Monthly Archives: February 2013

DANCE MATTERS II: open call for papers

The School of Media, Communication and Culture at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India is inviting papers for a two-day symposium titled Dance Matters II: Frontiers of Performance Research.  The symposium will take place on July 19 and 20, 2013,  at Jadavpur University.   Selected papers from the symposium will be published in a book.  Jadavpur University will provide local hospitality for the speakers at the university guesthouse.  The event is sponsored by UGC University with Potential for Excellence Programme: Studies in Cultural Processes.

Cultures are dynamic. So the question arises: What should be preserved?  How do we know what is worth preserving? This conference will interrogate these fundamental issues with a focus on dance. India, now synonymous with change, was not long ago identified with age-old traditions and socio-economic stagnation. In this fervor for newness and change the culture of dance and performance is experiencing a vibrant revitalization. There is greater awareness of and exposure to dance through new media and the circulation of new and traditional dances from live performances to Bollywood, music videos, youtube and staged performances, as well as through the interconnected networks of artists, presenters, and consumers. These conditions have increased the visibility of Indian dance in global culture. As established categories of high, low, classical, folk, contemporary, and commercial dissolve under the democratizing forces of markets and modernity, questions surrounding cultural preservation, heritage, innovation, and authenticity surface as urgent issues of the twenty first century.  Art, culture, and history (despite contestations) connect communities to their past and help them to forge collective identities. But the rapid pace of culture change has negatively impacted some of the more enduring aspects of India’s performance traditions. Moreover, the Indian state’s lethargic attitude to cultural institutions and cultural policy continues to maintain the same bureaucratic power structures. As old buildings are demolished for new shopping malls, Bollywood item numbers crowd out every aspect of media and culture, and dance/art instrumentally connect to some politically correct social agenda, there is need to rethink and re-frame the place of dance and culture in the new Indian modernity. How can we re-imagine and renegotiate the old categories of performance research and infuse them with critique and analytical insight.

Dance and performance research have grown as an important interdisciplinary field of academic study in the past few decades.  Interestingly, questions on modernity and subjectivities in the humanities and social sciences in recent years have shifted from the predominance of text and textual theories to questions of the body, senses, emotion/affect, and visual culture. Dance scholarship has much to research in these arenas.  The recent scholarship on Indian dance has looked at dance in the context of postcolonial modernity, invention of tradition, national identity, critical history, subaltern historiography, diasporic identity, and gender and politics. Our previous conference titled “Dance Matters” and the anthology by the same name explored some of these key issues surrounding Indian dance and culture with an agenda of democratizing the inherent hierarchy and elitism associated with Indian dance both in theory and practice. This conference will build on the previous attempt at expanding the notion of performance research and deepen its scope by placing Indian dance at the frontlines of intellectual debates on culture, identity, and sociopolitical change as India plunges deeper into the messiness of markets and modernity.  Some of the areas that may be explored are:

  • The role of cultural heritage and preservation within the discourses of innovation and globalization.
  • Dance as art to dance as everyday cultural practice through ethnographic research and questions on subjectivity.
  • The vernacularization of the classical and the reshaping of the performance landscape by market forces and visual culture. What are the new contemporary hybrid performances?  Do they fit in the category of dance? who are the new performers/choreographers and the new audiences
  • The role of new authorities, institutions, and gatekeepers in India and the diaspora.
  • Integration of performance and culture with developmental agendas through community participation.
  • Impact of India’s economic growth and rapid urbanization on the folk dance traditions in villages.
  • Traditional aesthetics reshaped through new sensory experiences in various urban and rural landscapes.
  • Pedagogical shifts and the role of tradition and innovation in the expressions of embodiment, gender, and self identity.
  • New dance narratives impacting on past gender codes and questions of sexuality.  The renewed meaning of femininity and masculinity in contemporary dance culture.
  • Dance as a social medium of communication, spectacle (the recent trend of hundreds of dancers performing together), civic engagement, and political procession.

Please send a brief abstract (350 words) including a title, name, address, email, phone number and institutional affiliation by March 30, 2013. Submit abstracts and direct queries to:

Dr. Nilanjana Gupta, Coordinator,
School of Media Communication and Culture
Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India 700032

Dr. Pallabi Chakravorty
Department of Music and Dance
Swarthmore College, Pa 19096, U.S.A

Susan Foster! Susan Foster!

Dr. Susan Foster is a Swarthmore alum, class of ’71, and the funding for this performance/lecture series was provided by The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Dr. Linda Caruso Haviland (Bryn Mawr College Dance Program) was commissioned by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to write this series of commentary on each event and the discussions they engendered within in the context of Dr. Foster’s body of work. Images and discussions can be found at this link.