UCL Urban Laboratory


Why is Lavani dance experiencing an urban revival in India?

12 October 2017

Well-known throughout India due to its appearance in popular films, Lavani is a dance form originating in Maharashtra, Western India, that often directly explores themes of female sexuality.

Artists from Asha Rupa Vaishali Parbhanikar troupe ready to start their performance at a state organised Lavani Festival at NCPA, Mumbai. Credit: Kruti Kothari

However, women who dance Lavani have tended to be characterized as either money-minded manipulators, instrumentally and unscrupulously enlisting the sensuality of their dance to seduce impressionable men and destroy respectable families, or as themselves exploited - victims of caste, class, and gender-inflected sociopolitical structures and age-old relations of marginalization, exclusion and oppression.

In this context, the growing popularity of Lavani 'banner shows' in India's cities - especially Mumbai -  is worth critically exploring. As part of UCL's India Voices season, UCL Urban Laboratory hosted Mumbai-based filmmaker and writer Savitri Medhatul and Bhushan Korgaonkar for a one-week festival celebrating and exploring Lavani, organised by Dr Andrew Harris (UCL Geography / UCL Urban Laboratory).

Dr Lisa Björkman (University of Louisville), who attended the week's events, has written a longform article for UCL Urban Laboratory on the lessons we can learn from Lavani's urban revival.