Roof/Room Pieces: An Ethnography of Lockdown Lives, and Digital Perfor- mances of Rabindranritya
Keywords:digital dance studies, digital ethnography, YouTube, COVID-19, rabindranritya, Bengal
This essay is an exploration of precarity and sociality within performing arts in India. It analyses dances made digitally for audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic (2020-21) and engages with scholarly literature and movement system with reference to Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and forms of dance identified as rabindranritya. Interpreted through interdisciplinary research methods of digital ethnography, questionnaires, content analysis and dance studies, the essay aims to understand why some of us continued to dance through the global pandemic. I focus on YouTube as a site of research as we realize that technology’s relationship with human and arts have now evolved and ‘liveness’ could be optional. I question various forms of precarity in arts industries through respondents’ answers and observe what notions of sociality are exchanged between the performer and their audience. I bring to light the mundane and vibrant of the quotidian lockdown lives of performers who remained cloistered at home, but with cameras on them, how they seized the pandemic precarity and continued dancing with a sense of immediacy and new kinds of intimacy, communicating their imaginations and emotions and bridging social- temporal-spatial distances.