Prof. Anurima Banerji, UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance
Dance as a devotional practice was introduced in Orissa in the 10th century CE, performed to honour Hindu deities. This temple style became colloquially known as mahari naach (or, the dance of the maharis, female ritual specialists) and is conventionally considered the authentic progenitor of present-day Odissi (one of the eight dance forms currently endowed with “classical” status in India). This talk considers how the institution of mahari naach created a space for the performance of extraordinary gender – those identities and acts that lay outside everyday norms – and was alternatively supported or subjugated by the state, depending on the regime in power. The presentation traces the metamorphosis of mahari naach from its enshrinment as exalted practice in the 12th century under the auspices of the regional royal regime, to its stigmatized status as degenerate dance in the 19th century under British imperialism, finally gesturing towards its current condition as analeptic relic. Focusing on how mahari naach continually negotiated the choreographic power of the state, the talk reflects on how the form served as both the sign and site of contest around ideologies of gender, cultural identity, and governmentality, while subtly subverting prevailing norms through its mobilization of specific aesthetic and political values, as evinced in its dance structures and repertoires.
Bio: Anurima Banerji is assistant professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/ Dance. Her articles, essays, and reviews have been published in About Performance, Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Women and Performance, Manushi, and the dance anthology Planes of Composition: Dance, Theory, and the Global, edited by Andre Lepecki and Jenn Joy. She is currently working on a book-length critical study of Odissi dance.
Cost: Free and Open to the Public
Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia
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