India and the Translocal Modern Dance Scene, 1890s–1950s


At the end of the nineteenth century and during the first half of the twentieth, lead dancers from different countries became famous and toured internationally. These dancers—and the companies they created—transformed various dance forms into performances fit for the larger world of art music, ballet, and opera circuits. They adapted ballet to the variety-show formats and its audiences. Drawing on shared philosophical ideas—such as those manifest in the works of the Transcendentalists or in the writings of Nietzsche and Wagner—and from movement techniques, such as ballet codes, the Delsarte method, and, later on, Eurythmics (in fashion at the time), these lead dancers created new dance formats, choreographies, and styles, from which many of today’s classical, folk, and ballet schools emerged. In this essay, I look at how Rabindranath Tagore, Isadora Duncan, Anna Pavlova, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, Uday Shankar, Leila Roy Sokhey and Rumini Devi Arundale contributed to this translocal dance scene. Indian dance and spirituality, as well as famous Indian dancers, were an integral part of what at the time was known as the international modern dance scene. This transnational scene eventually coalesced into several separate schools, including what today is known as classical and modern Indian dance styles.


Dance; Modern Dance; India; America; Translocality

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Published : 2020-12-31

Vargas-CetinaG. (2020). India and the Translocal Modern Dance Scene, 1890s–1950s. Review of International American Studies, 13(2), 39-59.

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan  Mexico

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina (PhD McGill University 1994) is Full Professor and Researcher of Anthropology at the Autonomous University of Yucatán. She has done ethnographic research in Alberta, Canada; Sardinia, Italy; Chiapas and Yucatán, Mexico; and her current ethnographic fieldwork takes place in Yucatan and in Andalusia, Spain. Her general field of interest encompasses organizations and organized action, representation in anthropology, anthropology and performance, and the relations between anthropology and fiction. She has published on shepherds’ co-operatives in Sardinia, the pow-wow ceremonial in Alberta, rural teachers and weaver organizations in Chiapas, and music and musicians in Yucatan. Her recent books include an edited volume Anthropology and the Politics of Representation (U of Alabama, 2013), the monograph Beautiful Politics of Music: Trova in Yucatán, Mexico (U of Alabama 2017), and the book co-authored with two other anthropologists (in Spanish) Cooking, Music and Communications: Technology and Aesthetics in Contemporary Yucatán (UADY, 2016). She is currently looking at struggles around noise in the city of Merida, in Yucatán, and working with musicians who play during the Holy Week festivities in Seville, Spain.

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