promoting classical Indian music
an Americanised Kathak dancer, was stupid enough to write a lot of nonsense in his article on Narthaki. I sent a response to him and to Lalitha Venkat who – to my immense surprise – eventually published it, along with Prasanna’s reply.
Below is the improved and richly illustrated version, and more of our conversations! Enjoy!
Prasanna Kasthuri’s article raises some important questions.
1. If indeed his “main goal (of moving to the USA) was to spread the traditional art” why didn’t he open a Bharatanatyam school in Lahore or in Kinshasa – instead of in St.Louis where “most of the dance teachers still continue living on meager income” funded by grants from Regional Arts Commission of Greater St. Louis and Missouri Arts Council? Were most medieval devadasis looking to become millionaires?
2. Considering that 15.8 million Americans spend $5.7 billion a year on yoga-related activities, how successful economically was his “workshop dealing with hatha yoga, breathing and meditation combined with dance movements“?
His Holiness guru Prasanna teaching a rich American vanara how to offer a puja to Lord Nataraja
3. If the NRI doctors, business analysts and engineers are required to have a proof of their professional qualifications before they move to the USA, are the Hindu priests and Bharatanatyam dancers too? Are the Bharatanatyam dancers required to be qualified for dancing just as the former devadasis were required a pass in 64 subjects? Does getting a rank in Vidwath exam imply one can handle the 22 sruti system?
4. Has Prasanna Kasthuri tried to convince any Iranian person that the traditional dance of Kathak is traditional Indian dance? If Japanese could be proud of Kabuki and Chinese can be proud of their classical music, why are the Indians not having the same enthusiasm exploring the ashtottara sata talam system?
5. How exactly are the traditional saxophone and the Italian violin concerts related to a goal to spread the traditional (Persian?) art? Why should the Indians be so enthusiastic promoting the Iranian or Italian culture?
6. How essential was “a meeting of Kathak and Tap” for “upholding the spiritual values of great Indian traditions“?
7. Is any art sacred, and any artiste a saint? What is the difference between religious values and spiritual values?
8. If “our” (whose??) “dance forms” failed to “get more limelight than what it had previously“, why do some Bharatanatyam videos on YouTube get 1000 views a day, while others only 1 view a day? Are the times of Swarnamukhi’s popularity over as the classical dancers can’t sit in aramandi, control their eye-lashes or perform Gangaavatarana?
9. As for the “onslaught of heavy media works such as television and movies“, don’t you think the film directors would be bankrupt if their actors were as unprofessional (e.g. in satvika and vachika abhinaya) and had as captivating figures and as fascinating faces as the majority of “professional” Bharatanatyam dancers most of whom can’t even apply make-up properly?
10. What is the purpose of dancing Bharatanatyam 24 or even 60 hours non-stop? Would you trade one good banana for 50 rotten apples?
Padre Prasanna at a mess asking for State funding
11. Are “the classical dances fading slowly” because currently 2 out of 5 NRI girls in the USA undergo some training in classical Indian dance? How can we stop them from attempting to learn Bharatanatyam?
12. Are some NRI dancers’ careers “fading slowly” because their “traditional” dance themes focus on praising the maharajas and merchants of the 18th century?
13. If Prasanna Kasthuri has less knowledge of philosophical and spiritual interpretations of the dance themes, is he planning to expand his knowledge by studying the Vedas in the original and achieving some spiritual qualification and siddhis?
14. If “most working class youngsters are seen spending time in front of television channels, rather than going out and enjoying a live classical performance“, is it partly for the reasons outlined by Mukundagiri Sadagopan ? Or is it because – according to the Kollywood film directors as well as Bharata Muni – the youngsters are attracted to Sringara which was eliminated in Bharatanatyam by Rukmini Devi? Or do Lakshmi Vishwanathan’s reasons apply?
15. If there is “less exposure of classical dance forms in these mass media in India and USA“, isn’t it a sign that now it is high time the dancers should stop promoting themselves (or their associates) and start promoting the dance?
16. If they “avoid any classical performances” because “it is not a crowd puller“, isn’t a proof that Bharatanatyam is meant for small audiences when the rasikas can see the dancers mukhaja abhinaya?
17. How do the “local dance teachers work very hard to bring in the professionalism in the community” ? What kind of “professionalism“? Why don’t they learn a bit of Bharatanatyam themselves first?
18. If “most teachers struggle to create awareness of their relationship with a performing art such Bharatanatyam“, doesn’t it mean that people find it hard to understand which “traditional” Bharatanatyam style these teachers teach after learning the Mysore style from Dr. K. Venkatalakshamma and Smt. Lalita Srinivasan, the Pandanallur style from guru Narmada, and after the Gurukula workshops of Chitra Vishweswaran, T. Mahalingam Pillai, Adyar K. Lakshmanan and Pandanallur Gopala Krishna?
19. Is “teaching dance to an NRI kid is very hard” partly because the classes are an hour a week?
20. If “the coverage for performing arts either in an American newspaper or on any television or in a National dance festival such as American Dance Festival is too less”, does it mean it is time to bring to the USA some really talented dancers from India?
|Hindu temples must fund garba and salsa festivals|
21. If “the barrier of culture and race still hogs these areas“, doesn’t it mean that the desi forms are limited, and the dancers should finally think of exploring the margi?
22. If “there are no international art critics in major newspapers across American cities“, isn’t it a proof that Bharatanatyam is not an international dance form but an Indian art?
23. If “the entertainment section of newspapers such as Times of India filled with American icons“, is it because there are too few professional photographers in India?
24. Is it indeed Gurukula when you just visit your teacher’s house for a class twice a week?
25. Do “most of the dance teachers still continue living on meager income, just because of the “bhakti”” or because they are unwilling or incapable to go and get a proper full time job at a factory or on a farm?
26. If there are “so many artists in our area, who can do marvelous productions“, who else – apart from these artists – thinks so too?
27. If “our music and dance, whether it is north or south, are driven by bhakti “, why has Lord Almighty been so unwilling to notice the marvelous productions in the USA and support the dancers financially?
28. If “one cannot see a… Kathak performance without a Hindu deity being prayed to“, is it the proof that the Hindu deities came to like the Persian folk dances and Arab music, as well as Michael Jackson’s performances?
29. Why would the Hindu temples in the USA arrange for Kathak dance festivals and “works of famous poets such as William Shakespeare, W B Yeats, Maya Angelou, William Wordsworth and John Keats” if it contradicts the Hindu tradition, according to which only margi dance should be performed in the temple premises?
“with CDs and beautiful pre-recorded music, we can perform really well with very low cost. So, if we can setup a network of performances… If you are coming to St. Louis, MO , please send me your details. Meanwhile, remember, I will be seeking the same help from you. This way we can build a network” With the value of Prasanna’s currency dropping to a near-zero level, nobody wants to arrange for his performances by joining his network. Such a pity: his group has only 10 messages, the last one posted half a year ago has an intriguing heading: “I want to meet you. Give me a chance!” What desperate people are there in the USA!