Being enlisted as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO since 2010, Kalbeliya dance from Rajasthan is nowadays generally conceptualized as an ancient tradition from India. However, this same dance practice, also known as a form of ‘Indian gypsy’ or ‘snake charmers’ folk’ dance, appears to have originated as recently as the 1980s.
Joncheere’s research gives an account of the swift development of Kalbeliya dance from its first appearance on stage in 1981 to the present. Ethnographic research with Kalbeliya dancers’ families has elucidated how this inventive dance practice was formed to fit into national and transnational narratives with the aim of commercializing it globally and of generating a new, lucrative livelihood for these Kalbeliya families. As a new cultural product of Rajasthani fusion, the dance finds itself at the crossroads of commercial tourism and political folklorism and is grounded in neo-orientalist discourses (romanticism and exoticism).