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Monday, May 31, 2010

Dance Performance-the day after

So the dance show went really well. It was a long day, though. The event was five hours, starting with music students and then dance students and some people gave speeches.

I messed up my dance a tiny bit (turned the wrong direction, but it was not very noticeable to the audience). My dance class is just me and one other girl, K. We were the only adult students there, and beginners. It was a little embarrassing. That and my costume was a few sizes too small!

K also declared that we and our guests were the only non-South-Indians there (she's Bengali). She wasn't quite correct.

There was a white woman who made one of the speeches. I wasn't able to hear what she was saying because I was getting changed at the time, but my boyfriend said that she gave an odd talk. He said she basically said that this cultural event was so wonderful and beautiful and they should try harder to share it with the general population and not keep it all Indian.

He found it pretty distasteful and he wasn't the only one. At the very end of the show (after this woman had already left!) one of the organizers said the good-bye speech and the thank yous. He made sure to point out that the last dance was done to a Western song (classical music set to a techno beat). He talked about how previous shows had blended ballet with Bharatnatyam. I think he was hurt by what that woman had said.

I think it was inappropriate too. It's not as though white people are forbidden to go. I was there. My boyfriend was there. It was a free show, anyone who wanted to come could have. That's not the fault of the dance school. Maybe they could have advertised differently, but I'm not sure how. Should they have put a lot of money into advertising to a segment of the American population that is very unlikely to even come?

K and I were talking about it a little at the dress rehearsal. She said something about this dance being unique and that other forms of dance have participants of all races and backgrounds. I said I thought more white people would be doing it if they knew about it, but K didn't think so. She made the point that you would have to know an awful lot about Indian culture and mythology to enjoy Bharatnatyam. It also has a spiritual aspect and I'd hate to see it turn into an exercise craze only, like yoga!

Obviously the woman who gave the speech didn't read the program too closely, or she would have seen my Scottish name :)


  1. i think classical music in general is an acquired taste. it grows on you and at the beginning one needs to make an effort.

    for indian classical , we, in india are sort of raised into it. may not be as a musician but as listeners. still a lot of people don't appreciate classical. so it is definitely hard for non-indians to get the hang of what is going on and enjoy it. indian classical being so different from western counter part. also the stories and signs will be unfamiliar to them as you said.

    the same is true for western classical and indians. it is not popular in india. i myself took a long time to start appreciating it . and still without "understanding" it.

    so , i doubt anytime indian classical will become popular in USA however beautiful it is.


  2. It's true. I guess I can see the woman's point that Indian culture in America can be very isolated and insular, very separate from the larger experience. I don't know if that's a bad thing or not. Sometimes it seems like Indians have (at least) two separate lives in America, like they would not let their western co-workers see them doing cultural things, etc.

  3. There are several levels to enjoying something. One can appreciate the beauty and grace of Bharatnatyam without knowing the mythology and culture behind it, though they certainly wouldn't get as much out of it, I'd think.

  4. Good point. I know that the first time I saw it I was in the fourth grade and I didn't know what it was about at all, but I loved it. It was the most graceful thing I had ever seen.

    However, I'm not sure someone with that distanced level of appreciation would want to participate in it!

  5. The apparent Insularity of cultural event serves few purpose. I say apparent because, for the most part Indians would not turn anyone away or shut the door to non Indians. Nope. But they will not go out of their way to let non Indians know about these events either ...

    1) No one is interested in inviting folks who have nothing more vested in these events other than an interest of curiosity.

    2) No interest in converting others to this culture/religion.

    3) Comfort zone of being with folks who are already familiar with what is going on.

  6. It's true, Manny, and really there's no reason to invite people who probably aren't even interested! It's their own program, it isn't a zoo for curious white people. Hrmph.