Bharatanatyam, a classical dance style reconstructed in the 1930s in conjunction with the development of the nationalist movement in India, is known in its current iteration for its complex rhythmic structures and embodiment of gestured storytelling.1 Dancers spend most of their stage time inhabiting the movements of Hindu gods and their devotees and attending to the emotional subtleties of devotional relationships, as well as divine powers of intervention. At any given moment, for instance, the focus may be on foster mother Yashoda's affection for the mischievous flute-playing god Krishna as a child, or his later, turbulent love-relationship with the cowherdess Radha. The next piece may reenact the ascetic-erotic god Shiva's powerful cosmic tandava dance of creation and destruction, or Vishnu taking the form of any of his human or animal avatars to restore dharma, or righteousness, to the world—each of which demonstrates godly investment in cycles of worldly...
Agathi: The Plight of the Refugee
KATHERINE C. ZUBKO, PhD, is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina Asheville. She learned Bharatanatyam with the Narasimhacharis and has published a book on religious pluralism, Dancing Bodies of Devotion: Fluid Gestures in Bharatanatyam (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2014).
Katherine C. Zubko; Agathi: The Plight of the Refugee. Ecumenica 15 June 2019; 12 (1): 56–62. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/ecumenica.12.1.0056
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