Moved To Dance: Bhakti, Commodity, And A New India

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Visual Anthropology


This article looks at Bollywood dance to explore the production of the commodified bodies of global consumer culture. It focuses on “embodiment” to examine how dominant sensibilities are altered through changes in dance training and technological innovations. I argue that analyzing the dancing body as a locus of experience and expression shifts the ground from culture as text or discourse (popular in postcolonial, poststructuralist or choreographic analysis) to embodiment of subjectivity. “Remix” is the term that describes both the new training techniques and the aesthetics of Indian dances. Since the older boundaries of high and low, classical and popular are fluid under globalization, “remix” is replacing traditional codes and aesthetic experiences associated with rasa. I draw on my fieldwork among the “background dancers” in Bollywood films to argue that as consumer culture creates the dominant mode of cultural expression in India, the only durable form of dance practice seems to be the practice of consumption.

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