Odissi dancer Sanjeev Kumar Jena, who hails from a small village in Orissa, with his hard work and determination has toured the length and breadth of the country and world exhibiting and delighting the audiences with his art. Speaking exclusively to Natyahasini, Sanjeev Kumar Jena admits that initially he was not interested in learning dance as he felt it was feminine, slow and lacked excitement. “But everything changed when I first saw it presented live on TV and was mesmerized by it – jadoo sa cha gaya. After witnessing the dance, I felt there was puja in dance and could feel the divinity in Odissi,” he says. Till this day, Sanjeev remembers Guru Parbat Behra’s two students who left a lasting impression on him prompting him to take up dance in a Big Way.
Though his father Srikant Jena was a little hesitant, he did get him admitted to a school to learn Odissi. “I was enrolled in a dance school and would visit it every Sunday to learn dance for two hours,” he says. Sanjeev was determined in his goal to learn dance and would leave no chance to compete in any competition. “I had board exams in 2011 and was preparing for a dance competition. I had made up my mind to follow my passion, but my father wanted me to become a lawyer. After a lot of argument, my father got me admitted to Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya,” he states.
At the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidalaya, for a period of five years he pursued Bachelor of Music and Odissi dance under Guru Naba Kishor Mishra, Manoranjan Pradhan and Pankaj Pradhan. “Even to this day, male dancers are not accepted wholeheartedly. One has to cross a lot of hurdles before one gets accepted,” the Odissi dancer says. Sanjeev has completed his Master in Music and Master in Philosophy from Utkal University of Culture with flying colours. “During my Masters, I trained under Guru Manoranjan Pradhan and Lingaraj Swain,” the young dancer says. Now the dancer dreams of pursuing Ph.D. for which preparations are underway.
In the last decade, Sanjeev matured into a great dancer under the tutelage of legendary dancer Guru Bichitrananda Swain and today teaches the art form to young dancers at the Rudrakshya Foundation. The dancer shares that he has choreographed two new Odissi dance items which has been well received by the rasikas. “I have received lot of accolades for my role of Abhimanyu in Chakravyuha, popular dance production of Rudrakshya,” he says and quickly adds that he was part of the Rudrakshya Foundation that toured Paris, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Korea and China.
About his family support, Sanjeev says: “My mother has always supported me. She is very proud of my achievements. During the growing up years, my elder brother may have been hard on me, but I know he shares my work and achievements with his friends now.” The dancer reveals that his best buddies are dance teachers and sometimes he wonders when do they get the time to dance personally. “For me dance is magic and I want to soak myself in it and explore. Also, dance has pulled me out of depression,” he says.
Sanjeev says, he loves to sing – classical, Hindi, Odiya or any song. “If I love the lyrics and music, I will learn any song,” he confesses. He states that his sole aim is to dance and educate the people that dance doesn’t mean it is only for women and it is feminine. “If a male dancer dances, it doesn’t mean he is feminine. When male dancers dance, they do with equal abhinaya and masculinity,” says the Bhubaneshwar based artist.
On his participation in Parichay Season 2, the Odissi dancer says that he is thankful to Muvva Nritya Raga Nigamam for the opportunity bestowed on him. “Also, I have performed on a couple of occasions at Shilparamam Madhapur where the rasikas have enjoyed my dance,” he says.
Before signing off, Sanjeev Kumar Jena says: “Our gurus decide our future. It is they who give us a chance to perform and share about the available opportunities. If I don’t know about the event, I can’t apply and participate. Our Gurus should share all opportunities with all their students.”