Johnsen-Neshati Explores Hindu Dance Form in Fenwick Fellow Lecture

Posted: March 3, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Fran Rensbarger

Kristin Johnsen-Neshati, assistant professor in the Theater Department, presents her Fenwick Fellows Lecture on the results of her year of research investigating non-Western theatrical traditions, such as Iranian, Egyptian, and Turkish theater, through the use of dramatic texts, criticism, and videos. This year’s spring lecture, “Female, Male & Divine: An Exploration of Character in Bharata Natyam Dance,” will be given tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the Johnson Center Library, Instruction Room 228.

Johnsen-Neshati’s presentation focuses on a dance form originated by young women performing in the Hindu temples thousands of years ago, the religious context that gave rise to this dance form, and a theory as to how Hindu views of the divine shaped a performance aesthetic, particularly characterization. The dance features a visual language of highly precise eye and hand movements in combination with intricate footwork. Despite its near extinction, this dance form has experienced a major revival, making it one of the most celebrated of India’s classical performing arts.

Johnsen-Neshati is also resident dramaturg and artistic associate for Theater of the First Amendment (TFA), where she has worked on more than 25 productions and workshops. Before joining TFA’s staff and the university’s theater faculty in 1993, she worked at the Yale Rep and Goodman Theatres. She holds an MFA and DFA in dramaturgy and dramatic criticism from the Yale School of Drama and specializes in new play development and 19th-century Russian drama. She recently completed a new series of Chekhov translations for the stage, accompanied by a critical introduction. Last spring, Johnsen-Neshati directed Jeff Baron’s Visiting Mr. Green for the Center Company. She also contributes local reviews to and evaluates submissions for the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, where she attended the Critics Institute as the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival’s first Faculty Fellow in 2002.

The Fenwick Fellowship is a competitive award given annually to instructional faculty members for the pursuit of a research project that utilizes the University Libraries’ resources and advances knowledge in a specific field. The award includes a research office in Fenwick Library and a stipend of $1,500.

For more information on the Fenwick Fellow Lecture, call Friedgard Cowan at 993-2301 or e-mail

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