Bala

Among the many qualifications that Douglas Knight brings to his biography of Balasaraswati is the fact that he is her son-in-law. He is also a musician and scholar who has been awarded the Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships. And although the book in question is not published in India, it is on an Indian of great cultural significance and hence this post...

Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life is published by the Wesleyan University Press. "This is the first complete biography of T. Balasaraswati (1918–1984), 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. Balasaraswati was a passionate revolutionary, an entirely modern artist whose impact was proclaimed by some of the most prominent figures in contemporary dance in India and the West. Her art and life defined the heart of a tradition. Her life story offers an extraordinary view of the enigmatic matrilineal devadasi community and traditional artistic practice from which modern South Indian dance styles have emerged. This deeply engaging biography draws together Balasaraswati’s personal account of her life and her reflections on the process of making dance and music. It includes the commentary of family members and dozens of contemporaries from throughout her fifty-year career, revealing hereditary artistic values and conventions that have virtually disappeared in modern India. The book is generously illustrated with rare historical photos and a duotone gallery of distinguished photographers’ images of Balasaraswati’s dancing."

The book has been widely praised. “Imagine a fascinating book written with knowledge, understanding, and talent celebrating the 20th century's greatest bharat natyam performer, the incomparable Balasaraswati. Well, here it is” says Charles Reinhart, director of the American Dance Festival. Kapila Vatsayan, scholar and founder of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts calls it “A gripping account of the hereditary system of transmissions in the performing arts through the biography of one of India’s greatest dancers, T. Balasaraswati. Douglas Knight, Jr., unfolds many layers of the personal, social, artistic, national, and international aspects of T. Balasaraswati’s life.”

More details on the Wesleyan University Press site, here.

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