Dancing the Fine Print

Friday 23:45

Louis Norris | 
2023 | 
United Kingdom | 
3:00 mins | 
Ranjini's PhD project is a practice-based inquiry into how the practice and performance of Indian classical dance replicates socio-religious hierarchies within India. In this short film, she examines how the newspaper became a site on which the dancing body is disciplined into a bodily carriage which must adhere to aesthetics determined by the dominant caste practitioners of dance. These words carried in the paper nudged the "classically trained" dancing body into a comportment which was considered to be morally befitting of the nation, disenfranchising hereditary practitioners of dance in the process.

Dancing the Fine Print, directed by Louis Norris and written by Ranjini Nair, is a short 3 min essay film about the nation building of India post-independence through the lens of the written word and dance. Though a very small film the documentary expresses a range of pertinent and intriguing ideas. We can’t help but wonder what it may look like feature length!

The question of nation building after colonialism is a fraught one. Of course, the essential need for a people to self-determine must throw off the shackles of colonialism. Yet the idea of the nation is an exclusive one based on the exclusion of others who do not fit the nation.

In the realm of dance, Dancing the Fine Print introduces us to the multi-faceted critique in post-independence India. Principally, the cultural revivalism brings with it an element of class appropriation, the upper castes taking element of lower caste culture and sanitising it for a national identity. In the 40s to 50s, print media allied itself to this cause, critiquing and arguing for a strong national identity in dance.

Nowhere was this encapsulated more than in the idea of Anga Shuddhi (purity of limbs). This concept entails the conforming to neatly prescribed ways of movement and representing the body in line with a national identity. This parallels on a smaller scale the prescriptions of the body and movement that citizens are regulated with by the state. Nation building here entails ideas of power, exclusion and violence.