The Full Story
Dance Gurus of Sharon Lowen
I came to India in 1973 to continue Manipuri in Delhi and Imphal, Manipur. In my 2nd year in Delhi I had the opportunity to take up the challenge of Mayurbhanj Chhau based on my 17 years of Ballet and Modern Dance training. A workshop in Odissi explored for academic purposes resulted in a lifelong journey. Based on a long history of puppetry and performances such as the Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles, I decided to add the study of Seraikella Chhau to my repertoire from 1981.
Padma Vibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra is the primary architect in the revival of classical Odissi Dance over the past half-century. Past 75 years, he is the undisputed master performing artist, choreographer, teacher and percussionist of Odissi dance. He has received every possible award, has trained most of the leading exponents of the form and is the revered and respected for his genius as an artist all over the world. Sharon had the privilege to study with Kelubabu from 1975 and having Kelubabu present her Odissi and Manipuri performance in Orissa in 1976. He has accompanied her on pakawaj for performances around India and on tour in the U.S. during the Festival of India-U.S.A. and performed together at the Metropolitan Museum in N.Y.C.
Guru Singhajit Singh hails from the royal family of Manipur and directed the Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi Manipuri Ballet for three decades. A versatile and dynamic performer, teacher, choreographer and scholar, he is considered the father of modern Manipuri Ballet. Sharon’s main study of Manipur was with Guru Singhajit Singh between 1973-82, and briefly in 1989.
Late Ranjani Maibi, was a highly respected Maibi priestess of the shamanistic Lai Haroba Jagoi tradition and head of the Lai Haroba Department at the J.N. Manipur State Dance Academy in Imphal, Manipur). Sharon had the opportunity to study Maibi Jagoi with her in Manipur in 1974 and 1976.
Late Guru Thangjam Chaoba Singh was head of the Department of Kartal Cholom, J. N. Manipur State Dance Academy. Sharon had the pleasure of studying under this brilliant performer, teacher and choreographer in 1974 and 1976 when he organized her performance of Kartal Cholom at the Academy to demonstrate the possibility of adding Cholom to the curriculum for female students.
Late Shrimati Minati Basu Roy trained and performed extensively in Calcutta and Santiniketan as part of the Basu Sisters Troupe in post Independence days. Minati Roy did postgraduate study at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan and later headed the South Asian Languages program for the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. From 1969-72, Sharon learned Manipuri from Shrimati Minati Roy and also performed and taught Manipuri for the Indian community and university functions in Ann Arbor.
Guru 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.
Photo: Mayurbhanj Chhau Gurus Madhan Babu, Krishna Chandra Naik, Sri Hari, with Sharon Lowen
Guru 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. He is a Sangeet Natak Academy Awardee, as well as Nritya Vilash, Nritya Shree and 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 Seraikella, Bihar.