When our Senses Dance: Sensory-Somatic Awareness in Contemporary Approaches to Odissi Dance in India
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Sen, Sabina Sweta
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This work is under an extended embargo. The video and audio files are permanently embargoed to comply with the copyright law.
Reason for embargo
I wish to publish selected sections of my thesis in various journals and potentially a monograph and the entire process may take longer than 18 months. The video and audio files are permanately embargoed to comply with the copyright law.
This research investigates sensory-somatic awareness based approaches to the conditioning, training and performance of Odissi dance in India. Through a multidisciplinary and embodied methodology it analyses the practices of three contemporary Odissi dance institutes and a selection of individual dancers in India, who are moving beyond the traditional methodology. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in India, this research explores how sensory-somatic approaches incorporated by these dancers generate meaning-making and in what ways this enriches the dancers’ experience of dancing Odissi. As an outcome of the fieldwork, the term sensory-somatic is proposed and analysed in line with the dancers’ embodied experience of dancing Odissi. The analysis entails a paradigm that embraces the corporeal, sentient and socio-cultural bodymind, and the sensory aspects of senses, sensation, perception, sensibility and sensuality. These form two layers: the somatic and sensory which merge together as the sensory-somatic awareness. It takes into consideration the sensory perception and awareness leading to an agentic, enactive and embodied meaning-making and emotional engagement of the dancers. It also examines how the changing socio-cultural situation has been continuously affecting the Odissi dance embodiment. This thesis does not address the religious aspect and the experience of the audience in Odissi performance. The main focus remains the dancers’ individual experience of learning and performing Odissi dance. Moving away from the study of Odissi dance just as a reflection of the state, regional culture and representation of mythologies, this thesis is an investigation of the Odissi dancer’s meaningful, embodied and lived experience of Odissi dancing. It contributes to the debates on body-mind relationship, emotional engagement, place of the ‘self’, the student-oriented learning, psychophysical training and performance, and rasa-bhāva aesthetics. This study reveals that the sensory-somatic awareness is based upon reflexivity, independent enquiry, psychophysical health, bodymind awareness and leads to empowerment, agency, autonomy, plurality, confidence and responsibility, a level of relief from gender biases, and an inclusive approach to learning and performing.
UK India Education Research Initiative (UKIERI) for the PhD in Drama as part of a split site program between NIAS and Exeter.
PhD in Drama