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 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: in bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) these gestures are classified in minute detail. Each gesture has specific meanings and applications.

Simhamukham (face of a lion)

Kapitham  (wood apple)

Chaturam (clever / square)

Facial expressions ("saatvika abhinaya")

The techniques an Indian classical dancer uses to create an emotional mood are grouped under the term "saatvika abhinaya" (SAAT-vika ab-in-EYE-a). In particular, the face is a key tool for communicating emotion—Indian dancers train for years to perfect these expressions!

Watch how Preeti manipulates different aspects of facial expression (eyes, lips, eyebrows etc.) to create the emotional effect.

(Note: These videos have no voiceover / subtitles.)

Raudram (anger)

Haasyam (laughter)

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. We challenge you to create a story involving a deer, and record a video of yourself performing it (no longer than two minutes).


The story could be totally new—made up by you. Or it could be a story from your own culture. The only rules are that you MUST:

  • Use the SIMHAMUKHAM gesture at least once

  • Use either (or both) facial expressions HAASYAM or RAUDRAM

(Extra points if you manage to include a red curtain somewhere in the video!)

Send your videos (via a link to YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram or equivalent) to us at We'll publish as many as we can on this site!

Meet our global collaborators...

Mal is a much sought-after collaborator for choreographers around the world both as a percussionist and composer. In this video he talks through his creative process—how he came up with themes and textures to support Preeti's storytelling.

Mal lives in the East Village of Manhattan with his partner Judy and a large collection of percussion instruments from around the world. You can groove to more of his sounds on SoundCloud here.

Bhumenjoy is a multi-talented illustrator and animator based in Manipur, in the far North East of India. He's worked with Preeti on many previous projects, and also works with major corporations as a commercial animator.

In 2008 Bhumenjoy directed a feature-length animated feature film called "Tiger Head", based on an epic tale from his native Manipur (see trailer here). His website is

Bhumenjoy Konsam, Illustrator

Manipur, India

Mal Stein, Composer

New York, USA

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!

Antelopes in cultures around the world

Now that you've seen the antelope in an Indian story, let's see how other cultures express their creativity representing this clever creature in their own stories and legends.

a                    education initiative

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