By Juli Hollander

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The critics’ response was to celebrate the show for its exoticism. Some of them assumed, because of the look of the design, that the choreography was ‘Asian’ (presumably Bharatanatyam, India’s best-known dance export). By slotting it into this category, they seemed to be shying away from the frightening energy of the play. They were making Bacchae into a safe piece of exotica rather than face Euripides’ disturbing exploration of racial prejudice. Finally, my experiences in India revealed themselves in the external life of my shows, the way I organised my work.

Competition From the 1930s onwards, the royal family introduced their innovations in the dance form into the Chaitra Parva festival, during which a fourday Chhau competition was staged with the Maharaja acting as chief judge (J. B. Singh Deo 1973). According to Tikayet Nrupendra Narayan Singh Deo, writing in the 1950s, Seraikella was divided into two separate areas, each training and presenting dancers at the competition in the palace courtyard. Dancers from the area north of the palace, Bazar Sahi, were patronised by the royal family and those from the south, Brahmin Sahi, by leading Brahmin families.

78). 24 In a way, there still is. Hearing the melody of a song known since infancy, this local crowd is singing along in their heads, silently supplying the lyrics. It is interesting for those of us who do not possess this knowledge to consider how the removal of the stage singer affects our response to the show. The words are concealed from us, but they are not entirely absent. They are like the hidden faces of the masked dancers soon to enter the stage. We sense that things are being kept from us, and we are tantalised.

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