Awareness, Observation, Description: Reading and Writing Dance

Home/ Awareness, Observation, Description: Reading and Writing Dance
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2DP1014

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon 2018

Course Coordinator and Team: Ranjana Dave

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/Description:

The course examines two key issues in dance and movement study and practice: of developing an eye and a critical vocabulary for seeing, reading, interpreting and writing about it - What and how do we see (in) dance? How do we describe, contextualize and analyze dance to address questions of process(es), subjectivity, embodiment and social identities. This course aims to achieve this through studying choreographic works and written portraits of practitioners of the canonical repertory of Indian dance, integrating the study of specific dance practices in their historical context with observable features of specific dance works discerning specific elements that inform selected dance practices. Viewing of diverse selection of choreographers provides the historical, aesthetic and political context for developing frameworks for reflection on contemporary dance and performance practice. These individual practices also help us understand the particular perspectives on practices and texts that have preoccupied dancers, choreographers and scholars in India.

Course Outcomes:

  • Develop skills of seeing and describing dance from specific subject positions and cultural and historical contexts without the baggage of value judgments and opinions
  • To access and engage with a variety of writing- descriptive, journalistic, scholarly and self-reflexive and/or a combination of these (choreographic portraits), that allow students to build their own vocabulary for observation and description
  • Critically engage and understand how meaning-making in dance functions in relation to works of particular practitioners through viewing performances on video/ film, artist interviews and critical writings.
  • Enable students to understand historical and theoretical ways of thinking about dance. Thus, producing disciplinary knowledge of dance studies.
  • Various dance forms in India are rooted in their socio-political-cultural contexts. In asking students to investigate dance in relation to its varying contexts, this course promotes a rigorous investigation of elements of gender, caste, local nuances etcetera. This in turn produces critical thinking, analytical reasoning and awareness of socio-political-cultural histories.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Weeks 1-4

Describing Dance & Translating Affect

These sessions will open ways of viewing and describing dance through creating a repertoire of key words sourced from the body. These sessions will examine ways to translate the affect of dance by addressing questions such as: What does watching dance do to the viewer? How does one translate feelings, emotions, somatic and kinaesthetic responses in writing?

These sessions will also look at ways of generating conversation between different works of the same artist, two different artists or approaches/ genres with a view to comparative/ cross-cultural analysis.

Weeks 5-8

Developing a Critical Language

These sessions will introduce analytical frameworks that allow students to examine ways to develop a critical language for engaging with particular dance works. Viewing very different kinds of performances (could be live or films) and begin a process of description based on effort that is apparent visibly. From thereon, describing the context in which the work is made and viewed and pushing the question of intentionality to develop a rounded understanding of the work and a critical language.

These sessions will also examine notions of time, including tempo, rhythm and repetition, and contexualising them within practice historically and with reference to particular dance works and contemporary dance-makers. An engagement with a range of materials available on choreographer Chandralekha’s body of work will be used as a case study example to help develop student’s own writing.

Weeks 9-13

Choreographic Portraits

These sessions will enable students in planning a research documentation and writing project towards a choreographic portrait of an artist’s oeuvre or a specific work. The lectures will introduce students to:

engage with reflective, personal accounts on lives and practices of dance artists as research/ researchable material

develop an understanding about how to design, structure and conduct interviews with practitioners and reflect on documentation practices in dance.

examine available and excavating artists’ notes, drawings, statements, production plans etc. to delve on issues such as intentionality, style, structure, politics in processes of making.

develop an understanding on how to cite, reference & source following the Harvard style sheet

Week 14

Consolidation Week + Open Feedback

Assessment Details with weights:

objective of the assessment is to evaluate the level to which the student has developed a vocabulary to engage with dance practice. Attending classes regularly is vital and any absence may affect the grades.

Participation in classroom tasks and discussions (30%)

Submission of mid-term assignment (30%)

Submission of end-term written and/or portfolio documents (40%)

Reading List:

  • Carter, Alexandra, and Janet O'Shea, eds. The Routledge dance studies reader. Routledge, 2010.
  • Mackrell, Judith, Reading Dance, London, M. Joseph, 1997
  • Ed. Bremser, Martha and Sanders, Lorna, Fifty Contemporary Choreographers, Oxfordshire and New York, Routledge, 2011
  • Ed. Cherian, Anita, Tilt Pause Shift: Dance Ecologies in India, New Delhi, Tulika Books, 2016
  • A Century of Indian Dance, The Mohan Khokar Dance Collection, New Delhi, ICCR, 2010
  • Ed. Kothari, Sunil, New Directions in Indian Dance, Mumbai, Marg Publications, 2003
  • Banes, Sally, Writing Dancing in the Age of Postmodernism, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, 1994
  • Lerman, Liz, Hiking the Horizontal: Field Notes from a Choreographer, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, 2011
  • Briginshaw, Valerie, and Ramsay Burt. Writing dancing together. Springer, 2009.
  • Bharucha, Rustom, Chandralekha: Woman Dance Resistance, New Delhi, HarperCollins, 1995
  • Ed. Soneji, Davesh, Bharatanatyam: A Reader, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2010
  • Knight, Douglas, Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, 2010
  • Foster, Susan Leigh, ed. Choreographing history. Indiana University Press, 1995.