Ranri (widow/courtesan) (2011)
Combining contemporary abhinaya (emotional expression in Indian dance), intimate video projection, poetic text, and haunting electro-Hindustani music, Ranri (widow/courtesan) evokes the story of Rasulanbai, a child widow from the 1960s who resisted abuse by her in-laws by escaping to become a courtesan. Sensual and poignant, the courtesan’s world is unexpectedly revealed as a place of woman-centered power and queer female-female love. Rasulanbai’s story was taken from Veena Talwar Oldenburg’s fieldwork on the last remaining courtesan communities of Lucknow, India. Lucknow, famous for its singing and dancing courtesans, was one of the historical centers of North Indian classical music and kathak dance.
Choreography, text, and performance: Cynthia Ling Lee and Shyamala Moorty
Music: Ravindra Deo and Loren Nerell
Video: Cynthia Ling Lee
Inspired by: Veena Talwar Oldenburg’s “Lifestyle as Resistance: The Case of the Courtesans of Lucknow, India.”