Exceptional Embodiments: Gotipuas and Gender Performance in Odissi Dance
The Center for India and South Asia invites Professor Anurima Banerji from the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures to present as part of the Spring seminar series.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
This talk explores ideations of the body proposed by Odissi, an Indian classical dance, through gotipua performance. In the distinctive gotipua tradition – unique to the Orissa region – young boys are trained to perform as female dancers on stage, taking on a temporary transgender identity. Showing how Odissi establishes a representative economy for what the author calls “extraordinary genders” - or non-normative acts and identities – the presentation locates the ways in which the dance codifies exceptional practices through its history of transgender performance and its sacralization of the feminine through Bhakti praxis, allowing representations of what is otherwise proscribed or marginalized in the dominant public sphere. The author argues the dancing gotipua body inhabits a tentative, precarious space, poised on the edge of normativity and deviance — a deviance transfigured as divine, which provides the conservative alibi for its radical expressivity. Through its oppositional choreographies of gender and sexuality, Odissi illustrates the gap between modes of aesthetic performance and everyday public life, creating a space of alterity in which regional practices of masculinity/femininity challenge both the Western sign of the “queer” and modern gender narratives normalized by the Indian state.
About the Speaker:
Anurima Banerji is Assistant Professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA, where she teaches dance and performance studies. Her essays and reviews have been published in EPW, Women and Performance, e-misferica, Manushi, and the essay collection Planes of Composition: Dance, Theory, and the Global, edited by Andre Lepecki and Jenn Joy (Kolkata: Seagull, 2009). She is also an Odissi dancer, trained in the Jayantika style. Currently, she is working on a book manuscript on the myriad histories of Odissi dance, tracing its transformation from ancient ritual to national spectacle, its contestations around gender, and its relationship to state power.
Photo credit: Gotipuas (boy-dancers) from Dasabhuja Gotipua Odissi Nrutya Parisad, the cultural center started by legendary guru Maguni Das and based in Raghurajpur, near Puri, Orissa. (Photo courtesy of Maguni Das.)
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