Naachnewali: The Dancing Girl

Naachnewali: The Dancing Girl


Nikita Maheshwary (AHK)

The research trajectory aims to develop a series of performances & lectures and build an online repository on the shifting identity of the dancing girl in the past 150 years.

with DAS Research (THIRD)

Keywords: female performers, marginalized, tawaifs, courtesans, identity, agency, geishas, feminism, intersectionality, performance history

Starting from a biographical approach and drawing upon my own experiences of growing up in a postcolonial country – influenced by sociopolitical crisis, inequality in cultural participation, the role of the arts and the position of women within the arts in India & the Subcontinent – the research will retrace its way into the past 150 years to examine how varied political, cultural and social episodes shifted the perception and the agency of the body of a female performer. By re-mapping on a reverse timeline how incidents such as – the advent of extreme right-wing governments, #metoo phenomenon, populist culture, commodification of arts, notions of nationalism, institutionalization of dance, the four waves of feminism, independence of colonies, introduction of the contraceptive pill, the emergence of female voting rights – have informed the position and perception of the female body; I am keen on investigating how these factors translate(d) our collective viewership of the female performing body and formulate(d) her identity and agency. De-exoticizing traditional eastern discourses & narratives and deconstructing variegated expressions of broad prejudices; the research also concerns itself with the reconstruction of the viewership of the non-western female performing body away from the colonial imagination of ‘the nautch girl’ as documented through essentialist images of an east that were both evil & servile. It also wishes to bring to the foreground, the highly selective ways of the creation of oriental archetypes through which the ’otherness’ of eastern narratives could be readily identified and adjudged to systemic exclusion from the high art performance discourse.

read more

Eti Steinberg