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Akram Khan rewrites Radha: The “hypervisible” cultural identity in Kylie Minogue's Showgirl

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This paper attempts to analyze the British Asian dancer/choreographer Akram Khan's choreography of Samsara for Kylie Minogue's “homecoming” version of the 2006 Showgirl tour as an intellectual commentary on the 1906 American modern dance piece Radha by Ruth St Denis. On the surface Khan's choreography can be seen to reiterate some of the same Orientalist tropes that St Denis was accused of, within a popular “low”-culture context. Acknowledging this trope I scrutinize Khan's key choreographic strategies that challenge the potentially feminist reading of St Denis' Radha by successfully reinstating the marriage plot within his choreography. More significantly, he makes “hypervisible,” the source culture of Kathak and the body of authority (himself) in the cultural exchange that shapes this choreographic project. Through an analysis of Khan's choreographic endeavor and a reevaluation of the power play between male and female bodies in the space, I wish to extrapolate Khan's intellectual vision within Samsara as an expression and assertion of the place of diasporic identity and cultural exchange within Western popular culture. I frame my paper within the preexistent frameworks from scholars like Sally Banes, Priya Srinivasan, Edward Said, Kobena Mercer, Rustom Bharucha and Philip Auslander.

Keywords: American modern dance; Orientalism; dance and culture; liveness; popular culture

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Drama Department, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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