'We need a paying audience to make performing arts self-sustaining’: Odissi dancer Prachi Hota

‘We need a paying audience to make performing arts self-sustaining’: Odissi dancer Prachi Hota

We need a paying audience to make performing arts self-sustaining’: Odissi dancer Prachi Hota 30 stades

A 14-year-old girl was extremely nervous ahead of her first full Odissi recital in Delhi. She went on, unsure of what lay ahead. But when she stepped on to the stage, all the nervousness magically melted away and she was lost in the dance.

After the performance, Prachi Hota signed her first autograph too. “A young Korean man came up to me and asked me to autograph the invite. For a second, I didn’t know how to respond. It was overwhelming,” she says.

Since then Odissi dancer Prachi, now 23, has gone on to perform in India and abroad and is trying to carve a niche for herself in the Odissi dance scene. Apart from the dance, which is the practical aspect, Prachi believes it is important to be conversant with the theory as literature is the soul of dance.

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“I believe that one needs to understand the literature to be able to practice an Indian classical art form,” she says.

“I read theatre, plays, non-fiction, texts on dance and theatre such as Natya Shastra and Abhinay Darpan. I enjoy reading these,” says Prachi, who started learning Odissi at the age of three from her first guru and acclaimed dancer Arpita Venkatesh.

Prachi Hota with her first guru Arpita Venkatesh. Pic: through Prachi Hota

According to Indian classical dancer, both dance and literature are mediums of communication and complement each other. The knowledge of one gives a deeper meaning to the other.

The economics of arts

While the performing arts in India are seen as a spiritual pursuit, the economics of it cannot be wished away. Prachi agrees that there isn’t enough money in the performing arts for it to become a self-sustaining profession.

“Generally, the expenditure far surpasses what one can earn through performances and the struggle can be demotivating for a young artist.”

She says turning performances into ticketed events can be a solution. “Having a paying audience, which is a norm in the West, will ensure that artists are accountable to the audience. This way, artists will not only be able to sustain themselves, they will also be expected to constantly work at polishing their art,” she says.

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Prachi with her Gurumaa and Guruji. Pic: through Prachi Hota
Prachi with her Gurumaa and Guruji. Pic: through Prachi Hota

However, Indian audiences will have to be convinced that paying for the arts is important. “Also, we will run the risk of the art getting commodified. As a fraternity, we will have to work together to prevent that and retain the spiritual essence of our art and craft traditions,” she says.

Like other Indian Classical dances, Odissi too traces its origins to the ancient Sanskrit text Natya Shastra. In ancient times, it was mainly performed in temples of Odisha. During the Mughal and British rule, the dance was suppressed though it was patronised by kings. After independence, it gained recognition and respect as one of the classical Indian dance forms.

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Again, like other classical dance forms, Odissi has a costume, uses body movements, abhinaya (expressions) and mudras (gestures) to convey a story or a spiritual theme. An Odissi dance performance begins with a prayer, followed by nritta (pure dance) nritya (dance drama) and moksha or the climax.

Odissi dancer Prachi Hota at a performance. Pic: through Prachi Hota
Odissi dancer Prachi Hota at a performance. Pic: through Prachi Hota

The experimentative dancer

As a dancer, Prachi says she is open to experimentation while being grounded in the tradition. “If you break away from the tradition then what will prevent the dance form from dissolving?” she asks

“I don’t believe that expressing contemporary issues means breaking away from the traditional form of the dance. There is Indian classical literature that can be used to portray contemporary issues such as gender equality,” she says.

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“The art form is flexible and changes with time. It is up to us practitioners to make sure it stays relevant and authentic to tradition.”

Odissi dancer Prachi Hota at her home in Gurugram. Pic: through Prachi Hota
Odissi dancer Prachi Hota at her home in Gurugram. Pic: through Prachi Hota

Not only is Prachi a young ambassador of the classical dance that originated in the temples of Odisha but is also helping popularise the art among Delhi government schools under Project Anjuman to offer high-quality arts education to students. She also organises seminars on dance titled Samanubhāsanā – Conversations On Indian Dance.

“I started when I was very young but I stuck to Odissi because I feel it centres me. When I’m on stage, it allows me to be the best version of myself,” she says.

In 2004, her family shifted to Delhi and Prachi then learnt under the guidance of guru Hare Krishna Behera for nine years until his ill-health made it difficult for him to continue training the pupil.

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“His guidance was very valuable. He taught me the complex rhythm system of the dance, how to perform on stage, how to communicate with the audience. I was very fortunate to learn under his guidance,” she says.

Prachi with her current guru  Guru Smt Y Asha Kumari. Pic: through Prachi Hota
Prachi with her current guru Guru Smt Y Asha Kumari. Pic: through Prachi Hota

She recalls the day her guruji made her rehearse for seven hours before her first year dance exam.

“I reached my guruji’s residence around 4 pm and for the next seven hours, till 11 pm, he made me practice.”

I think guruji was more nervous than his students and wanted to make sure we did not falter,” says Prachi who is based in Gurugram.

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But the hours and hours of arduous practice over the past 20 years has stood Prachi in good stead. She has trained in the dance form for 20 years and has been a professional artist for the past 11 years.

Prachi Hota at a performance. Pic: through Prachi Hota
Prachi Hota at a performance. Pic: through Prachi Hota

A person with diverse interests, Prachi is also trained in sitar and Indian classical vocal music and is currently pursuing her Master’s in filmmaking at the London Film School.

She enjoys making films on social and gender-related issues. She has directed a film on racism and made a documentary on Adiguru Pankaj Charan Das, the fountainhead of Odissi who laid the foundation of the dance form. The film was screened at his centenary celebrations in Bhubaneswar in 2019. Prachi has come a long way from the nervousness she felt nine years back. “Yet, I will remain a student all my life,” she says.

(Urvashi Dev Rawal is a Jaipur-based journalist specialising in development, gender, and political reporting)

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63 thoughts on “‘We need a paying audience to make performing arts self-sustaining’: Odissi dancer Prachi Hota

  1. Rammohan says:

    Well written article. Such passion is commendable. Indian performing arts does indeed require a commercial model to thrive but without itself becoming commercialised. A tough balancing act.

  2. Vikas verma says:

    Prachi is exceptional talent. I am sure she will scale new heights and contribute more in propagating this to others . This article gives the glimpse how one need to be focused and inclined in case one wants to attain something exceptional in life. Salute to your efforts and committment

  3. Abhishek Kr Mishra says:

    Congratulations and best wishes Prachi. The way you performed, is clearly shows your hard work.
    Wishing for bright future ahead.

  4. Shikha Manoj Saxena says:

    A beautiful performance, very emotional and moving. “You have great charisma dear Prachi Hota – please keep this, as this will distinguish you from other dancers.” “You put your heart and soul into the dance. Very gifted, well done!”

  5. G Singh says:

    It’s possible only with able nurturing, guidance and focused attention and love towards the art. Yes it is non paying in today’s running world.

  6. Sujatha Sudheendra says:

    Prachi, so well written and so relevant. What stood is that we have retain the essence of our art irrespective of the time line we are in. You are a child prodigy and you are working super hard to do justice to the innate talent you have. Wishing you all the best Prachi

  7. Rajesh Tiwari says:

    It’s an overwhelming experience, realty, dedication and attachment expressed by Prachi. This proud for us that she is performing and speeding a great Indian history of never lasting arts.

  8. Arun Kumar says:

    It has been a wonderful journey of Prachi, well supported by her parents since they can afford it, which has taken Prachi to this height. As an art lover, we can agree no less, on this support from art lovers to share little to enjoy and help grow the art performances.
    Fully agree…

  9. Kailash Pandey says:

    Inspiring story of commitment and passion. We all know “Opportunities don’t happen. You create them”.
    Prachi you are making India’s proud. Our best wishes.

  10. Dhananjaya Sarangi says:

    A commendable journey by Prachi… Pray God for greater success in her life and continue the journey of Odishi Dance..

  11. Dr.E.C.Jose says:

    Well narrated details about Prachi Hota. With in this young age of 23 she has mastered Odishi dance and her present studies of film making from London will make her a wonderful personality. My hearty congratulations to Prachi and her proud parents Mrs and Mr Umesh Hota. With all Best Wishes

  12. Vinith vijayan says:

    Fantastic article and very explanatory. Children who promote our rich traditions and culture should be encouraged at all levels and supported with whatever is needed, be it time money or just appreciation

  13. Atul Kansal says:

    Prachi…we are proud of you.You are an ambassador of this culture. When today’s generation is shying away from our Indian rich culture , I am sure, you are inspiring many youngsters to choose various art forms which is rich heritage of India.
    You are definitely a star in Odissi dancing world.
    Best wishes ,
    Atul Kansal

  14. Bhagbat Prasad Padhee says:

    I complement Prachi not only for her achievements in Odissi dance but for he r deep commitment & concern for sustainability of this dance form….in this context ,I can say she is a thought leader in this field who has come out vocally with her candid thoughts …to find ways and means to challenge the challenges…this demonstrates her passion for Odissi dance and her pragmatic approach …her very insightful study on contemporary issues related to classical form of arts is indeed a food for thought …Our best wishes with you Prachi ….stay blessed and continue your journey of blissful performance of Odissi within the country & outside bringing pride for all of us . God bless you!

  15. Rajendra Kabra says:

    Honouring tradition, being grounded and respect for guru are the right perspectives.
    Agree to view that to make artist accountable, audience must pay. Why not they pay like they for various events

  16. Amit says:

    The article makes for an interesting read with Prachi giving us key insights into the the Classical dance form, Odissi. Agree with her view that the economics to make it viable while keeping the spiritual essence alive is a balance that’s much needed. Wish Prachi and her art form along with her endeavors a great success.

  17. Dr Bibhudatta Mahapatra says:

    Prachi has been always and extraordinary Odishi Dancer. Her performance has been always outstanding in regional, national as well as international domain. I wish her all success in her endeavors.

  18. Anil Pillai says:

    I have watched many performances of Ms. Prachi and found her passionate for dance. She is having an excellent future, if she decides to make her passion as a profession. My sincere wishes !

  19. Amitabh Agarwal says:

    Awesome !! She really made it happen with her hard efforts and dedication. Parents and those who know her feel really proud.

    We really wish for her prosperity and dedication towards society to further to large extent and achieve excellence with her inherent skills and behaviour.

  20. Rajesh Jamwal says:

    Excellent to note Prachi Beta.. Keep up the good work going. May Almighty keep showering it’s blessings on you in your journey of excellence.

  21. Shashi Maudgal says:

    There are theatres in the large cities where audiences are expected to pay and do pay (my family and I would happily pay for Prachi’s performances!). This niche audience should grow in number, with time.
    The Classical Dance Association of India (there must be some such organization) might also do well to market their dances to corporates. Odissi, for example, should find ready long-term sponsors amongst the Odisha based companies. Part of the sponsorship money should go to the dancers.
    The classical art forms could do with effective promotion.

  22. Karunesh Pandey says:

    A true brand ambassador of the Indian culture.
    I am surprised by the multifaceted approach of Prachi and am sure that we will be privy to some excellent movies as we are to witness her dances.
    Kudos to such temperament and maturity at this tender age :- _“Yet, I will remain a student all my life,”.

  23. Naresh Mawa says:

    Ms Prachi is the torch bearer of our Indian culture and tradition, it is nice to see our children set example for present generation that even promoting our tradition can be ur passion giving u happiness and accomplishment. God bless u dear .

  24. Dr. Prabir Chattopadhyay says:

    This is what represents passion . Looking at your journey from a 3 year old little girl starting onto something as beautiful and expressive dance form to a 14 year old young dancer being nervous to now being a professional oddisi dancer . I must say “What an awe of a journey ” ! Bravo Prachi , you indeed do represent our culture and values the very correct and dignified way .

  25. Dr Bhabani Dikshit says:

    Nicely written article on Prachi Hota, a devoted Odissi Dancer. As a multi-talented person Prachi has a bright future in her career also in film making.

    • Narayan Rao Dawande says:

      Prachi representing our country, she is committed rising star.
      We proud of you Prachi. Keep it up.
      Best wishes for upcoming events and performances.

  26. Mamta Mohapatra says:

    Prachi is a very versatile budding Odishi dancer. She can do wonders to help spread this beautiful dance form not only in India but world over. God bless her

  27. Devashis Rath says:

    Excellent piece. Deep philosophy on the Odissi art form is succinctly discussed across the article. Needless to say Prachi is an inspiration for generations of Odissi dancers who are yet to come on the big stage.

  28. Dr kiran says:

    I just arrived at this article through whatts. This is one of the best articles on commenting. I enjoyed it a lot. Carry on writing such useful stuff.
    A beautiful performance, very emotional and moving.” “You have great charisma – please keep this, as this will distinguish you from other dancers.” “You put your heart and soul into the dance. Very gifted, well done!”

    Thank you and bye for now.

  29. A.P.Savitri says:

    Prachi reach more nd mireheights of success . One day u will become icon of odissy dance…. Known all over world. God bless u.

  30. Sanjay shivnani says:

    Prachi has made very valid points about this beautiful art form. She comes across as very mature and we are privileged to have such young talent in our midst

  31. Bhavesh Wala says:

    Excellent, Deep philosophy on the Odissa art, Needless to say Prachi is an inspiration for generations of Odissi dancers who are yet to come on the big stage.

  32. G RAJAN says:

    Extremely impressed with the extraordinary manner in which Prachi has grown in her field. God bless her with more and more accolades and get her to recognized as a truly passionate Artist, internationally and bring laurels for the Country👏👏💐🙏

  33. Vineet Kaul says:

    Delighted to read the journey of becoming an excellent Artist ..Prachi comes across as a very focussed and professional artist .Her achievements are outstanding and learnings very well articulated
    Indeed a role model
    Wishing her the very best

  34. Garima Bihani says:

    Excellently articulated! Artist like Prachi brings lot of pride and honour to Indian traditional dance forms. You have a very huge success waiting for you.

  35. Thakur Singh says:

    Prachi has devoted herself in bringing Indian tradition and culture on the global platform. Has excellently demonstrated Odissa art. She really made it happen. She is a rising star, representing India. Proud of her. Wish you all the success in your career. God bless you.

  36. Prabha Nair says:

    We Congratulate Prachi & her proud Parents for this great journey to make Odishi dance loveable in our country & overseas.
    Her immense love towards this great Art & her Hard work and perseverance will bring more fame in future. May God bless her with all success & Happiness…

  37. HRUSHIKESH ACHARYA says:

    It is okay to expect a paying audience, but in India, one has to wait long for its time to come; not at 23 years.
    Basically, the artist loves her classical art form, through her dedication and love out of immersion in it. During the dance, one dances merely for one’s inner enjoyment and soul’s satisfaction, and never for any monitary benefit. The classical dances, in India, expect a degree of dedication, consecration and offering from the artist, to be of some value; for the artist and also for the audience.
    So now, may you enjoy your dances. ( You are lucky to have a father who can sustain you.)
    With blessings and best wishes.

  38. Radha Krishna says:

    Excellent article and of course rightly said- paying audiences is must now!
    Excellent profile Prachi Hota! All the best 👍
    Wish you take forward this great art.

  39. Rakesh Pujari says:

    Well done Prachi Hota. We feel proud for your dedication and passion. Many congratulations and wishing you all the best in your life.

  40. Dr Vinod Kumar Singh says:

    Very happy to see the journey of Prachi and her deep passion for classical dance and culture . I agree with her view on the importance of the need for audiences to pay for viewing performances as done in developed nations . I can see the potential of her dreams and I am sure of her contribution to arts and culture in times to come . I wish her the best and would be happy to see her achieving her dreams in times to come .

  41. VIVEK DUBEY says:

    It is indeed very nice to see Prachi perform with perfection. The overall enriching journey of Prachi is highly commendable. We need such great souls to keep the heritage and Culture of India propagate and prosper within and outside India. May Prachi reach the epitome of classical dance and culture . I am in full agreement with her views on the importance of the need for audiences to pay for viewing performances as done in metro cities like Mumbai and other developed countries . I wish her dreams get fulfilled soon and am sure of her contribution to arts and culture in times to come . I urge the society to take note of the views of Prachi so that Classical dance forms and Indian art blossom to its fullest.

  42. Azeez Ahamed says:

    Excellent …Journey is inspiring. Knowledge and practice brings perfection and you are on the right track of becoming legendary. My best wishes

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