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The yaksagana dance-drama of the coastal regions of the south Indian union state of Karnataka is still a thriving theatre tradition. Characterised by its distinct musical style, a lively blend of sung poetry and improvised dialogues, impressive costumes and vigorous dancing, this genre combines many features prevalent in Indian performing arts.
The volume by Katrin Binder presents a general overview of the dance-drama and its representation in academic literature, followed by terminological and methodological considerations. These reflect the author’s own training as a yaksagana artist, which also informs the descriptive sections focussing on the songs and dances of the pre-performance rituals. Three exemplary performances are analysed in detail, illustrating trends in performance settings, techniques and costuming. A context-oriented section assesses the current yaksagana scene, documenting troupes, repertoire, sponsors and other factors. This section also addresses the dynamics of change shaping this dance-drama between vow-performances, commercial venture and regional cultural icon. An appendix outlines the possible development of yaksagana in the context of other south Indian performing arts by tracing its literary history. Yaksagana’s basic rhythmic patterns and the most important songs discussed in the main study are provided in a performance notation. Accompanying visual material is accessible online.