A Daughter’s Tribute

Indian classical dancer and choreographer, Sreyashi Dey, pays her tribute to her father Batakrishna Dey through her dance.

In Sreyashi Dey’s words:

This year, in the midst of such global upheaval, my heart has weighed heavy. My father lives in Kolkata, India and I live in the United States. It is unclear when I will be able to travel again and bridge the enormous physical distance between us. My father’s name is Batakrishna Dey. He is a renowned Bengali poet, lyricist, essayist. He has been widely published and honored for his literary career that has spanned over 70 years.

Despite the distance, my new project has brought a great sense of joy and connection to us both. For some of his most popular vintage songs from the 1950s, I have choreographed and performed for a series of classical Odissi dance videos. My father wrote the lyrics for these well-known songs back in his youth. I remember when I was growing up, listening to them.

During the choreography process, I delved deep into the words to translate the thoughts and feelings expressed in these six songs. I have discovered many nuances in the movement interpretation of his vintage songs. It has been deeply challenging and a great learning experience for me to conceptualize these songs into dance. Odissi is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It originates from the state of Odisha, in eastern India and is believed to have originated in the Hindu temples of Odisha. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India. 

For each song, I crafted a unique visual design in costume, production and performance to convey the mood or feeling of the song. In Hey Mahaprithibi, the mood is agony and angst, streams of blue in the moonlight. In Krishnachura Agun Tumi, the feeling is of fire, flowers, dreams and adventures. Dance, for me, is a medium that has been the passion of my life. I feel I have truly danced to these gems of the Bengali modern songs genre for the first time.

My father shared with me that it has been a bittersweet stroll down memory lane as he reflects on his frame of mind at the time he wrote these songs in the 1950s. My father tells me that our conversations for this project are taking him back so many decades to the innocence and determination of his youth.

My father and I have found a way to connect over thousands of miles. We found a way to revive many old memories and celebrate voice and story. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with my father on this exciting project. Through music, memory, dance, words, we have explored interpretation, understanding and meaning. At times, we have argued and debated translation and context. It has been powerful, full of energy and very rewarding! It has been an unforgettable experience to produce this creative tribute to his songs. I am pleased to share it with all of you, this heartfelt tribute to him and his life’s work.

Watch the Songs of Dusk dance series here.
Read critical reviews and audience responses to the Songs of Dusk series here.