Profile Sharon Lowen
Odissi, Chhau and Manipuri exponent
Sharon Lowen is one of the most highly respected exponents of Odissi, Manipuri and both Mayurbhanj and Seraikella Chhau performing arts of India, known for her perfection of style, grace, and superb abhinaya. Her Odissi guru, Padma Vibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra said of Sharon Lowen in 1986, after accompanying her 22 performance Festival of India-USA tour, “She is now one of my five best disciples who I can unhesitatingly recommend to represent the Odissi dance form anywhere in the world. Sharon has mastered the tradition.”
Over nearly 5 decades in India, Sharon Lowen has become an icon of what can be accomplished on the basis of merit and passion without reference to caste, community or nationality. She has shown audiences in India and abroad that maintaining the highest standards of authenticity in classicism can appeal to all members of society while contributing new choreography, teaching, lectures and writing that moves the tradition forward and gives it vitality for new generations. As a performing artist, scholar, teacher, writer and organizer, she has dedicated her life to improving the appreciation and understanding of Indian dance traditions, both here and abroad.
Since first arriving as a Fulbright Scholar in 1973 after completing an independent Honors BA in Humanities, Fine Arts and Asian Studies at the University of Michigan and an MA in dance with a minor in video production and photography, she has made India her karmabhoomi.
Sharon was featured in her real-life role in the best Telugu film of 1988, Swarna Kamalam, directed by K. Viswanath. As an American born Odissi dancer, her role in the film was to inspire the heroine to value her own Indian dance heritage. Sharon has received many awards and honors, including the prestigious Prime Minister s Acharya Narendra Dev Sarokar Samajic Samman by P.M. Chandrashekhar in 1991 and the Delhi Administration Parishad Saaman 1993 for Individual Contribution to Indian Arts. Besides performances throughout India and abroad, Sharon has performed, produced, done scripts and choreographed for film and television.
As a scholar, Sharon has done research and published on Shasta and Odissi and comparative studies in three forms of Chhau with Senior Fellowships of the American Institute of Indian Studies and the Smithsonian Foundation. Her published articles and books focus on the transmission of tradition and internalizing the other. She has taught at colleges and universities throughout the United States and helped set up the School of Visual and Performing Arts and Communication at the Central University, Hyderabad. 2019. Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle newspapers have featured her bimonthly articles on dance and culture since 2014. Her most recent book, Art Without Frontiers –Classical Dance and Music of India, Shubhi Publications was launched at the 2020 Jaipur Lit Fest.
Training in Mayurbhanj Chhau from 1975 under Guru Krushna Chandra Naik led him to present her in Baripada in 1976 to demonstrate that a woman could perform this traditionally all-male genre and lead to training of women in Mayurbhanj district today. She also introduced Chhau to North America at the 1978 Asian Dance Festival in Hawaii and later Los Angeles Olympic Arts Mask Festival and is the first woman soloist of Mayurbhanj Chhau, promoting the art and traditional artists over three decades.
Her training from 1981 with Guru Kedarnath Sahoo led to the guru including her solo performances during Chaitra Parva, the International Classical Indian Dance and Theatre Festival in Calcutta. Beyond her personal performances internationally and throughout India, Sharon collaborated with Gopal Dubey to create two Chhau ballets combining Mayurbhanj and Seraikella Chhau for Doordarshan National Programs of Dance. Her numerous national television programs from Doordarshan Central Production Centre set new standards of excellence starting with their inaugural program Triveni and later Panch Nayikas of Kalidas.
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Sharon has performed her own choreographies in Sanskrit, Odia, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, Kashmiri, Dogra alongside her guru s, including festivals at Khajuraho, Sankat Morchan Hanuman Jayanti, Varanasi, Sindhu Darshan Festival in Leh, Ladakh, JNU Academy, Imphal, Kottakkal Temple Festival, Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal, Kerala Kalamandalam’s Diamond Jubilee, Chaitra Parva Festival, Seraikella, Bihar, SNA Odissi Festival, Bhubaneswar, Chidambaram, Konarak, Trivandrum, Simla, Kumbhalgarh Fort, Rajasthan, Brihadeshwara Temple, Thanjavur.
Across the globe she has inspired many and fostered understanding and appreciation of Indian culture with many 100s of concerts, lecture-demonstrations and school performances in the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, Brazil, Japan, Kuwait, Dubai, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, Ukraine, and Poland. Sharon has made a significant contribution to the intangible cultural heritage of India through personifying the depth of Indian philosophy and aesthetics in her art, lectures, writing, teaching and life.
Her NGO Manasa - Art Without Frontiers facilitates ever expanding intersections between visual, performing and other folk and classical arts. Training of young professionals along with community outreach is an ongoing focus along with curating major festivals in collaboration with IIC include Monodhama Dance Festival & Beyond Technique Seminar featuring Pt Birju Maharaj and Vidushi Lakshmi Vishwanathan and Looking Back to Move Forward Festival- Evolving the Classical in Performance, Continuity and Change in Classical Dance with performances, seminars, film, workshop and exhibition.