On Dec. 3, Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, presented a talk about his new book, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.
Celluloid Classicism, published by Wesleyan University Press in August 2019, provides a detailed history of two important modern South Indian cultural forms: Tamil cinema and Bharatanatyam dance. Speaking at the event, he observed that Wesleyan is “a primary site of the reinvention of the dance in the 20th century” with noted Bharatanatyam dancer T. Balasaraswati serving as the first artist in residence at Wesleyan University in the 1960s. Additionally, her brothers, T. Viswanathan and T. Ranganathan, taught in the Music Department for several decades. “So this art form is very much embedded into pedagogy into the DNA at Wesleyan,” he said, noting the responsibility he felt in continuing this tradition at Wesleyan, adding “I’m not interested in relegating Bharatanatyam as some kind of museum historical dance style. I’m interested in giving the form a kind of postmodern currency and how the form can live and breathe, mutate, transform in a variety of ways.”
Reading from the introduction, he explained, “Much of this project is concerned with intersections—historical, aesthetic, political and social—between new cultural forms as they were circulated the early 20th century in South India.” Krishnan is an expert on queer subjectivities in South Asian and global dance performance, colonialism, post-colonialism and Indian dance, and the history of devadasi (courtesan) dance traditions in South India. He’s also the artistic director of Toronto-based dance company inDANCE. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)