Beyond Bollywood: 2000 Years of Dance in Art Debuts at the Cincinnati Art Museum

Explore the captivating power of dance in Asian and Himalayan cultures at the Cincinnati Art Museum.
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Photograph by Sam Rosenstiel

The Cincinnati Art Museum is bringing a new perspective on the power of dance in their new exhibit Beyond Bollywood: 2000 Years of Dance in Art.

The exhibit, which has been four years in the making, explores the representation of dance in cultures from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayan region, dating all the way back to the first century.

Beyond Bollywood is jointly organized with the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and Cincinnati is the first to experience this compelling story of dance. The exhibit features over 100 pieces from a range of mediums such as paintings, jewelry, sculptures, and compelling video and audio works, and plans to feature live dance performances as well. “It’s been a lot of research, writing, talking, dialogue, and bringing together objects from all over,” says Dr. Ainsley M. Cameron, the CAM’s Curator of South Asian Art, Islamic Art, and Antiquities.

Through the wide variety of pieces featured, visitors can experience that dance is not only for delight. The exhibit depicts different themes such as devotion, celebration, subjugation, glorification, destruction, and creation. Each theme explores a different purpose of dance and the pieces within each theme are chosen to help carry the narrative into the present in unique ways. “It’s all about the beyond, and about what’s out there,” says Cameron, “It’s all about this incredible, fantastical way to think about movement-based traditions.”

Photograph by Sam Rosenstiel

Cameron is especially looking forward to the reaction to the contemporary video artworks that will be displayed throughout Beyond Bollywood by Singaporean artist Sarah Choo Jing. Her pieces display the rigorous mental and physical preparation that is included in performance-based arts, walking the visitors through the entire process of the final performance.

Many sculpture works are featured in the exhibit as well, and The Mother Goddess Chamunda Dancing is one that Cameron feels really stands out among the exhibits. “The mother goddesses are the Marika’s,” she says. “They’re these fierce, female deities in the Hindu tradition and they danced frenetically after they’ve saved the world.” These are just one among hundreds of cultures that visitors can discover through Beyond Bollywood.

Photograph by Emma Helbling

Cameron hopes visitors feel in their core the power of the compelling pieces featured in Beyond Bollywood. “I want them to move—I want them to feel this idea that universal dances are everywhere, and that there’s always something that can propel us towards movement.”

Beyond Bollywood: 2000 Years of Dance in Art is on display now through February 5 at the Cincinnati Art Museum, 935 Eden Park Dr. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased onsite and online. The exhibit is free for members and free for nonmembers every Thursday from 5–8 p.m.

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