Exploring queer spaces in and through the Indian classical dance Bharatanatyam

  • Sara Azzarelli


In the Indian classical dance Bharatanatyam, dancers use their body as a means to tell stories. In particular, Abhinaya, the narrative narrative technique featured in this choreutic form, provides performers with codified series of bodily attitudes, hand gestures and facial expressions through which they become any character of their epic and mythological narrations, flowing between age, class and gender differences. From a mainstream perspective, this play of impersonations is largely considered - among dancers and observers - as a mere matter of acting. However, by exploring the peculiar artistic and activist activities of a number LGBTIQ Indian dancers encountered by Sara during her ethnographic research in Tamil Nadu, as well as by reflecting on our own work – which has been partly shared with the Cirque Conference’s Audience who have attended our performance – we aim to recount the marginal perspective of a minority of dancers who find, in – and through -this dance form, multiple spaces of agency, inclusive zones of unstable, changing identities and desires, queer spaces.