Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Maya Krishna Rao’s Walk Around the World: The Embodied Politics of Inspiration

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Rudraksha, Lower Ground Floor

Maya Krishna Rao (1953-) is a Delhi-based artist trained in the classical dance-drama form, kathakali, and deeply committed to theatre’s potential for social transformation. For decades she has been creating contemporary works that cross dance-theatre, cabaret, street theatre, and skit comedy. She is widely known for her solo performances, some performed in conventional theatrical spaces to ticket-paying audiences moved to laughter, while others constitute potent interventions into public spaces under volatile social conditions. In 2012 she created Walk, a performance made to be staged anywhere and composed in response to the Delhi bus gang rape and assault, an event that reverberated around the world. Since then she has performed the piece in various cities in India as well as in the UK, United States, and South Africa. In this paper, I will examine some national and international responses to this work. My focus on Walk’s reception seeks to understand Maya’s strategies for translating local specificities of patriarchy and violence into a transnational platform for the defense of public space, a progressive politics of identity, and a direct critique of the state’s failure to protect citizens. My interest in audiences also aims to consider how Maya’s role as inspiration and mentor for artists in India and abroad constitutes an embodied feminist strategy for “doing politics” with art in ways that entail a radical reformulation of “classical” Indian performance heritage and resistance to class-based associations of the “contemporary” as an elite, aesthetics-driven practice.  

Shanti Pillai

California State University, United States

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1 - Maya Krishna Rao’s Walk Around the World: The Embodied Politics of Inspiration



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