Akhila Vimal C. is a dancer, and a performance, and disability studies scholar. Her doctorate is in Theatre and Performance Studies from School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU (2021) focused on disfiguration in the classical and ritual-healing performances of Kerala, namely, Kathakal̤i, Kūṭiyāṭṭaṃ and Tĕyyaṃ, under the rubrics of pain and affect. Akhila has been a fellow at the prestigious Mellon School of Theatre and Performance Research funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation at Harvard University in 2016. In 2021, she received the inaugural International Federation of Theatre Research New Scholars Award in Disability Performance. In parallel, she is learning Sanskrit and Indian Shastras under Abhinava Balananda Bhairava, of the Sarada lineage.
As a trained dancer, who identifies as disabled, owing to partial and recurrent vision loss, Akhila’s research is located at the intersection of performance and disability and disabled dance pedagogy. Methodologically, she is committed to Practice as Research. As a Fulbright-Nehru Postdoctoral fellow at UCLA (2022-24), her project is to develop a practice-led dance pedagogy for blind and low-vision performers. The pedagogical model aims to collectively initiate collaborative learning, through somatic engagement with blind and low-vision performers, including the cultural unlearning of the expectations that come with dance training and sensibility.
Disfiguration, relationality of disability, gender, and caste in the Indian textual and performance practices and ritual-healing performances. Participatory dance pedagogy and disability and dance. Integrative methodology of ethnography, historical approaches, manuals, textual interpretations and choreographic analysis.
Selected publications include:
“Kings of the Shoreline: A Performance of Karalsmann Chavittu Nadakam,” in Continued Traditions and Histories of Performing Arts, (Akhila Vimal C, et al), Volume 3 of Projects/Processes series of the Serendipity Arts Festival, November
1)Book chapter titled, ‘1,000+ STAGE Performances: A Conversation with Chemancheri Kunjiraman Nair, The 100-Year-Old Kathakali Maestro’ in Anna Weinstein and Chris Qualis, ed. Acting for the Stage, PERFORM: Succeeding as a Creative Professional, January 2017 by Focal Press, Routledge, New York, USA.
2)Book chapter titled, ‘Performing Disability: Representation and Power in ‘Classical’ Indian Dance’ in Bree Hadley and Donna McDonald ed. The Routledge Handbook of Disability Arts, Culture, and Media, December 2018 by Routledge, London & New York
1)‘Prosthetic Rasa: Dance on Wheels and Challenged Kinaesthetics,’in Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, Special Issue: International Perspectives on Performance, Disability, and Deafness, August 2017.
2)‘Performing Disfiguration: Construction Of The ‘Primitive’ And The Ambiguities Of Representing Pain In Kathakaḽi’ in Journal of Emerging Dance Scholarship, Themed Issue: Dance in Practice, Pedagogy and Policies, September, 2017.
3)‘Performing Disfiguration: Staging of relationalities in Pottan Teyyam’ in Performance Research, special issue: On Disfiguration, March 2019.
4) ‘Politics and Poetics of Syncretism: Case Studies of the Bonbibi Cult, the Mappila Teyyam Performances, and Three Poems of the Bhakti Tradition from the Indian Subcontinent’ (Akhila Vimal C, et al), in the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism. Special Issue: Collaborative Research in Theatre and Performance Studies, The University of Kansas, Department of Theatre and Dance, November 2021