Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? This is the first complete biography of T. Balasaraswati , a dancer and musician from southern India who became recognized worldwide as one of the great performing artists of the twentieth century. In India she was a legend in her own time, acclaimed before she was thirty years old as the great dancer of traditional bharata natyam.

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Douglas M. Knight Jr. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, ISBN In I stumbled into a bharata natyam class taught by Balasaraswati —, also known as Bala with assistance from her daughter Lakshmi — at the Berkeley Center for World Music. I pounded my feet against the stone floor each morning and did bols drum syllables in the afternoon—and [End Page ] I lasted only a week.

I quickly realized that I was trying to absorb a system of movement-music as detailed as any on the planet with no background to prepare me. From the awed devotion of the advanced dancers, I knew I was in the presence of an important guru.

This is a book I wish I had when I started that class, as it would have oriented me to who and what I was I was experiencing. In a personal and detailed account, the volume gives the history of the artist, explains her significance in the evolution of twentieth century Indian bharata natyam , and contextualizes the arguments that were current between those raised in a traditional music and dance system and the emerging generation of nonhereditary Indian dancers.

Anyone interested in South Indian performance will want to read this text, and it would work well in a graduate seminar. I will point out what the book achieves and note what it excludes. His strategy has been to place her life in the sociohistorical frames of colonial to postcolonial India. Therefore, he shares good descriptions of English colonial Madras, showing that the support of the arts shifted from courts to the emergent industrial and bureaucratic class and the shaba music association , and then, with independence, to national institutions like the nationally funded Sangeet Natak Akademi.

Likewise Knight discusses how the traditional matrilineal system of the devadasi caste was suspect through the first half of the century and, by , the dance—formally known as sadir —was banned in Tamil Nadu and had been reconstituted as bharata natyam.

Knight also details the impact of Western interests in Indian religion, philosophy, and the arts, both in early twentieth-century movements like Theosophy and in the counterculture guise of the s—s. Knight juxtaposes these larger patterns against the specific fortunes of one artist family led in three successive generations by women: first the artist-musician Vina Dhanammal — ; then her daughter, the noted singer Jayammal — ; and finally her granddaughter Balisaraswati.

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Balasaraswati : her art & life / Douglas M. Knight, Jr.

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Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life

She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in [2] and the Padma Vibhushan in , the third and the second highest civilian honours given by the Government of India. Balasaraswati was a seventh generation representative of a traditional matrilineal family of temple musicians and dancers devadasis , [3] who traditionally enjoyed high social status , who have been described as the greatest single repository of the traditional performing arts of music and dance of the southern region of India. Her ancestor, Papammal, was a musician and dancer patronized in the mid-eighteenth century by the court of Thanjavur. Her grandmother, Vina Dhanammal — , is considered by many to be the most influential musician of the early twentieth century. Her mother, Jayammal — was a singer who encouraged the training of Balasaraswati and was her accompanist. Balasaraswati created a revolution in traditional music and dance for bharata natyam, a combination of the performance arts of music and dance. She learned music within the family from her infancy, and her rigorous training in dance was begun when she was four under the distinguished dance teacher K.


Balasaraswati: Her Art & Life

July 26, Preface It has been my honour to watch the iconic Balasaraswati in the post prime years of her life on stage. I was among the many hundreds at the morning Music Academy lecture demonstration in the early seventies of the last century!!! Having been denied access or learning from any traditional teacher by my strict yet ambitious Brahmin grandparents, it was a revelation as to how an ordinary woman could command such presence and pin drop silence on stage for so long. Yet, I was transfixed and later overwhelmed and speechless when she, along with her daughter Lakshmi and son-in-law Douglas Knight dropped in one evening for dinner along with our common guru and guide, late Padma Bhushan Madurai N Krishnan. It was a charming evening, Bala holding a glass of whiskey and regaling us with her humorous takes on many artistes, Lakshmi chatting animatedly and Douglas looking relaxed but reserved.

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