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Brushstrokes: Desire In Dance

A woman wearing a blue saree and an orange blouse performing Kathak. She is wearing colourful bangles and jewellery on top of her forhead, ears, and neck. She is wearing kajal, a black bindi, and her hair is tied.

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This series of images captures a few Indian dance forms that have over time told stories of desire.

Kathak, a courtesan’s dance, performed by both men and women has evolved from a form of entertainment for the elite to a dance form that has reached a wide audience, particularly through Bollywood films ranging from Mughal-E-Azam to Dedh Ishqiya. [Photographer: Adarh Upadhyay via WikiCommons]

Kathakali, traditionally performed by male dancers, has grown into a more inclusive art form that allows women to perform on stage. The International Centre for Kathakali in New Delhi has written plays adapted from Greek legends, the Bible and Shakespeare for today’s audiences, and added it to the 101 traditional plays adapted from scenes in the Indian epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. [Photographer: Josesh Lazer via WikiCommons]

Lavani is a folk song and dance form from Maharashtra that combines erotic or ‘naughty’ story-telling techniques with germane subject matters like politics, home and religion. Performed traditionally by women wearing nine-yard sarees, the dance brings to light one form of ‘Indian femininity.’ [Photographer: Indianactors via WikiCommons]

Manipuri, a classical art form, often tells the story of Radha and Krishna. It is not uncommon for female dancers to play male characters, like Krishna, in the performances. [Photographer: Matsukin via WikiCommons]

Mohiniattam, another traditional dance form from Kerala was performed by devadasis in temples, and has evolved from stories of the mythological Mohini, a seductress whom no man could resist. Mohini could be considered a female avatar of Vishnu or a transwoman, and contributes to the idea that queer sexualities had a place in the old, traditional Indian society. [Photographer: Amith Nag via WikiCommons]

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