Seventeen-year-old Wilcox High School senior Sanika Kamde began showing an aptitude for the arts at the young age of six. Her mother, not wanting to squander the opportunity to encourage her daughter’s artistic development, enrolled Kamde in dance classes with Gayatri Mishra Joshi where she learned the Indian dance form Odissi – the oldest known form of India’s eight major classical dance disciplines. Eleven years later, Kamde will take the first step in becoming a solo artist when she performs her rangapuja in Palo Alto on Aug. 12.
“A rangapuja is the very first step an Odissi dancer takes to becoming a solo artist,” said Kamde. “It’s basically graduating from dance school and showing that the dancer is knowledgeable about the dance form and is capable of passing it onto the next generation. It’s not just about showing the growth of the dancer as a performer, but also about showing the growth of the dancer as a person.”
At her rangapuja, Kamde will perform six dances choreographed by Joshi and other gurus of Odissi: Manglacharan, Pallavi, Panchaavat, Radha, Abhinaya and Moksha, with each representing part of her journey as a dancer.
The Manglacharan will consist of three different pranams – or religious greeting to the gods, gurus and audience – and Kamde said she will perform a Saraswati Manglacharan, after Hindu idol, Saraswati, who represents art and knowledge.
Her second dance, Pallavi, will show how she as bloomed from a dancer into a performer with slow music that speeds up throughout, metaphorically representing a flower.
Kamde’s third dance, Panchaavat, will portray space, wind, fire, water and Earth. This piece, she said, was chosen for members of the audience unfamiliar with Odissi who will understand and connect to the elements as they’re illustrated through her movements and gestures.
The fourth piece, Radha, is a tribute to her Indian heritage, and tells the story of the Hindu idol Radha’s desire for another idol, Krishna. This piece, Kamde said, will be performed to a Marathi song to incorporate her parents, who are from the Indian state of Maharashtra, into the dance.
Her fifth piece, Ganesh, is an expressive Abhinaya telling the story of how the elephant-headed Hindu idol, Ganesh, was created.
Finally, her sixth and final dance, Moksha, represents the dancer and the dance becoming one and involves fast footwork and movements.
Five of the six pieces, Kamde said, are between 13 and 20 minutes long, with only one segment significantly shorter, at 3-5 minutes. Each dance will be performed with musical accompaniment by the Indian group, Sangeetam. Once the performance is complete, Kamde will be considered a professional solo artist in Odissi and able to choreograph and share the form with the next generation of dancers.
“I am very passionate about Odissi, and I am excited for this event,” said Kamde. “Odissi has been a part of me and it has inspired me to be the better version of myself. I have also acquired a dancing talent that will be within me when I grow old. I will never forget this event and it will mark my maturity as a performer and as a person.”
Kamde’s rangapuja will occur between 3:30 and 7 p.m. at the Cubberley Community Center, 4000 Middlefield Rd. in Palo Alto. RSVP at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSczgMWqg5lNqzlPjefVRmlRyP1h-vY9LlHS_T4DKxUSJgV_CQ/viewform.
In lieu of gifts, Kamde is using her rangapuja to raise funds to assist UNICEF’s work in the elimination of human trafficking.
“Many children are being taken against their will into acts they do not consent to and are treated as objects for pleasure or as objects to sell and buy for labor,” Kamde said, adding, “I want to save any child going through this by donating money to UNICEF’s human trafficking fundraiser, which will help educate families in poverty to recognize and react if they encounter any situations. I want people that attend my rangapuja to realize the brutality of human trafficking and I hope they donate money to this cause to help these children out. Having fundraisers at rangapugas are not very common, and I think this would be a great opportunity to spread awareness.”