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Professor Jerri Daboo

Professor in Performance


01392 724534

I worked professionally as a performer and director for fifteen years, before taking up the position of Lecturer in Exeter in 2004. My work moves across forms of theatre, music, dance, and popular culture in a range of different contexts.

My research and teaching focus on performance and culture in diverse contexts and practices. I have been working on a number of projects researching the histories, cultures, and performance forms of the British South Asian communities, and transnational connections with the Indian subcontinent. I was a member of the AHRC-funded project investigating the history of British South Asian theatre. Subsequently, I was the PI on a project researching the histories and cultures of the communities in Southall for the AHRC-funded Southall Story project. An AHRC Follow-on grant enabled us to tour the exhibition and run a related festival in Delhi and Bangkok. I am the PI on an AHRC/REACT project with renowned tabla player, composer and producer Kuljit Bhamra and Keda Music to develop an electronic version of the tabla, along with new teaching materials and a  new notation system for the instrument. Further information can be found on The project has been nominated for a Times Higher Education Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts. More recently, I’ve been working on the AHRC-funded project led by my colleague Professor Cathy Turner on the politics of performance in South India, and am joint PI with Dr Smriti Haricharan in NIAS, Bangalore, on an AHRC Newton-Bhabha funded network grant examining cultural heritage and migration in connection with weddings and marriage among women in the Tamil and Parsi communities in India and the UK.

I conducted an extensive study of the music and dance ritual of tarantism in Southern Italy, resulting in a monograph, 'Ritual, Rapture and Remorse: a study of tarantism and pizzica in Salento' (Peter Lang, 2010) which has received two awards: a special citation for the de la Torre Bueno prize awarded by the Society of Dance History Scholars in America; and runner-up for the Katherine Briggs Award, 2010.

Another strand of my research is on performer training and the body. I trained and taught for many years in martial arts, yoga, Buddhism, Indian dance, movement, physical theatre, body awareness and improvisation, and utilise principles from these in my work with actors and dancers. My practical and theoretical research areas take an transcultural and interdisciplinary approach to examining actor and dancer training and performance, particularly through Buddhist philosophy and practice, and the work of Michael Chekhov.

Research interests

Bodymind in training and performance, and the work of Michael Chekhov

This work examines ways in which an understanding of the connection between body and mind can be of benefit to the performer. Much of the theoretical underpinning is based in Buddhist philosophy and practice, as well as training in Eastern practices such as yoga and martial arts. There is a focus on the work of Russian theatre practitioner Michael Chekhov (1891-1955) which examines his exercises that develop an embodied approach to the imagination for the actor. This research encompasses both practice-based work and written research, and is also a key basis for Jerri’s teaching within the Department.

Selected related publications, presentations and performances

  • 'As the shadow follows the body”: examining Chekhov’s creation of character through “Eastern” practices' in The Michael Chekhov Reader, eds Autant-Mathieu and Meerzon, Routledge, 2015
  • Michael Chekhov and the Studio in Dartington: the re-membering of a tradition’, in Pitches J (ed) The Russians in Britain: British Theatre and the Influence of the Russian Tradition of Acting, Routledge, 2012
  • 'Theatre and the Senses', presentation and workshop with Tom Cornford at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London, November 2011
  • 'Michael Chekhov and the Dartington Archives symposium', organiser of this symposium in association with the Dartington Trust and the Devon Records Office, April 2011
  • ‘The Altering I/Eye: Consciousness, 'Self' and the New Paradigm in Acting’, in Meyer-Dinkgrafe D, Brask P (eds) Performing Consciousness, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010, 143-161
  • ‘To learn through the body: teaching Asian forms of training and performance in higher education’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, vol. 29, no. 2, 2009, 121-131
  • ‘Michael Chekhov and the Embodied Imagination: Higher Self and non-self’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, vol. 27, no. 3, 2007, 261-273
  • Invited presentation at ‘Michael Chekhov: From Moscow to Hollywood, From Stage to Screen’, international conference at Paris III-Sorbonne nouvelle, September 2007
  • ‘To imagine with the body: an exploration of the body-mind relationship in actor training and performance’, conference presentation at ‘Mind-Body Conference’, University of Reading, July 2007 ‘Michael Chekhov and the Embodied Imagination: Higher Self and Non-Self’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, 27.3, 2007
  • The Present Generation project, June 2006
  • Exploring the psychophysical through the 5 Elements (practice-based presentation at the Changing Body conference, University of Exeter, January 2006, published as DVD-rom through Exeter Digital Archives)
  • Invited presentation at ‘Theatre of the future? Michael Chekhov and 21st Century Performance’, international conference, Dartington, November 2005
  • ‘“Standing Still While Not Standing Still”: using Asian martial arts in approaching Beckett’, Total Theatre, October 2003
  • ‘Removing the Writing from the Wall, and then Removing the Wall’, Studies in Theatre and Performance, Vol 23, no 2, November 2003.


Tarantism and pizzica

An exploration of the Southern Italian ritual of tarantism, through research and practice.

Tarantism is a performance-based ritual with written records dating back to the 15th Century, which utilises a particular form of pizzica music and dance as a therapeutic means to cure the poison resulting from the bite of a tarantula spider. In the Salento region of Apulia, where my research focuses, it is also acknowledged that the bite is not necessarily ‘real’, but the condition is a result of socio-economic and psychological pressures. The ‘victims’, or tarantati, dance in response to particular melodies, often for days on end, to sweat the ‘poison’, or state, out of their bodies. The ritual no longer exists as such, however since the 1970s there has been a revival of interest in tarantism, in part fuelled by the number of researchers who have visited the region. This has resulted in the establishment of a new movement, neo-tarantism, which encompasses both a revival of traditional forms of pizzica, as well as creating new musical styles which blend forms such as reggae, hip-hop and ragamuffin.

This research project contains both a series of practice-based projects exploring aspects of the ritual, as well as a theoretical and historical investigation, resulting in several presentations and publications, including a monograph. Funding for field research has been provided through grants from the British Academy and the Arts Council.


Practice as Research Project

'Inspiratio' was a piece of dance-theatre based on themes from research into the ritual of tarantism. It was performed in London and Exeter in 2000 and 2001.


Publications and performance presentations

  • ‘Ritual, rapture and remorse: a study of tarantism and pizzica in Salento' (Peter Lang, 2010). The book has been awarded two prizes: Special Citation for the 2011 De La Torre Bueno prize, awarded by the Society of Dance History Scholars in the United States; and  runner-up prize for the Katharine Briggs Award, 2010
  • ‘To Know the Self is to Forget the Self: the Bodymind in Performance’, in The Human Body: A Universal Sign – Bridging Art with Science (Jagiellonian University Press, Krakow, 2006) Essay on tarantism and Inspiratio, first presented at a related conference
  • Performance of, and presentation on Inspiratio at ‘Research in Drama and Education’ international conference, 2002
  • Presentation on Inspiratio at ‘Relocating the Sacred in Contemporary Performance Practice’, international conference at the University of Central Lancashire, 2001


Culture, place and identity - British South Asian Cultures and Performance

An investigation into aspects of British South Asian performance and culture.

British Asian Theatre

Co-investigator on this four-year AHRC-funded project. Current focuses include the relationship of dance within British Asian Theatre; West End productions which utilise Asian forms and aesthetics, e.g., ‘Bombay Dreams’; and the 2007 season at the National Theatre.

Related publication

  • ‘Mixing with the Mainstream: Transgressing the Identity of Place’, in Ley G, Dadswell S (eds) British South Asian Theatre: Critical Essays, Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2011
  • ‘One Under the Sun: Globalization, Culture and Utopia in Bombay Dreams’, Contemporary Theatre Review, Vol 15 (3), 2005


The Southall Story

Jerri Daboo is the Principal Investigator on this three year project funded by the AHRC. This project is a collaboration with 'The Southall Story', a public organisation which aims to document and celebrate the cultural history of the communities within Southall:

Jerri is involved with gathering ethnographic and archival information in association with The Southall Story which will be utilised in a number of outputs. She has been part of two related exhibitions, including writing the section on theatre for 'The Southall Story at the Southbank', a major exhibition as part of the Alchemy festival in April 2010.

Project website:

Jerri was invited to give a public lecture on British Asian performance, culture and identity at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand in August 2012. She was also invited to present a film on 'The Southall Story' at Jalsa, an event organised by the AHRC to promote their work in India, at the British High Commission in Delhi, in September 2012.

Jerri has been awarded Follow-on Funding by the AHRC to tour the exhibition from the project to Delhi in November 2013, and to curate a Festival of British Asian Culture at the India International Centre in Delhi, with the three artistic consultants from the Southall Story organisation. Following this, they will travel to Bangkok and conduct community engagement workshops with the Indian diasporic communities in the city.


British Asian Women and Self-Harm

A practice-based research project, funded by the Asian Arts Agency in Bristol, exploring the reasons for the high incidence of self-harm among Asian women in Britain. The project consisted of a series of drama-based workshops in a community centre in Bristol. The research additionally involved an historical study of the ritual of sati in India, and issues of appropriation and translocation, particularly through theories of postcolonialism and select aspects of cotemporary fields in geography.

Related publication

  • ‘Unveiled: interrogating the use of applied drama in multiple and specific sites’, Research in Drama Education, Vol 12, No1, 2007


The Electronic Tabla

This is a project funded by an AHRC/REACT grant working with musician and composer Kuljit Bhamra to create  prototype for an electronic form of the Indian tabla drums. As well as producing the prototype, the project conducted focus groups with tabla players and wetsern orchestral percussionists, and is creating new teaching materials for the instrument.

Related Publication:

  • 'Demystifying or Destroying? Cultural heritage and tradition in playing the tabla, and developing the electronic tabla and digital notation system', in Whatley S, Cisneros R, Sabiescu A (eds) Digital Echoes: Spaces for Intangible and Performance-based Cultural Heritage, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016strument.

Research supervision

I am currently supervising six PhD students, including three through practice, and have previously supervised ten students through to completion. Subject areas include performance and culture; ritual performance; actor/performer training; traditional and contemporary dance forms.

I welcome enquiries from prospective MPhil or PhD students in the areas of:

Performer training.

Systems of actor training including Stanislavsky; Michael Chekhov; Joseph Chaikin.

Issues of the body and bodymind in performance.

Martial arts/meditiation in/as performance.

Performance and culture.

Ritual performance.

Traditional forms of dance.

Physical and dance-theatre.

British South Asian performance and culture.

Other information

I am a consultant for the Michael Chekhov Organisation, and organised the conference 'Michael Chekhov and the Dartington Archives' in 2011. I have guest-edited several editions of Studies in Theatre and Performance.