1st Edition

The Dancing Body Labour, Livelihood and Leisure

Edited By Urmimala Sarkar Munsi, Aishika Chakraborty Copyright 2025
    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book, with its focus on the dancing body, is the first of its kind within the larger context of dance in India. 

     The Dancing Body is a body that exists, survives, inhabits and performs in multiple space and time, by moving, laboring, migrating and straddling across geographic, cultural and emotional borders, writing different cultural meanings at different moments of time. In India, discourses around the body in dance have long been trapped within hagiographic histories in and around dancers and their dance. During the last few decades, however, significant scholarly inroads were made into the domain of dance by shaking up the stereotypes, assertions and labels, shaped and moulded by patriarchy, class, caste and power. This book brings together emerging discourses around dance and the body that have become central in the Indian nation-state. Contemporary discourses around identity politics, moral policing, politics of exclusion, and neo-liberal dispossessions vis a vis sexual labour, means of survival, pleasure and agency of dancers have helped frame the focus around labour, leisure and livelihood concerning the everyday existence of the body in dance.

    This volume will be of great value to students, researchers and scholars in dance, gender studies, cultural studies, and performance studies, with a particular interest in Asian and South Asian Studies. The chapters in this book were originally published in a special issue of South Asian History and Culture.

    The chapters in this book were originally published in a special issue of South Asian History and Culture.


    Urmimala Sarkar Munsi and Aishika Chakraborty


    Introduction: The dancing body: labour, livelihood and leisure

    Urmimala Sarkar Munsi and Aishika Chakraborty


    1. Becoming a body

    Urmimala Sarkar Munsi


    2. Artistic labour in dance and painting: revisiting the theory-practice debate via mimesis (Anukrti) and the abject body

    Parul Dave Mukherji


    3. Folk dance/vulgar dance: erotic lavani and the hereditary performance labour

    Anagha Tambe


    4. Calcutta cabaret: dance of pleasure or perversion?

    Aishika Chakraborty


    5. The erotic power of the dancer: labour of the erotic and the bodies of the sensory in the Arkestra of North India

    Brahma Prakash


    6. The phantom of history: figurations of the dancing body and the ‘Sitara Devi problem’ of Indian cinema

    Madhuja Mukherjee


    7. Disco flamboyance, performative masculinities and dancer heroes of Bengali cinema

    Spandan Bhattacharya


    8. Choreographing the queer: Visual and textual stimuli in Mandeep Raikhy’s dance-making process

    Shambhavee Sharma


    9. The body and the contagion: a symbiosis of yoga, dance, health and spirituality

    Pallabi Chakravorty


    10. The award-wapsi controversy in India and the politics of dance

    Anurima Banerji


    Urmimala Sarkar Munsi is Professor and Dean of the School of Arts and Aesthetics in Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Her research overlaps the intersection between dance, gender and lived experience; practice /theory interface; documenting performance; and the politics of identity and regional performances. Her recent publications are Uday Shankar and his Transcultural Experimentations: Dancing Modernity (2022), Alice Boner Across Arts and Geographies: Shaping the Dance Art of Uday Shankar (2021), Mapping Critical Dance Studies in India (2024), Marg Dance Readings (co- edited with Anita Cherian, 2023).


    Aishika Chakraborty is Professor and Director of the School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. A gender historian, her current research thrives at the interface of class, patriarchy and performance of the labouring bodies in Indian contemporary and popular dance. She is the author of Widows of Colonial Bengal: Gender, Morality and Cultural Representation (2023) Kolkatar Nach: Samakalin Nagarnritya (2019) and Kolkatar Cabaret: Bangali, Younata ebang Miss Shefali (2020). She is currently working on a co-edited volume titled Gendered Bodies, Social Exclusions: Contemporary Issues in Women’s Studies (Routledge).