Bharatanatyam as a Transnational and Translocal Connection: A Study of Selected Indian and American Texts


Abstract

Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form derived from ancient dance styles, which is now seen as representative of Indian culture. In India, it is the most popular classical dance form exerting a great impact not only on the field of dance itself, but also on other art forms, like sculpture or painting. The Indian-American diaspora practices it both in an attempt to preserve its culture and as an assertion of its cultural identity. Dance is an art form that relates to sequences of body movements that are simultaneously aesthetic and symbolic, and rooted in specific cultures. It often tells a story. Different cultures observe different norms and standards by which dances should be performed (as well as by whom they should be performed and on what occasions). At the same time, dance and dancers influence (and are influenced by) different cultures as a result of transcultural interactions. Priya Srinivasan’s Sweating Saris: Indian Dance as Transnational Labor is a particularly valuable source wherein its author critically examines a variety of Indian dance forms, especially Bharatanatyam, tracing the history of dance as well as the lived experience of dancers across time, class, gender, and culture. With the help of this text, selected journal articles, and interviews with Bharatanatyam dancers in India and the US, I explore larger issues of gender, identity, culture, race, region, nation, and power dynamics inherent in the practice of Bharatanatyam, focusing on how these practices influence and, in turn, are influenced by transnational and translocal connections.  

Keywords

Bharatanatyam; Transnationalism; Dance; Indian American

WORKS CITED

Albright, Ann Cooper. Choreographing Difference: The Body and Identity in Contemporary Dance. Wesleyan UP, 1997.

Allen, Matthew Harp. “Rewriting the Script for South Indian Dance.” TDR, vol.41, no. 3, Autumn, 1997, pp. 63-100, https://www.jstor.org/stable/1146609. Accessed 21 April 2019.

Artham: Exploring Diasporic Bharatnatyam. Directed by Sweta Devarajan and Meera Murti. 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHU18I2GddU.

Arundale, Rukmini. “Bhava, Raga, Tala.” Accelerated Motion: Towards a New Dance Literacy. Bodies and Society. 1948. https://www.oberlinlibstaff.com/acceleratedmotion/primary_sources/texts/bharatanatyam/bhava_raga.pdf. Accessed 6 May 2019.

Banerjee, Suparna. “Adaptation of Bharatanatyam Dance Pedagogy for Multicultural Classrooms: Questions and Relevance in a North American University Setting.” Research in Dance Education, vol.14, issue 1, 2013, published online 24 Aug 2012, pp. 20-38, https://doi.org/10.1080/14647893.2012.712102. Accessed 16 May 2019.

Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal 40(4), Dec. 1988, pp. 519-531.

Chakravorty, Pallabi. Bells of Change. Kathak Dance, Women and Modernity in India. Seagull Books, 2008.

Dattani, Mahesh. Dance Like a Man: A Stage Play in Two Acts. Penguin India, 2006.

Goldberg, Herb. “The Gender Trap: How Far We Have, and Haven't, Come in Transcending Traditional Gender Programming.” Context Institute: Catalyzing a Graceful Transition to a Sustainable Planetary Future. Summer 1985, https://www.context.org/iclib/ic10/goldberg/. Accessed 14 Feb. 2019.

Govind, Priyadarsini. Interview by KutcheriBuzz. “I Knew Where I Wanted to Go . . . ,” http://www.kutcheribuzz.com/kb-special/kb-interviews/1110-priyadarsini-govind

Jain, Jasbir. Writers of Indian Diaspora: Theory and Practice. Rawat Publications, 2011.

“Kamala Lakshmi Narayanan: Bharatanatyam Indian Dancer.” NEA National Heritage Fellowships, National Endowment for the Arts, https://www.arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/kamala-lakshmi-narayanan. Accessed 26 April 2019.

Katrak, Ketu H. “’Cultural Translation’ of Bharata Natyam into ‘Contemporary Indian Dance.’ Second‐Generation South Asian Americans and Cultural Politics in Diasporic Locations.” South Asian Popular Culture, vol. 2, issue 2, 2004, published online 7 Aug 2006, pp.79-102, https://doi.org/10.1080/1474668042000275699. Accessed 20 April 2019.

Kumar, Anita. “Bharatanatyam and Identity Making in the South Asian Diaspora: Culture through the Lens of Occupation.” Journal of Occupational Science, vol. 18, no. 1, published online 31 Mar 2011, pp. 36-47. https://doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2011.554152. Accessed 20 April 2019.

Lakshman, Kamala. Interview by Lalitha Venkat. “Kamala Lakshman, Bharatanatyam Dancer & Guru.” Narthaki: Your Gateway to the World of Indian Dance, Founder and Managing Editor, Anita Ratnam, Aug 2000, https://narthaki.com/info/intervw/intrvw4.html. Accessed 12 March 2019.

Minai, Cassidy. “Meeting and Interviewing Kamala! And a Rare Video Find at the NYPL!” Cinema Nritya, http://cinemanrityagharana.blogspot.com/2014/05/meeting-and-interviewing-kamala-and.html. Accessed 14 March 2019.

Mitra, Royona. 2006. “Living a Body Myth, Performing a Body Reality: Reclaiming the Corporeality and Sexuality of the Indian Female Dancer.” Feminist Review, 84:1, Oct. 2006, pp. 67-83, https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.fr.9400301. Accessed 6 March 2019.

Nair, Malini. “The Problem of Groping Gurus and Silent Shishyas.” Sunday Times of India, New Delhi, 20 Sep. 2020.

Narayan, R.K. The Guide. Penguin Books, 1958.

Narayan, Shovana. The Sterling Book of Indian Classical Dances. New Dawn Press, 2005.

O’Shea, Janet. “Tradition and the Individual Dancer.” Accelerated Motion: Bodies and Society. pp. 26-69. https://www.oberlinlibstaff.com/acceleratedmotion/primary_sources/texts/bharatanatyam/tradition_individual.pdf. Accessed 16 April 2019.

Pandeya, Tara Catherine. “Dances of the Central Asian Silk Road” https://taradances.weebly.com/

Pandeya, Tara Catherine. “Tara Catherine Pandeya: Dance.” https://www.facebook.com/TaraCatherinePandeya/

Peth, Simon. “What is Translocality? A Refined Understanding of Place and Space in a Globalized World.” Connecting the Spots: Notes on Migration and Environment from a Geographical Perspective, 2018, http://www.transre.org/index.php/blog/what-translocality-refined-understanding-place-and-space-globalized-world. Accessed 12 March 2019.

Puri, Rajika. “Bharatanatyam Performed: A Typical Recital.” Visual Anthropology, 17:1, 2004, pp. 45-68, DOI: 10.1080/08949460490274022. Accessed 30 April 2019.

Ramberg, Lucinda. Given to the Goddess: South Indian Devadasis and the Sexuality of Religion. Duke UP, 2014.

Rathore, Reena. “Indian American Dancer Building Cultural Bridges Through Dance.” India West: Best Indian Newspaper in Print and Online. 13 October 2017. https://www.indiawest.com/entertainment/global/indian-american-dancer-building-cultural-bridges-through-dance/article_b9826028-af93-11e7-af97-ef3893c6445f.html. Accessed 16 Feb. 2019.

Ratnam, Anita. Interview by Lalitha Venkat. “Anita Ratnam: I am not an Export Artiste,” Narthaki: Your Gateway to the World of Indian Dance, Founder and Managing Editor, Anita Ratnam, 3 December 2008, http://www.narthaki.com/info/intervw/intrv109f.html8. Accessed 24 March 2019.

Sabhash. “Priyadarsini Govind: Bharatanatyam Dancer, Tamil Nadu, India.” http://www.sabhash.com/artist/57/priyadarsini-govind.htm#:~:text=Priyadarsini%20Govind%20is%20one%20of,Pillai%20and%20Padma%20Bhushan%20Smt.&text=In%20her%20career%2C%20spanning%20two,over%20India%20and%20the%20globe. Accessed 10 September 2020.

Srinivasan, Priya. Sweating Saris: Indian Dance as Transnational Labor. Temple UP, 2012.

“United States Immigration Policy in the Early 20th Century.” The Workmen’s Circle, J Source, http://circle.org/jsource/united-states-immigration-policy-in-the-early-20th-century/. Accessed 20 March 2019.

Whitehead, Judith. “Community Honor/Sexual Boundaries: A Discursive Analysis of Devadasi Criminalization in Madras, India, 1920-1947.” Accelerated Motion: Bodies and Society, pp. 91-106, https://www.oberlinlibstaff.com/acceleratedmotion/dancehistory/bharatanatyam/section5.php, Accessed 23 March 2019.


Published : 2020-12-31


KangM. (2020). Bharatanatyam as a Transnational and Translocal Connection: A Study of Selected Indian and American Texts. Review of International American Studies, 13(2), 61-86. https://doi.org/10.31261/rias.9884

Manpreet Kaur Kang  manpreetkang.ipu@gmail.com
Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University  India
https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6375-1117

Professor Manpreet Kaur Kang holds a PhD in English from Panjab University. She has been teaching at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University since 2005. She has four books and fourteen research papers to her credit; she also serves as the editor of MEJO: The Melow Journal of World Literature. She has presented papers at national and international conferences and is mentoring PhD and MPhil candidates. She is the current President of IASA (International American Studies Association) and the Secretary of MELOW (Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the World Association).






Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Copyright Holder of the submitted text is the Author. The Reader is granted the rights to use the material available in the RIAS websites and pdf documents under the provisions of the Creative CommonsAttribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0). Any commercial use requires separate written agreement with the Author and a proper credit line indicating the source of the original publication in RIAS.