Author and scholar Usha Iyer talks to dancer Poorna Swami about the rich history of women dancing in Hindi cinema. Usha and Poorna explore the agency and power dynamics that various Indian actors and dancers had over the decades, how dancing in cinema can be seen as a continuation of various dance traditions in India, and discuss the roles played by important women like Vyjayanthimala, Helen, Madhuri Dixit and Saroj Khan.

Usha Iyer is an assistant professor of film and media studies at Stanford University. She is the author of Dancing Women: Choreographing Corporeal Histories of Indian Cinema (Oxford University Press, 2020). 

Usha’s research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of cinema, performance, and gender and sexuality studies, with a specific focus on film and performance histories, body cultures, and Global South cultural traffic along the vectors of race, gender, caste, and religion.

Poorna Swami is an independent writer, choreographer and dancer based in Bangalore. At the age of seven, she began training in the classical Indian dance form Bharatanatyam, before extending her training to contemporary dance and post-modern techniques. 

Poorna has previously hosted two episodes of BIC Talks: #28 with Rahul Rao about the politics and morality of taking down problematic statues; and #35 with Annie Zaidi about home, belonging, displacement and identity.