Story of Odissi dancer Anandini Dasi-From Argentina to Odisha

  • Know about the challenging journey of Odissi dancer Anandini Dasi that brought her from Argentina to Odisha in India. How did Indian classical dance enter her life? What were the challenges in learning dance? Tips to foreigners who wish to learn dance in India.

In July 2018 I visited Ellora Caves for a photography trip. Suddenly in my camera frame entered an immaculately dressed dancer. She wore an Odissi costume in Mahari style. Her head was beautifully decorated with flowers called Tahiya. She was posing for pictures at Kailasa Temple Ellora whilst her dance partner and Guru’s son clicked. I offered to click so that both could be photographed. I thought Anandini was from Himachal Pradesh and was surprised to know she was from Argentina. I was keen to know what brought Anandini to India and Odissi dance in particular. 


Here is Anandini’s story in her own words.  DRAFT FOR REVIEW.


All pictures are on the 1st floor of Kailasa Temple Ellora.  

With her Guru. 

1. How did Indian classical dance enter your life?

Since my childhood I was interested in mystic and spiritual subjects. My mother guided and encouraged me on this path so I started studying different philosophies and practices, tried to find answers to existential questions and started Yoga. I was really young and all through my teens kept going on the same path.


The first ray of light entered in my twenties. By then I was already a dedicated yoga practioner, with knowledge of different types of yoga. From within I was attracted to Bhakti Yoga. One day, in the Hindu temple that I was part of, met a devotee and Indian classical dancer from Peru named Radha Kunja.


The term ‘Indian Classical Dance’ was alien yet sounded very interesting. So I asked Radhaji to teach me. She said ‘I am only a beginner but shall teach you what I have learnt so far’. During our second class she showed me a video of a trained Indian classical dancer. Whilst the video was downloading she told me briefly about the dance and its significance. Even thirteen years later I remember that morning so vividly. The video took ten minutes to download. On seeing it was amazed. The expressions, the colors, the movements, the music swept me off my feet. Two minutes into the video knew my search was over. My eyes stopped blinking, mouth wide open and had tears of joy rolling down my cheeks. 


The dance performance was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in life. After the video got over I was tongue-tied and a few minutes later I said to myself, ‘This is what I will do for the rest of my life and hopefully every time I take birth on Mother Earth.’ 


It was then my journey of life started. I became mad!! Hahaha! I was always passionate, but that moment was the most crucial for a 20 plus girl. I knew what I wanted but the question was HOW?

2 How did your family respond and tell us about your journey to India?  

Born in Buenos Aires Argentina fulfilling my dream required me to cross oceans and continents. From leading a comfortable life and in a secure environment I had chosen to explore the unknown.


My family was very supportive from although they were unable to figure out clearly why I wanted to quit a privileged life in the west to an uncertain one in the east. Luckily for me they respected my decision, passion and feelings.


Once I had decided to move things just happened. By the grace of my beloved Krishna, every single piece fell into place and at the right moment.


And so I reached India in 2007.


Then India presents its own set of challenges …. I guess most of you know that India is a land of contrasts to which I shall add: India is the faster accelerator of karma! Hahaha! One of the favorite I use in India is, “ADJUST” yes! 

3. Tell me about your Gurus and training

Initially I learnt Bharatanatyam under Padmashree Adyar Lakshmana. And then because of Lord Jagannath’s call I went to Odisha in 2009. Since then I have remained focused on Odissi dance. 


I began my training under the guidance of Padamshree Guru Gangadhar Pradhan and one of his main disciples Sri Arun Pradhan.  I spent five months at their Gurukul in Konarak. Sri Arun continues to be my Guru and dance partner.


Thereafter I continued training under a proper Guru. I kept on shuttling between India and Argentina. Eventually I shifted to India permanently in 2014.  


During all these years, I was fortunate to be blessed with many teachers and Gurus. Each one of them enriched me by letting me explore and discover aspects of Odissi dance. I am eternally grateful to each one of them for every second of time they spent teaching me.  


My humble pranams and salutations to Padamashri Kumkum Mohanti, Padmashri Madhavi Mudgal, Guru Sri Pratap Narayan, Smt. Kunjalata Mishra, Smt. Sujata Mohapatra, Guru Sri Manoraranjan Pradhan, Guru Sri Bichitrananda Swain, Smt. Surupa Sen and Guru Sri Yudisthir Nayak.


I also received training in different branches of Yoga, Vedic Philosophy, Sanskrit, Ayurveda, Carnatic and Odissi music, Classical Ballet and Martial Arts, among others.

4 What were the challenges in learning dance?

For me the biggest challenges were to keep focus year after year and discipline no matter what other commitments are not to forget need for continuous practice. You need to completely surrender to this ART and learn how to break the limits of your mind and body. One has to tolerate the pain, discomfort and muscles soaring. It is painful! Yet it is important for you to realize that after all the effort that might still not be good enough for your teachers … but you have to keep going.

Her head is beautifully decorated with flowers called Tahiya.

5 How has dance contributed to your personality?

In India I learnt so much more than dance and music. In fact Indian classical dance is a philosophy of life. Dance has made be really flexible, patient, strong, and compassionate. All that I learnt in Yoga training is practiced during dance.


This life is a divine gift! Getting a chance to do and develop what you love is pure bliss. I am endless grateful to the Divine for giving me this opportunity to learn Indian classical dance.


Dance is not what I do but what I am. That fire within keeps burning my impurities and enlightens my path.

Pranams Ganesha. 

6 Do you have any advice for foreigners, esp. those from the west, who wish to learn dance in India?

Be sincere to yourself and fair with this sacred art and millenary tradition from the very beginning. Be honest!


This art form, like any other classical art, takes many years to be understood and the whole life to develop. This art should be honored with love and dedication, and if you are not ready for this, well, maybe your path is another. This honesty will keep you in harmony with the field of classical arts, and help maintain peace of mind.

It took Anandini hours to get dressed up for dance at Kailasa Mandir.

7 Tell us about your performances

I do solo and duet, only.


My most important performances? …Well I had the opportunity to be part of many important programs across the world including those organized by ICCR (Indian Counsel for Cultural Relations), but from my heart’s point of view, two performances are worthy of mention.


First was Maha Sivaratri 2015 at Chidambaram Thillai, Tamil Nadu. I offered a Bharatanatyam dance on the same “Natya Mandap” where the “deva dasis” danced hundreds of years ago, in praise of Sri Nataraja. 


Second was through my Odissi dance, in Naba Kalebara of Jagannath Rath Yatra, Puri dham. It was special because I was the first non-Indian dancer to be part of this sacred traditional celebration.

Temple first floor, all carved out of a rock.

8 To conclude I say

“That this sacred art is worth every single tear, drop of sweeting and every single drop of blood of the feet’s sole. It is worth all the struggles and sorrows and all the tapasya. Nothing compares to its beauty, richness of expression and depth. And until my last breath I shall spread this art with complete devotion and purity of heart. I recall the words of exquisite artist and composer Gustav Mahler “Tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire”.


Thank you Sanjeev ji for your kind invitation to share my journey.


Jaganannth swami nayana path~gami bhavatume

No picture is to be used or republished without written approval of or Anandini Dasi Ji.  

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