CECI n'est pas EXECUTE Tiziana Leucci

Tiziana Leucci

Research Fellow
Institutional affiliation(s): CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research)

Professional contact information
54 boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris - Office 709




Trained in classical and modern dance at the National Dance Academy in Rome, holding a classical baccalauréat and a Master’s (laurea) in History and Anthropology of the Performing Arts as well as in Indology (University of Bologna, Italy), I went to South India in 1987 in order to study the theory and practice of two ‘classical’ Indian dances (Bharata Nâtyam and Odissi). Thanks to a variety of government study grants, I stayed for twelve years of apprenticeship, at the Kalakshetra Academy (Chennai), and then especially with hereditary dance masters and former temple and court dancers (V.S. Muthuswamy Pillai, Kadur Venkatalakshamma, Kelucharan Mohapatra, etc.). This experience enabled me to get a sense of the differences in repertoire, learning method, conceptions of art, social status, etc. between these two types of practitioners, and to become familiar with the evolution in styles. When I got back to Europe, I undertook the study of the European literary and theatrical sources about these same dancers, from the 13th century onward. This research resulted in an advanced graduate degree (DEA) from the EHESS, a book in Italian (2005a) and several articles (including three for the ballet La Bayadère, at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome and the Opéra de Paris). My PhD dissertation (EHESS) synthesizes these different approaches, and proposes a novel interpretation of the precolonial “dharma” of temple dancers, and of its disappearance in the new social and moral order of independent India. In addition to the transformation of the artistic practice (and its relationship to theory), I explore the way in which the possibilities for women in terms of status were reduced to the model of the high-caste wife.

My current research has broadened toward the following subjects: the history of interactions between Indian and Western artists; the anthropology of aesthetic theories and of Indian choreographic practices and their transformations in colonialism, then on the modern stage; the anthropology of gender in India. Research on the first line of inquiry is currently underway, in collaboration with Professor Joep Bor (University of Leiden, ethnomusicologist and historian of musicians in North India). The second extends the center chapter of my dissertation, on the relationships between the written text and stage performance, as well as on the interactions between the different modes of expression (music, dance, poetry/song, hand movements and facial expressions) used in these performances, which are often largely made up of improvised variations. The third line of inquiry looks at representations of female statuses (wives, courtesans, etc.) and their transformations in Indian colonial and post-colonial society, in literature, theater and cinema.



Research groups / Seminars


2014 - 2018 | Co-coordinator, with MarieFourcadeand Raphael Rousseleau, of the “Love, between Norms and Transgression: Art, History, Fiction” workshop

2010 - 2013 | Member of the “Industries culturelles, scènes artistiques et littéraires indiennes” team/network

2010 - 2013 | Member of the “Constructions du passé de l’Asie du Sud : cultures historiques sud-asiatiques, savoirs orientalistes, sciences sociales (XVIe-XXIe siècles)” team

2010 - 2013 | Member of the “À la frontière, autour et au-delà” team


Research project coordination


2016-2018 | Co-coordinator, with Dana Rappoport (CNRS-CASE) of the PSL research project entitled “Modes d’autorité et conduites esthétiques de l’Asie du Sud à l’Insulinde,” PSL, EHESS, Paris.


Organization of conferences symposia and panels


2017 | Histoires connectées de la danse: le cas de Jean Cébron, chorégraphe, pédagogue et passeur artistique entre l’Europe, l’Asie et les Amériques.[with Pierre-Philippe Meden (Université de Lyon 1, MSH-Paris Nord)], 29 May, at the MSH-Paris Nord, Aubervilliers.

2017 |  Les Langages de l’Amour. Paroles et gestes dans les théâtres dansés de l’Inde, [with Mahina Khanum (Indian dance festival ‘Mouvements Emouvants’)], Symposium 4 April, at the INALCO Auditorium, Paris.

2016 | Parfums et odeurs. Une approche pluridisciplinaire, [with Frédéric Obringer (CNRS, CCJ)], 8 November, at the EHESS, Paris.

2016 | 90 ans de danse indienne en France. Circulation, interactions, exchanges, [with Mahina Khanum (Indian dance festival ‘Mouvements Emouvants’)], 18 April, at the INALCO, Paris.

2015 | Bénarès comme lieu de mémoire,[with Raphaël Rousseleau (Université de Lausanne, CEIAS)], 20th CEIAS Symposium, 4 December, at the EHESS, Paris.

2015 | Temple, Court, Salon, Stage. Crafting Dance Repertoire in South India, [with Dominic Goodall, (EFEO, Paris) and Davesh Soneji, McGill University, Montreal)], 9 June at the Maison des Cultures du Monde, Paris

2015 | Contre-culture dans les arts indiens. Peinture néo-tantrique ; littérature, musique et danse dans les années 60-80, [with Raphaël Rousseleau, (Université de Lausanne, CEIAS)], 28 and 29 May at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris

2014 | Censorship and Women Resistance in the Performing Arts, from Continental Asia to Insular Southeast Asia, [with Dana Rappoport (CNRS-CASE) and Davesh Soneji (McGill University, Montreal)], 22 and 23 May, Paris

2014 | Censorship and Women Resistance in the Performing Arts, from Continental Asia to Insular Southeast Asia, [with Dana Rappoport (CNRS-CASE) and Davesh Soneji (McGill University, Montreal)], 22 and 23 May, Paris

2013 | Dance, Music, Politics and Gender in the Post-Independence South Indian Cinema (with Davesh Soneji, McGill University, Montreal), international conference at the Musée du quai Branly, 30 May, Paris

2012 | Courtesans in South India: Towards a Revisionistic Cultural History, (with Davesh Soneji, McGill University, Montreal). Panel 29 of the European Conference of Modern South Asian Studies (ECMSAS), 27 July, Lisbon

2012 | De la « danse De Shiva » à la World Music. Icône du rythme et langage des gestes entre l’inde, l’Europe et les États-Unis, 29 and 30 May at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris

2011 | D’une indépendance à l’autre : L’influence des intellectuels et des modèles politiques italiens sur l’Inde, de Giuseppe Mazzini à Antonio Gramsci, 2 December, Paris




2016-2017 | Co-coordinator, with Dana Rappoport (CNRS-CASE) of the seminar entitled “Modes d’autorité et conduites esthétiques de l’Asie du Sud à l’Insulinde,” PSL, EHESS, Paris.

2015 - 2018 | Co-coordinator, with Anne Castaing (CNRS- THALIM) and Fanny Lignon (Université de Lyon 1-THALIM) of the seminar entitled “Performances culturelles du genre””

Since 2010 | Courses in Indian Bharata Nâtyam dance at the “Gabriel Fauré” Music and Dance Conservatory, Les Lilas.

Since 2006 | Anthropology presentations on mothering techniques and cultural differences in education at the CERPE (Centre d’Études et de Recherches pour la Petite Enfance—Center for Study and Research on Early Childhood) and at the CFPES-CEMEA (Centre de Formation aux Professions Educatives et Sociales—Training Center for Educational and Social Professions), Aubervilliers.

2003 | Lecturer (first- and second-year Master’s level) in Indian Theater Anthropology, in the Department of Music and the Performing Arts (DAMS), University of Bologna.

2000 | Lecturer (first- and second-year Master’s level) in Indology and on the Ethno-history of courtesans/artists in India, in the Department of Eastern Studies and Languages, University of Bologna.

1998-1999 | Foreign-Language Assistantship, history of Italian language and literature (first- and second-year Master’s level), at the University of Madras (Chennai, India), after a training program at the University of Siena (Italy) and at the Department of Culture of the Italian Ministry of Foreign affairs.

Since 1997 | Occasional seminars on Indian Dance (Bharata Nâtyam and Dâsî Âttam) at the IALS (Institute for the Training of Performing Artists), Rome.




South India (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa)


Key words


gender studies

representations of female statuses (wives, courtesans)

history of Indian and Western dance


cultural and political history

theater anthropology

devadâsî, râjadâsî, nattuvanâr

visual culture

colonial and post-colonial India



artistic orientalism

dance treatises


artistic apprenticeship

Tamil epigraphy


Other affiliations


Musée du quai Branly, Paris

European Association of Dance Historians (EADH, London)

Association Chercheurs en Danse (AcDanse, Paris)

South Asian Dance Alliance (New Delhi)

Conservatoire Gabriel Fauré, Les Lilas




[forthcoming] with Claude Markovits & Marie Fourcade (eds.), L’Inde et l’Italie. Rencontres intellectuelles, politiques et artistiques, Puruṣārtha, vol. 35, éd. EHESS, Paris.

[in preparation] with Joep Bor (University of Leiden),  Indian Courtesans through European Eyes.

[in preparation] with Raphaël Rousseleau, De la ‘danse de Shiva’ à la World Music. Icône du rythme et langage des gestes entre l’Inde, l’Europe et les États-Unis, Proceedings of the 29-30 May 2012 conference, Paris, L’Harmattan, ‘Anthropologie et musiques’ series.

[forthcoming] reworked version of the dissertation, Du Dâsî Âttam au Bharata Nâtyam: ethnohistoire d’une tradition chorégraphique et de sa nationalisation dans l’Inde coloniale, Paris, L’Harmattan, ‘Anthropologie et musiques’ series.

2005 | Devadâsî e Bayadères: tra storia e leggenda. Le danzatrici indiane nei racconti di viaggio e nell’immaginario teatrale occidentale (XIII°-XX°secolo), (“Devadâsî and Bayadères: Between History and Legend. Indian Dancers in Travel Narratives and in the Western Theatrical Imaginary—13th to 20th Centuries”), CLUEB (Bologna University Press), Bologna, 2005 (319 p.); book used in the ‘History of Dance,’ ‘Indology’ and ‘History of Asian Theaters’ courses of the Universities of Bologna, Venice and Rome.

Articles and book chapters 

2017 | "La danseuse de temple et courtisane au miroir de l’Occident chrétien. Usages et déplacements de l’imaginaire orientaliste dans l’Inde nationaliste et dans les études féministes postcoloniales," in: Castaing, Anne et Gaden, Elodie (eds.), Ecrire et penser le genre en contextes postcoloniaux, Comparatisme et Société no. 35, P.I.E., Peter Lang, Brussesl 2017: 59-88.

2016 | "Royal and Local Patronage of Bhakta Cult : The Case of Temple and Court Dancers," Francis, Emmanuel and Schmid, Charlotte (eds.), The Archaeology of Bhakti II: Royal Bhakti, Local Bhakti, IFP / EFEO "Indologie" series, Pondicherry 2016: 257-302.

2015 | "‘Partout où va la main, le regard suit ; là où va le regard, l’esprit suit’ Le langage des mains dans le théâtre dansé de l’Inde," in: ethnographiques.org, No. 31, Decembre 2015, La part de la main [online].  http://www.ethnographiques.org/2015/Leucci

2015 | "Courtisanes et épouses indiennes. L’art et la culture comme ‘devoir statutaire’ (dharma)," Journal Asiatique, ed. Peeters - Collège de France, Leuven-Paris 2015: 284-294.

Le Triomphe de Bacchus dans les Indes (1666) & Le Triomphe de l'Amour (1681): Two French Court Ballets as Examples of King Louis XIV’s Politics at Play, in a ‘Play within a Play,’ in:  Segal, Barbara & Tuck, Bill (eds.), Ballroom, Stage & Village Green: Contexts for Early Dance, Early Dance Circle, London 2015: 115-130.

2014 | “Fascinantes bayadères, mais étrange musique… Réception française des danseuses indiennes : des récits de voyage aux œuvres de Jouy, Gautier et Berlioz,” in Charles Dominique, Luc, Defrance, Yves & Pistone, Danièle (texts collected by), Fascinantes étrangetés. La découverte de l’altérité musicale en Europe au XIXe siècle, L’Harmattan, Paris 2014: 343-365.

2013 | “De la ‘danseuse de temple’ des voyageurs et missionnaires Européens à la ‘bayadère’ des philosophes et artistes (XVIIe –XVIIIe siècle),” Fourcade, Marie & Zupanov, Ines (ed.) India and Enlightenment. Discourse, History, Knowledge (17th-19th Century), ‘Purusârtha’ series No. 31, éd. EHESS, Paris 2013: 253-288.

2013 | “Between Seduction and Redemption. The European Perception of South Indian Temple Dancers in Travelers’ Accounts and Theatre Plays (13th-19th c.),” Kouwenhoven, F., & Kippen, J., (eds.), Music, Dance and the Art of Seduction, Eburon-Chime, Delft, 2013: 261-287, notes and bibliography: 421-429.

2013 | “Dance in Indian Society: Temple and Courtly Traditions,” Barbara Segal & Bill Tuck (ed.), Dance & Society. Questions of Cultural Identity, Social Structure and Status, the Body Politic at Play, Proceedings of the Biennial Conference 2012, Early Dance Circle, London : 29-44.

2013 | “Scenes of Music and Dance in the Mural Paintings at the Rājarājeśvaram Temple (Tanjāvūr, 11th century): Inter-textual & Multidisciplinary Analysis,” Giuliano, Laura (ed.), Ajanta and Beyond. Mural Paintings of India, Tibet and Central Asia, Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale ‘Giuseppe Tucci,’ Rome: 95-118.

2013 | “Delsartismo in India: la tournée asiatica della Deniswan Dance Company (1925-1926),” Brunetti, Simonetta & Randi Elena (ed.), I movimenti dell’anima: François Delsarte (1811-1871) fra teatro e danza, Atti del convegno internazionale dicembre 2011, Università di Verona e Padova, ed. Pagina, Bari: 175-191. 

2012 | “The Curiosity for the ‘Others.’ The Interest for Indian Dances and Oriental Customs (& Costumes) in Europe (1663–1821),” Schlottermüller, Uwe, Weiner, Howard & Richter, Maria (ed.), All’Ungaresca – al Espanol. The Variety of European Dance Culture from 1420 to 1820, (3. Rothenfels Tanzsymposium), Fa-Gisis Musik und Tanzedition, Freiburg 2012: 109-131.

2012 | “South Indian Temple Dancers: ‘Donated’ to the Deity and ‘Donors’ for the Deity. Two Tamil Inscriptions on Music and Dance in the Rājarājeśvaram Temple at Tanjāvūr (11th century),” Murugaiyan, Appasamy (ed.), New Dimensions in Tamil Epigraphy: Historical Sources and Multidisciplinary Approaches, CRE-A Publ., Chennai: 209-253.

2011 | “Da Marco Polo a Marius Petipa: il personaggio della danzatrice indiana (bayadère) dai racconti di viaggio in Asia alla scena teatrale europea (1298-1889),” in Manicone, Cosimo (ed.), La Bayadère. Balletto di M. Petipa/L. Minkus, Rome: Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, pp. 35-82.

2011 | “Théophile Gautier on the Maria Taglioni’s “Creation” of the Bayadère Character (1830),” in B. Segal and B. Tuck (ed.), Dance and Heritage: Creation, Re-creation and Recreation, Biennial Conference 2010, London: Early Dance Circle, pp. 85-104.

“Genèses de La Bayadère,” in La Bayadère Petipa/Minkus/Noureev, Ballet de l'Opéra, 2009/2010 season, éd. Opéra National de Paris, Paris 2010: pp. 33-37; 2015/2016 season, Paris 2015: 37-41.

2009 | “Vestales indiennes : les danseuses de temple dans les récits de voyage et l’imaginaire théâtral orientaliste (1780-1811),” Synergies Inde, 4 : L’orientalisme à l’humanisme en crise. Ponts entre l’Inde et l’Europe, ed. Vidya Vencatesan and Philippe Benoît, GERFLINT (francophonie) journal, Mumbai, 2009, pp. 171-180.

2009 | “A Neglected Chapter in the History of Indian ‘Classical’ Dances: The East-West Interactions (1889-1947),” A. Goswami & U. Sarkar (ed.), Re-Searching Dance. International Conference on Dance Research, J. Nerhu University/Dance World Alliance, New Delhi, pp. 210-218.

2008 | “L’apprentissage de la danse en Inde du Sud et ses transformations au XXème siècle: le cas de devadāsī, rājadāsī et naṯṯuvaṉār,” Rivista di Studi Sudasiatici, Firenze University Press, Firenze, pp. 53-87. http://www.fupress.net/index.php/rss/article/view/3170

2008 | “Incanto di Bayadères,” Balletto La Bayadère Petipa/Minkus/Makarova, 2008/2009 season, éd. Teatro alla Scala, Milano,  pp. 28-70.

2008 | “From Jean-Baptiste Lully to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The Construction of the Indian Dancer Character (Bayadère) on the European Stage (1681-1798),” U. Schlottermüller, H. Weiner & M. Richter (ed.), From Pastoral to Revolution. European Dance Culture in the 18th Century (2. Rothenfelser Tanzsymposiom), Fa-Gisis Musik und Tanzedition, Freiburg, pp. 115-131.

2005 | “Nartakī.. Figurina eburnea indiana ritrovata a Pompei” (Indian Ivory Figurine Discovered in Pompeii), Dioniso 4, Istituto Nazionale del Dramma Antico, Palumbo, Palermo, 2005, pp. 142-149.

Book reviews

2015 | Heidrun Brückner, Hanne M. de Bruin & Heike Moser (eds.), Between Fame and Shame: Performing Women—Women Performers in India, Wiesbaden (Germany): Harrassowitz Verlag, Drama und Theater in Sudasien 9, 284 pages, Samaj, South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal [online], Book Reviews, published on 5 March 2015. URL: http://samaj.revues.org/3863

2005 | “Priyadarshini Vijaisri, Recasting the Devadasi. Patterns of Sacred Prostitution in Colonial India, Kanishka Publisher, New Delhi 2004 (foreword by K. N. Pannikkar),” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales No. 2/2005, éd. EHESS, Paris, March-April 2005, pp. 348-350.


2015 | “Tiziana Leucci: Les artistes font peur,” interview by Léa Iribarnegaray, Libération, 9 March.


Last update: 23 November 2017 (NG)


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Colloque - Vendredi 19 octobre 2018 - 10:00À l’occasion du bicentenaire de la naissance de Marius Petipa (1818-1910) Le présent colloque international est le résultat d’une collaboration scientifique et artistique entre chercheurs, enseignants, critiques de danse et praticiens, sur la mémoire et (...)(...)

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