Aisshikha Chakarborty, dancer and dance scholar, brings together a comprehensive s3elections of the dance writings of Ranjabati Sircar (1963-99) – essays, seminar papers , interviews reviews, production notes - illustrating a highly critical and percipient mind discovering and articulating fresh possibilities in the new Indian Dance; and critiquing a wide range of international performances from an original pint of view ; With Photograph s by Avinash pasricha ,Dayamita Singh and Ray Clark , Showing the extremely talented dancer-choreographer in performance. Chakarborty‘s long introduction offers a penetrating study of Rajnabati, Who committed Suicide at the Age of 36, Right in the midst of an intense phase of Choreographic activity.
That is how a reviewer described Rajnabati Sircar (1963-1999). One of the most gifted contemporary dancers of India, Rajnabati Passed away at the age of 36 in October 1999. With a care Spanning less than twenty years , she established herself as a versatile performer. To the hundreds Who saw her dance and to the thousands who knew hr only by name , Ranjabati was charisma incarnate . She impersonated the flow and fury of Ganga . she embodied the Ardhanarishwara . She was the untouchable Prakriti who braved her caste and religion to reach out for a new life. she was the irresistibly sensuous surupa and the deeply intense Cassandra . She leaped through the air and rolled on the ground . She explored the darkest moods of the psyche and immediately after burst into ecstatic joy. Critics found her one in a rare breed of modern dancer s, the most ‘startling, death –haunted, attenuated grace , like a magically metamorphosed Giselle in an Oriental court.
A many - splendoured persona, Ranjabati was , indeed, more than that . her explorations of a new language of dance sought to prioritize cerebrality over the corporeal. Articulating the dynamics of a thinking body and a moving mind , her dance interrogated the brain - body dualism . Her choreography drew on a variety of tactile and verbal stimuli , navigating through a wide emotional plain. But , very few people know that apart from her pre-eminence in the kinesphere, Ranjabati was also a creative writer . She Wrote Prolifically in newspaper, Journals and books as a poet , novelist and critic. This Collection seeks to bring together some published and many unpublished writings of Ranjabati , whose Psycho-emotional world was filled with myriad passions . The Idea I to uncover the many moods of a fascinating individual by leafing through what she wrote and what was written about her the intellectual recreations of Rnajabati were , indeed, reflective of her self-perceptions of cultural identity , the multiple identities that interested racial , gender and class realities . the idiosyncratic flair of her life was evocative of the Journey of an individual who had many ‘places of origin’, many homes ‘and homes-in-between.’
Can the female body furnish a discursive site for a radical cultural politics ? Is it possible to use dance , a celebratory art of the female body , to contest the dominant constructions of femininity ? Can a female dancer speak her mind through a non-verbal medium to resist patriarchal traditions ? Rajnabati’s work may provide an answer to these question s. Taking the dancer ‘s body as an object of discourse, her dance spells out a new body politics stressing its social , historical and ideological constructions . she challenged culturally constituted bodily identities , which were real as well as socially inscribed and discursively produced. While representations of the female body in classical dance followed an archetype , sculpted by the male gaze , Ranjabati construed the body through multiple constructions and deconstructions .Transgressing the ‘classical body’, she believed that any body politics must speak about the body , stressing its materiality , its lived experiences , by disrupting and subverting existing regimes of representation.
Ranjabati ‘s run as an experimental dancer commenced at a seminal phase of the modern dance movement in India . Though the Movements of Modernism in India Dance is ass Old as the cultural revivalism of the 1930s, the ‘contemporary’ dance of our day is a more recent phenomenon . the Journey that began at the crossroads of Renaissance and revivalism gained momentum and a wider social acceptability during the 1980s -90s. period was marked by an iconoclastic defiance against the classical tradition. In India , as in the West , Most of the iconoclasts who broke new ground were women . Key dancers like Mrinalini Sarabhai (born in 1918 ), Chandralekha (1928-2006), Kumudini Lakhhia (born in 1930), Dr Manjusri Chaki-Sircar (1934-2000) Maya Krishna Rao (born in 1935), and the next generations represented by Mallika Sarabhai, Daksha Sheth and Ranjabati herself dominated the contemporary dance repertoire, each with her distinct style of choreography . they visibly overturned the classical style and ideologies questioning the patriarchal cultural politics behind their spread and popularity . Their dance concerned social issues , gender and sexual politics , through a dynamic representations of the female body.
It was her mother dancer - choreographer Manjusri Chaki-Sircar, one of the pioneers of the new dance movement in India , who raised fundamental questions about dance tradition and gender. Since the early 1950s her dance was situated within a discourse of ‘difference’. Manjusri Marked a deviance ‘ From the gendered frame of the Indian classical dance tradition that encoded and defined women’s bodies as subordinate and passive. Continuing the legacy of the new kinaesthetic semiotics, Ranjaabtai further explored the complex linkages between race , nationality , class and sexuality . their shared inventory , returning the female ‘body’ to the ‘self’ of the woman’s language . The language ranged fro pure narrative to non-liner and non-literal, was christened as Navanritya .
Navanritya , literally meaning the new dance , can be regarded as the foremost feminist intervention in the dance map of India . It was born in Bengal , which can hardly boast of [processing any classical dance tradition, but takes pride in initiating the first modern dance movement in India. navanritya grew out of , yet differed fundamentally from , its proximate dance movements. following the eclectic dance technique of Rabindranath Tagore , stepping beyond the imaginative experiments of Uday Shankar (1900-1977) and moving further away from IPTA’s (Indian People’s Theatre Association’s) explorations of subaltern culture , Navanritya signalled a paradigm shift In India ‘s Contemporary dance movement.
Ranjanbatis’s repertoire , bearings new sign of post- colonial and hybrid identity , signalled another paradigm shift within the syntax of Navanritya . her dance reflected the cultural straddling of a diasporic dancer was born in Africa, brought u in America , carried her creative encounters into India. Integrating the imprints of transnationalism and transculturalism. she succeeded in evolving distinct a south Asian contemporary dance language , against the Eurocentric notations of modern dance . With Ranjabati, Navanritya mapped the migration of body movements across class, race and national boundaries , exploring new economics of representations.
Negotiating constantly with Cultural borders , social identities and heir embodied realities , Ranjabati worked in a luminal or in –between ‘third space’ and rose above essentialist cultural specify . Indeed , she traversed varied and vast distance geographically and intellectually. The advantage of in-betweenness endowed her with a cultural intelligence to articulate , interrogate and negotiate affinity and difference her new dance tracked is roots in a volatile state Where boundaries are broken , languages of origin are left behind and instead , individual experiences are pushed forward to create new boundaries?
Death Cut short life and career. Her enigma remain s. She passed away at the peak of her career. It was a hasty exit , as if, from centre stage , keeping the audience waiting for her last curtain call. Within a very short period , she had accomplished a lot . Yet, a lot more remained to be achieved . As an individual , Ranjabati lived a charmed life a filled with dreams and desires . Torn between contradictory pulls of emotions , and besieged by irresoluble conflicts , her life symbolized a paradox. A paradox, Which she herself failed to resolve, and which was in the end Frozen in Death.
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