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Cornelia Schnepel Bodies Filled with Divine Energy: The Indian Dance Odissi

This article is based on fi eldwork which I conducted in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa, in the autumn and winter of 2001. The immediate topic of my research was a dance known as Odissi, which, despite its strong regional fl avour, achieved the status of a “classical” all-Indian dance around the middle of the twentieth century. In order to conduct “participant observation” in the social anthropological sense of the term, I enrolled for two months as a pupil in the Odissi Research Centre, a dance school on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar which at that time was headed by a renowned dancer called Kum Kum Mohanty. There, every day I joined about twenty other female students of the dance, who were between 14 and 25 years of age, in order to become acquainted with the dance on its own terms, which, of course, I did in the time span available to me, only with limited success. In a wider orientation of my project, I sought to link my research on Odissi to more general questions concerning presentday constructions and negotiations with regard to establishing an all-Orissan regional tradition and identity in a steadily globalizing world. For this reason I visited archives and libraries and conducted a number of interviews with both practitioners and connoisseurs of the dance.1 In this article, I wish to refocus the data and the fi ndings of my research activities, this time with regard to the theme of the “body in India.”