06 August, 2021

Beatification Of The Erotic

This magisterial biography of a great artiste is unsparing on the forces and injustices that shaped Bharatanatyam

Beatification Of The Erotic

Sometimes, all it takes is one spirited intervention to change a context. One event, one book, one photograph, one performance can become the tipping point for a paradigm shift. Personally, I consider 1985 as a turning point, when choreographer Chandralekha’s Angika was first performed at NCPA, Mumbai. Indian contemporary dance has never been the same again.

Douglas Knight’s magisterial biography of his late mother-in-law Balasaraswati, one of India’s most accomplished artistes, is destined to contribute that same energy to future debates and studies on Bharatanatyam. After a long time, here is a book on classical Indian dance that throws to the winds the historic hypocrisy associated with Indian dance writing. Having little stakes in the local dance context, yet having deep access to Balasaraswati’s inner circle and to the family archives, Knight has been almost unselfconsciously candid. He has succeeded in communicating the anxiety, anguish and anger experienced by this family of...

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