Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Mayuri Dance Team, the first and only South Asian fusion dance team in the Tri-Co, is now expanding its presence in the community beyond its Bryn Mawr base. The group has opened auditions up to Haverford and Swarthmore and will perform at multiple cultural events this year. While no Swarthmore or Haverford dancers joined this semester, the team is hopeful for expansion.
Since 2004, the Bryn Mawr Mayuri team has fused South Asian dance with disciplines ranging from ballet to hip-hop to Bollywood. The result is a form all its own, grounded in classical technique with added movements and rhythms from many different cultures. The team choreographs dances itself—some as a group, and others with three or four choreographers teaching the dances to the rest of the team.
While the dancers have different dance backgrounds, many are trained in Indian classical dance, Bharatanatyam. Other Indian styles the team infuses into their pieces include Odissi, Kathak, Garba, and Bahngra. Team president Meghan Pandya ’13 explained that each region in India has dance styles that are specific to that region. Garba and Bahngra are folk styles that exemplify such local specificity.
Lipika Ramaswamy ’15, dancer and co-treasurer of the team, described classic Indian dance like Bharatnatyam as “very structured.” “We always keep our hands up, it’s straight lines mostly. When it is fluid, it is very controlled. You don’t just let your body go. It looks really powerful when you do it right.” Pandya added that the geometric and rigid positions are especially important in finger and motions, as each has a different movement.
South Asian dance typically includes beautiful costumes, and the Mayuri team is no exception. “The costumes are an important part of our team,” Pandya said. “Indian costumes are colorful and bright and add energy to dance. When we wear the costumes, they give us energy.”
This semester, the team of ten will be dancing a piece that combines Bharatanayam with Hip-Hop. The team will perform at a number of cultural and dance events on Bryn Mawr’s campus, at Swarthmore’s cultural performance (date TBA), Haverford’s fall student dance concert on November 19th, Villanova’s SAMOSA (South Asian Multicultural Organized Students Association) show on November 17th, and at Villanova Law School, among other engagements.
Beyond performance, the team plans to enter dance competitions this year. “There are a lot of different ones,” Pandya said. “One of them is called Bollywood America. There is another one called the Manhattan Project—it’s more fusion, all different styles, just with a south Asian feel.”
So, why go Tri-Co when the group continues to be entirely made up of Bryn Mawr students? “Opening up to the Tri-Co would make us a larger team,” Ramaswamy said. “That would be beneficial, especially for competing in the competitions we are applying to.”
Samyuktha Natarajan ’14, the team publicist, added that expanding would give “more performance opportunity.” Pandya noted that the team wanted to take advantage of the opportunity the Tri-Co provides. “There is a lot of talent at Swarthmore. There is a large community of dancers and a lot of talent there. We want to expand and do more.”
Photos courtesy of Maria McGurrin.