesman, India, March 11, 2017

 Tribute to a Pioneering Master

Odissi dancer Sreyashi Dey’s solo on Shiva-Shakti was diligently rendered in the style of her guru Gangadhar Pradhan, parts of which were choreographed by Guru Bichitranand Swain. A versatile dancer she could perform both the tandava and the lasya style stylistically.

— Tapati Choudhurie, The Statesman, India, March 4, 2017

In Praise of Hindu Gods, With Sharp Turns and Barefoot Rhythms

“The Erasing Borders evening ended with “Dashavatar,” in which five women of Srishti Dances of India performed Odissi and Bharatanatyam styles in counterpoint. The gleam of their belts, the luster of a marigold fabric registered splendidly, but so, too, did the interplay of rhythmic traveling and richly sculptural stillness. This was the dance chronicling the 10 avatars of Vishnu; you could see the dancers seamlessly switching into drama and out of it.”

— Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times, August 21, 2014

Jane Vranish picks the year’s best in dance

Srishti Dances of India: “IndiaA Light Within” (Kelly-Strayhorn, Sept. 18). Meanwhile, Sreyashi Dey had her finger on the pulse of dance history and the 2,000-year-old tradition of Odissi dance. She arrived with three dancers, including her identical twin daughters. That uncommon bond transformed a remarkably disciplined Indian dance program into a captivating event.

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 26, 2010

Srishti Dances of India program takes emotional journey to India

In the three years since Srishti Dances of India last appeared at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, “Slumdog Millionaire” won an Academy Award. Since then, interest in all things Indian — food, television and Bollywood movies — has exploded. Perhaps that’s the reason that a near-capacity crowd, many of them first-time visitors, filled the theater Saturday night for “India — A Light Within.”

Sreyashi Dey and her company have frequently pushed the envelope in their performances at the East Liberty theater, venturing into contemporary music and dance, feminist issues and African arts. This program featured an uncommon connection with photographer Charlee Brodsky and poet Zilka Joseph.

Selecting from thousands of photographs, Ms. Brodsky captured details of India’s colorful people and panorama. The images sometimes did a slow dance on the screen at the back of the stage. Even more arresting was a series of photos focusing on Ms. Dey’s hands, such an important and expressive part of Indian dance.

It also inspired Ms. Joseph’s words as she read a selection of poems interspersed between the movement. Her words seem to dance on the written page: “Fingers dancing in the breath between lips,” she read at one point, later adding, “my palms press back the silence.”

As for the dance itself, Ms. Dey has contrasted Odissi style with other Indian forms such as Bharatanatyam, the dance of fire; Kathakali, with its more theatrical accent; and Manipuri, with its gentle, folk-like movement gleaned from the northern mountainous regions.

For this performance, she returned to her wellspring with the oldest of the major Indian dances, Odissi. It has been described as the dance of water, or, as Ms. Joseph put it, an “ocean reaching for the moon.”

Indeed, this was a celestial happening (aided by Doug Doering’s evocative lighting), for Ms. Dey brought with her three students — her identical twin daughters, Ishika and Kritika Rajan, and Debnita Talapatra. They were all beautifully schooled, undulating cohesively in the upper torso, eyes darting in the company opening, “Invocation to Shiva,” and then in a trio depicting temple statues that come to life at night and create their own midnight spell in a beautifully interlaced dance.

This might be the most tightly woven ensemble Ms. Dey has assembled, as evidenced in the final “Pallavi.” Although based on a floral motif, it was a whirling storm of movement with a wonderful center of stillness.

Even though the ensemble pieces had myriad patterns that dazzled the eye, it remained for the more intimate moments to delve even more deeply into the Odissi art form. Ms. Dey constructed a difficult duet for her daughters, based on the 10 incarnations of Vishnu, “Dasavatar.” They were faced with a daunting task, to convey everything from a fish to a boar and a dwarf to a warrior king. They easily switched between the various characters, winsome in the delicate phrasing but particularly impressive in the powerful physicality for the male roles.

Ms. Dey was a chameleon throughout, blending in with the company when needed, but saving her charismatic talents for a bravura solo, “Manini,” in which the character Radha joyfully decorates a garden as she prepares for the arrival of her beloved, Lord Krishna. When he fails to appear, she pulls down the decorations and dissolves into tears.

Ms. Dey began with an undeniable radiance, with numerous filigree hand and arm movements, and made the disappointment and anger so compelling. In the end, it became an emotional journey for both artist and audience that is all too rare.

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 21, 2010

“Dasavatar from Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda was beautifully choreographed and performed by Ishika Rajan and Kritika Rajan. Naba Durga followed this piece. It was very imaginatively choreographed and performed by Sreyashi Dey, Ishika Rajan, Kritika Rajan and Debnita Talapatra. A pure dance piece, Konarak Kanti, was beautifully rendered. Through complex rhythmic patterns and energetic dancing, dancers demonstrated several poses from these temples, depicting celestial dancers and musicians playing the Veena, the stringed instrument; the Venu or the flute; the Mardala or the two-headed drum; and cymbals. Ardhanariswara, a superbly choreographed dance by the legendary Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, was chosen as the grand finale, rendered imaginatively by Sreyashi Dey and Manoranjan Pradhan.”

— Tapati Choudhurie, The Statesman, Kolkata, October 2009

 “The most remarkable feature of the program was the various types of choreographies done by the eminent gurus of this dance style. ..Pallavi, a pure dance number where rhythm and footwork were of vital importance, was based on Raga Rageshree and performed by Sreyashi. The artist blossomed through intricate movements and picturesque postures. The second half of the evening began with Naba Durga through graceful movements. Their basic positions, nimble footwork and neat hand gestures proved an adequate understanding of the dance form. The program concluded with Arshanariswara, an unforgettable creation of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.”

— Sharmila Basu Thakur, The Telegraph, Kolkata, August 2009

“Sreyashi Dey, Founder, President, and Artistic Director of Srishti, was accompanied by her twin daughters, Ishika and Kritika Rajan, in the concluding Ragamala sponsored event of Utsav 2007, “Odissi Dance,” on October 14, 2007, at the McEachern Auditorium, Museum of History and Industry, Seattle. The program was neither too short nor too long. It was a pleasant surprise to witness Odissi performed well, especially given the ages of two of the three dancers. It was also heartening to watch a mother dancing with both of her daughters.

The poses were powerful and reflected the choreography and vision of Guru Pankaj Charan Das. Particularly striking were the stills of Sumbha and Nisumbha killed by the Goddess, Durga as Mahisamardini, some of the Nava Durga formations of the trio, “Bhairava deha lina pare,” and the sequence concluding in “Namastasyi namoh namah.” The four-armed and six-armed Durga sequences were well-rehearsed and perfect in their formations even through vigorous movements.

Sreyashi’s abhinaya was well-executed. The choreography is busy allowing little time for the development of Radha’s emotion, making it challenging for the dancer. However, Sreyashi did the best she could to bring out the complexity of Radha’s emotions.

The young dancers, trained by their mother and Guru Manoranjan Pradhan, Orissa Dance Academy, reminded the writer of young Aruna Mohanty and Nandita Behera. The dancers were accomplished and well-trained. They rendered the ukuttas with precision. Their poses in the “kesavadhrita . . . sharira” refrain sequences were carefully orchestrated. There is immense potential as they both develop.

The dancers were warmed up in the final rendering of the last sloka and deserved their standing ovation.”

— Dr. Ratna Roy, Scholar and Professor of Odissi, Ragavani Magazine, October 2007

“Sreyashi Dey continued her dance journey with an Odissi/Manipuri collaboration as Srishti Dances of India presented “Angika” at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater on Saturday.

“Angika” literally means “of the body,” and Dey and her colleagues explored different interpretations and a shared spirit in six dance selections. Manipuri experts Sohini Ray and Sanjib Bhattacharya contributed a wonderful drumming technique, knee spins and turning jumps during their segments. Dey and Manoranjan Pradhan articulated the nobility and fluidity that is the hallmark of the Odissi heritage.

Most fascinating was the trading of phrases so that audience members could clearly learn from the two dance traditions and appreciate, in particular, Dey’s powerful emotional range, from a serene countenance to a fierce anger.”

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 9, 2007

“The numbers chosen by Sreyashi from the opening number Omkara to the final number Dashavatara, the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, had excellent visual appeal and thematic unity. Pallavi gave scope to the dancers to explore various similar patterns in pure dance. The structure of the choreographed number left an indelible impression and was the most successful number. The dance and music vied with one another and the performers delighted the onlookers with enchanting vibrant appeal.

In Ardhanareeswara number ,describing Lord Shiva in half male and half female aspect, offered Manoranjan Pradhan to display vigorous, tandava, element and Sreyashi   executed delicate, lasya, movements mirroring the Sanskrit hymn that has exquisite poetic images.

The ten incarnation, Dashavatara, is a favorite number amongst Odissi dancers. Each incarnation was danced with verve and energy. The depiction was imaginative and well executed, wanting onlookers to see more of the richness of the two forms.

She represents the new generation of Indian Diaspora whose phenomenal success is well recognized by the host country and its multi-dimensional culture.”

— Dr. Sunil Kothari, Dance Historian, Scholar and Critic, Nartanam, Mumbai, India, July 2006

“I recently had the pleasure of witnessing a performance of Yugma, the new production of Shrishti Dances of India. Directed by Sreyashi Dey, and based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the company is dedicated to mounting productions that showcase Indian classical dance in both traditional and contemporary frameworks, and has a history of presenting artists from diverse south Asian traditions. Yugma joined, in quite interesting ways, two grand classical traditions of Indian dance—Odissi and Bharatanatyam—and also successfully melded the sacred traditions of temple dance with contemporary western stagecraft.

The differentiation between the styles manifested clearly through the skill of the four performers in their respective disciplines. Manoranjan Pradhan dances with absolute authority and generosity in the Odissi repertoire, and Ms. Dey contributes delicacy, dimensionality and a clarity of intention which to my eye has developed considerably over the years. Together, dancing Ardhananareeswara, they demonstrated the curvilinear fluidity and gentle spirituality of Odissi dance. The clarity of this stylistic differentiation in the group dances created beautiful visual contrasts that became the foundation for interesting approaches to their integration.

The choreography of the Dashavatar and the concluding Pallavi offered the kaleidoscopic possibility of seeing movement from many angles, with variations of intention and initiation. While the performers were being asked to stretch and slightly alter their forms in time and space to accommodate each other, it seemed to me that each dancer maintained his or her integrity in doing so.   As a result, the compositions, while clearly based in traditional forms and esthetics, were easy for me to appreciate through the lens of contemporary western dance.

That this group of four artists from two different traditions was able to craft a performance of such interest and integrity gives me the sense that there is much room for development of true ensemble work in contemporary Indian dance. I hope to see more from them as a group.”

–Mark Taylor, Post Modern Choreographer, former Artistic Director of Dance Alloy and Dance Faculty Princeton University, Sruti, August 2006

“Sreyashi Dey gave a brilliant performance at Pittsburgh, winning a standing ovation. It was a brilliant, uncluttered and sophisticated performance. She herself had designed the lighting. Sreyashi is lovely dancer with a svelte figure and thorough command over the Odissi technique.”

— Dr. Sunil Kothari, Dance Historian, Scholar and Critic, Pittsburgh, USA, April 2006

 “In the worshipful opening, the two couples offered a prayer in Odissi and Bharatha Natyam styles. Palaparty and Nalini performed a lengthy and elaborate Varnam of deep pliés, long balances and stylized facial expressions. Dey and Manoranjan mirrored each other’s movements as male and female aspects of Shiva. All four dancers showed assured characterization skills as they acted out Vishnu’s 10 incarnations.

The performers danced with emotional involvement, and they communicated their rich heritage with sincerity.

The concert launched Srishti’s 10-city American tour and concluded Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks ’06.”

— Wilma Salisbury, Dance Critic, Cleveland Plain Dealer, USA, April 2006

“In Indian dance, where an array of fingertips has to coincide with not only the feet, but also the hips and eyes, the body energy can be mesmerizing — as it often was in “Yugma,” the latest collaboration by Srishti Dances of India (Sreyashi Dey). Meaning “together,” the program highlighted two of India’s classical dances, Odissi and Bharatanatyam. The dancers celebrated the sculptural temple origins of the two styles, but most of the program focused on the beautiful contrasts, not only between Odissi and Bharatanatyam, but between the men and the women. Dey and Pradhan provided an intriguing tour de force in “Ardhananareeswara,” with a line that wavered between male and female and featured a wonderful sensitivity and control. They engaged in the bold theatrical characterizations of “Dashavatar,” where they evolved from fish and tortoise to Buddha and Kalki, and concluded with “Pallavi,” a dazzling display of techniques.”

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 11, 2006

“Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre presented an innovative classical dance programme at Bharatiyam on December 8, featuring Sreyashi Dey and Manoranjan Pradhan. To explore the concept of duality, Dey chose four different pieces in her new production ‘Dwaita — Exploring Duality in Odissi’. Dey used the full canvas of Odissi with grace and grandeur. Ardhanareeswar was a powerful piece which delineates the idea of male and female elements in Shiva. A distinguished style underlined by neat body movements was reflected in Dey’s rendition. Also, a contrast between tandava and lasya shone through the performance of both the artistes.

The most captivating number of the evening, however, was Pallavi, a pure dance number based on raga Bilahari. With an intricate footwork, a keen sense of rhythmic permutations and adequate energy, performers revealed the ecstacy of rhythms.”

— Sharmila Basu-Thakur, The Telegraph, Calcutta, December 2005

“Though highly theatrical to the postmodern eye, this display of emotion as dictated by a linear narrative plot line, the contest between the real and the artifice, doesn’t apply or at least fades away as Dey and her equally dynamic partner Manoranjan Pradhan dance and display a dizzying array of emotion through the up most training in the extreme subtle play of a shoulder twixt, a torso isolation, or an eye glance, which one of hundreds the dancer is trained in. These emotions are not necessarily what they feel at the moment, a tenet of Western modern dance, the outward expression of moment to moment feelings of the dance, which are generally misunderstood by a wider public.

At first glance we are dazzled by the very jeweled look of this east Indian classical dance, but as the evening unfolds, the mannered and harmonious elements serve to underscore its extreme intensity drawn out through the complex music rhythms and footwork. A certain awe takes place as an audience member, not only at the finesse and technique of the dancers, but the fearlessness, the freshness, and the passion the dancers display within this ancient and proscribed form.

The dance, reaching a fevered pitch towards the end, is a feast for the eye, causing one’s will to know to fade while surrendering to the dancers’ sheer exuberance.”

— Sarah Skaggs, Nartanam, January 2005

 “Battery Dance Company was both honored and privileged to host Sreyashi Dey and her fellow artists of Srishti Dances of India in the presentation of “Lavanya” last evening.

A knowledgeable audience was given a rare treat and responded with whoops and hollers! We experienced a sublime level of technical mastery coupled with sophisticated artistic vision and depth of expression in a very pure presentation.   The melding of Odissi and Manipuri classical dance forms provided an inspiring and enlightening glimpse of the contrasts and similarities between these two styles from the East of India. More than that, however, the aesthetic unity and high caliber of all of the performers transcended what could have been a tourist board-type travelogue and entered into the world of art.”

Jonathan Hollander, Artistic Director, Battery Dance Company, New York, October 2004

“It was like standing on a hilltop vista, embracing past, present and future. Sunday’s performance of “Lavanya: Graceful Expressions of the East” at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater astutely adhered to the historical accuracy of Indian dance while blending the Manipuri and Odissi styles in lacy configurations.

All four dancers — Sreyashi Dey, Manoranjan Pradhan, Poushali Chatterjee and Debanjana Roy — were masterful exponents of their respective styles. From the opening side-by-side salutation, the audience could easily see the whisper-soft simplicity of Manipuri, with its parallel footwork, pillowy jumps and melodic outline, vs. the architectural majesty of Odissi, ripe with crisp, rhythmic footwork and deep plies.

In the second half, “Naba Durga” allowed Dey to stretch from sun goddess to “one of darkness” with a nimble and authoritative facility, while Chatterjee and Roy countered with “Pontha Jagoi,” a curiously elegant contest between Lord Krishna and Radha in view of Manipuri’s origins as an all-male dance form. “Dashavatar” provided a dazzling climax, taking the quartet through 10 avatars, or forms, that Vishnu assumed as he continually saved the Earth from destruction. Moving from fish to wild boar, from noble king to destroyer of evil, they grew increasingly uninhibited in a powerful vortex of movement.”

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 28, 2004

“Dey’s performance was elegant and refined – reminding me of the senior disciples of late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. The curves of her body clearly resembled the feminine sculptures on which Odissi is based, and she has carefully mastered the art of balancing strength and grace. Even in a piece such as “Naba Durga,” in which she portrayed the ten-armed, three-eyed goddess killing the evil demon Mahishasura, Dey retained the elegance of the Mother Goddess without overemphasizing the actual act of killing.”

 Esha Bandopadhyay, Narthaki Online, November 2004

“Working in the Odissi style, Dey displayed a definitive grace, but was still a study in contrasts. There was a light play of emotions across the face, a sweeping arc in the arms and a deliberate weight of the feet, all collected in a symphony of movement.

She produced a quartet of works, each a virtuoso piece in itself, starting with the pre-requisite salutation and then moving on to the effortless foot technique in the “Pallavi in Raga Saveri” and “Dashavatar.”

A series of songs about Krishna and Radha illuminated Dey’s enormous theatrical gifts, first in an explanation of the movements, then in the work itself. The movements seemed to emanate from the poetic inspiration in the story, accentuated as Dey gently sang along.”

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 11, 2004

“Usually Dey pushes the envelope of Indian dance with contemporary themes, but she stayed with tried-and-true classical movement in “Shatarupa: Splendorous Myths and Divinities of India” and the result, complete with guest artists, was magical.”

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 26, 2003

“Srishti Dances of India, capably headed by Sreyashi Dey, presented “Shatarupa: Splendorous Myths and Divinities of India” at the Kelly Strayhorn Community Performing Arts Centre in East Liberty. As usual, Saturday’s late-afternoon program had a full-service dance menu, with liberal explanations both in the program (highly recommended) and on stage (narrator Gwen Morton) to negotiate the cast of characters and their unfamiliar dance vocabulary.

All of this added up to a program rich in the myth and that unending curl of beauty that is Odissi dance. Even pain and suffering are elegantly portrayed in its soft sculptural movements, so deliciously intricate as the waves of dance unfold between face and hands and feet. There was the customary opening invocation to Lord Shiva, notable for a harmonious blend between the five dancers.

The first solo, wonderfully interpreted by Dey, made its way through the jealous imagination of Radha, who, along with Krishna, is a particular favorite of Odissi dance. Uniquely sensual in nature, it plumbed Radha’s emotional landscape as she pictured Krishna in a relationship with another woman.

The program ended with a charming dance drama about Lord Jagannath, replete with galloping horses and bejeweled costumes. It showed that, more than its trademark lyricism, Odissi inherently exemplifies the best in life by acknowledging courage and spirit.”

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 14, 2003

“It’s difficult under any circumstances when the winds of change sweep away the dust of tradition. But when that tradition is 2,000 years old, the task at hand is even more daunting. But choreographer Sreyashi Dey is carefully revealing a gleaming new art form in Odissi dance, deeply rooted in Indian history but open to so much more.

Her program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Philip Chosky Theater last weekend took the audience on a “Yaatra: Journey,” one that reflected Dey’s own personal choreographic quest as it portrayed the cycles of birth and death. Dey employed her own skillful Odissi dance in a solo, “Anubhava,” where the struggle to accept death was apparent in the wonderful way she would arrest the flow of the arms in the air and then accent with the head.

But much of this journey was new. There were the almost sculptural tableaus that revealed her foray into the theater of Kathakali dance, with a touch of the ritualistic elements of Japanese butoh dance. This gave this journey a lyric flow, particularly in the soft sand painting, the slow pilgrimages across the stage and the slow, deliberate pouring of ashes. Dey demonstrated a choreographic balance and eye and a radiance of spirit that carried the night.”

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 06, 2003

“Dey has taken an art form born in the temples of India and challenged its possibilities by working with Western influences in music, poetry and drama. Her “Chitrangada” at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theatre last fall set a standard for community arts groups, reinforcing feminist strengths (from a country where many women cannot fulfill their potential) along with embracing new choreography and music.”

— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 02, 2002

“Srishti Dance Company led by Sreyashi Dey presented the World-premiere of a unique creation. They traveled all the way from the USA to explore our very own “Karna Kunti Samvad” in a new idiom and stylistic. Tradition and modernity juxtaposed in the rendering of the Kathakali expressions by P Kannan and the Odissi ones by Sreyashi Dey with English dialogues by American actors Brynell Jameson and Patrick Jordan from the Dept. of Theatre, University of Pittsburgh. Sreyashi’s multi-ethnic casting and multi-cultural collaboration really paid tribute to the LINK THE ARTS concept of the Festival.”

— Farah Choudhury, Principal Correspondent, The Asian Age, Calcutta, November 2002

“A remarkable achievement from a local community dance company. Dey’s “Chitrangada” was a timeless Indian epic with a feminist twist — attaining inner beauty over outer beauty. Dey assembled a cast of devoted dancers and expert musicians who painted a thriving portrait of Indian art.”

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 28, 2001

“…Dey had a core of serenity, particularly in the flowing arm movements, that was a combination of charming and profound,” “Amazing feat”

— Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 2001

“Dey’s expressive face, articulate fingers, quick feet and carefully calculated movements are always fascinating to watch”

— Odille von Rothbart, Dance Pittsburgh, December 2001

“A Feast of Indian Classicism”, “…intriguing study of rhythmic footwork, beautifully defined hand gestures and curved body placement”

— Karen Dacko, Dance Magazine, USA, November 2000