L’apprentissage de la danse en Inde du Sud et ses transformations au XXème siècle: le cas des devadāsī, rājadāsī et naṯṯuvaṉār

Tiziana Leucci


This article analyses the transformation of a South Indian choreographic tradition practiced until the 1930s by a community of professional temple and court artists commonly known as devadāsī, rājadāsī and naṯṯuvaṉār. Such a tradition has been radically changed in the first decades of the last century into a form of choreographic hybridization known today as Bharatanatyam. This transformation mirrors the deep fractures produced in the artistic heritage of South India by the choices made by a few members of the Indian urban elite imbibed by Christian models of morality and nationalistm ideologies. The article demonstrates how the socio-political context and agenda of both Western and Indian reformists, in the colonial and post-colonial periods, re-constructed anew the artistic landscape of South India by forging its presumed origin and history. In order to achieve this change, the reformers “re-casted” the previous dance and music practicians, the audience, and the patrons of those arts. Meanwhile, the entire system of transmission of the artistic savoir-faire and the traditional repertoire of songs and dances were “sanitized” as well. Consequently, the now much claimed millenary antiquity and authenticity of the present Bharatanatyam dance, as it is taught and performed today in India and abroad, is actually the product of the close interactions between Indian and Western artistic patterns, which occurred during the first half of the 20th century.

Full Text:


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/RISS-3170

Firenze University Press
Borgo Albizi, 28 - 50122 Firenze
Tel. (0039) 055 2757700 Fax (0039) 055 2757712
E-mail: journals@fupress.com