Performative Somaesthetics: Interconnections of Dancers, Audiences, and Sites


  • Jessica Fiala Independent Scholar
  • Suparna Banerjee Independent Scholar


This essay examines an aspect of the performative branch of somaesthetics—triangulated relationships among performers, audiences, and sites. Using this structure, the essay explores somaesthetic approaches to dancer agency, audience experiences, and embodied encounters with sites, as well as unpacking the dynamic relationships between these elements as live performance unfolds. Through theoretical frameworks and two dance case studies—TooMortal (2012) by Shobana Jeyasingh and Dusk at Stonehenge (2009) by Nina Rajarani—the authors draw upon somaesthetic frameworks to explore the holistic comingling of embodied aesthetic appreciation and physical environments.

Author Biographies

Jessica Fiala, Independent Scholar

Jessica Fiala is an independent scholar and dancer based in Minneapolis, MN (USA). She holds an interdisciplinary master's degree from the University of Minnesota focused in Museum Studies & Cultural Studies and her research has ranged from transcultural Bharatanatyam practice to postcolonial museum exhibitions, somaesthetics, and political public art. She has shared work via conferences at the University of Naples “l’Orientale” (2013), the University of Shanghai (2016, 2017), the University of Pittsburgh (2016), Pomona College (2016), and Hong Kong Baptist University (2017). She was the 2015 Research Coordinator for the International Award for Public Art and served as a group leader for the 2018 collaborative researcher convening in Shanghai. Her writing is included in the anthology The Ruined Archive (2014) and the journal Diálogos com a arte (2016). Jessica is a company member of Ragamala Dance Company and has studied Bharatanatyam with Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy since 2006. She has toured with Ragamala throughout the United States and to India, the U.K., and the United Arab Emirates, with performance highlights including the Kennedy Center, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, and Jacob’s Pillow. Jessica is also a Research Associate at the consulting firm 8 Bridges Workshop, supporting clients in philanthropy, arts and cultural organizations, and public media.

Suparna Banerjee, Independent Scholar

Suparna Banerjee, an independent scholar, dance artist, and writer from India, is trained in Bharatanatyam and Tagore dance. She obtained her PhD (2015) in Dance Studies from the University of Roehampton, UK. Her research interests have remained diverse and interdisciplinary and are an integral part of her travel routes. Her early research interests primarily focused on historiography of Sanskrit dance texts, Indian aesthetic theories, dance criticism, and dance pedagogy. Since 2006 she has been traveling as a visiting scholar to various universities in the USA where she lectured and taught Master classes in BA and MA programs. While teaching and making research-led dances in the USA, her research foci have shifted to transnationalism, globalization theories, dance ethnography, and critical pedagogy. More recently, her research has focused on postcolonial, postmodern and somaesthetic theories in the context of dance. Previously, she has also contributed to developing dance curricula for the undergraduate liberal education program at FLAME University in India. Her writings on dance have appeared in a number of peer-reviewed journals, namely Research in Dance EducationThe Global Studies Journal and elsewhere. In 2018, she has contributed a chapter in an anthology Digital Echoes (Palgrave Macmillan).