Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Bharatnatyam Knight

Aniruddha Knight is the grandson of the renowned exponent of
Bharatnatyam, Balasarawathi. He is currently touring the US.
Exceptionally talented, he carries the beautiful art of Bharatnatyam
to a new level with ease and finesse.

Watch his dancing at--

An excerpt from the Newsweek article--
"He is tall, slim, and strikingly long limbed. Dressed in
jewel-colored silk tunics and antique ornaments that are family
heirlooms, he looks more like a handsome young maharaja than a
traditional South Indian dancer. But at 27, Aniruddha Knight is the
ninth generation heir of a 200-year-old family of professional dancers
and musicians from Chennai, India. He is also half American. His
father, Douglas Knight, married into this artistically rich family
when he studied classical drumming on a South Indian mridangam at
Wesleyan University, where Aniruddha's late grandmother--T.
Balasaraswati, India's prima danseuse--and her two musician brothers
had taught since 1962. This spring, Knight is touring the Northeast
with his six-member musical ensemble (including his father) and new
works in a program entitled "From the Heart of a Tradition."

That tradition is bharat natyam, one of India's six major--and
distinct--classical dance styles. It is taught to every middle-class
girl in India and now, with immigrant teachers and establishment of
dance schools across suburban America, it is vigorously practiced by
Indians and Americans alike. However, the version that Knight dances
is stylistically unique. It originated as a temple offering performed
by young women who were dedicated to serving God by retelling ancient
Hindu myths through music and dance in the temple courtyard. It was
art in the service of religion, an act of worship, not popular
entertainment. Eventually, some of the dancers were inducted by local
princely families into becoming court performers. A stigma attached to
the professional dancer that only disappeared when dance was
recognized as a national art form at the time of India's independence
in 1947, when the patronage of all dancers and musicians was taken
over and sanctified by the secular government.

It was in this climate that Balasaraswati was recognized as the
greatest Indian dancer of all time. Dance for Knight, as for his
grandmother, is spontaneous, not rehearsed as the music is: as the
ensemble sings a composition, he improvises movements; he follows the
music, even joins in. He takes the lead, giving his accompanists a cue
to move to the next line of text. In short, there is constant
communication between dancer and the accompanists. The star of the
show is first the music, then the dancer, who still uses the old
compositions handed down as prayer, a love song to God. As Bala
describes it, the aim is to create joy through beauty--a transporting
ecstatic experience that is shared by dancer and audience through
melody, rhythm and mime. Done right, the dancer could transport the
audience through a near out-of-body experience into a rapturous

Read the full newsweek article at--

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