Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009

Watch a Dancing Storyteller

The Kalakshetra dance academy in Chennai in southern India was founded by Rukmini Devi, the woman who brought Bharatanatyam dance out of the temples and into its full recognition as a classical art form in the 1930s. She built schools for classical art, dance and music, performance spaces and a weaving center to continue the traditions of handloomed and hand-painted textiles. Kalakshetra is now run by one of her students, Leela Samson, and its jewel is the Koothambalam, a gorgeous performance hall inspired by the temple architecture of Kerala. Thoroughly modern, with unobstructed views for the whole audience, the slatted walls and tiled roof allow natural light and air into the space. Watching dancers animate the stories of the Indian epics there, the art feels more vibrant than it would in a concert hall or auditorium. It becomes a living tradition, connected to the past but always moving forward.

— By Jyoti Thottam