Odissi Dance Retreat with Revital Caroll
Revital Carroll is an internationally acclaimed performer, teacher and director of Shakti Bhakti Ensemble, offering workshops and retreats worldwide. She has been dedicated to the practice of Indian spiritual arts for over 20 years. Yoga and meditation led her to discover her passion for Indian Dance. Revital draws her inspiration from the elements of nature, the wisdom of her own body, and the rich spiritual heritage of ancient India.
Her Odissi Dance Retreat, recently held here at Xinalani, was a total success and we are thrilled to present you this interview with Revital.
Xinalani: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us and allowing our readers to learn more about you and your Dance Retreat recently celebrated here. How did you find out about Xinalani Retreat and why was it important for you to bring your group to our retreat in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta?
Revital: My students requested me to take them on an intensive retreat in a beautiful exotic place. I looked at Mexico, Hawaii, and Bali as my top destinations. As I was searching, I talked with a friend who recommended Xinalani. I looked at the website and immediately fell in love with the natural beauty and ambiance. In hindsight, it was even more than I could dream of; a true paradise.
Xinalani: What was the focus of your retreat here at Xinalani?
Revital: Our retreat focus was Odissi Dance, which is a form of Classical Indian Dance. Similarly to Yoga, it is grounded in Indian spiritual tradition. As complimentary practices, my husband, Cain Carroll, whom is a renowned Yoga teacher in his own right, offered Yoga, Qigong, and meditation sessions to supplement our dance practice. It was a winning combination!
Xinalani: Tell us a little bit more about Odissi Dance?
Revital: Odissi Dance originated in the temples of Orissa, India more than 2000 years ago. The dance was traditionally practiced and performed as a sacred ritual to ignite transformation in the dancer and audience. Considered both a classical and devotional dance form, Odissi is graceful and sensuous, expressive and sophisticated. The Dance exquisitely portrays the beauty of the sacred feminine, and reflects the ancient spiritual motifs of India’s great tantric temples.
Xinalani: When you first started to practice this discipline, how did you feel? Back then, did you think about bringing together all these people to follow your lead?
Revital: Haha, no way, I never imagined! I was introduced to Odissi Dance while visiting Orissa. At the time, I had already lived in India for a few years, and had an in-depth practice of Yoga and meditation. I also took both Bharatanatyam and Kathak (two other forms of Classical Indian Dance) classes before then, and was familiar with the tradition of Indian Dance. However, my identity was of a spiritual practitioner (a Yogini), not a performer. It took many years for me to embody the dance at a level of which I felt compelled to share it on stage and in class. After returning from India to the US, my husband and I owned a Yoga studio in Arizona, and I started teaching Odissi dance there. When I moved back to California in 2010, I was greeted by requests to teach and perform, and my career as a performer and a teacher started to blossom. Teaching is in my bones, and Odissi is now in my blood. Sharing Odissi Dance is my passion. I now have my own performing group, Shakti Bhakti Ensemble, as well as devoted students worldwide.
Xinalani: How has this practice influenced or improved your life?
Revital: Odissi Dance is a deeply transformative practice. It provides the practitioner with unparalleled sense of balance, stability, fluidity, grace, and presence. Becoming an Odissi dancer is a cultural and spiritual experience. I feel like the dance dances me, so to speak; I become an instrument of expression. The feet stamp rhythmic patterns which awaken our primal energy or “shakti”. This facilitates a connection to mother earth, and opens the gateway to a trance-like state or presence. The hips are held stable in an open position to build and store that awakened energy. The torso isolations, and subtle wrist movements, bring forth unprecedented grace and fluidity. The inner structure of Odissi begets an almost infinite realm of circular motion that opens a channel through the heart to the audience. Thus, the energy that we guide through our body activates and harmonizes an emotional current. This is further articulated through facial expression and focus of the eyes. I feel like Odissi Dance has awakened me to my true power and potential. I feel renewed and fully alive every time I dance.
Xinalani: What is your favorite music and/or artist? Would you have any recommendations?
Revital: Music is elemental for a dancer! I encourage each of you who read this to find your own inspiration in music that touches your heart and makes you want to move and express yourself deeply. This is a personal and intimate journey. For me, Classical Indian Music opened the door to a new depth, play, and understanding of the culture it emerged out of. In India, there is North Indian Classical Music (Hindustani), South Indian Classical Music (Carnatic), and Oriya Classical Music, from Orissa, which is the type of compositions that accompany Odissi Dance. There are many other types of Indian music; Qawwali, folk music, spiritual bhajan, and of course, bollywood music. I love them all! ♫
Xinalani: Who or what is your most important inspiration?
Revital: Nature. We are nature. Moving out of a connection to our environment, grounded in the earth, open to heaven, connected to our center, and in communication with the basic elements that we are all made of… is what makes a dancer an instrument of Spirit. I believe we are all dancers… of life!
Xinalani: What is your mantra today?
Revital: To continue with what I wrote above, this is one of my favorites: “If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk you can sing.”
Xinalani: What is your main goal for this New Year 2014?
Revital: I don’t necessarily sets goals by the calendar year, but I do have some grand plans already set in motion for this year: I’m producing a large and innovative show of Odissi Dance in Santa Cruz, CA this May. In December, I’m taking a group of Odissi dancers on a pilgrimage to Orissa, to visit sacred sites that inspired Odissi Dance. We will immerse ourselves in the mother land of Odissi. Anyone who is interested in Odissi Dance can apply to join us. In-between, my main goals are to teach more and perform more. And, one more important goal: to have enough students interested to return with me to Xinalani soon!
Xinalani: If you could spread your love of life with the world, what advice would you give from your own personal experience?
Revital: Follow your passion! I’d say don’t let your fears stop you. Look fear in the eye, and dance with it. I also would advise anyone to cultivate a regular daily practice. Any length of time will do, whatever you can afford; 30 min, 20 min, even 10 min, as long as it is consistently there for you. Find a practice that nourishes you and that you can enjoy every day upon awakening, before you set off to do your daily work. It can be meditation, yoga, dance, self-massage, as examples. Anything that provides you with a fresh start each day would be like pushing a reset button. Personal practice is essential in order to gain clarity and momentum with expressing your true heart desire. ♥
For more info about Revital Carroll and the Odissi Dance please visit: http://shaktibhakti.com/
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