ANU Open Research Repository has been upgraded. We are still working on a few minor issues, which may result in short outages throughout the day. Please get in touch with if you experience any issues.

Dancescapes in Dialogue: An exploration of Indigenous Australian and Indian classical dance ontologies




Pandian, Sidha

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This ‘Thesis by Creative Works’ investigates the ‘same but different’ performative ontologies, or ways of being, between Indigenous Australian and Indian classical dancescapes. The term ‘dancescape’ refers to the emotional, intellectual, corporeal, spiritual and other ineffable experiences potentially encountered in dance. A multi-source research approach was used to examine numerous ‘dancescapes in dialogue’. As such, the thesis comprises both a written dissertation of 44,883 words and a series of videos with a total running time of 39.61 minutes. These integrated elements capture and re-present personal memories and improvisations of the different dancescapes over the period of the thesis project. The visual and written narratives articulate the philosophical and metaphysical ideas that emerged through creative collaborations between the two broad dance cultures; particularly between the South Indian classical dance genre, Bharatanatyam, and Noongar, Warlpiri and Yolŋu dance practices. Acknowledging the geographic and genetic links between India and Australia and its peoples, this thesis determines significant ontological resonances between present-day expressions of Indigenous Australian and Indian classical dance. I discuss how these affinities reside in similar movement vocabularies and dance techniques that enable performers and viewers to connect and renew their ties with the sacred and sentient environment. Through Vedic-Hindu performative lenses, I also suggest that Indigenous Australian dance practices deeply resonate with the aspect Nṛtta or ‘pure dance’ as discussed in the Nāṭyaśāstra—an ancient scripture on dramaturgy, written by Bharatamuni. My thesis further declares that such traditions of dance continue to engage in ways of speaking and listening to the earth by striking, digging, sliding and grazing feet upon sentient soil. Thus, the thesis highlights ‘dancescapes in dialogue’ as a systematic and multi-source method of unearthing, sharing and renewing Indigenous knowledges in this contemporary age.






Thesis (PhD)

Book Title

Entity type

Access Statement

License Rights



Restricted until