Rasa – A Life Skill
Rasa (sanskrit, lit. ‘taste’), a concept first introduced in the Natyasastra, the oldest existing Indian treatise on dramaturgy (200 BC–AD 200) can be translated as aesthetic appreciation, but this is a superficial definition that does not do justice to the spiritual and philosophical implications of this term. It is perceived as an experience ranging from simple enjoyment to complete absorption, to trance, to so-called out-of-body experiences. While these terms might alarm people, it is essential to understand that rasa refers to a complete state of empathy of a person with himself or herself, with another, or with a state of being or situation.
Almost every classical dance form in South and South East Asia, (not to mention music, sculpture, poetry and literature) claims some form of rasa as its goal. In this endeavour, dance in these parts of the world becomes pure communication using the body, facial expressions, music, rhythm, dialogue, storytelling and whatever else works. There is no concept of dance as just body movement. It is complete theatre that endeavours to transport the artist and the spectator into a realm where nothing exists but art.
However rasa need not lie solely in the realm of classical art forms. This article endeavours to build a different approach to a pedagogy more suitable to the Asian framework, using the concept of rasa as perceived in various performing art traditions in South and South East Asia and from the perspective of the philosophy propounded in the Natyasastra. Since I work with dance and the educational system in Asia, I choose not to use just the physical form of the art but the underlying philosophy as well. My goal is to use rasa in novel, effective and exciting ways to aid holistic education.
KeywordsAesthetic Appreciation Gender Prejudice Holistic Education Dance Form Physical Education Curriculum
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