Eye expression in the dance theatre of East and West

Yato hasta stato drishtihi...Where the hand is, the eyes follow
Yato drishti stato manaha...Where the eyes go, the mind follows
Yato mana stato bhavaha...Where the mind is, there is the feeling
Yato bhava stato rasaha...Where there is feeling, there is mood/flavour, appreciation of art; aesthetic bliss

The intensive Workshops on dance and theatre puts forward a path of study comprising various Western and Eastern techniques acquired by Giovanna Summo during her long and varied artistic training. The combined study of the movement techniques of Contact Improvisation, the acting techniques of Stanislavskij-Strasberg, and the Indian theatre of Kutiyattam, provides multiple viewpoints enabling the participant to develop a global vision of dance theatre. Duration: Two or more days, 6 hours per day. The Workshops is aimed at actors and dancers.

Indian dance theatre, and in particular Kutiyattam (included in the Natyashastra since ancient times), recognises the importance of movement and expressivity of the eye in a performance. Eye expression, combined with hand/arm gesture, provide the direction, space and emotional intensity when narrating a story. The Kutiyattam techniques contains specific exercises for developing competences in this area.

Western art doesn’t have this ancient tradition, though recent decades have seen renewed and evergrowing interest in it. Indeed, today scientific research emphasises the importance of the eyes in the harmonic organization of body movement, while artistic research appraises eye expression in respect of both emotional expressivity and visual function. A section of Contact Improvisation has developed a wide range of exercises with eyes closed, effectively eliminating the visual function - in order to then re-acquire it with heightened, balanced perception. For its part, the Stanislavsij-Strasberg Method has developed a technique capable, by way of the imagination and sensorial memory, of activating the creative potential of sight; the ability that the eye possesses to see “beyond”, imagining “non-existent” realities and rendering them concrete and alive in the creative process..

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha, the main character of Hesse’s novel is a “seeker”, one who is not satisfied with acquired experience, but is always looking for other possibilities. Not stopping at common sense, but at inner instinct itself, can the seeker open new paths and new research fields.

From this description emerges an affinity between Siddhartha and the figure of the artist –a readiness to open up to new unknown landscapes with a strong vital sense of necessity that blends with the sense of art..

The Workshops, which includes a final presentation, is fully immersed in the works of Hermann Hesse; novelist, poet, painter and a seeker himself . He was provided with an extraordinary ability to create involving atmospheres thatblended reality and the imagination..

Participants will be guided through researchand improvisation to make performance material based on Hess’ Siddhartha.Themes to be explored will range from voyaging, to river bodies, to emotions of love and friendship and to death..

Utilizing techniques gleaned from western and eastern forms of dance, theatre and visual art, material generated will be composite in nature and poetic in spirit. The work will be supported by a daily training that combines abstract and gestural movement, sound, text, imagery and visualization. .

Duration: one week, 6 hours a day. The last day will be dedicated to the performance..

Introduction to Kutiyattam

The Workshops, which is proposed here, intends to introduce the participants through videos, exercises and work demonstrations to the culturally and artistically rich field of Kutiyattam and to its complex training for the performer.
Duration: two or more days


short introduction to the theory. Screening of the video “Netra and hasta in Kutiyattam”. Exercises: breath techniques, eye exercises, mudras (hand gestures), face expressions, recitation of slokas (use of the voice).Study of the play: Putana Moksham ( the liberation of Putana). Practice of the mudras and important slokas of the play.

Work demonstration: excerpts of Putana Moksham, Nangiarkoothu.
Performer: Giovanna Summo

The story: Putana is a Rakshasi (demoness) who was sent by Kamsa, the wicked uncle of Krishna, to kill him. Kamsa had the revelation by a sage, that Krishna, once grown up, would kill him to take revenge for the evil deeds he has done. Thus Kamsa orders the demoness Putana to kill all new born children, as he does not know the precise identity of Krishna. To fulfil the mission, Putana changes her demonic form to that of a beautiful woman, but at the moment when she tries to kill Krishna she is struck by his beauty and falls in love with the child. However fearing Kamsa’s revenge, she decides to kill the infant by giving him a poisoned breast to drink. Krishna, aware of the deception, feels mercy for the demoness as she felt a moment of love for him and releases her of her mortal body, drinking not only the poisoned milk but also all live out of her.