Folk Art PA

Master: Jatin Goswami

Apprentice: Madhusmita Bora
Art Form: Sattriya Dance

Through this Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Apprenticeship in Folk and Traditional Arts, Madhusmita Bora travelled to India to train under Padmashree Guru Jatin Goswami, an 84 year old renowned Sattriya dancer. Sattriya is a 600 year old dance from the Vaishnavite monasteries of India, practiced and preserved by celibate monks for centuries. Women had very little access to the dance until recently, making this a very unique opportunity for both apprentice and master.

There are two distinct styles of Sattriya dance: Tandav (rigorous) and Lasya (graceful) done to live music. Madhusumita Bora chose to concentrate on the more rudimentary movements of the lasya style because it hasn't been taught or performed as much, contemporarily, as the Tandav style. She learned the basic feet movements, hand gestures, rhythms, or bols, of the lasya genre of Sattriya. She has since performed the full length dance pieces she learned in both India and Pennsylvania. Bora describes her experience as a spiritual one: "I returned from this trip with renewed vigor and enthusiasm to share and promote my art form in the adopted country. It was a spiritual experience for me to be able to go through the rituals of offering prayers to the master and creator of Sattriya before and after each training session."

Jatin Goswami is a seventh generation practitioner of Sattriya dance. Goswami was especially excited to welcome Bora from America: "It was a proud moment for me when Madhusmita came to learn, especially because she was funded by an organization in America where Sattriya is still an alien art form. I feel happy that I have a Sattriya student promoting the dance in North America." Sattriya is performed to live music in India, typically to the beats of the khol (a kind of drum). In order for Bora to have music to perform to when back in America Goswani sought the advice of renowned khol player Bhaskarjyoti Ojha to retain the traditional flavor of music with recorded beats. Working with Bora also deepened Goswami's understanding of the same dance she has practiced all her life: "Since I lived practicing it my entire life, I never thought of questioning certain traditions and customs. Questions like why and how never arose, but when Madhusmita came to learn Sattriya with me I was forced to rethink my traditional beliefs. We looked into the texts to find out the origins of certain movements."