Sunday, 18 February 2007

Beyond The Frame: Gotipua Dancer

Gotipua dancer - Image Copyright Tewfic El-Sawy


For the inaugural Beyond The Frame feature, I chose this image of a Gotipua dancer.

At the tail-end of a solo photo expedition in the tribal belt of central India, I stopped in Raghurajpur,a small village of artists and dancers about 20 miles from Puri in Orissa. I photographed Bibhuti Bhusan Champati, a young Gotipua dancer in front of his house in this small village, as he was waiting to perform. I had watched him, and others of this dancing group, expertly applying his make-up, under the watchful eye of their dance guru.

The tradition of Gotipua was introduced in remote villages of Orissa after the tradition of Devdasis was abolished following the Mughal invasions of India. Since women were forced behind purda during that period, dance masters trained pre-pubescent boys into the nuances of Devdasi’s dance to keep the tradition alive. The dancers wore feminine attire and applied make-up, but were not allowed to dance inside temples. Over a period of time their style of dance changed, and adopted many acrobatic elements. It was only after about 50 years ago that the Gotipua dancing style was admitted into the fold of classical dances of India.

Bibhuti's small house was painted in brilliant indigo, with intricate designs, dazzling in their colors, influenced by Hindu mythological paintings. After the photo shoot, his father asked for money for having allowed me, as he put it, "to use the colorful background' for his son's portraits. Bibhuti was at ease posing for my camera, probably used to tourists, foreign and local, who see him perform the Gotipua dancing in Puri and other major cities in India and even abroad.

EXIF: shutter speed 1/60 sec.- fstop 5.6 - iso 100 - focal length 70mm - flash fired.