Professor Jerri Daboo
Professor in Performance
I worked professionally as a performer and director for fifteen years, before taking up the position of Lecturer in Exeter in 2004. My work moves across forms of theatre, music, dance, and popular culture in a range of different contexts.
My research and teaching focus on performance and culture in diverse contexts and practices. I have been working on a number of projects researching the histories, cultures, and performance forms of the British South Asian communities, and transnational connections with the Indian subcontinent. I was a member of the AHRC-funded project investigating the history of British South Asian theatre. Subsequently, I was the PI on a project researching the histories and cultures of the communities in Southall for the AHRC-funded Southall Story project. An AHRC Follow-on grant enabled us to tour the exhibition and run a related festival in Delhi and Bangkok. I was the PI on an AHRC/REACT project with renowned tabla player, composer and producer Kuljit Bhamra and Keda Music to develop an electronic version of the tabla, along with new teaching materials and a new notation system for the instrument. Further information can be found on keda.co.uk. The project has been nominated for a Times Higher Education Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts. More recently, I’ve been working on the AHRC-funded project led by my colleague Professor Cathy Turner on the politics of performance in South India, and am joint PI with Dr Smriti Haricharan in NIAS, Bangalore, on an AHRC Newton-Bhabha funded network grant examining cultural heritage and migration in connection with weddings and marriage among women in the Tamil and Parsi communities in India and the UK.
I conducted an extensive study of the music and dance ritual of tarantism in Southern Italy, resulting in a monograph, 'Ritual, Rapture and Remorse: a study of tarantism and pizzica in Salento' (Peter Lang, 2010) which has received two awards: a special citation for the de la Torre Bueno prize awarded by the Society of Dance History Scholars in America; and runner-up for the Katherine Briggs Award, 2010.
Another strand of my research is on performer training and the body. I trained and taught for many years in martial arts, yoga, Buddhism, Indian dance, movement, physical theatre, body awareness and improvisation, and utilise principles from these in my work with actors and dancers. My practical and theoretical research areas take an transcultural and interdisciplinary approach to examining actor and dancer training and performance, particularly through Buddhist philosophy and practice, and the work of Michael Chekhov.
I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Culture, place and identity - British South Asian and Indian Cultures and Performance
An investigation into aspects of British South Asian and Indian performance and culture.
The Electronic Tabla
This is a project initially funded by an AHRC/REACT grant working with musician and composer Kuljit Bhamra to create prototype for an electronic form of the Indian tabla drums, a new digital notation system, and a series of related teaching books.. As well as producing the prototype, the project conducted focus groups with tabla players and wetsern orchestral percussionists, and is creating new teaching materials for the instrument.
- 'Demystifying or Destroying? Cultural heritage and tradition in playing the tabla, and developing the electronic tabla and digital notation system', in Whatley S, Cisneros R, Sabiescu A (eds) Digital Echoes: Spaces for Intangible and Performance-based Cultural Heritage, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016
- Teaching Tabla in the Classroom: the process of transadaptation in creating a new teaching and notation system. (2020) ORE Full text.
Cultural Heritage, Migration, and Marriage
Jerri is the UK PI for this AHRC/ICHR Newton-Bhabha funded project on cultural heritage, migration and diaspora, focusing on women in the Tamil and Parsi diaspora communities in India and the UK. Working with a network team in India, the UK, and Thailand, the project examines cultural heritage transformations due to migration.
Project website: https://heritagemarriagemigration.wordpress.com/
The Southall Story Project
Jerri Daboo was the Principal Investigator on this three year project funded by the AHRC (2011 – 2014). This project was a collaboration with 'The Southall Story', a public organisation which aims to document and celebrate the cultural history of the communities within Southall: http://www.thesouthallstory.com/about/
Project website: http://culturalhistoryofsouthall.wordpress.com/
Jerri was invited to give a public lecture on British Asian performance, culture and identity at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand in August 2012. She was also invited to present a film on 'The Southall Story' at Jalsa, an event organised by the AHRC to promote their work in India, at the British High Commission in Delhi, in September 2012.
Jerri was awarded Follow-on Funding by the AHRC to tour the exhibition from the project to Delhi in November 2013, and to curate a Festival of British Asian Culture at the India International Centre in Delhi, with the three artistic consultants from the Southall Story organisation. Following this, they will travel to Bangkok and conduct community engagement workshops with the Indian diasporic communities in the city.
To Claim a Place: South Asian Women’s Activism and Performance in Southall, UK. In Daboo J, Sinthuphan J (Eds.) Mapping Migration: performing identity and culture in the Indian diasporas of Southeast Asia and the UK, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018
British Asian Theatre Project
Jerri was the co-investigator on this four-year AHRC-funded project (2005-2008) This subsequently led to extended research in British South Asian theatre, and the performance and cultural forms of the South Asian communities in Britain. She has given talks internationally related to this research, and was the academic advisor for a BBC Radio 3 programme on British South Asian theatre.
- Staging British South Asian Theatre: Bollywood and Bhangra in British Theatre (Routledge, 2017)
- ‘The Arts Britain Still Ignores?’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, 38, 1, 2018, pp 3-8
- ‘Mixing with the Mainstream: Transgressing the Identity of Place’, in Ley G, Dadswell S (eds) British South Asian Theatre: Critical Essays, Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2011
- ‘One Under the Sun: Globalization, Culture and Utopia in Bombay Dreams’, Contemporary Theatre Review, Vol 15 (3), 2005
British Asian Women and Self-Harm
A practice-based research project, funded by the Asian Arts Agency in Bristol, exploring the reasons for the high incidence of self-harm among Asian women in Britain. The project consisted of a series of drama-based workshops in a community centre in Bristol. The research additionally involved an historical study of the ritual of sati in India, and issues of appropriation and translocation, particularly through theories of postcolonialism and select aspects of cotemporary fields in geography.
- ‘Unveiled: interrogating the use of applied drama in multiple and specific sites’, Research in Drama Education, Vol 12, No1, 2007
Bodymind in training and performance, and the work of Michael Chekhov
This work examines ways in which an understanding of the connection between body and mind can be of benefit to the performer. Much of the theoretical underpinning is based in Buddhist philosophy and practice, as well as training in Eastern practices such as yoga and martial arts. There is a focus on the work of Russian theatre practitioner Michael Chekhov (1891-1955) which examines his exercises that develop an embodied approach to the imagination for the actor. This research encompasses both practice-based work and written research, and is also a key basis for Jerri’s teaching within the Department.
Selected related publications, presentations and performances
- 'As the shadow follows the body”: examining Chekhov’s creation of character through “Eastern” practices' in The Michael Chekhov Reader, eds Autant-Mathieu and Meerzon, Routledge, 2015
- Michael Chekhov and the Studio in Dartington: the re-membering of a tradition’, in Pitches J (ed) The Russians in Britain: British Theatre and the Influence of the Russian Tradition of Acting, Routledge, 2012
- 'Theatre and the Senses', presentation and workshop with Tom Cornford at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London, November 2011
- 'Michael Chekhov and the Dartington Archives symposium', organiser of this symposium in association with the Dartington Trust and the Devon Records Office, April 2011
- ‘The Altering I/Eye: Consciousness, 'Self' and the New Paradigm in Acting’, in Meyer-Dinkgrafe D, Brask P (eds) Performing Consciousness, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010, 143-161
- ‘To learn through the body: teaching Asian forms of training and performance in higher education’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, vol. 29, no. 2, 2009, 121-131
- ‘Michael Chekhov and the Embodied Imagination: Higher Self and non-self’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, vol. 27, no. 3, 2007, 261-273
- Invited presentation at ‘Michael Chekhov: From Moscow to Hollywood, From Stage to Screen’, international conference at Paris III-Sorbonne nouvelle, September 2007
- ‘To imagine with the body: an exploration of the body-mind relationship in actor training and performance’, conference presentation at ‘Mind-Body Conference’, University of Reading, July 2007 ‘Michael Chekhov and the Embodied Imagination: Higher Self and Non-Self’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, 27.3, 2007
- The Present Generation project, June 2006
- Exploring the psychophysical through the 5 Elements (practice-based presentation at the Changing Body conference, University of Exeter, January 2006, published as DVD-rom through Exeter Digital Archives)
- Invited presentation at ‘Theatre of the future? Michael Chekhov and 21st Century Performance’, international conference, Dartington, November 2005
- ‘“Standing Still While Not Standing Still”: using Asian martial arts in approaching Beckett’, Total Theatre, October 2003
- ‘Removing the Writing from the Wall, and then Removing the Wall’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, Vol 23, no 2, November 2003.
Tarantism and pizzica
An exploration of the Southern Italian ritual of tarantism, through research and practice.
Tarantism is a performance-based ritual with written records dating back to the 15th Century, which utilises a particular form of pizzica music and dance as a therapeutic means to cure the poison resulting from the bite of a tarantula spider. In the Salento region of Apulia, where my research focuses, it is also acknowledged that the bite is not necessarily ‘real’, but the condition is a result of socio-economic and psychological pressures. The ‘victims’, or tarantati, dance in response to particular melodies, often for days on end, to sweat the ‘poison’, or state, out of their bodies. The ritual no longer exists as such, however since the 1970s there has been a revival of interest in tarantism, in part fuelled by the number of researchers who have visited the region. This has resulted in the establishment of a new movement, neo-tarantism, which encompasses both a revival of traditional forms of pizzica, as well as creating new musical styles which blend forms such as reggae, hip-hop and ragamuffin.
This research project contains both a series of practice-based projects exploring aspects of the ritual, as well as a theoretical and historical investigation, resulting in several presentations and publications, including a monograph. Funding for field research has been provided through grants from the British Academy and the Arts Council.
Practice as Research Project
'Inspiratio' was a piece of dance-theatre based on themes from research into the ritual of tarantism. It was performed in London and Exeter in 2000 and 2001.
Publications and performance presentations
- To be Re-Bitten and to Re-Become: examining repeated embodied acts in ritual performance. Performance Research: a journal of the performing arts, 2015, 20(5)
- ‘Ritual, rapture and remorse: a study of tarantism and pizzica in Salento' (Peter Lang, 2010). The book has been awarded two prizes: Special Citation for the 2011 De La Torre Bueno prize, awarded by the Society of Dance History Scholars in the United States; and runner-up prize for the Katharine Briggs Award, 2010
- ‘To Know the Self is to Forget the Self: the Bodymind in Performance’, in The Human Body: A Universal Sign – Bridging Art with Science (Jagiellonian University Press, Krakow, 2006) Essay on tarantism and Inspiratio, first presented at a related conference
- Performance of, and presentation on Inspiratio at ‘Research in Drama and Education’ international conference, 2002
- Presentation on Inspiratio at ‘Relocating the Sacred in Contemporary Performance Practice’, international conference at the University of Central Lancashire, 2001
I am currently supervising six PhD students, including three through practice, and have previously supervised fourteen students through to completion. Subject areas include performance and culture; ritual performance; actor/performer training; traditional and contemporary dance forms.
I welcome enquiries from prospective MPhil or PhD students in the areas of:
Systems of actor training including Stanislavsky; Michael Chekhov; Joseph Chaikin.
Issues of the body and bodymind in performance.
Martial arts/meditiation in/as performance.
Performance and culture.
Traditional forms of dance.
Physical and dance-theatre.
British South Asian performance and culture.