Asian Performance in UK Universities


A consortium of UK academics, working in the diverse fields of theatre, dance and ethnomusicology, come together for the first time in this unique, multidisciplinary, roundtable discussion on the future of Asian theatre, dance and music in the UK HEIs.

Date & Venue: 17 May 2014:  Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, London (WC1X 9NG)


Asian Performing Arts Forum, Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research, Royal Holloway, University of London

Theatre, Consciousness & Asian Performance Research Group, University of Lincoln

Centre for Dance Research, University of Roehampton, London


Keynote Speaker: (TBC)

Asian performance research and pedagogy play a significant role in the UK HEIs. Asian theatre, music and dance, particularly the classical forms originating from East, South-East and South Asia, have been ‘visible presences’ in the curriculum of a number of university drama and theatre departments in the country, either in all three years of the degree or as an option or part of an option for a specific year (Thorpe 2009; Meduri 2005, 2010). Asian forms, practices, practitioners and productions are also studied in the contexts of intercultural theatre, world music and world dance, potentiating a vibrant and dynamic ‘space’ for theoretical and practical enquiry into what we think about performance today.

Earlier generations of scholars looked at Asian performance practices anthropologically or as tools for performer training or root sources of the international avant-garde, investigating and reframing an exploratory language and a performance vocabulary while today, increasingly, Asian arts and artists are framed within discourses of globalization and travelling cultures.

For a reasonably lengthy time of five to six decades in the past, the HEIs in the UK hosted and preserved some of the excellent moments of this encounter with Asian performance. The creation of actor training methods; innovative production approaches; emergence of new academic disciplines such as performance studies, theatre anthropology, ethnomusicology, theatre & consciousness and world dance; recent publication of research monographs and edited anthologies and journal special issues on a wide range of topics related to Asian performance, intercultural and diasporic theatre, music and dance (Barba, Blacking, Brown, Chatterjee, Cohen, Coldiron, Cooley, Daboo, Dadswell, David, Furse, Grau, Haney, Hingorani, Kapsali, Ley, Li, Lloyd, Madhavan, Malekin, Martin, Meduri, Meyer-Dinkgräfe, Mitra, Merriam, Morcom, Nair, Nettl, Pavis, Post, Prickett, Purkayastha, Rice, Schechner, Seeger, Stobart, Tan, Thorpe, Yarrow, Yoo, Zarrilli et al.) all helped the HEIs in the UK becoming leading producers of new knowledge in the field of Asian performance.

The understanding of the history of practice and a genealogy of concepts emanating from the encounter with Asian performance raises a number of questions that are currently relevant and the roundtable proposes to address the following issues in terms of Asian research, pedagogy and performance practice in the UK HEIs:

·         What kind of concerns, issues and possibilities does Asian performance research and pedagogy raise in the current scenario in UK HEIs?

·         How ‘visible’ are the people who are currently active in the field in the UK HEIs?

·         How and in what ways will Asian practice enable the enhancement of the psychophysical, tactile and cognitive capabilities of the par-takers of drama and theatre in the UK HEIs—what are the new approaches and applications?

·         Can the study of Asian performance express transnationalism? Reflect localism? Highlight, or even critique, globalisation? Or do students interpret Asian performance as a neo-colonial impulse, the introduction of an island nation to the Other?

·         What sort of postgraduate training is needed in order to support and produce the next generation of world-class researchers?

·         What ethical principles might be agreed upon by academics in order to interrogate, enhance or disrupt global circulations of Asian performance?

·         What new futures can be imagined for Asian performing arts research within the new benchmark standards set by AHRC’s recent ‘Techne’ initiative?

·         What is the future for Asian performance in UK HEIs; what are the new challenges and opportunities that Asian scholars, researchers and students grapple with the UK HEI’ sector today?


3.00 Introduction: Dr. Sreenath Nair, University of Lincoln

3.10-3.40 Keynote: (TBC)

3.40 Consortium Roundtable:

Professor Matthew Isaac Cohen, Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr. Arya Madhavan, University of Lincoln

Dr. Ashley Thorpe, Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr. Avanthi Meduri, University of Roehampton

Dr. Shzr Ee Tan, Royal Holloway, University of London


4.30 Responses

Professor (Emeritus) Ralph Yarrow, University of East Anglia

Professor Keith Howard, SOAS


4.50 discussion by participants

5.20 summing up: Professor Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe, University of Lincoln

5.30 end


All welcome!

For more information about the Consortium Round-Table and confirmation of your attendance please contact: Dr. Sreenath Nair, University of Lincoln: