Pedagogical shifts in Bharathatyam, Durban: Case studies in Durban-South Africa and Chennai-India (2019 & 2020)

Master Thesis


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This dissertation explores pedagogical shifts in Bharathanatyam in Durban, South Africa and Chennai, India in the 2000s. It questions the state of Bharathanatyam teaching in South Africa today in order to understand its role in a multicultural context. Chapter One forms the rationale and background to the study. It begins by offering a contextual frame of the histories and cultural politics in South Africa and India. It discusses Dance and the beginnings of Indian Dance in South Africa, ending with reflections of Bharathanatyam pedagogy, post 1994 in South Africa. The literature review spans across Chapters Two and Three, which look broadly at critical pedagogy and expanded views of culture. Notions in Dance pedagogy by Sue Stinson (1999), Sherry B. Shapiro (2004), Lliane Loots (2006) and Sharon Friedman (2011) are accessed to discuss western pedagogical paradigms. These are contrasted by Suparna Banerjee (2013), Sunil Kothari (2007) and Shanti Pillai (2002) whose critique of the Guru-Shishya Parampara offers a counterpoint of the dominant western hegemony. Janet O'Shea (2009) and Ketu Katrak (2011) aid in the understanding of Bharathanatyam as a ‘carrier of culture' in the Motherland and diaspora. A qualitative research methodology was deployed to uncover practices by teachers in Chennai and Durban. This study will investigate how some traditional gesticulations such as Adavus, hastas and posture are not being rigidly upheld in the teaching of Bharathanatyam by certain teachers. Unstructured interviews, participant observation and a discussion of baani from case studies was utilized. Some of the major findings of the study included observations of a dilution of Adavu teaching in Durban, the marginalisation of Bhakti and the genealogical mapping of the Tanjore/Pandanallur baani. A proposal for the institutionalisation of Bharathanatyam is made.