Jaipur: This is the story of Colleena Shakti, a girl brought up in the US who made India her home, learnt Odissi classical dance here and started running a school in an ancient 300-year-old Pushkar temple in India which has been teaching dance mudras to thousands of students around the world.
The story of this dance school continues even with the school remaining closed due to the pandemic. However, Colleena is running online classes, presently being based in Greece and connecting the classical dance with the world with her strong dedication.
Colleena is now a world-renowned Indian dancer and her Shakti School of Dance in Purana Rangnath Venugopal Temple in Pushkar, Rajasthan, is a known name across the world.
She is acting as a bridge these days, transcending the stories of Indian art, dance and music to students all across the world via online medium as the school is closed since March last year owing to the pandemic.
Speaking to IANS, Colleena said, “In 2001, I came to India to study Odissi dance in Bhubaneswar and to do research on Rajasthan folk dance on Kalbelia dancers. When I came to Pushkar, I met the trustee of Purana Rangnath Venugopal temple Anant Prasad who offered me a place to practice in this temple.”
“I call it God’s grace and divine blessing that I was offered this place,” she says adding that it’s now been 15 years teaching in this school and I am waiting eagerly for this pandemic to go soon so that I can be in my home India again.
Colleena adds that Odissi classical dance is connected to Jagannath temple, Puri and there are teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu too. You can feel the aura here when different shlokas start resonating in temples and the students ghunghroos echo with these shlokas, she says.
She is proud to be a disciple of Sujata Mahapatra, who according to her is the greatest living Odissi dancer.
When asked why she selected Odissi classical dance from amongst thousands of dances, she said, “This is the dance which comes with grace, has unique curvature, comes with a combination of strong n soft, and so on. During my university days, I came to know about this dance,” she added.
Students from Japan, Taiwan, US, UK, France, Italy, South Africa and local students have been studying the dance form.
Colleena says it’s the word of mouth publicity that is taking this school to new heights. However, there are challenges as well in adapting the foreign students to the values of this nation.
“Bridging between cultures, I teach people what is proper behaviour in a Vaishnav temple, why cultural immersion is important and how they can soak themselves in this art to evolve,” she adds.
Offering her diverse dance repertoire showcased in both theatre and festival stages, Colleena has performed for former President of India (Pratibha Patil), royal families across Rajasthan, Indian Embassy at Cairo, Chidambaram Nataraj temple and arts festivals from Japan to Australia.
Being the founder and director of Shakti School of Dance in the Rangnath Venugopal Temple in Pushkar, she has been annually producing the Pushkar Temple Dance Festival. Recently she has added a summer school programme and retreat centre at Villa Shakti, Crete in Greece and launched an online curriculum at her virtual school.