Odissi Dance is one of the eight classical dance forms of India and the oldest surviving one, first started as a secular dance and later performed in religious places dating back almost 2,000 years ago. The dance is characterised by various bhangas (stances), which involves stamping of the foot and striking various postures as seen in Indian sculptures. A decline and degradation occurred in all the Indian Classical dance styles during the British period, especially when a bill was passed prohibiting temple dancing. It was not until the 1950s that Odissi received official recognition from the Central Government of India.
In 1991, an Odissi dance scene was featured in Michael Jackson’s music video “Black or White”, and in the same year that Madonna danced along with Odissi dancers live on stage during the MTV Award ceremony in 1998, Jessika Baral was born.
Born as an American citizen to immigrant Indian parents, Jessika started dancing at the incredible young age of two. And for the next 11 years she studied and performed Odissi dance to become one of the top 10 Odissi world dancers. Now 16, she gives free dance classes promoting her art while attending school.
Arranged in California by NECO’s President, Bishow Bhatta, the children were blessed this week by the instruction and performances of Jessika. For many children it was the first time to witness the art. The performances included music and storytelling. During the first session the children had fun trying to dance themselves.
Music and dance is such a necessary part of a child’s education. As someone once said, “there are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.” Regretfully it has been difficult to include more in our children’s program so we were especially grateful for this opportunity, with incredible thanks to Jessika and her family for volunteering their time and love. Any proceeds she may earn from her California performances will be earmarked for our orphanage. With great thanks to these wonderful people, especially to her very supportive father, Himanshu!
Jessika with Senior Caregiver, Aleena Nepal, and General Manager, Ramesh Bhatta.