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Picturing Dance

Postgraduate Diploma Design for Visual Communications, London College of Communications (University of the Arts London) | Date: 2010

Project-Type: Design research, personal project.

Creative Team: Divya Venkatesh

Bharatanatyam, a South Indian classical dance form originally from the state of Tamil Nadu, has traditionally been passed down from teacher to student through oral and lived practice. Dancers keep written records of their items and choreographies using a combination of stick figures, numbers to represent rhythm patterns, symbols and descriptions of actions. Each written record is unique to the dancer who wrote it, and is often only decipherable by them.

Picturing Dance is an investigation into whether graphic design tools and research methods can be used to create a clearer, simpler – and potentially standardised –  notation system for this art form. 

Inspired by a range of secondary research relating to choreography, dance history, western classical and modern dance notation systems – the resulting body of visual experiments dips into the potential that information/notation design and visual grammar have to accurately communicate execution of movements.

Given the timeframe of the project and the technical complexity of Bharatanatyam, Picturing Dance focusses solely on foot movements in Adavus (small sequences of steps).

Picturing Dance in article form can be read in Maratt Mythili Anoop and Varun Gulati’s peer reviewed publication: “Scripting Dance in Contemporary India”, available for purchase: