The colourful repertory of the Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal consist of the following items:
|Solo items||Duet items|
|Items with four artists||Group items|
|The war dance|
The main accompanying musical instruments are the 'Dhola' (the drums) and the 'Mohuri' (the blowing instrument like 'Shehnai'). These two are the absolute necessities. The other instruments which are also used are the 'Bada Baja' (the big drum) the 'Turi' and 'Kahali' (Like clarion and trumpet without reed) and the 'Jhanja' (Brass Alloy cymbals) etc.
No songs are sung in Chhau of Dhenkanal but the music is based on traditional tunes of Odissi Songs-the 'Chhandas' and the 'Champus' etc.
Place of Performance
The style of presentation of the Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal is unsophisticated and is in the typical common 'Jatra' style of Orissa except the central raised platform.
A field known as the "Jatra Padia" is the place of performance. The spectators sit around this open arena. By the side of the field, there is a room where the artists wait. The make-up and the costuming is done at another place away from the field, After make-up, all artists gather for an invocatory Puja at the village Goddess 'Mangala', located at the village cross-road. After the Puja, all the artists walk in a ceremonial procession along with the musical accompaniment of Dhol, Mohuri and come to their waiting room through the spectators The music hands take their position at one side of the arena, with the spectators.
The performance begins with the drummer demonstrating his skill on the instruments. Sometimes he dances with the drum reciting the "Bols" loudly. After these initials, there follows a demonstration of the 'Chalis' (Styles of walking. Artists come out from the waiting room together and after few rounds in the field, go back to the room. Then follows the individual dance numbers. In between the items the drummers take to their toes and demonstrate various style of drum beatings.
The final item is invariably the "war dance" where the skill of warfare is demonstrated.
This Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal, as it has been, cannot be performed in a modern theatre hall having one-side spectators. The style of performance even for a Solo dance demands an open arena with spectators on all side.
There is absolutely no scope for giving any scenic arrangements at the background. The properties are handed over to the artists in view of everybody. Costumes are re-arranged in the knowledge of all. Properties like that of a tall stool and the "Serpent cut-out" are brought into the arena by the boys and kept in place in broad light, without any cover. On the whole, the atmosphere in a performance of Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal is absolutely cordial with full of spectators participation.
Origin Of The Word Chhau
The above record also indicates the origin of the word "Chhau" according to the experts of Dhenkanal. This definition, in a way is almost similar to the theory given for the Seraikela Chhau or the Mayurbhanj Chhau except of the fact that in Seraikela, they connect the word "Chhai" to "Chhaya" meaning shadow to be linked with the facial masks they use. The other point of view expressed by the experts on Mayurbhanj Chhau is that the word "Chhau" is an abbreviation of the word "Chhauni" meaning a military camp where probably the "Chhau" dance had orginated, would hold more good and appropriate to the Chhau dance of Dhenkanal, whose artists hail only from the traditional families of Paikas of Dhenkanal.
In a broad sense, the techniques of the Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal can be termed unique. As regards the music and the repertory, Chhau dance of Dhenkanal, would in a way, appear more similar to the Chhau Dance of Seraikela except the masks. No rituals are attached to Chhau dances Dhenkanal. As regards it's training, it is purely the physical exercises adopted for the Paikali gymnastics. There is no female participation.
Suitable candidates first practice the "Ara Lahan", for the fitness and suppleness of their body. The next phases of exercise consist of various styles of Chalis or gaits.
While both Seraikela and Mayurbhanja styles specify six types of Chalis, Topkas, the Dhenkanal Chhau adopts mainly the following four types:
(1) Salakha Chali
(2) Babu Chali
(3) Karua Chali
(4) Baga Topka
Similarly, while both Seraikela and Mayurbhanj Chhau specify 36 types of 'Uflis' or 'Upalayas' (the movements of the body, limb and foot work with leap and motion) the Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal specifies only 20 'Uflis'
There have been efforts in the past, to assimilate the beautiful things of other styles of Chhau with that of Chhau of Dhenkanal. There have been exchanges of men, materials and ideas. Only a very close study and extensive research may bring to light as to how much give and take has taken place in the field of Chhau Dances of Orissa.
But, inspite of everything, Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal retains its uniqueness and local flavour. After the merger of states, this beautiful Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal, has almost turned defunct without any patronisation. Except a very few, all 'Ustads' have left this world. There may not be any with direct knowledge of this school of dancing after another few years.