Ileana Citaristi :

"Chhau is a very fluid style, with leg elevations, broad torso movements and energetic jumps"


   Indes réunionnaises vous a déjà proposé de nombreuses interviews abordant les "grands" styles de danse indienne, classique notamment. Un style majeur n'avait pas encore été évoqué, la danse Chhau. C'est Ileana Citaristi, danseuse et chorégraphe réputée, installée depuis longtemps en Orissa, qui nous permet ici d'en savoir plus sur cette danse Chhau.
   En partenariat avec La Nouvelle Revue de l'Inde.

Interview  -  Site internet  -  Vidéos


  • IR : Ileana Citaristi, could you please first introduce yourself to our visitors?

IC : I was born in Bergamo, Italy and I am now settled in  Orissa, since 1979. For twelve years I resided in Cuttack and then moved to Bhubaneswar where I built my residence and dance school since 1996. The institution is called ART VISION; I teach Odissi and Chhau dance to local as well as visiting students.

  • IR : So, you are now in India, being a dancer there... When, why and how did things begin between India and you?

IC : It started when I became interested in Eastern philosophies in the early seventies. I did my first trip to India by road in 1974.

  • IR : Are Indian culture and Indian dance well known in Italy?

IC : Not so well. Still a lot of work has to be done to make the Indian dance appreciated by the large public.

  • IR : Could you tell us about the circumstances in which you started studying Odissi and Chhau?

IC : I first saw a Kathakali performance in Bergamo in January 1978. That time I was involved with experimental theatre. I was fascinated by what I saw and asked the actor (Krishna Nomboodiri) if I could learn some of those movements. He invited me to a workshop in Srikrishnapuram, Kerala, for three months starting from 1st of April of the same year. At the end of it he told me about Odissi and Orissa.

  • IR : Now I would like to talk mostly about Chhau dance. First, could you remind us which places this style comes from?

IC : The Chhau which I learnt is the Mayurbhanji one from Orissa. I first saw it in the Bharathya Kala Kendra in Delhi. I was fascinated by the movements. When I came to know that it was from Orissa, I started learning from 1979 itself from Guru Sri Hari Nayak. I completed six years of training from the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalay in Bhubaneswar.

  • IR : What are the main characteristics of this dance, its inspirations, its movements...?

IC : It is a very fluid style, with leg elevations, broad torso movements and energetic jumps. It derives from the martial movements of the Paiks, the military soldiers of Orissa. In the course of time it has assimilated folk and tribal elements from the area where it is practiced.

  • IR :What about its music?

IC : The music is both classical and folk. It is based on North-Indian ragas as well as folk tunes of the Chhotanagpur aerea.

  • IR : ... and its costumes and masks?

IC : Mayurbhanji does not use masks. Costumes are very colourful in the Purulia style of Chhau.

  • IR : What are the differences between the three subgenres of Chhau: Seraikella, Purulia and Mayurbanj?

IC : The main difference is the use of masks in Seraikhela and Purulia Chhau. Moreover the Seraikhela style is more lyrical, the Purulia more acrobatic and the Mayurbhanji more virile.

  • IR : So Chhau is mostly a martial and male dance... what is the role of women?

IC : Recently women have started to perform but they usually do only female steps.

  • IR : Anything to add?

IC : I have been inspired by the Chhau style for my innovative choreographies. The first one was on the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus composed for the East-West  dance encounter in 1985.

  • IR : What are your plans for future, about Indian dance I mean?

IC : To continue teaching, choreographing and performing.

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Ileana Citaristi : danse Chaau

Ileana Citaristi : danse Odissi


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Site Internet


   Le site d'Ileana Citaristi vous propose six rubriques principales, dont plusieurs sont un régal pour les yeux... Je pense bien sûr à la rubrique consacrée aux photographies et celle qui présente diverses vidéos. Les autres sont dédiées à des données biographiques, à l'institution Art Vision, fondée par Ileana, aux différents spectacles de danse qu'elle a produits ainsi qu'à son livre The Making of a Guru.
   Le site se trouve à cette adresse :


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