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Ileana Citaristi is an Italian-born Odissi and Chhau dancer, and dance instructor based in Bhubaneswar, India. She was awarded the 43rd National Film Awards for Best Choreography for Yugant in 1995 and became, in 2006, the first dancer of foreign origin to be conferred the Padma Shri for her contributions to Odissi.[1]

Ileana Citaristi
Ileana Citaristi.jpg
Ileana Citaristi at the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, Bhubaneswar
Background information
Birth name Ileana Citaristi
Born Bergamo, Italy
Origin Italian
Genres Odissi
Occupation(s) Odissi and Chhau dancer, performer and dance instructor
Website Official website


Early lifeEdit

Citaristi, a native of Bergamo, Italy,[2] the daughter of Severino Citaristi, a leading politician of the Democrazia Cristiana party of Italy.[3][4] She spent five years as an actress in traditional and experimental theatre in Italy before deciding to learn Kathakali.[5]

She went to Kerala, where she spent three rigorous months studying Kathakali before she went to Odisha on the advice of her Kathakali guru, Krishnan Namboodari.[6]

Since 1979, she has been living in Odisha.[7] She holds a Doctorate of Philosophy with a thesis on 'Psychoanalysis and Eastern Mythology'.[8]

Dancing careerEdit

Ileana Citaristi performing Mayurbhanj Chhau at the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, Bhubaneswar
Citaristi performing Mayurbhanj Chhau (Shaivism theme) in 2014.

Citaristi studied Odissi under Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and started her own school of dance in 1994.[2] Citaristi is also an exponent of the Mayurbhanj Chhau, which she learnt under the tutelage of Guru Hari Nayak and holds the title of an acharya of Chhau from the Sangeet Mahavidyalya of Bhubaneswar.[9] She founded the Art Vision Academi in 1996, which acts as a platform for sharing ideas between various artistic forms such as theatre, music, dance and painting. The Academi also conducts classes in Odissi and Chhau.[10]

Major ProductionsEdit

Ileana Citaristi is noted for her innovative choreographic productions in Odissi and Chhau that bring together themes and styles from both the West and the East. In Chhau, some of her notable productions are ‘Echo and Narcissus' based on the Greek myth in Ovid's Metamorphoses, ‘The Journey' that draws on Japanese haikus, ‘Images of Change' based on the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang and ‘Still I Rise' based on Maya Angelou's eponymous poem.[7] In Odissi, 'Maya Darpan', 'Mahanadi: and the river flows', about the history and cultural geography of Orissa,[8] 'Karuna', based on the life of Mother Teresa[7] and Sharanam, a piece on women from three faiths who attain salvation despite their dubious pasts,[11] are some of her notable compositions.

Books and FilmsEdit

Besides Yugantar, a Bengali film directed by Aparna Sen for which she won a National Film Award in 1996, Citaristi has also choreographed for M.F. Hussain's Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities (2004) [12] and Goutam Ghose's Abar Aranye (2003).[13] Citaristi is also the author of three books. In 2001, she published The Making of a Guru: Kelucharan Mohapatra, his Life and Times in 2012 the Traditional Martial Practices in Orissa and in 2016 My Journey, a Tale of Two Births.[7][10]

Awards and HonoursEdit

Citaristi is an ´A´ grade artist of Doordarshan. She was conferred the title of ´Leonide Massine for the art of dance' in 1992. In 1996, she won the National Film Award for Best Choreography for her work in Aparna Sen's Bengali film Yugant (1995).[14][15] She is empanelled as ‘outstanding artist’ in ICCR.[16]

She is also a recipient of the ´Raseshwar Award' given by the Sur Singar Sansad, Mumbai.[8][10] For her contributions to Odissi, she was conferred the Padma Shri by Government of India in 2006.[17] The Italian government made her a member of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity in 2008.[5]


  • The Making of a Guru: Kelucharan Mohapatra, His Life and Times, Published by Manohar Pub., 2001. ISBN 81-7304-369-8.
  • Traditional Martial Practices in Orissa, 2012


  1. ^ "She Sways to Conquer". The Indian Express. 7 April 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Odisha is now my home: Ileana Citaristi". The Times of India. March 29, 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "Description of a dancer's life - Ileana Citaristi". Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "India, aggredita ballerina italiana. E' figlia dell'ex Dc Citaristi". La Republica. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Ileana Citarista - Curriculum Vitae". Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  6. ^ "Ladies who love Indian rhythm". The Pioneer. 23 October 2012. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Finding her own idiom". The Hindu. August 18, 2011. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c "Ileana Citaristi - Bio Data". Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  9. ^ "Padmashri Ileana Citaristi". SPICMACAY. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c "Dr. Ileana Citaristi: My karma is to break new ground". Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "Oscillating between roles". The Hindu. February 5, 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  12. ^ Ileana Citaristi on IMDb
  13. ^ "A blend of spaghetti and saag". The Tribune. April 11, 2004. Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  14. ^ "43rd National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India. 
  15. ^ "43rd National Film Awards (PDF)" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Padma Awards Directory (1954-2009)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-10. ..state:orissa;Country India 

External linksEdit