Meet the Artists: Shilpika Bordoloi, Majuli


Majuli is a performance that tells the tale of the river Majuli and its people through an intense and evocative solo of dance and theatre.

Inspired by the mystique of the Brahmaputra, it weaves together a story of the intricate bond between people and their land, set to music by instruments indigenous to the region. As the performer meanders in the rhythm of a river expressing pleasure, pain, love, and spiritualism, the motif of the boat dominates.

We spoke to Shilpika Bordoloi ahead of her performing Majuli at Dance Base Festival 17 from 11 – 20 Aug.

1. What was it that inspired your show or performance?
The Brahmaputra River takes birth in China, in western Tibet, and courses through three densely populated, energy-hungry, rapidly modernizing countries — China, India, Bangladesh — before emptying itself into the Bay of Bengal.

The Brahmaputra basin is a part of the largest and most populated basin in the world, supporting over 80 million people and rich, rare and endangered biodiversity.

This performance, “Majuli” is part of a project called ‘Katha Yatra’, which translates to “a journey of stories”. It explores this river, uncovering stories of tradition and change, of wins and losses, of old and new.  My intention is to explore the cycle of the often quiet, often raging river and its innumerable stories of resilience, of people- river interactions, and of biodiversity — all of which needs to inform the winds of change in order that the changes be sustainable and preserve the spirit of the people, the river, and its creatures.

This unique relationship of a land with water, an interaction of people and nature form the basis of my work, my inspiration.

2. Can you describe your devising process, and how did you find inspiration for creating your work?
It begins with questions to myself about my feelings towards my subject, in the studio... my memories, conditioning, thoughts, emotions , and then I came up with motifs of my impressions of Majuli and the river as I began the process of improvisation.

My process is about generating the content from within, without being restricted by any pre-conceived notion of the shape of the body. In this dance I embody the many emotions that I have experienced in my trips to Majuli, and portray my intimate relationship with the island through the medium of my body.

3. What was it that inspired you in becoming a performer, or setting up your company?
I was learning Indian Classical dance from a very early age. Much later I wanted to find other ways of expressing, sharing my stories... I got drawn to other forms including Martial-Arts and Theatre.

I see dance theatre and movement as a way of life, wherein the journey of experimentation, discovery unfolds through the emotive medium of the body. I am engaged in a research-oriented process of the body where the process of movement is deep and intuitive in creativity. Making performance was just an organic part of the journey so far.

I enjoy teaching, choreographing and directing as well. Setting up the company is just parts of the larger picture for me. I am motivated to work with other people and currently am based out of Assam, where am meeting and training people and creating the next production.

4. What has been the biggest challenges in creating your show?
During the process of making “Majuli”, I re-located to Assam from New Delhi.  The previous works were experiments created in the studio in New Delhi. This work was part documentation and part re-imagination of the ways in which a river becomes so mingled with the identity of a culture. I was supported by IFA (India Foundation for the Arts) and the Ministry of Culture.

I was fortunate to find collaborators, like Michel Casanovas for Dramaturgy, Kamal Musale for film, who gave so much. I could only do this because of them and others entering it and owning it.

5. What was it that inspired you in becoming a performer, or setting up your company?
The soundscape of this production weaves together the Deori, the Mising and the Assamese communities of Majuli. It is a process that also brings together my historical and geographical identity, and allows me to present pieces of my intimate relation with the space over a period of time. The audience hears natural sounds, far away sounds and tunes, which then invoke sounds from my memories, like my father's dialogue as the evil Kansa from the mythological performance of Raaslila).

In our initial attempts to create 'Majuli,' we used already available instruments to create the sounds that were to accompany the narrative. But soon, we realised that we would need to create certain sounds for the drama. We made three new instruments for this production, one is perfect for water, another for birds, and third for dramatic moments of the play.

6. What is your favourite dance performance you’ve seen, and why?
At the moment I am remembering this beautiful Bharata-Natyam Abhinaya piece by Padmashree Leela Samson.
It was so touching.

7. If you could describe your show in 3 words, what would they be?

Hauntingly beautiful.

8. What are you most looking forward to in bringing your show to the festival?
I will be performing “Majuli” for 9 days. That will be a first of so many consecutive days performance experience of “Majuli” and I am looking forward to that. 

You can find out more about Majuli, and book tickets here.

Tickets can also be booked via the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Box Office on 0131 226 0000.

Creative Scotland
Supported by Edinburgh
Supported by the City of Edinburgh Council
Living Wage