Odissi is the traditional dance form of Orissa, believed to have originated from the dances which were once performed by the temple dancers or Maharis in the temples of Orissa. It has a long iconographical history with depictions of Odissi dancing dating back as far as the 1st century BC. The dance form was brought to near extinction during the colonial period but was resurrected during the post independence. Today Odissi is a well established and codified classical dance form of India.
Like other Indian classical dance forms, Odissi has two major facets: Nritta or non-representational dance, in which ornamental patterns are created using body movements in space and time; and Abhinaya, or stylized mime in which symbolic hand gestures and facial expressions are used to interpret a story or theme. The mudras and the expressions are similar to those of Bharatanatyam. The dance presents a synthesis of Lasya and Tandava aspects of the Indian Classical Dance.
The technique of Odissi includes repeated use of the tribhangi, or thrice deflected posture, in which the body is bent in three places, approximating the shape of a helix. The Odissi dancers use their head, bust and torso in soft flowing movements to express specific moods and emotions.
The themes of Odissi are almost exclusively religious in nature. The divine love tales of Radha and Krishna are favorite themes for interpretation. The verses of the Sanskrit play Geet Govindam are used in the recitals to depict the love and devotion to God.
The musical accompaniment of Odissi dance is another flavor of Hindustani sangeet. Musical instruments played during the dance are Pakhawaj, Bansuri,
Manjira, Sitar, and Tanpura.