Decolonizing Places and Pedagogies – Durga Mani Maran, Becca Weber, Carla Trim Vamben, Rita Marcalo + Q&A


This session features presentations on dance in rural Ireland with migrant and host communities by Instant Dissidence, a socially-engaged and ecologically-engaged company in the expanded field of dance and body-based practices, the evaluation of a UK based initiative ‘Transforming Leadership’, which is a leadership development programme to inspire, support and promote changemakers from the Hip Hop dance community, and critiques of teaching approaches in the South Indian Classical Dance discipline of Bharathanatyam.




Durga Mani Maran: “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, the lack of pedagogical tools 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 in Singapore, 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)(Tholkapiam) 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. I hope this encourages dancers to re establish their position with the form by personalising it as an embodied practice. This research study is grounded in theories such as Progressivism, Experiential learning and Sanatana Dharma.


Becca Weber & Carla Trim-Vamben

WeMove is an Arts Council England funded ‘Transforming Leadership’ project that is focused on designing and delivering a leadership development programme to inspire, support and promote changemakers from the Hip Hop dance community, led by a consortium of leading UK Hip Hop organisations. The programme aims to nurture future leaders to build a sustainable, innovative and representative infrastructure for Hip Hop, alongside influencing decision making within the wider cultural sector. Our research into the effectiveness of this programme with a first cohort of participants in 2020 has highlighted key learnings from the first year of its implementation and raised questions on how existing (Western, patriarchal, colonialist) models of leadership may need to be re-thought for the future of our field.
This presentation offers an initial, mixed-method qualitative action research evaluation of the project, with data gathered through reflection sessions, observational field notes, digital communication records, and semi-structured interviews to develop case studies on cohort/consortium/core delivery team members of the project.

Analysis of this data was conducted using an inductive thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006), alongside some descriptive quantitative analysis data. We will discuss key findings from the first cohort of participants, the consortium design process, and implications for the future of the project as well as for developing leadership within the sector as a whole.


Rita Marcalo: Instant Dissidence

Directed by Rita Marcalo, Instant Dissidence is a socially-engaged and ecologically-engaged company in the expanded field of dance and, more broadly, body-based practices. It foregrounds the role that dance/choreography can play as a social engine: we are ‘artivists’ who believe in the power of connecting art and social consciousness. Instant Dissidence also resists the idea of art as an object produced by a special kind of person called the ‘artist’. Instead, its work is co-created in dialogue with (and at times performed by) non-professional artists, and is about issues which matter to them.