Dancing Across Gender Boundaries Queer Experiences in Bharatanatyam Abhinaya
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- Institutt for musikk 
In the Indian classical dance Bharatanatyam, dancers use their body as a means to tell stories. In particular, Abhinaya, the narrative component of this choreutic form, provides performers with codified series of bodily attitudes and gestures through which they become any character of their narrations, moving between age, class and gender differences. While this play of impersonations is largely considered, among dancers and observes, as a matter of acting, my ethnographic work explores the experiences of a minority of social actors who perceive these performances as meaningful enactment of everyday reality. For these dancers, members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community of Chennai (Tamil Nadu, South India), the impersonation of multiple characters happening in Abhinaya becomes a modality of crossing the cultural boundaries of gender and sexuality, of exploring and expressing identities and behaviours which are socially perceived as “non-normative”. This Masters dissertation attempts to tell the stories of their non-mainstream experiences, approaching Abhinaya as a legitimate space where these dancers can transcend cultural margins of acceptability, as a legitimate space of agency for the performance of the illicit.