THIS book, tracing the history and contemporary practice of performing arts, strings together a number of essays which discuss aspects of the actress and women-dancer stories in Indian theatre and dance during the colonial and post-colonial periods. The central question it raises is: despite her ambivalent position, what roles did the actress-dancer-performer play in shaping the colonial and subsequently the nation’s culture?
In trying to answer this question, the author Bishnupriya Dutt, daughter of legendary theatre personality Utpal Dutt and Associate Professor in Theatre Studies at JNU along with Urmimala Munsi, a Visiting Faculty at JNU tries to analyse the problematic area of performing arts and the actress’s and woman dancer’s performance styles, vocabulary and language to reveal a commonality as well as the differences with European colonial paradigms and its legacies. They also try to reconstruct the actual performative language to explore the meanings of the performative gestures and the aesthetic historical codes and vocabularies which remain hidden and ignored, while using the rupture between the dancer and the actress within the colonial context as its starting point.
The book, divided into two sections, talks about the actress in the first while in the second, discusses the woman dancer. Linked as they are by the common trajectory of having been a part of the same history, society and culture, they emerge as performers who evolved in different ways as they encountered some common and many unique situations.
In the first section, the first chapter looks on English actresses in India who are regarded as pioneers of the Indian theatrical culture and the entertainment space against which they were presented. In the colonial era, the actresses played their roles as femme fatales whose history is one of a socio-cultural lifestyle imbibed in the club culture, balls, outdoor and indoor entertainment and the theatre. The second chapter looks at the first generation of Indian actresses and their role in shaping the new public sphere within the historical framework of the actress-prostitute debate centres on issues like morality, respectability and the nation.
This is a book for academicians engaged in performing arts and for dancers and women performers in theatre especially.
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