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Durga Mani Maran

Durga Mani Maran

MA Arts Pedagogy and Practice
2019 — 2020

A teaching artist, founder of Tripataka, Durga Mani Maran debuted in Bharathanatyam at the age of 16 under the guidance of the late Mrs. Neila Sathyalingam. She later trained under the guidance of the late Mrs. Krishnaveni Lakshman, principal of Kalakshetra College of Fine arts in Chennai and has studied 'Navanrithya' in Kolkata. Durga holds a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts with a Dance major from Deakin University Australia, a Specialist Diploma In Arts Education from the National Institute of Education, and a Master's Degree in Arts Pedagogy and Practice from LASALLE College of the Arts, awarded by Goldsmiths, University of London. Durga has independently presented her works at festivals, conferences and artists’ residencies with the support of the National Arts Council, Arts Fund and National Youth Council of Singapore.


Durga is interested in transforming practice to make effective the learning and embodiment of Bharathanatyam through performance, research and dialogue. She believes that dancers need training tools that support the engagement of the ‘self’ while establishing context in performance. She has developed a psycho-physical-sensorial route towards preparing the body and mind to perform the content of a text. By actively triggering the senses, the dancer can attend to the predominant emotion grounded in the text.

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Thesis abstract

Personalising the Sringara Padam with Chekhov's acting techniques

The purpose of the practice of Bharathanatyam is for the actor, dancer and spectator to experience aesthetic pleasure (Rao, A. 1997). Some of the problems present in the current landscape of learning Bharathanatyam include the codification of the form and the authoritarian style rooted in the teaching of the form. This has led many student dancers to feel incompetent and has consequentially made the form unattainable. According to ancient treatise, dance is meant to be sensorial, experiential and pleasurable. Have these core values of the practice been lost through transmission? The purpose of my intervention is to make the learning of the emotion love (Sringara Rasa), in the practice of Bharathanatyam, accessible to all levels of dancers. This sequential model interrogates the cognitive activities of a role or character performing the emotion. To bridge the gaps in learning, my intervention aims at re-examining the theory and practice of poetic Texts (Padams) based on the emotion love (Sringara Rasa). An engagement in self-inquiry will allow dancers to access the true nature of Bharathanatyam. Can sensorial ranges be heightened through facilitating a shift in the transmission and dissemination of learning the component emotion (Rasa)? How do I communicate the emotion love (Sringara Rasa) through the mode of ‘sensing’ (Pulaneri Vazhakku) by adapting Michael Chekhov’s Psychophysical Technique? I hope this encourages dancers to re-establish their position with the form by making it personal, thus empowering them with an embodied practice. Nurturing the individual personality of a student allows him/her to harmonize between the form and themselves. It is important for the learner to engage in the form through relevant context and narratives, experiences and sensibilities and individual cultures and stimulus. Providing this fair opportunity to all is my approach towards building a progressive curriculum.

Keywords: Accessible, Autonomy, Embodied, Sensing, Progressive

Work experience

1999 – 2020
Choreographer / dancer / dance educator
- Durga’s choreographic works are based on the study of dance and its environment. She enjoys generating perspective through interdisciplinary collaboration.
- Her workshops are immersive and aimed at advancing the appreciation, practice and sustenance of this traditional form. She performs regularly and runs her own dance curriculum at Tripataka.
- She serves as a teaching artist for dance at mainstream and SPED Schools and conducts regular workshops locally and overseas. Durga also promotes independent thought by encouraging the ideation and creation processes of emerging artists through mentorship initiatives.