Arts and Culture
India’s classical dances gained their present form mainly during the mid-20th century. Most of them root in dance forms, which were ritually performed by specialized artist communities. Diverse cultural and political developments led to the ban of dancing in temples by 1947. At the same time, the search for authentic Indian art forms stimulated a new interest in traditional dance forms. In this way those dances made their transgression to urban stages. This development became subsumed under the term „revival“ by dancers and dance scholars.
While referring to the “revival”-process a majority of dancers and dance scholars implies that today’s classical dances are a direct continuation of the traditional dance forms of the 19th century and deny major changes which occurred. This paper aims at questioning the term “revival” by a critical re-evaluation of the historic development which led to the revival of Bharatanāṭyam (the classical dance of South-east India) and provides a comparison to the rise of modernism in the visual arts between 1880 and 1947.
There are striking similarities between the development of dance and visual arts during that time: The emergence of individual artists with a high social background, the mutual inspiration between Western and Indian artists and the impact of nationalism which led to new appreciation and appropriation of traditional art forms In conclusion, it is obvious that the “revival” of the classical dance forms (as most “revival-movements”) contains some “modernism” in disguise.