How Performance Studies is relevant to preserve cultural heritage

Institutions in the country are gradually integrating it into the mainstream curriculum

Priyadarshini Gupta | Posted February 10, 2024 07:00 AM

How Performance Studies is relevant to preserve cultural heritage

Performance Studies, within the academic context, is an interdisciplinary field that critically examines and interprets various forms of performance, encompassing theatre, dance, music, rituals, and even the realm of filmmaking.  

While conventional courses continue to draw significant interest, the global perspective on education has increasingly acknowledged the importance of Performance Studies. As awareness grows about the unique skillset acquired through Performance Studies, there is a notable shift in the perception of its relevance. While Performance Studies may have been more prominent abroad, institutions in India are gradually integrating it into their offerings, aligning with the evolving needs of students and the demands of a globalised workforce. 

Students are increasingly recognising the value of gaining a comprehensive understanding of performance and its cultural implications. The scope for Performance Studies in India, therefore, is poised for continued growth and recognition. “In the current educational landscape, where a diverse skillset is increasingly valued, Performance Studies stand out as a discipline that fosters creativity, critical thinking, and effective communication – qualities essential in a rapidly changing world. While the numbers have seen a notable rise in recent years, it is essential to continue promoting awareness about the diverse career opportunities that stem from a background in performance studies,” says Dhruv Galgotia, CEO of Galgotias University.  

“In India, Performance Studies play a crucial role in preserving and evolving our rich cultural heritage. Additionally, as India's film industry continues to thrive, integrating Performance Studies principles into filmmaking becomes paramount. The increasing popularity of film schools offering courses in acting and performance reflects this trend. Applications to courses integrating principles of Performance Studies have surged. The last five years have witnessed a notable increase in students recognising the value of understanding the intricacies of performance in filmmaking,” he says.  

Emphasising on Performance Studies and highlighting the importance of teaching and training techniques in the field of Indian theatre, Yogendra Choubey, head of theatre department, Indira Kala Sangeet University, Khairagarh (IKSU), Chhattisgarh, says, “Natya Shastra is the most important example of this. I believe that the aim of training is to develop skills among students, and this is not possible in a four-walled classroom.”   

Established in 2006, the theatre department at IKSU, offering programmes, gives special emphasis on the theoretical aspects of theatre and also encourages experiments. To enhance the natural talent of the students in the department, special training is provided on all the arts of theatre, such as acting, body movement. stage design, costume design, makeup, theatre music, direction, stage management, film acting and filmmaking process so that the students can be strengthened from the academic and professional point of view. “There was and will be a requirement for teaching training in the field of theatre. Institutional training refines a candidate, making one more creative, sensitive, and imaginative,” says Choubey.  

On whether there is scope for Performance Studies to grow in India, Danish Iqbal, course coordinator and assistant professor of acting, AJKMCRC, Jamia Milia Islamia, says, “If we conduct a proper study of performances, we will be in a better position to showcase our talent and culture more effectively. However, in India, most of us belong to middle-class and lower-middle class families for whom survival and economics play a very important role. Hence, students and parents prefer conventional courses. They prefer Engineering, Medicine and Law as study options where jobs and pay salary are more stable.”  

Dheeraj Soni, a former student and lecturer at Department of Theatre, Indira Kala Sangeet University, Khairagarh says, “I have seen that every year some students leave their course midway. This number is not much but still it is worth thinking about. Often a few students turn to other jobs offering better pay. Another reason is Bollywood glamour. Many often the initial fascination with theatre begins with Bollywood films and TV serials. Although these things are also included in the course, but students still have the ambition to enter films very soon instead of being fully trained. Performance study demands a lot of patience where there is no shortcut.  Lack of jobs in performing arts, especially theatre, is also an important reason as to why people are not drawn to this course. Unlike dance and music, there is not much employment in theatre.”  

Bright prospects“Graduates of Performance Studies enjoy a wide range of career prospects. They can pursue careers in performing arts, and can work as actors, directors, or choreographers. Additionally, there are opportunities in cultural management, event planning, and arts administration. The skills acquired in Performance Studies like effective communication, critical thinking, and creative expression, are highly transferable and applicable in various fields,” adds Galgotia.  

Nivedita Bhargava, a faculty member at Whistling Woods International, Mumbai, stresses on the fact that there is a lack of proper institutes having committed faculty who is from that trade which might be an issue for individuals pursuing this study.   

Platforms no longer limited“Earlier, people would not opt for Performance Studies as there was not much scope because the platforms were very limited. However, in the current scenario, that is no longer the case; the content has also become wider. However, Performance Studies has always been for somebody who has the passion, says Bhargava. “It’s not an acquired skill, one has to cultivate it. People who are passionate would struggle due to the limited means. But now, even a theatre festival, is being sponsored by people like industrialist Aditya Birla. With the advent of several OTT platforms and advanced technology, people are being drawn towards this field. There is a marked change in the mindset of people,” she adds.