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Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique,
Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud, (CEIAS- EHESS/CNRS) Paris.
The European portrayal of the Indian temple and court dancers in the travellers' accounts, in the litteratures and on the stages
Ve čtvrtek 3. 11. 2016 ve 14.10 hod., m. č. 337, Celetná ul. 20
The Indian temple and court dancers, commonly known by the generic Sanskrit terms devadāsīs and rājadāsīs, made their official entry into the Western literary world at the end of the thirteenth century. This happened when Rustichello da Pisa, Marco Polo’s novelist cell-mate, noted down his Venetian friend’s memoires and also added some personal remarks and fictitious elements. Since then, the majority of European travellers who visited India wrote quite extensively about its dancing girls and courtesans. In their own countries, the travellers’ tales inspired quite a number of writers and artists to compose literary and musical works about them – such as poems, songs, novels, plays, ballets and operas. My lecture analyses some of those ballets staged in Europe, whose plots related to India, its palaces and kings, its temples and priests, and especially its dancing girls, better known as bayadères (terms of Portuguese origin). I will also show how those ballets were composed by taking inspiration from the European travellers’ accounts in India and the knowledge of Orientalist scholarship as well. I will focus here particularly on the 19th and 20th century choreographic productions, which were the offspring of the interaction between Indian and European artists and scholars. Those ballets featured the best choreographers, dancers, painters and librettists of the time, and contributed a great deal in the dissemination amongst contemporary European audiences, of the artistic and literary knowledge about India, its culture and related socio-religious customs, widely portrayed in those plays. A special attention will be given to the study of the ballet ‘La Bayadère’ (Russian : Bayaderka), firstly represented in St. Petersbourg in 1877 which, in its revised versions, is still performed today by the major ballet companies in the world.