Dancing Bodies of Devotion

Dancing Bodies of Devotion : Fluid Gestures in Bharata Natyam

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This ethnography examines how contemporary dancers of Bharata Natyam, a traditionally Hindu storytelling dance form, embody Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Jain narratives. These dancers choreographically adapt various religious identities and ideas in order to emphasize pluralistic cultural and ethical dimensions in their work. Through the dancing body, multiple religious and secular interpretations are able to co-exist.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 270 pages
  • 152.4 x 231.14 x 20.32mm | 498.95g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 11 Halftones, black and white
  • 0739187287
  • 9780739187289

About Katherine C. Zubko

Katherine C. Zubko is assistant professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina Asheville.
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Review quote

Zubko argues for Bhakti rasa (aesthetic flavor of devotion) in the classical Indian dance form bharata natyam, and suggests, through ethnographic examples, that there are multiple ways of embodying and communicating this devotional mood. The author's expertise in dance (as well as religion) is evident, and she points out how a dance associated with Hinduism is, in fact, also used to communicate non-Hindu--but definitively Indian--ideas and emotions. For nonexperts, the glossaries of terms and gestures will be useful and necessary...For connoisseurs of this dance form, dance descriptions provide an opportunity to experience the rasa without seeing (or perhaps by imagining) the performance...[The author] includes vignettes of her research experiences. She moves from one of bharata natyam's most celebrated exponents, Balasaraswati, to the much less-known Tehreema Mitha, categorizing performances as primarily devotional, educational, or cultural. In a final section she discusses what she calls 'performed pluralism,' echoing arguments about India's 'unity in diversity' and 'the one and the many.' Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; professionals. CHOICE Dancing Bodies of Devotion offers a deep investigation of the embodied aesthetics of Bharata Natyam and an extensive exploration of its interpretive qualities, from Hindu devotional aesthetics to inter-religious experiences in differing geographical contexts by different practitioners. -- Pallabi Chakravorty, Swarthmore College Original, thoughtful, and nuanced, Dancing Bodies of Devotion examines religious plurality in contemporary Bharata Natyam. Drawing on a wealth of research, Zubko paints an image of both bhakti and Bharata Natyam as dynamic and inclusive. This important study shows us that bhakti retains its progressive potential in the modern world and opens up the dance to a multiplicity of religious expressions. Detailed yet broad in scope, this text is a welcome addition to the literature in South Asian studies, dance studies, and religious studies. -- Janet O'Shea, University of California Los Angeles
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Table of contents

Part I: Religious Bodies
Chapter 1: Rasa: A Taste of the Divine
Chapter 2: Balasaraswati and Krishna Ni Begane Baro
Chapter 3: Francis Barboza and Christian Themes
Conclusion: Bhakti Rasa: A Re-Personalized Aesthetic of Devotion

Part II: Cultural Bodies
Chapter 4: Rasa and Bhakti as Indian Categories
Chapter 5: Dhananjayans' Sanghamitra
Chapter 6: Kalai Kaviri's Gayatri Mantra
Conclusion: Is there an Indian way of dancing devotion?

Part III: Ethical Bodies
Chapter 7: Natya as Visual Education and the Ethics of Rasa
Chapter 8: Dhananjayans' Stree (Woman)
Chapter 9: Monica Cooley's Subhasitam: Morality Tales of India and Bhagavad Gita Sabdam
Conclusion: An Ethics of Bhakti Rasa: Performance of a Moral Mood

Part IV: Pluralistic Bodies
Chapter 10: Unity and Multiplicity of Rasa
Chapter 11: Malini Srinivasan and Sufi Qawwali
Chapter 12: Tehreema Mitha and Ratt Jaga (The Vigil)
Conclusion: Revisiting "Unity in Diversity"

Illustrated Glossary of Gestures
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