Madhavi Mudgal, an Odissi Dancer from Delhi

In conversation with Madhavi Mudgal

Dance style: Odissi
Gurus: Initially with Shri Harekrishna Behera, then with legendary Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra

Q What Odissi means to you ??

When I picked up Odissi it was not as popular as Bharatanatyam or Kathak. Initially I learned Kathak and for me Odissi was challenging. It did not have an established structure or items like the Bharatanatyam or Kathak and not even I given repertoire.

Q Do you perceive a change in the dance form ??

For any dancer if you observe a style for over a long period there is always change because for each artist I think, unless you add something of your own, the vitality of the form will not be shown. Yes we were lucky that the Gottipuas where there as they had an important role in reviving this dance form. Now it’s a very established form performed on stage and a lot of possibilities can be explored through it.

Q Is there a format or a repertoire followed ??

Initially we never had any number of musical items that we could dance to like tillanas etc in Bharatanatyam. A lot of it was explored during the 50’s and now of course we follow a pattern, which is:
1. Mangalacharan
2. Batu – It’s a pure nritta item with simple music and sculpturous poses.
3. Pallavi – Here the musical structure and dance movements are both explored, basically Nritta (pure dance)
4. Abhinaya – Geeta-govinda and Oriya songs are performed.
5. Moksh
Number of items varies with time constraint.

Q Do you feel the investment in classical dance is not as rewarding as it should be ??

If you really analyse many art forms there is no surety you will get anything in return. You’ll do it because you love to do it. Initially I didn’t know that I would reach a point where things will be comfortable. Dancers still don’t earn as much as musicians do even at the top most level. One does it because you just love to do it. So in terms of return, you don’t see that when you love it so much. I have studied architecture and I could have easily chosen that but this was my love I just had to dance.

Q When do u feel your students are ready for their Manch Pravesh ??

For Manch Pravesh I take a very long time! First of all they have to have the basic talent. I don’t mean face; if you are a good dancer you will look good on stage. Talent in terms of grace and sense of Taal, of course that can be developed but initially sense of rhythm is important and a lot of hard work should be given. They have to take it up seriously its not for fun. There are people who come to learn just for the summer or to loose weight, I am sorry I don’t entertain them.

Q Any suggestion or advise for upcoming dancers ??

First follow your guru completely, have complete faith in your guru and the guru will bring you to a point where you will think for yourself. Nowadays people start questioning very fast because they are in a hurry Everything else they do is quick quick quick, in art it doesn’t work this way, so if you have a sensitive guru you will follow the right path. Even if you are not dancing on stage I feel learning dance is an experience itself. Its something that prepares you for life, you learn things like management and sensitivity for everything in life.

Q A typical day of a dancers life would be ??

Firstly I have a light breakfast and then have my rehearsal from 10:30 to 1, then have my lunch and then take class in the evening thrice a week. On my free days I go for concerts.


I am a vegetarian, I eat everything. I think if you are strict with your exercise not necessarily yoga just dance warm ups and proper practice of dance you will always remain fit.

Late Professor Vinay Chandra Maudgalya, Madhavi Mud gal’s father, was the founder of the famous Gandharva Mahavidyalaya; New Delhi’s first and most highly reputed institution for the teaching of Hindustani music and classical dance. She has been teaching Odissi at this institute for many years.

For her contribution to the art, Madhavi Mudgal received the Sanskriti Award and the President of India’s award – the ‘Padmashri’, besides the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for her contribution to the world of Indian Dance.

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