Chhau is one of the most fascinating, yet least known, forms of Indian dance. Based in a martial arts tradition,
this previously all male form is performed with an intensity and power as slow controlled leg movements and body twists explode into leaps and turns.
Chhau is performed yearly as part of the elaborate rituals and ceremonies of the springtime festival, Chaitra Parva, celebrated in honour of Lord Shiva and Surya, the Sun God. Martial vigor counter-balances delicate nuance as Vedic and mythological themes alternate with village and nature subjects. Choreography and technique under royal patronage in the princely states of Seraikella,
Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj, Orissa in Eastern India developed to a form many consider classical and in Purulia district of Bengal
remained in a more tribal form.
Seraikella and Purulia Chhau are performed with masks while the Chhau of Mayurbhanj is a non-masked form.
Krishna Chandra Naik performed in the Royal Court of
Mayurbhanj, later teaching and choreographing in Calcutta,
with the Little Ballet Troupe in Gwalior and for nine years in
New Delhi where he received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
and Sahitya Kala Parishad Saman. He gave this art a new form, with daring and
imaginative experiments without loss to the purity of the
dance. Sharon had
the privilege of training under Guru K C Naik from 1975 and he
organized her performance in Baripada, Mayurbhanj in 1976 to
demonstrate to other gurus and artists that a woman could
perform this traditionally male form.
Kedar Nath Sahoo was a principal dancer in the royal
pre-Independence troupe groomed by late Kumar Bijay Pratap
Singh Deo. Director
of the Government Chhau Dance Center 1974-88, Guru Sahoo had
led troupes to Eastern Europe, South America and Southeast
Asia. Apart from being a
Sangeet Natak Academy Awardee, he has been titled Nritya
Nritya Shree and has also been honoured with the Lenin
Diploma. Sharon studied with Guru Sahoo from 1981 and he
included her Mayur-Peacock dance with his troupe in the 1983
Padatik, Calcutta Classical Indian Dance Traditions and Modern
Theatre Seminar/Festival and Sagar-The
Sea at the 1987 Annual Chaitra Parva Festival in Seraikela, Bihar.