1st Edition

The Teaching of Kathakali in Australia Mirroring the Master

By Arjun Raina Copyright 2021
    144 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    144 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book tells the story of teaching Kathakali, a seventeenth century Indian dance-drama, to contemporary performers in Australia.


    A rigorous analysis and detailed documentation of the teaching of multiple learners in Melbourne, both in the group workshop mode and one-on-one, combined with the author’s ethnographic research in India, leads to a unique insight into what the author argues persuasively is at the heart of the art’s aesthetic- a practical realisation of the theory of rasa as first articulated in the ancient Sanskrit treatise on drama The Natyashastra. The research references the latest discoveries in neuroscience on ‘mirror neurons’ and argues for a reconceptualization of Kathakali’s imitative methodology, advancing it from the reductive category of ‘mimicry’ to a more contemporary and complex mirroring which is where its value lies in Australian actor performer training.


    The Teaching of Kathakali in Australia will be of great interest to students and scholars of theatre and dance, intercultural actor training, practice-led research, and interdisciplinary studies of neuroscience and performance.


    Chapter 1

    Mirroring not Mimicking the Master

    Chapter 2

    The guru shishya or master disciple relationship

    Chapter 3

    From Mythology to reality: Western perceptions of the exotic Kathakali body

    Chapter 4

    Teaching Multiple Bodies in Australia

    Chapter 5

    Working One-on-One with Helen Smith and Peter Fraser

    Chapter 6

    Caste, Kathakali and its "gestures of embodied aggression"

    Chapter 7

    Performing Kathakali in Australia

    Chapter 8

    Kathakali for the global performer and researcher



    Arjun Raina was trained as an actor at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and as a Kathakali dancer at the International Centre for Kathakali, New Delhi, India. He has been performing and teaching drama and theatre for over 30 years. Arjun holds a PhD in Theater and Performance from Flinders University, Australia and has taught at the National School of Drama, New Delhi and at the Ambedkar and Ashoka Universities, in India.