The Program will take place at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis HS Theater, will include an evening of guest speakers, performers and a screening of the 1962 Wesleyan documentary, T.Balasarasawti (Bala), in which she performs her signature piece, Krishna Ni Begane Baro. We will acknowledge the lifelong dedication of Nandini Ramani and Priyamvada Shankar to Bala’s legacy. We will also pay tribute to Louise and Sam Scripps who made it possible for Bala to teach and perform here in the United States and Jon B. Higgins whose Ph.D. dissertation has made a major contribution to the understanding of Bala’s repertoire. The program emcees will be Anita Ratnam and Rajika Puri.
T. Balasaraswati (1918-1984) is considered one of India’s greatest Bharata Natyam dancers of the twentieth century. She was the seventh generation in a family that hailed from the Tanjore courts and produced dancers and musicians for some 250 years. Her mother, Jayammal was a great singer and her grandmother, Dhanammal was one of the most celebrated vina players of her time. She was trained by the eminent Kandappa Pillai, who was the great-grandson of Ponniah Pillai of the Tanjore Quartet, the four brothers who were teachers and composers responsible for codifying the Bharata Natyam training and repertoire.
Bala made her arangetram (debut) at the age of seven at the Amanakshi Amman temple at Kancheepuram to an enormous audience which included savants and rasikas (connoisseurs) of Bharata Natyam. She was
introduced to Northern Indian in 1936 by the famed dancer, Uday Shankar. In 1961, she performed at the
East/West Encounter in Tokyo and the following year embarked on a North American and European tour which started at Jacob’s Pillow. Under the auspices of the American Society for Eastern Arts, founded by Luise and Samuel Scripps she was in residence at various institutions from 1962 to1982 including Wesleyan University, UCLA, Mills College, University of Washington, Seattle, The Center for World Music (Berkeley), California Institute of the Arts and the American Dance Festival. Her brothers, T. Viswanathan (flute) and T.Ranganathan (mrdangam) who accompanied her in performance, taught music at Wesleyan University. She received some of the highest awards in her own country including the Presidental Award (1955), the Exemplary Golden Lotus (1977), an honorary degree from the Rabindra Bharati University (1964), elected president of the Madras Music Academy Conference, entitled Musical Treasure (1973) and elected the president of Indian Fine Arts Society Conference with the title Crown Jewel of Musical Art (1981). She was the subject of the documentary film, “Bala”, directed by Satyajit Ray. Balasaraswati’s complete understanding of the inter-relationship of the music and dance in Bharata Natyam along with her gifts and training enabled her to achieve high distinction as both dancer and musician.
Lotus Music & Dance, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, was founded in 1989 by master
Bharata Natyam dancer Kamala Cesar. It is a performance space, sanctuary, and center of education
for traditional and indigenous performing arts forms. The mission is to keep alive and accessible the
music and dance traditions of all world cultures. Lotus Music & Dance remains the only institution of
its kind in New York City, with master artists from India, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines,
China, the South Pacific, Middle East, the Mohawk Nation, West Africa, and Spain collectively
preserving their traditional arts. Aside from our varied schedule of unique, multicultural performances,
we offer instruction in traditional ethnic forms of dance and music as well as Arts-In-Education
programs to schools throughout the tri-state area. Since 2002, Lotus Music & Dance has presented
Manhattan’s only open-air pow wow, the annual Drums Along the Hudson®: A Native American and
Kamala Cesar, disciple of T. Balasaraswati (Bharata Natyam, South Indian Dance), was born in Brooklyn, NY, and is Native American (Mohawk Tribe) and Filipino. She studied Bharata Natyam (the classical dance of South India) both in the United States and in India, under T. Balasaraswati, Bharata Natyam’s legendary and foremost exponent. She is one of the few American disciples carrying on the style of T. Balasaraswati in this country. Ms. Cesar has participated in programs sponsored by the American Society for Eastern Arts, the Center for World Music, Asian Traditions, The American Dance Festival, and Wesleyan University. In 1986, she was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Folk Art Apprenticeship. She has performed extensively in the United States, Europe, and India. Ms. Cesar is the Founder and Artistic Director of Lotus Music & Dance, a not-for-profit organization that since 1989 has been supporting multicultural programs that further the understanding, appreciation, and preservation of traditional arts and the creation of new works that evolve from traditional art forms. She has produced several cross-cultural productions, including The New York Ramayana; Eagle Spirit- A Tribute to the Mohawk High Steelworkers; Message of Peace- An Excerpt from the Peacemaker’s Journey; World in The City; Dancing Across Cultural Borders; World Dance Passport; and Lotus – the Energy Within. Since 2002, she has produced Drums Along the Hudson: A Native American Festival and Multicultural Celebration, Manhattan’s only open-air Pow Wow celebrating Native American heritage along with world cultures and their traditional dance and drumming.