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Dance in South India: The Other Mind

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Item Code: UAR061
Author: Beryl De Zoete
Publisher: B.R. Rhythms, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9788188827831
Pages: 296 (128 B/w Illustrations)
Other Details 9.50 X 6.50 inch
Weight 620 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

In the island of Bali the ecstasy into which the dancer's own movements sweep him is called 'the other mind', and the author has chosen this phrase, which so well describes the entranced state common to dancers all over the world, as the title of her present book. The Other Mind deals with dancing in South India, in particular with the two main forms of classical dance: Bharata Natya, a women's dance, descended from that of the dedicated temple-dancers, and Kathakali, the famous dance drama of Malabar, in which all the parts are taken by men, and masks are replaced by a most elaborate traditional make-up. Considerable space is also devoted to the trance dances or dances of 'possession' by spirits, which form part of every temple ceremony among the lower castes, from whom the 'devil dancers' are drawn.

About the Author

Beryl Drusilla de Zoete, also known as Beryl de Sélincourt (1879 in London 4 March 1962) was an English ballet dancer, orientalist, dance critic, and dance researcher.


It is a happy coincidence that Dance and Drama in Bali, first published in 1938, a year after my return from Indonesia, should have been reprinted just in time to welcome the first appear ance of its offspring or should I say ancestor? For The Other Mind is really a regression in Time, a journey upstream into a startlingly beautiful but sometimes alarming jungle of strangely begotten gods and magic transformations. The same cultural passport is, however, still valid; the themes and heroic standards of the Hindu epics, with here and there a change of emphasis, and an emotionalism unknown to Bali; also the technique and expressive gesture language of the Sastras.

I doubt if Walter Spies, that many-sided and modest genius who had admired and collected almost every strange and beautiful thing in what was then the Netherlands Indies, would, after several internments, have felt like embarking on the more exacting sequel; even if the ship which was conveying him and other "enemy aliens" had not been sunk on the way to India. But I think he would have enjoyed The Other Mind, in which spiritually our collaboration still continues. He too was an amateur, an aficionado who relished no more than I do such barrent titles as International Expert. Naturally, one becomes expert with long experience of what one affects; and it was affection which gave his expert illustrations to Dance and Drama in Bali so intimate and distinguished a quality, just as it is affection which gives what value it may have to its sequel, The Other Mind.

My special thanks are due to Dr Arnold Bake, whose films and negatives and personal help were always at my service. Also to Mr Bharata Iyer of Bombay, who allowed me to consult his unique monograph on Kathakali while still in manuscript; to Rudi v. Leyden for some fine photographs of Kathakali taken during performance, by traditional torchlight, and to Dr Schintzel for similar action photographs of Shanta dancing in Mrs Wadia's garden. To Mr A. K. G. Nair for his help as interpreter during my visit to Ambalapuzha and for many photo graphs of the dancers working there under Kunchu Kurup.

I am immensely grateful to my friend Harold Acton for allowing me to publish his superb Chinese maquillages of "Monkey", for comparison with Hanuman in Kathakali; as also to. William Archer and John Irwin of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Alice Boner, who shared some of the episodes of my last journey, has been boundlessly generous in giving photographs.

Her series of Shanta in Bharata Natya becomes even more valuable by comparison with the similar poses of the 10th-century dance-reliefs from temples in the vicinity of Pondichery, which Mr P. 2. Pattabiramin, the young and intelligent curator of the archeological section of the Pondichery Library, has most kindly allowed me to publish here (Plate 27).

To the dancer Srimati Shanta Rao, one of the most gifted creatures I have ever met, I owe more than I can hope to repay for her enchanting company and hospitality, and for the many hours she devoted to my education in the most difficult and beautiful of arts. Of Balasaraswati, one of the greatest dancers of all time, I have shown no photographic record, as none can give the faintest impression of that wonderful moment when, with the music, the Other Mind possesses her, and she begins to dance.


I CAME to India from the east, from what in 1935 were the undisputed "possessions" of various European powers-France, Holland and Great Britain and the principal source of their material prosperity. My treasure hunt was for something immaterial-a dance-tradition of amazing refinement and beauty which these tributary peoples had inherited from their long cultural association with the great continent of India, and an expressive culture of the body beside which ours seems very elementary. The extraordinary dance art of Bali could not escape the delighted attention of the world; how far would it help one to understand the dance art of India from which it inherited so much in technique and theme?

At that time the only Indian dancer I had seen was Uday Shankar, who was the first to attempt a transcription of the Kathakali dance-drama for the European stage. I was as ignorant of the mythological background of his dances as most of his audiences today, but though his performance was only a reflexion of what he had seen in Malabar he really did give the impression of an elemental force and, even when motionless in meditation, every line of his body was alive. I had never been moved in this way by dancing before. The dancer did not appeal to the audience, he seemed indeed to be unconscious of its presence. Yet his face was not inexpressive; on the contrary it seemed much more varied and striking in its means of expression. The remoteness of this art, communing with itself, as it were, was something new and strangely attractive. It was the need I felt to pursue it further and discover, if possible, its secret spring, which was the motive of my first journey to the cast. This motive became doubly urgent after seeing later in the same year 1931, the Balinese dancers at the Exposition Coloniale in the Parc de Vincennes. Beside the magnificent pavilion in which the Dutch displayed some of the greatest treasures of the Museum in Batavia, they had erected a small theatre where, night after night, Balinese dancers and musicians made one long to see the island where such a great and mysterious art was the daily occupation of peasants, for their own delight.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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