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Bharatanatyam is one of the world's fastest-growing dance forms. It engenders complex, transnational social histories, varied aesthetic practices, and is one of the most dynamic living cultural practices of modern South Asia. In Bharatanatyam: A Reader, Davesh Soneji brings together some of the most important writings related to Bharatanatyam in English, highlighting the heterogeneous, sometime contradictory, voices in Bharatanatyam as it has evolved over the last two centuries. The primary sources range from writings by colonial anthropologists, legendary dancers such as T. Balasaraswati, to those by contemporary artists such as Chandralekha. The sharp and theoretically insightful secondary sources draw from the fields of history, dance studies, anthropology, women's studies, religious studies, and ethnomusicology. The volume includes the earliest essay published on the subject in 1806 while also giving space to the voices of some contemporary dance-scholars, providing a window on the historical provenance, aesthetic and political debates, and personal journeys that have shaped this vital and ever-shifting art. The compilation of essays on the subject foregrounding historical and aesthetic issues comes with a comprehensive Introduction by Davesh Soneji providing a broad contextual mapping of the sources.
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Davesh Soneji is Assistant Professor, South Indian Religions, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
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