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. Newsweek
Yes, I know, vomit, it sounds like more exoticizing pablum from a mainstream media source. But getting past the opening drivel, this article (posted in the news tab, thanks Brij01!) turned out to be about a rather fascinating family:
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.
Aniruddha followed his mother and grandmother, continuing the family’s bharatanatyam tradition:
Knight is fluent in Tamil, his mother’s language, and spends half a year in India, performing and learning from aunts and cousins who had worked with his mother. He has established a school and an archive of family history in Chennai. (The Smithsonian boasts an archive of Bala’s performances, too.) It houses all the records of his grandmother’s performances.
About his mixed parentage:
“It’s isolating to identify with two cultures, it creates a split personality. I can never be just one or the other, it’s a heartwrenching lonely process. But then, what I have, many don’t have.”
Those against mixed marriages often cite fear of waning traditions, culture, language, etc., as a reason to date within one’s own ethnic community. So it’s heartwarming to see this family’s artistic legacy continuing on, and even thriving, under the stewardship of its youngest, half-desi member. But do other half-desis feel the same sense of loneliness and isolation? Most that I’ve known feel as though they have a deeper connection to both, not an alienation from either, but it’s clearly a personal path. I’m curious to hear any stories readers might have to share on this topic.
Also, I watched a bit of his performance here, and I’m not sure what to make of it. I’m a rank ignoramus about bharatanatyam, so perhaps I’m just used to the more typical form:
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.
He sings while dancing as well, which threw me off a bit. But, again, this could be entirely due to my own lack of knowledge. His hand movements are beautiful though…I encourage anyone with a bharatanatyan background to please take a look and share your thoughts.