The storyteller's bag of tools

In the video above you see Preeti use a mixed bag of facial expressions and hand gestures ("mudras").

Now let's break this down: you'll find a series of short video clips below, in which Preeti demonstrates each gesture and the facial expressions she's chosen to use.


For each one, she includes the name in Sanskrit (the classical language of India) and some further examples and applications.

Meet the mudras

First we'll look at hand gestures. Every culture uses its hands for expression. Preeti grew up learning Indian classical dance (bharatanatyam) in South India where gestures are classified in minute detail. Each gesture has specific meanings and applications.

ARAALAM (bent)

HAMSAASYAM  (beak of swan)


Facial expressions

In Indian dance and theatre, the face is a key tool for communicating emotion—Indian dancers and actors train for years to perfect their control of their facial muscles!


There are many techniques to isolate the movements of the face, which are classified as "bheda" (BAY-dah). Indian classical performer uses these in combination to create an emotional mood under what is called "saatvika abhinaya" (SAAT-vika ab-in-EYE-a).


In particular, watch these short demo videos to see how Preeti manipulates different aspects of facial expression (eyes, lips, eyebrows etc.) to create the emotional effect.

RAUDRAM (anger)

ADBHUTAM (amazement)

Ask Preeti

As you've seen by now, bharatanatyam uses a lot of hand gestures. Some of them can look quite similar. So which gestures should be used when?

On a sunny afternoon, we took our video camera into the garden to ask Preeti...

(If you have questions for Preeti send them to

THREE gestures for ONE bird: The Peacock. (Who else...???)

It's not just the gesture:

The role of EYES and HEAD

Preeti's commentary

There's a lot going on in Indian classical dance, even in a short sequence such as this. In the video below Preeti talks you through how she's using the classical gestural vocabulary to tell the story.

Think you're an expert already? Try this quiz!


Now it's your turn. This week, we challenge you to create a drawing of your favourite character from the story.

Send your drawings to us at We'll publish as many as we can on this site!

Meet our global collaborators...


Ben Foskett, Composer

Paris & London

Ben Foskett is a composer and arranger working across many different genres from classical concert music to ballet, dance, theatre, pop, film, TV and sound libraries.

Ben met Preeti when he was still a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London (back in 2002). 

Accosted into the world of dance by Preeti, he has since gone on to work on a number of dance pieces with her and other leading dance companies including the Ballet Boyz. His orchestral piece "From Trumpet" was commissioned by the BBC Proms.

We asked Ben some questions about his process in creating the music for "The Golden Mango"—he gave us some great answers which you can see by clicking the button below. To see more about Ben and his work go to

Tom Lynch, Illustrator

New York City

Tom is one of New York's most in-demand illustrators and commercial artists. He's designed numerous book covers for leading publishers. He's written and illustrated numerous children's books—you can see more of his incredible work at Tom Lynch & Company.


For his version of "Aesop's Fables" he was (to his amazement) described as "a kind of genius" by the New York Times.

Tom first worked with Preeti in 2010, when he and partner Tony Reonegro created incredible set designs for her award-winning production "The Absent Lover".


We asked Tom for some background on how he became an artist—you can see his reply by clicking on the button below.

Bonus videos: Drawing with Tom!

Tom talks us through his process for deciding on style.

Tom shows us how he creates a character.

Our learning partners

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We loved collaborating with online learning experts Learn Interactive on this project. If you're an artist or an arts organization looking to create online learning content in these challenging times, contact Learn Interactive who'll be delighted to discuss your project!

Magical fruits in cultures around the world

Now that you've seen the golden mango in an Indian story, let's see how other cultures represent fruits in their own stories and legends.

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