`I was in search of a land where I could express in a total and unrestricted way those inner questions of the soul that could not find satisfaction in any of the solutions offered by the present patterns of living of this western civilization.` --- Ileana Citaristi at the feet of her guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, devoted this sacred art of Indian dance Odissi. This Italian by birth Odissi dance personality, has came in touch with Indian dance after so many years of experience in the traditional as well as experimental theatre in Europe. Ileana also holds a Doctorate degree in Philosophy and her thesis was on `Psychoanalysis and eastern mythology`. Since the year 1979, Ileana has been living in Orissa, India. To understand better the culture of Orissa, she started living in close contact with the people of Orissa, their language and culture. Padma Vibhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra was her mentor in the Odissi dance style. He has been regarded as the renowned Guru of Odissi dance.
With the different martial postures of the Chhau dance of Mayurbhanji, Ileana Citaristi is evenly at home. The Chhau dance of Mayurbhanji, she has learnt under the guidance of Guru Shri Hari Nayak. Thus seeing her dedication towards the dance form, the Sangeet Mahavidyalya of Bhubaneswar in Orissa conferred her the title of `Acharya`. Besides many performances and lecture-demonstrations given by her in all the major centres in India and her contributions includes articles on Oriya culture published in Indian and foreign magazines. She has done extensive research work for film-documentaries on Odissi and Chhau dances. Ileana Citaristi has conducted several practical dance workshops for dancers and theatre workers. These workshops have been regularly conducted under invitation of different institutions in India and abroad. In all the major dance festivals in India as well as in Italy, Argentina, Poland, France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, USA, Australia and Israel, she has given her performances. Some of her major performances abroad are:
In September in the year 1992, this `A` grade artist of the Cuttack Television, Ileana Citaristi has been bestowed with the prestigious title `Leonide Massine for the art of dance` in Italy. In December 1994, she
was conferred the `Raseshwar` award by the Sur Singar Sansad, Bombay. For her dance direction in the Bengali film `Yugant`, in May 1996, she has been awarded the `National Award for best choreography`. The film `Yugant` was directed by Aparna Sen. In the year 1991, she has carried on a research on the Martial Art of Orissa under the aegis of the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts. The Dept. of Culture, Government of India, in the year 1996, granted a senior Fellowship to her for writing a book on Kelucharan Mohapatra`s life. In April 2001, the book titled `The making of a guru` has been published by Manohar and released was in New Delhi. Acknowledging her contribution in the field of Odissi dance, the Government of India awarded her with one of the highest civilian award `Padmashree` on January in the year 2006.
Ileana Citaristi with her creative innovation has staged many of her production. In to the Mayurbhanji Chhau, she incorporated the Greek myth `Echo and Narcissus`. This production has been considered as a disclosure at the East-West Dance Encounter, which was held in Bombay on April in the year 1985. Other performances are: `The Wreck` (December 1988), `Icarus` (July 1991), `Pancha Bhuta` (January 1996), `The Journey` (September 1998), `Images of Change` (March 2000), `Surya devata` (December 2001), `Jarjara` (January 2003),`Still I rise` (February, 2005) and in Odissi style the ballet `Maya Darpan` premiered at Nehru Center in Bombay in April 1993. `Dasa Mahavidya` (1999), `Ganga Yamuna` (2005), `Exploration` and `Tantra` (2006), `Saraha`, `Bolero` and `Rhydhum`(2007).
In the year 1995, she founded her own institution `Art vision`. Presently she is conducting training in Bhubaneswar in Odissi and Chhau dances to local as well as visiting students in her own institution.