Majuli, choreographed and performed by Guwahati-based dancer Shilpika Bordoloi, is one of the many exciting works comprising Dance Base’s excellently programmed Festival 2017. It takes as its inspiration, the river island of Majuli (Assam), its community, and the Brahmaputra river the island is located in. The world’s largest river island, Majuli is known for, among other things, its beauty, and its diverse flora and fauna.
Bordoloi is an excellent dancer, her training in Indian classical dance giving her clear, expressive, well-measured movements. Majuli is structured as a long narrative, reflecting different aspects of the island, the river, and the people who live there. It is a work that unfolds slowly, accompanied by recordings both of water sounds and of music played by the Assamese, the Deori, and the Mising communities of Majuli. Many of the instruments played are indigenous to the region and fast becoming extinct.
Although based in the Indian classical dance story-telling tradition, Bordoloi has a unique style of her own—a contemporary style not born of Western traditions. However, the choreography does meander just too much and for too long. Even given the contemplative nature of much of Majuli, it does feel like a prolonged 50 minutes, and the work seems to lose its direction towards the end.
The non-instrumental sound (of water) and the videos that are projected, although both effective in their simplicity to a degree, could be made more of. It is not so much that there needs to be more of these audio and visual elements, it is just they need to feel more properly integrated into the production. As it stands, they both seem more like an afterthought.
Nevertheless, Majuli has many exquisite moments, and is a personal and intimate portrait of an island that Bordoloi is clearly passionate about.