Anthropologist, dance artist, and choreographer Pallabi Chakravorty studies performance in India. She does fieldwork in Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, and Ahmedabad. Her first book (Bells of Change, 2008) is on Kathak, the classical dance form of North India. Her recent book (This is How We Dance Now, 2017) is on dance reality shows. She has co-edited three books: Performing Ecstasy in 2009, Dance Matters, also in 2009, and most recently, Dance Matters Too in 2018. She has published dozens of journal papers and book chapters, edited a proceedings (Dance in South Asia, 2002), and an ethnographic film (Kathak in the City). Her training in visual anthropology and Kathak allows her research and choreographic projects to be deeply interdisciplinary. Her works bring together the visual and performing arts, history, anthropology, film and media studies, and gender and postcolonial studies.
Pallabi’s research and writing on the transformation of Indian performing arts has forged an original and critical approach to contemporary dance studies that challenges the western epistemological gaze. Her new project on Yoga, performance, and healing combines medical anthropology and physical practices. She hopes to break new ground with this work.
Pallabi founded Courtyard Dancers in 2000 to make dance works that express a postcolonial modernist voice. Her choreographies are based on historical and contemporary events in India, such as partition, the anti nautch movement, globalization, migration, and violence. Courtyard Dancers is a non-profit community-centered arts organization (with branches in Philadelphia and Kolkata) interested in developing dance/movement for cultural literacy and empowerment. It hosts the first and only dance and music festival devoted to the South Asian diaspora in Philadelphia (Facing East, presented in 2015 and 2017). Several videos of her choreographies are on the company website. For an excerpt of her recent work (Find Metiabruz), see here.
Her courses at Swarthmore cover theory, history, and practice. They aim to help students understand the vitality of the performing arts to all societies and their connections to the humanities and social sciences. They are regularly cross-listed with Sociology and Anthropology, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Asian Studies, Film and Media Studies. In addition to academic courses, Pallabi regularly teaches Kathak dance technique and repertory classes in which she works with students to showcase Kathak-based choreographies in student concerts.
Dance and Diaspora
Arts in Action
Dancing Desire in Bollywood
Fieldwork of Music and Dance
Anthropology of Performance