Shanny Rann is an Erasmus Mundus scholar in dance knowledge, practice and heritage. A pilgrimage to the Himalayas inspired her foray into the study of sacred dances in the region. She is currently studying the performances of ’cham in exile by His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa. She holds a liberal arts degree from Simon Fraser University and MA in Dance from York University, Canada.
It is not very often that monks are spotted dancing in costumes. This paper is as much about the rarity of such a performance as it is the sanctity of ’cham (also referred to as Tibetan Sacred Dance) that has been in existence for over a thousand years. Too little is known about the origin of the dances, the meaning and significance of them, not to mention how they have come to survive over the centuries and their evolution as a form of ritual. My research project focuses on the ’cham performance of the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, a highly revered reincarnate lama of seventeen times, who currently resides in India as a refugee. Through fieldwork observations and interviews, I hope to provide a rare insight into the ancient all-male ritual that has withstood the erosion of time and space.