The Anglo-Indian word nautch derives from the Urdu nach, the Sanskrit nritya and the Prakit nachcha, meaning 'dance'. Rather than signifying a specific dance form, nautch points towards a social setting for dance in diplomatic, mercantile and social exchanges between Indian elites and the British Raj from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. The visual culture of nautch dancing is rich. It was inflected by multiple traditions of image-making. It was one of the most repeatedly illustrated scenes of imperial experience and includes work by both Indian and colonial artists in a variety of media.

This part of the dissertation is an art history of nautch dancing and its performers: those who danced, those who watched, and those who made its visual records.