How Shiva inspired Rodin

Professor Katia Légeret-Manochhaya says French sculptor Rodin was highly inspired by Lord Shiva.

Katia’s main field of research comprises the twentieth-century European playwrights, stage directors and choreographers inspired by Asian performing arts, specifically from India. She says, “My book Rodin and the Dance of Shiva essentially describes the work of François Auguste René Rodin, a renowned French sculptor, who was so inspired by some photographs of the 11th-century bronze Shiva Nataraja in the Madras Museum around 1915 that he wrote that it seemed to him the “perfect expression of rhythmic movement in the world.” His text, “The Dance of Shiva” was an ode to the sculpture, heralded as one of the most important sculptures of South Asia.  Written at the end of his life, this vision of The Cosmic Dancer, “Lord of actor-dancers”, revealed the underlying links between Rodin’s dance sculptures (1910), Indian sculpture and Dance-Theatre as Bharatanatyam style.

Through his text, Rodin invites us not only to a new reading of his work but also opens the door to the new connections that he suggests between sculpture, poetry, dance, theatre, music, photography and architecture. My aim was to bring forward these connections with my own critical reading into the text. Katia, a professionally trained Bharatanatyam dancer, started her international career in Chennai with Swarnamukhi, a Tamil Nadu based artist, and since 1986, she interprets Natyacharya K. Muralidhar Rao’s repertories (Karnataka, Pandanallur style). “Shiva-Rodin” (2013) and “Panchatantra/La Fontaine” (2010-2015) are among her stage creations with her company. “For 40 years, I have been learning, practicing and performing Bharatanatyam, which I prefer to refer to as dance theatre,” she says. “I chose Bharatanatyam as it appealed to me and is one of the most popular classical Indian dances globally. I started to learn in Paris, and then moved to Chennai to learn, then trained a while in Mysore and started penning articles and books on the same.”

 

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