Nirmal Jena

Born in the village of Utchapur in Orissa, Nirmal Jena is the son of the Late Guru Surendra Nath Jena, who passed away in New Delhi on 8 October 2007. Following intensive training under the guidance of his father in the Jena style of Odissi and in traditional teaching methodologies, Nirmal also pursued comprehensive training from other gurus in a number of related artforms – North Indian vocal, Orissan vocal, Chhau dance, instrumental music (pakhawaj and mridang). Nirmal performed in various cities in India and presented workshops and lecture-demonstration in schools, tertiary institutions, arts and community organizations. In 1984, he commenced co-teaching at Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi, alongside his father, who had been based at Triveni since the 1967.

In 1989, in a tour funded by the Australia Council for the Arts, Nirmal presented a series of performances and dance education programs in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Encouraged by the keen interest expressed by dance enthusiasts who wanted to learn this unique dance form, Nirmal returned to Australia in March 1992. He established the Odissi Dance Company (ODC) in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and associate director, Chitrita Mukerjee. ODC has made a significant contribution towards the promotion of quality Indian performing arts in Australia.

Nirmal Jena’s performance of Odissi dance was one of those rare delights when a solo performer gives so generously and vividly of his talents that it’s often hard to remember that there is only one person out there. .....This was painting, sculpture - a whole culture - coming to life.
Jill Sykes, Sydney Morning Herald
I have never seen any other Indian artist able to capture the essence of Shiva’s dance so vividly. One can only say here that the vision of Shiva dancing became a hauntingly surreal timeless experience with this piece. A lesser artist would not have been able to carry it off. Nirmal became a vehicle for Shiva’s destruction. The intense energy he generated within himself propelled the audience into a dimension of great power, awe and wonderment.
Chandrabhanu, Kinesis, Newsletter by Ausdance, Victoria

Surendra Nath Jena [Nirmal’s father and teacher] is a genius to have evolved this style. He has planted in good soil and the tree grows healthy and strong - so whatever ‘use’ it may be put in the future, it will never lose its spiritual and traditional roots. Workshop participant, University of New South Wales
Nirmal Jena has brought valuable talent and expertise to this State.......
Peter Collins, QC Former NSW Minister for the Arts
Nirmal Jena, an artist of exceptional individual quality...[his father’s] all-round versatility has obviously been passed on to the next generation, giving an intensely theatrical flavour to Nirmal Jena’s performances...
Jill Sykes, Sydney Morning Herald

..the dramatic power and vivid imagery of the dance inundated the intimate venue…Pamela Carsaniga, The Melburnian
Sydney people are obviously hungry for Indian classical dance and music, judging by the overflowing audience on opening night and the extra performance announced beforehand.........Nirmal Jena, an exceptional performer whose body just seems to fall into the shapes and gestures required of it - at the same time, exuding inferences of meaning, character and symbolism......
Jill Sykes, Sydney Morning Herald

Nirmal Jena’s commitment to the Jena style of Odissi dance and Orissan music offers Australian audiences and performers the opportunity to experience this distinctive dance tradition that enlightens with its ...spiritual significance......
Robyn Kershaw, General Manager, Belvoir Street Theatre
The incorporation of dance into life and life into dance, theatrical dimension to dance, family and community emphasis rather than an isolated artform are aspects of Indian dance which should be welcomed to performing arts [in Australia] which is presently caught in an image of an elitist area as being removed from the people rather than for the people. Second Year Dance Student (BA), University of Western Sydney

Nirmal and his sister, Pratibha, are the bearers of the Jena style of Odissi. Guru Surendra Nath Jena is considered a rebel in the world of Odissi for creating his unique style of this dance form. He developed this style after intense research into the temples and temple reliefs in Orissa, various manuscripts and treatises on Indian arts as well as the lifestyle of Orissan people. He believed that the artists/sculptors who had sculpted the temple reliefs were spiritually gifted and highly accomplished dancers themselves and knew the essence of dance as well as its connection with all other artforms. Guru Surendra Nath Jena's Odissi is not only a form of dance but avenues for worship and self-realisation. It was not designed to please the eye or the senses but to promote spiritual ascendancy through dance, particularly by combining the two foundations of Indian philosophy - tantra and yoga. Therefore, the Jena style of Odissi defies many conventions associated with the world of arts and that is what makes it so compelling.

Guru Surendra Nath Jena died on 8 October 2007 in New Delhi. He is survived by his wife, Kumudini Jena, his son, Nirmal and daughters, Pratibha, Rekha and Rama. Guruji was based in Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi, for many years, where, with the support of Triveni's founder Mrs Sridharani, he carved his unique style and repertoire of Odissi. Pratibha Jena, a gifted artist herself, continues to take Guruji's classes at Triveni.

ODC's modest website can be accessed here. Details on Pratibha Jena as well as comprehensive information on the Jena style of Odissi can be found here.

Nirmal and Pratibha are committed to promoting their father's legacy and their family's tradition of Odissi through a world tour. Therefore, this is a request to all aficionados of Odissi, in every corner of the world, including members of odissi.blogspot, to invite Nirmal and Pratibha to share their unique style through performances, workshops and dance education programs. In the first instance please email Chitrita Mukerjee at the Odissi Dance Company to arrange tours/programs by Nirmal and Pratibha:

I do not dance for the audience and I do not dance for recognition. I dance for my soul and self-realization. Guru Surendra Nath Jena following the Sangeet Natak Akademi award presentation to him by the President of India, 2006


  1. Dilip Kumar Yadav,Son in-law of Guru S.N Jena1:22 AM

    Be honest to yourself and to your father in promoting yourself.

  2. Nirmal, I have seen your work and it is true to your father's style and I believe he would be proud of you. As a dancer and as a vocalist and drummer, you represent him well and I wish you all the best in further promoting his ingenius and unique style of Odissi which has enriched the cultural appreciation of Orissa and Indian Classical Arts in the world forever.


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