Mayuri Upadhya takes in the best of Bharatanatya and contemporary dance to choreograph in a language all her own, finds Shilpa Sebastian R.
Mayuri Upadhya was five years old when she started learning Bharatataya. “It was my mother who always dreamt of making me a dancer. That’s also the reason why I am named Mayuri,” starts the young dancer.
“But after a year I found it too disciplined for me and gave it up. But I loved dance because of the attention I got. Whenever we had guests they were forced to watch my dance and had to applaud,” recalls Mayuri.
But her love for dance ensured that she did not stay away for too longdid not keep her away. She soon found herself back in her Bharatanatya dance class. This time with new teachers — Indira Kadambi and later, Shubja Rani Bolar.
“I was a very chubby child and started to look at the positive aspects of the dance vocabulary. And then I gradually started to fall in love with the form and took an active part in school and college dance competitions,” says the Bharatanatya dancer, who has today carved a niche for herself in the contemporary dance field.
Mayuri Upadhya was five years old when she started learning Bharatataya. “It was my mother who always dreamt of making me a dancer. That’s also the reason why I was named Mayuri,” starts the young dancer.
“But after a year I found it too disciplined for me and I gave it up. But loved because of the attention I got. When ever we had guests they were forced to watch my dance and had to applaud,” recalls Mayuri.
But the love for dance did not keep her away. She soon found herself back in her Bharatanatya dance class. This time with new teachers -- Indira Kadambi and later Shubja Rani Bolar.
“I was a very chubby child and started to look at the positive aspects of the dance vocabulary. Gradually started to fall in love with the form and took an active part in school and college dance competitions,’ says the Bharatanatya dancer, who has today carved a niche for herself in the contemporary dance field.
“For me Bharatanatya is an education. It helps me look internally and connects me with who I am. Contemporary dance for me helps me look at the outer world and connect with the audience,” she explains.
She fell in love with contemporary dance when she got the opportunity to work with names like Shobhana Jaysingh in London, Bharat Sharma and Tripura Kashyap. “It started during my the college days when we would participate in inert-collegiate dance competitions. The very idea of working as a team, practising and winning was so exciting. And my working with big names from the contemporary dance field only strengthened my desire,” she adds.
At 19, Mayuri decided to make a career out of dance. “It was not for money. I had no godfather or any clue as to how to go about it. Classical dance gave me a strong foundation, while contemporary dance exposed me to various companies and it has altogether designed my dance vocabulary.”
In fact, the desire grew so much that she started the dance troupe Nritarutya in 2000. “Nritarutya is just a part of what I want to do. It has been my learning ground. We were a small group of five dancers from various styles and had no ideals or goals. But We were just a bunch of people who wanted to explore dance, get creative and challenge each other’sone’s limitations. Our aim was not to master or perfect a technique or skill, but to develop our own consciousness as dancers,” says the artistic director of Nritarutya.
But the journey was not easy with the group either. “With the troupe came the challenges of being professional. We needed a definite structure,” says Mayuri, who then took on the role of a choreographer. “As a choreographer, I we create movement and it’s up to the audience how they receive it. Dance is a form used to build a bridge. I try to be as simple and visual in my dance creation.”
Her sister Madhuri is the associate director of Nritarutya, and Geeta Ballal, one of the board of directors, “takes care of all the administration.” Today Nritarutya has 25 to 30 dancers, who also get paid according to the projects that they work on. with. “It’s tough to live on dance. One needs tremendous guts and will power to stay put, otherwise you will be a nobody even before you start. It’s not your technique but the passion that makes you a good dancer. And in India, contemporary dance is still new.”
Mayuri says that it is also a challenge to use technology in dance, which is big today. “It depends on how you use it. Technology, used well, builds another possibility. It breaks boundaries as we can screen the movements as a backdrop, floor or even the roof. Technology is a part of our lives so why should dance alienate it?” asks the dancer-choreographer who has participated in the Birmingham International Dance Festival 2008, The Soorya Festival (Trivandrum, Kerala) 2007, and Bangalore Biennial International Festival for Movement Arts 2004 to name a few.
She prefers the role as a choreographer, “for what’s in the mind is real to you and you pass it on to people in the form of beautiful movements. When you see your creation on stage, it’s a beautiful experience,” she says and adding: “There are so many phases to a dancer – first comes the learning and gradually there is a transition from being a student to a performer, and you become a part of a larger voice. It has been a tough journey, but I have survived. My work primarily comes from Bharatanatya. But it’s the concept or the theme that dominates the style. I don’t like to work on a narrative,” she explains about her style of working.
Mayuri has never believed in arangetrams. “I have not performed one at all,” says the winner of the International Choreography Award, which was presented to her by the Asian Dance Committee at Seoul on December 6, 2011. Young Women’s Achievement Award (2004) and RAPA Best Choreographer Award for Television Commercials, Chennai (2005) are some of the other accolades she’s won her other awards.
“I was the only dancer at Seoul from the country and contested amidst 65 dancers from 30 countries. Israel came first, Malaysia second and India came third. It felt really good to represent India.”
Mayuri is married to well-known singer Raghu Dixit, who she says, is an encouraging partner.
“But The journey has been good. There are ups and downs and the flip side. Dance is like an Ekta Kapoor serial, happening live. There’s drama, humour, pain, wildlife or glitz and glamour — you name it and it is all there in a dancer’s life. The stress before and during a performance really gets to you. The audience will see a person hanging mid air, but behind the scene there are 10 people holding the ropes so that he does not fall. Or suddenly during a performance a dancer’s clothes may rip and tear and the other dancers break into giggles… A dancer has to live an experience to create a piece,” she says.
Mayuri can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.