Odissi Summer School

June 2019

The House of Bhumi

Salento (Italy)

We are really excited to present our second Odissi Summer School, following our first edition in 2016. In 2019, the Summer School will take place in Salento (South Italy) at The House of Bhumi, a new residence for artists and scholars.

The course is unique and highly innovative as it combines a holistic dance training with theoretical study of the history and culture of Odissi. It is a one-of-a kind opportunity to acquire a thorough and multifaceted understanding of this dance form.

  • Course Overview

  • Learning Goals

  • Content

  • Who is this course for?

  • Bhumi Odissi Dance Academy

  • The House of Bhumi 

  • Bhumi Philosophy

  • Course Leader’s Bio and Vision

Do you want to know more about our PAST Summer Schools? Click HERE

Course Overview

This residential course offers a small number of students the opportunity to spend a focused period of study acquiring practical skills and theoretical understanding in Odissi. The course provides technical training, alongside an introduction to the history, culture and aesthetics of this dance form.

Students will learn through studio-based practice, as well as seminars and lecture-demonstrations that cover relevant topics. By attending this course, dancers will develop strong technical foundations, somatic awareness, creative thinking and understanding of Odissi history and culture.

Learning Goals

By the end of the course, students will have acquired:

1.     practical skills in odissi technique, performance and choreography;

2.     understanding of safe and healthy practice;

3.     awareness of the cultural and historical context in which Odissi emerged and is presently practiced;

4.     knowledge of traditional and contemporary choreographic practices.


Morning Class: Yoga, Body Conditioning, Technique Class

Afternoon Class: Dance Theory, Abhinaya, Cultural and Critical Knowledge

(A detailed schedule will be sent upon registration. Time for individual practice, rest and local tourism, including going to the beach, will be scheduled it!!)



a. Aesthetics: principles in Odissi technique and the body in Indian performing arts.

b. Nritta (abstract dance): technical steps and in-depth study of two rhythmic phrases.

c. Abhinaya (dramatic dance): hand gestures, creative storytelling and study of two short choreographies.

d. Music skills: tala-raga system, study of commonly used rhythmic cycles and basic sargam exercises.

e. Creativity and improvisation: use of some of the material learned in creative and improvisation tasks.


a. Body-care: anatomy, yoga, body-conditioning, nutrition, injury prevention and massage.

b. Dance psychology: somatic awareness, imagery, cognitive behaviour and well-being.


a. History: colonialism in India and impact on local dance traditions; revival of Odissi and nationalism.

b. Culture: local performing and visual arts, religion and the body, gender representation in Odissi.


a. Revival: founding gurus and development of the classical technique and repertoire.

b. Present: current choreographic voices in India and abroad.

This is a residential course running over 6 days. Student will receive up to 5 hours of face-to-face tuition per day, and will have time for personal practice and independent study. Daily tuition covers: 1hr of yoga/body-conditioning, 3hrs of dance training (nritta, abhinaya, choreography, dance and music theory, creative tasks), 1hr seminar or lecture-demonstration on Odissi history, culture and choreography with time for structured discussion.   

Who is this course for?

This course is for those who wish to acquire strong technical foundations in Odissi, as well as a solid understanding of its history and underpinning culture. Students attending this course are also interested in learning principles of safe and healthy practice and in thinking creatively through the traditional dance form.

The prospective student for this course will have:

  • basic training in Odissi, but be interested in strengthening her practical skills, as well as cultural-historical understanding of this dance; or

  • training in another Indian classical dance style, but be interested in enhancing her technique and performance quality through complementary training in Odissi; or

  • training in another dance genre or movement-based discipline (yoga, martial arts, ballet, other ethnic dance forms), but be interested in studying Odissi as part of her artistic journey; or

  • limited dance training, but strong motivation in embarking in the odissi journey.

Please notice that Odissi is often perceived as a demanding dance form. Like all classical dance, it requires discipline, focus and commitment. Some people can find it very arduous, while for others it is just exciting. If you decide to register, please ensure you are familiar with discipline-based practices. We endeavour to make this form as much accessible as possible, regardless of age and abilities, but genuine and serious desire to learn is essential. :)

Bhumi Odissi Dance Academy

Bhumi Dance Academy, founded in 2017 by Elena Catalano and primarily based in London, aims to promote and establish odissi as a contemporary practice, rooted in traditional principles, but constantly evolving through pedagogic, artistic and critical inquiry.

Benefiting from Elena’s extensive dance training and academic research, and by her collaborators’ expertise, Bhumi is becoming a catalyst for new generations of dancers and is constantly engaged in creative collaborations.

Led by the belief that dance is a practice that can empower people and positively affect their lives, Bhumi is also involved in educational, community and therapeutic settings, sharing the benefits of movement and creativity with society at large and with vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in particular. 

In London, Bhumi offers weekly dance classes for adults and workshops for children, dance lovers, professional movers and community groups. 

The House of Bhumi

In 2019, Bhumi opens its new centre in Salento (Southern Italy). The House of Bhumi is a modest, yet welcoming residence in the small village of Soleto (Lecce). Having been recently renovated, the House of Bhumi is for creative people, who need space and time, in a quiet and simple environment, to study, research, create new work, either on their own or with a small group of collaborators.

The house offers a small studio that can accommodate group rehearsals and practical sessions (up to 7 people), or slightly bigger discussion-based groups (up to 10 people). There are two bedrooms that can host up to 6 people on a room-sharing basis, two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a small terrace from which local architectural landmarks can be admired.

The neighbourhood is very quiet and there is a supermarket around the corner. Every service in the village is at walking distance, but a car is needed to access neighbouring cities, touristic attractions and the gorgeous seaside. Alternatively, there is a small train station, as the only form of local public transport.

Bhumi philosophy

Bhumi is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘earth’. It is also the name of the Goddess representing the Earth. Every time we begin or end an Odissi dance session we pray Mother Earth through a ritual gesture called Bhumi Pranam. Bhumi is the life force of the universe, the divine that lies within any living organism and element of nature.

For us, Mother Earth is not only a symbol, but the true reason behind our practice. Odissi dance is ultimately an embodiment of forms, qualities and dynamics found in nature, in the human, animal world, as well as in the landscape and in the plants. As such, by dancing Odissi, one directly connects with nature and life.

Odissi is a form of ecological practice that raises awareness of the intrinsic sameness between the microcosm of the individual and the macrocosm of the universe. We believe in the ultimate sacredness of life and in the wisdom that nature beholds. Through dance, we pursue an alternative, in part imagined, in part pristine, world, where multiplicity disappears in a state of wondrous Oneness.  

We also believe that dance is the most eco-sustainable among all creative practices: it does not need anything else but a living body, and it does not leave anything else but the life energy it generates through movement, intention and presence. Dance is the least productive of all arts, and yet it is also the most powerful. It gets destroyed at the same time as it is created; it consumes energy at the same time as it produces it; it desperately eats time and space, but it also manifests their sacred presence. 

Course Leader’s Bio

This course is organised and delivered by Dr Elena Catalano. Elena is an established odissi dancer and scholar, based in London.

Here, she works as a free-lance artist, teaching, performing and creating for key organisations (e.g. Akademi, Kadam/Pulse, Milap), as well as in collaboration with other artists. She is also employed as a lecturer at Kingston University, where she teaches odissi, yoga, ethnography, dance anthropology, cultural and post-colonial studies to students on the undergraduate dance programme.

In 2014, she completed her PhD at Durham University, with a research on ‘Experience and Meaning in odissi’.

Elena has received several accolades for her artistic and academic achievements. In 2017, she was awarded the Nritya Yuva (Young Dancer of the Year) National Award. Other honours include Paola Bianchi Prize 2009, for her dissertation on traditional dance in Ghana, and Pauline Holdgens Award 2010, for her cultural analysis of the odissi technique.

Between 2010 and 2012, she received a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, to study Odissi at Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (New Delhi) under Priyambada Pattnaik (former Nrityagram dancer). By then, she had already acquired basic training at Srjan, Odisha, where she continues to learn under gurus Sujata and Ratikant Mohapatra. More recently, Elena has trained with Madhavi Mudghal and attended Nrityagram Summer Workshop, with funding from Lisa Ullman Travel Scholarship and GAI-Movin’up programme.

Prior to Odissi, Elena had extensive training in classical and experimental theatre and different dance forms, including Italian folk dance, West-African and Afro-Haitian dance, Flamenco, Ballet, Contemporary, Arabic and Persian dance, as well as yoga. In 2011, she was part of the ImpulsTanz Intensive Programme for emerging choreographers, with funding from Gai- Movin’Up.

Since 2015, Elena is a key member of the Odissi Ensemble and has toured nationally the show ‘Gods and Mortals’ (2016-17) and more recently Katie Ryan’s original outdoor odissi piece ‘Sacred Shapes’ (2018). In April 2018, she presented her solo work at Richmix in a double-bill evening produced by Akademi. For this sold-out performance, ‘Dakshina’, Elena received funding from the Arts Council of England and was accompanied by live music.

Elena has also heavily contributed to the development of the Odissi Syllabus, under the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance, which will allow students of Odissi to take graded examinations.

Finally, Elena has recently become part of a small collective of Indian classical dancers. The goal of this collective is to engage in a process of research and exploration, based on peer-mentoring and co-working, aimed at developing a new, more democratic and artistically stimulating, way of exploring and creating within Indian classical dance.

If you want to know more about Dr Elena Catalano, visit her personal website:

Elena Odissi

Course Leader’s Vision

‘It has been one of my life-dreams to be able to share all I have learned (and continue to learn) with people who are like-minded and who, like with me, believe dancing is a powerful tool for self-knowledge and regeneration.

Odissi is a way of life, is a method for nourishing body, mind and soul and for improving one’s conduct in this world. In this sense, Odissi is a deep spiritual practice.

This course blends knowledge and understanding that I have acquired through different sources and in different contexts, which include my travels across the globe and studies of different cultures and societies. I believe this makes what I offer deeply rich, unique and highly nuanced.

As an artist, I believe in discipline, as well as in spontaneity, in technical clarity, as well as in creative freedom. I believe that dancing should first and foremost be a source of joy and a way of getting closer to the divine, that runs in the veins of the world.

I aim to train people who are technically strong, confident, but also humble towards the hurdles of the journey, who are curious, but also patient, focused, but also alert.’

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