Personalising the Sringara Padam (Poetry on Love) by Adapting Michael Chekhov’s Psychophysical Techniques


The purpose of the practice of Bharathanatyam (South Indian Classical Dance) is for the dancer and spectator to experience this aesthetic pleasure (Rao, A. 1997). Dance is meant to be sensorial, experiential and pleasurable. Have these core values of the practice been lost through transmission? The problems in the current landscape of learning Bharathantayam include the codification of the form and the authoritarian style rooted in the teaching of the form leading many student dancers to feel incompetent and consequentially making the form unattainable. My intervention was aimed at making the learning of the portrayal of the emotion love (Sringara Rasa) in the practice of Bharathanatyam, accessible to all levels of dancers through a sequential model that interrogated cognitive activities present in the engagement of a role performing the emotion. Through my intervention I 'reterritorialized' 'The Sensing' (Pulaneri Vazhakku)(Tamil) and used it as a mode of communicating the emotion love by adapting Psychophysical (Michael Chekhov) exercises. A ‘psychological gesture’ is a realistic movement developed to express the thought process of the character whereby a physical movement triggers the corresponding emotion. Through my study I designed two exercises; ‘Moving flame’ inspired by ‘ expansion and contraction’ and ‘oppositional tension’ inspired by ‘qualities of movement’. In this approach, the quality of the chosen movement conjures feelings that are converted into impulses. These impulses were studied through the lens of two dancers’ (performances) before and after these exercises. Outcomes measuring the ‘consequents’ and data via videos, interviews, and reflective journals were collated. This research study is grounded in theories such as Progressivism, Experiential learning and Sanatana Dharma.

Author Information
Durga Mani Maran, LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2020
Stream: Teaching Experiences

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon