Born and raised in Assam, India, dancer Madhusmita Bora is co-artistic director of the Philadelphia-based Sattriya Dance Company. Trained in the classical Indian dance forms of Sattriya and Kathak and the music traditions of Borgeet and Hindustani Classical, Bora made her debut as a dancer performing at her village temple before she turned four years old. She has trained extensively under Gobin Kalita Bayan, a Sattriya and Borgeet master teacher at the Uttar Kamalabari Satra (monastery ) in Assam. She has also studied under award winning Sattriya exponents Padmashree Jatin Goswami, Guru Naren Barua, Guru Ramkrishna Talukdar, Bhabanada Borbayan and Anita Sharma. Her Kathak training was with Daniel Freddy in India and Guru Janaki Patrik in New York. Bora has also studied Hindustani Classical Music with Pandit Rattan Mohan Sharma.
Sattriya has a significant history. Srimanta Sankardev introduced Sattriya dance in Northeast India to propagate his ideas of a classless and equal society. Until the mid-20th Century, Sattriya was confined to and evolved and preserved within monasteries called Sattras, institutions created by Sankardev and built mostly in Majuli, an island on the Brahmaputra river. Severe erosion is now threatening the art form, the monasteries and the island. For centuries, Sattriya remained off-limits to women despite the dance having a defined feminine aspect to it. Madhusmita’s project is to tell the story of Majuli, Sattriya and the monasteries, and to build awareness in Philadelphia, dance, Indian and International communities about the dance and the threats it faces. Other goals are to inspire more women to embrace the dance, and to sustain the traditional forms of this art. In recent years, Sattriya has faced dilution because of advocates who are embellishing the art form in order to make it more palatable for a modern audience.
Bora has presented work at major festivals and venues in the US, Mexico, U.K. and India. She is a recipient of grants from Leeway Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Nritya Saradhi Award, Leeway Transformation Award and the IIDF Award. In 2017, Bora received a grant from the Pew Center for the Arts & Heritage to present Threads of History: Resurrection of a Textile, interpreting an ancient Indian tapestry, held in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, through dance and music performed by the Dancing Monks of Assam.