Maay Boli – meaning Mother tongue

Most traditional Bharatanatyam dance repertoire uses literary work in Tamil, Telugu & Kannada language from South India. Maay Boli will research the influence of Thanjavur Maratha Rulers in developing Marathi text for Bharatanatyam (circa 1674-1855), to reflect, revive & reconnect with past, appreciate its present & develop new work celebrating lost history of this dance form, coinciding with India’s 70th Anniversary in 2017.

Through this R&D, Swati Dance Company will explore, examine & experiment with historical Marathi texts & English poetry on war theme with common similarities, example ethos of returning soldiers & comparing it with current times, thereby making contemporary relevance in developing new audiences for this dance form.

Inspiration behind the project:

SDC’s Artistic Director Dr Swati Raut’s inherited mother tongue is Marathi as she was born in Mumbai, India. As a practising Bharatanatyam artiste Swati has realised that most traditional repertoire uses literary work in Tamil, Telugu & Kannada – languages derived from South India & hence appeals to select audience. Those who are able to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of this dance form, don’t often understand the words used in Bharatanatyam. SDC wants to revive the text developed in Marathi for Bharatanatyam & find ways to incorporate text in Hindi & English so that most people can understand words used in Bharatanatyam dance.

In the early 19th Century middle class patrons of the art form & Kalakshetra, the cultural institution dedicated to preservation of Bharatanatyam founded by Rukmini Devi Arundale (1936) in Chennai, made Bharatanatyam dance clinical so that it was acceptable to the middle class & focus of the dance was entirely on Bhakti (devotion)based on stories of Gods & Goddesses such as Shiva, Ganesh, Durga & others. SDC wants to look at creating work using poetry which were written in Maratha times used by Devadasis & Courtesan who used love themes & were about Nayak (hero) & Nayika (heroine) & poems of war heroes instead of Gods & Goddesses.

What the project involved:

The R&D involved visit to Saraswathi Mahal Library at Thanjavur India and researching type of text used in Marathi version of a Varnam, the centre piece of a Bharatanatyam repertoire & Lavani, the traditional folk dance from Maharashtra, performed by Devadasis & Courtesan, as they would have used Bharatanatyam vocabulary. Swati will develop movement material based on Vernam & Lavani in collaboration with Hari Krishnan from inDance, Canada, which will have a narrative informed by the translation of the manuscripts & English poetry & will incorporate music vocals into the work as a part of specially composed music score. Findings from this R&D will be presented in the form of seminar and sharing.

Maay Boli in Pulse Magazine

Swati Dance Company in Mumbai Times