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Dance tells Majuli’s tale

Jorhat, Feb. 19: The sinuous movements of her lithe body resemble a river slowly meandering along its course as dancer Shilpika Bordoloi rehearses for her performance in New Delhi on February 21. Her art, too, is inspired by a river — the Brahmaputra — with the composite culture it sustains.

Shilpika, a dancer well versed in the Manipuri and Bharatanatyam classical forms and a former faculty of the National School of Drama, New Delhi, has returned to her roots here and packaged her childhood memories of Majuli into a physical theatre form to perform in different metros of India and then abroad.

Her first stop will be the national capital followed by a show in Bangalore and then in Guwahati.

“Majuli has always fascinated me. My father worked there and from a young age I formed different impressions of the Deori, Mising and Assamese communities living there and their struggle for survival in the face of the annual floods, which inundate the island,” Shilpika said.

The artiste, who was a student of English in Delhi University, said she would promote Majuli all over the world not only through the physical theatre performance, but also through films, books and drama.

“I feel that the river is an essential part of civilisation in Majuli which is part of a greater whole but also unique in itself. The image of the river, therefore, is everywhere in my performance and life on the island mainly revolves around it,” she said.

Parmananda Barbayan from the Kamalabari Xatra at Titabar, Mukunda Madhav Bora and Ananta Bora are accompanying her on this mission.

While Parmananda Barbayan’s sonorous voice intones the hymns of the Vaishnavite culture, playing of the ektara and dotara, khol and dhol, the Boras have created two musical instruments to recreate the sounds of nature.

The first, a small piece of hollowed bamboo pole containing water is played to make the sound of lapping water in sync with Shilpika’s sensuous movements at the beginning of the 50-minute show.

It is played again to create the roaring sound of a river in spate along with a bagh dhenu (a flat bamboo stick attached to a handle with a short nylon rope) and swung with force with the hand to give a whirring booming sound. Another small bamboo mouth instrument has been created which replicates the chirping and whistling of birds.

Manik Kansera from Bangalore will do the lighting of the stage and design and Michel Casanovas has helped with the dramaturgy and Kamal Musale did the images.

“On stage there will be structures in the form of a boat, bamboo clumps, fishing nets and others, all of which are integral to the theme. I have tried to weave together a bit of Xattriya culture, Bihu, the weaving and fishing, the sowing and harvesting natural sights and sounds which make up the daily life of the people of the island,” she said.

Shilpika alternates between the slow and fast pace to take us to a climax where the annual floods leave the island ravaged and torn and then is reborn again in a renewal of the cycle, which has been continuing for ages.


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