December 22, 2013. The stage was set in Bhubaneswar for the special closing ceremony of Odissi International, the third annual union of the global Odissi family featuring dancers and delegates from 15 countries. The auditorium was over-crowded as it was a special treat for one and all – Minati Mishra, world’s oldest Odissi performer from Switzerland was to perform followed by internationally acclaimed stars like Aruna Mohanty, Sujata Mohapatra, Meera Das, Rahul Acharya and Lingaraj Pradhan.
However, as the stage was illuminated, the audience saw a three year old kid in Odissi attire, looking like a big doll, being brought onto the stage by her mother. And before anyone could guess anything, the kid danced into the hearts of the audience receiving a standing ovation. Watching this youngest Odissi dancer of the world, the oldest remarked, “She is God’s gift to Odissi”. She was Shrinika Purohit from Bengaluru, aptly billed as the “wonder kid of Odissi”.
Ever since, Shrinika has been in big demand from festival organisers, connoisseurs, media and photographers. A crowd puller, she has been a regular feature in several major dance events held in her parents’ home state of Odisha and Bengaluru, where the kid was born. She had the honour of being the opening performer of the India International Dance Festival held in Bhubaneswar last year.
It appears as if her mother’s deep desire to be a dancer was ingrained in the baby. “I was quite keen to continue my career as an Odissi dancer along with my academics. But, my father’s frequent transfers and my higher studies outside Odisha (she worked as a junior scientist in Lucknow for two years) prevented me from continuing. Finally, it was for the encouragement of my husband Srimanta Purohit and my dance teacher Madhulita Mohapatra that I could come back to dance after I settled down in Bengaluru following my marriage. I now remember that I was pregnant with this baby when I resumed my dance,” she shyly smiles.
“Sonalika met me at my newly opened Nrityantar Academy of Performing Arts in Bengaluru in 2009 and shared her disappointment over discontinuation of her dance-career. We developed the bond of two sisters. Slowly and steadily, she came back to dancing. But, to my utter amazement, Shrinika started articulating the dance postures and movements when she was just able to stand up! Gradually, she wished to wear the Odissi costume. She would always accompany her mother to my dance studio where she would spend hours with our dancers. So, all of us took special interest in this child and presented her in our annual Naman Odissi festival in 2013 following which her exceptional talent was noticed. Since then, her dance has become everyone’s delight and demand,” says Srinika’s Guru Madhulita Mohapatra, the founder of the Nrityantar Academy that has become the biggest Odissi institute of South India in just eight years.
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