On Filming Classical Indian Dance

By Donovan Roebert


If I have claimed in other essays only to be clarifying the obvious on my own behalf, I must make that claim with especial emphasis in this case. The points I will be making should, it seems to me, be self-evident to all camera-persons filming dance and to all dancers being filmed. And yet, when it comes to watching filmed dances, these simple factors seem almost always to be ignored, nor does one readily come across articles that speak about them.

Continue reading “On Filming Classical Indian Dance”


Classical Indian Dance at the Crossroads

By Donovan Roebert


As recently as twenty years ago classical Indian dance was still able to find wide public support and institutional means for artistic sustenance through its status as a national treasure and a major product of the national-independence-cultural syndrome. It subsisted, and grew used to subsisting, on this almost politically-favoured basis until, in the last two decades or so, while public and institutional attitudes have changed and adopted new cultural symbols for progress, the dance ecology has in this same period had to cast about for new avenues of support and artistic nourishment.

Continue reading “Classical Indian Dance at the Crossroads”

A Note on Sringara Rasa

By Donovan Roebert


Most rasikas, when speaking about sringara rasa, will strike out in the direction of the sublimation of the erotic or some such phrase. Then, when you ask them to explain what they mean, you find they hardly know, or do not know at all, because the phrase has become not much more than a convenient escape route from the threatening notion of sringara itself.

Continue reading “A Note on Sringara Rasa”

Rukmini Devi and the Devadasi Question : An Opinion

By Donovan Roebert


(This is my second attempt at writing this essay. In the first I was disposed towards the complete exoneration of Rukmini Devi in her attitude towards the devadasis and the Isaivellalar community to which she owed so much for her own reincarnation of Bharata Natyam. The more information I came across, however, and the more I delved into the matter, the more untenable I began to find my own intended position. What follows, then, though it retains much of what I had previously written, is really only an attempt to answer the question more fairly for myself. I write as someone with a deep admiration for Rukmini Devi’s accomplishments as well as for her complicated – and in many ways inscrutable – character. What follows is an attempt to formulate my own personal understanding of the problem.)

Continue reading “Rukmini Devi and the Devadasi Question : An Opinion”

On the Dancing Feet

By Donovan Roebert


The dancer’s feet are aalta-painted as those of the bride on her journey to her betrothed, the deva. Recalling those of the devadasi, her feet cross the threshold of the temple-stage to dance the preliminary pushpanjali in the presence of her divine bridegroom. The remainder of the recital, progressing from movement to movement, and culminating in the nritta of tillana or moksha, constitutes stages of love-intensity directed formalistically at a formless infinitude, the unknowable and unmeasurable, which the deva-groom represents.

Continue reading “On the Dancing Feet”

The Karma of Classicism in Indian Dance

By Donovan Roebert


In an earlier essay on the Jayantika movement I tried to make a case, based on the reincarnation of karmic traces, for the genuine classicism of Odissi. I argued there that these traces were present in a number of historical givens to which the movement had access for the purpose of re-embodying the dance, and that the classicism of Odissi resided in the fact that these traces were a composite classical ‘meme’ waiting to be reincarnated in a new avtaar.


I want to take this idea a little further here in the hope of clarifying for myself how the argument which I made with reference only to Odissi, may be applied now to the concept of classicism as it relates to the Indian dances generally.

Continue reading “The Karma of Classicism in Indian Dance”