Arpita Bajpeyi
Arpita Bajpeyi
Doctoral Student
Graduate Programme in Dance, York University
Research keywords: South Asia; India; kathak; dance; gender; caste; performance; ethnography; research creation; nationalism; decolonizing methodologies; embodied histories
I am a doctoral student in the Dance Department at York University. My research builds off of my background as a kathak dancer and a public historian (MA, Carleton University) to inquire into the generative possibilities held by the embodied histories present in kathak’s repertoire. Although the popular narrative of kathak’s history has been shaped by the 20th century demands placed on it as a symbol of ‘national culture’ in India, kathak’s repertoire continues to be haunted by the courtesans from marginalized caste communities who were once the form’s primary performers. My research asks if this ‘classical’ form can be opened up to make visible these and other absences that foreground its practice and performance today.

Alongside my academic work, I am involved in a few projects that sit at the intersection of history, performance, and identity. I co-direct, with Sinead Cox, Staging Our Histories, a not-for-profit organisation that acts as a platform for performing artists whose work explores history, memory, and the past. I have also been working with kathak dancer Mridula Rao (Bangalore) on a performance that uses kathak, spoken word, and movement to initiate conversations about nationalism, identity, gender, race, and privilege. With Mridula Rao, Priyanka Chandrashekar, and Sammitha Sreevathsa, I help run “Speaking Sakhi,” an online space invested in fostering conversations between artists about the politics, possibilities, and pedagogy of classical dance in India. Some of my writing has been published in Art India Magazine, Intermission,, and Canthius.