Dancing with Feeling

Article excerpt

A nearly 2,000-year-old Hindu text on the performing arts has opened a new avenue of research into emotions. The ancient book, known as the Natyasastra, describes nine primary emotions and how to express each of them in Indian classical dance. Until now, researchers studying emotions have mainly had volunteers assess pictures of facial expressions.

Natives of both the United States and India shown videotapes of these dances identified the emotions accurately in two out of three trials, a new study finds. Volunteers recognized displays of anger, disgust, fear, and sadness, which some Western investigators have designated as the basic emotions that occur in all cultures (SN: 9/19/98, p. 190). Participants also frequently discerned dance portrayals of humor-amusement, love, and wonder, all emotions that have positive connotations.

These preliminary results suggest that "there may be more positive basic emotions than have been previously recognized," conclude psychologist Ahalya Hejmadi of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and his colleagues.

Hejmadi, who is experienced at classical Indian dance, performed three brief versions of each of the Natyasastra's nine primary emotions: anger, disgust, fear, heroism, humor-amusement, love, peace, sadness, and wonder. …