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Dancing WomenChoreographing Corporeal Histories of Hindi Cinema$
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Usha Iyer

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190938734

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190938734.001.0001

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From the Cabaret Number to the Melodrama of Dance Reform

From the Cabaret Number to the Melodrama of Dance Reform

Folded Corporeal Histories of the Dancer-Actress in the 1950s and 1960s

(p.139) 4 From the Cabaret Number to the Melodrama of Dance Reform
Dancing Women

Usha Iyer

Oxford University Press

Chapter 4 focuses on two Bharatanatyam-trained stars in the 1950s and 1960s, Vyjayanthimala and Waheeda Rehman, analyzing changes in film dance alongside the canonization of specific classical and folk dance forms by the Sangeet Natak Akademi. By studying how dance training influences acting repertoires, this chapter calls attention to movement, gesture, and bodily comportment to enhance our understanding of virtuosity and technique, proposing a movement-based analysis of film acting grounded in kinesthetic performance and spectatorship. Rehman and Vyjayanthimala’s most ambitious production numbers speak to their own performative desires as trained dancers. Films featuring these A-list actresses as dancing protagonists evince a generic tendency, described here as the “melodrama of dance reform,” which combines the dance spectacular with the “social problem” film, producing in the process cinematic figurations riven with anxieties and aspirations around female sexuality, bodily movement, and economic independence.

Keywords:   Vyjayanthimala, Waheeda Rehman, Sangeet Natak Akademi, melodrama of dance reform, Bharatanatyam, nattuvanar, film acting, Natya Shastra, Abhinaya Darpana, Helen

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