The Ineffable in Classical Indian Dance

By Donovan Roebert


An ineffable experience is one that is beyond the reach of any words to analyse or describe it. This kind of experience can only be approached by way of symbol, poetry, or metaphor. From the perspective of analytical criticism there is nothing than can accurately be said about it. So far as practical criticism is concerned, however, we can’t avoid the occurrence of the ineffable by the expedient of just ignoring it – unless of course we have never experienced it and feel ourselves capable of clear analytical statements about the whole of our experience of dance. And I don’t think any rasika would imagine so foolish a thing.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Rukmini Devi and the Devadasi Question : An Opinion

By Donovan Roebert


Today, all over the place, online and elsewhere, one comes across overt or oblique attacks on the once esteemed person of Rukmini Devi. Behind these onslaughts there lurk a variety of activist agendas that seek not only to reinterpret and restate the current historical record but also to demand redress for certain ‘historical injustices’. This pattern of academic and ‘social justice’ agitation has by now become an integral part of the postmodern approach to biography and historiography. It wants not only to amend the given narrative but also to destroy the reputations and achievements of individuals who played the major parts. These ventures often stem from a fashionable celebration of a given claim to victimhood and its accompanying clamour for restorative justice.

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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.

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