Agency and Gender: the New Identity of the Female Odissi Dancer in a National and Transnational Perspective

by Shilpa Bertuletti

Duet Dancers

Photo Courtesy: Debiprasad Sahoo


In this period of socio-economic change in the globalized world, the formation of individual cultural identity in India is marked by the contestation between national, global, regional and local socio-political forces, influencing also the world of Indian Classical Dance. Odissi, which is now practised throughout India and in other parts of the world is a classical dance form born in the state of Odisha. The narrative that I want to describe has emerged from my two identities: one, a scholar interested in the relationship between representation, identity and gender, and the other, an Indo-Italian Odissi practitioner interested in the long tradition of this dance and its relationship with the west. It was during my intimate association with the world of classical dance in India that I began to see some of its interesting relationships: using an ethnographic field methods, I saw how Odissi dance is transforming itself due to the changing conditions of patronage, national, regional and local politics and the increasing involvement in dance of middle class and lower middle-class women.


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