International Dance Day 2020: Revisiting the forgotten art

Najooka Javier
Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Lavani, the traditional dance form of Maharashtra still remains an integral part of the rural folk theatre. The performances are nothing but enthralling and require tremendous energy  

Svelte women, dressed in dazzling nauvari (nine-yard) sarees. Dolled up in heavy make-up and jewellery take the stage. The audience, mostly men whistle and howl as these women begin their enticing performance. 

This has been the general notion around Lavani or Mujra performances, but the history tells a different story. 

Originating in the thirteenth century, these dances were originally performed by men dressed as women during rural folk theatre shows – Tamasha. But during the Peshwa rule, Lavani became open to women and was performed to boost the morale of warring troops. The rich also enjoyed exclusive Lavani performances and places bets on women. This was known as the Baithakichi Lavani – performed by a single woman in a closed chamber for a select audience. 

Also, traditionally, the Lavani songs were mostly erotic but the dialogues would be a socio-political satire. 

Owning to all of this, for years after, the world saw Lavani in a negative light, until recently after the release of the film Natarang in the year 2009. Since then, there has been a revival of the dance form and an increase in its popularity. 

  Though over the years, the infamous Baithakichi Lavani took a back seat, Phadachi Lavani – enacted in front of a large audience –  has always been a crowd-pleaser. 

Today, Lavani the traditional dance form of Maharashtra remains an integral part of the rural folk theatre. The performances are nothing but enthralling and require tremendous energy. s

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Surviving the lockdown

A dance form that essentially survives on live performances, is seeing a major setback due to the coronavirus lockdown. With shows being cancelled and practice sessions missed, how are these dancers and performers surviving the lockdown?

 

Raghuveer Khedekar, a famous Tamasha artist from Sangamner spoke to Sakal Times about the current situation of Lavani artists. Khedekar grew up watching Tamasha as his parents were Tamasha artists. His family has been in the profession for many years travelling all over Maharashtra for shows. Now a famous Tamasha artist himself, Khedekar is facing the wrath of the lockdown. 

“March, April and May are the peak months for Tamasha when the crews leave and travel around the state performing in different villages and districts. In a year, we perform at least 210-220 shows all over Maharashtra. Be it the coastal side or eastern Maharashtra, everyone in the state is really fond of Tamasha,” says Khedekar. 

Also Read: International Dance Day 2020: Why Indian Classical Dancers feel going live on social media may not be sustainable

“But because of the COVID-19 lockdown, all our shows during these months have been cancelled,” add the dejected artist.
 
Economically, the rural population might be one of the worst-hit by the lockdown. Talking about the situation of the artist Khedekar shares, “The situation is worst for all our performers. Their income is based on these shows and unfortunately, their existence has now come to a hand-to-mouth survival.” 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Luckily for them, the practices weren’t affected by the lockdown. “Generally, our practices start from august, so right now that hasn’t been affected, but if the lockdown continues, it can become a problem,” adds the Tamasha artist. 

As the lockdown reaches its final days, there is hope for a better post-pandemic time. Talking about the second half of the year Khedekar says, “After May, our events are scheduled after Dushera. So hopefully by then, the situation will subside.”

These artists are torch-bearers that have been keeping the tradition and culture alive through their small efforts. This World Dance Day, we applaud their efforts and hope that the situation favours them soon. 

Also Read: Tamasha artists are struggling for recognition  

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