A Transcultural Exploration
Vikram Iyengar
DANCE THEATRE OF INDIA: CROSSING NEW AESTHETICS AND CULTURES by Katia Legeret Manochhaya Niyogi Books, Delhi, 2018, 144 pp., 650
March 2019, volume 43, No 3

Reading through Dance Theatre of India: Crossing New Aesthetics and Cultures, there are two questions that arise from the preface itself: 1. Who is the intended audience for this book? And by extension, who then should the reviewer be? 2. What are the basic assumptions and attitudes that seem to underlie the lens of research and the form of writing?

The first sentence of the preface sets the intended frame for the book. It ‘discusses the conditions for creativity in Indian theatres and dance when these are in certain specific contemporary contexts which involve a relationship with people from other countries and alterity.’

The contemporary contexts and other people mentioned in the opening sentence are not clearly identified, while how practising artists may choose to (or not to) deal with them is enumerated quite clearly and intelligently. Immediately, one finds a distance between the opening statement, and the initial questions that are articulated. Where and who are these ‘people from other countries’? Where is the alterity or otherness being experienced? Who is it being experienced by? This hiccup within the first few lines echoes through the book—who is this book written for, who should read it and why, therefore, becomes a confusing terrain to navigate.

This question resurfaces often in a text that can’t seem to decide on the extent or nature of factual, descriptive or analytical detail to offer. In the beginning of the first chapter that addresses the theory of Rasa, the author states: ‘It generates two aesthetic pleasures in spectators; one emanates from the sentiments of love whereas the other comes from the heroic sentiment.’

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