The segment honoring Kamala starts at 50:18. She was one of nine recipients of the 2010 National Heritage Fellowship; according to the NEA website, the award is “intended to recognize the recipients’ artistic excellence and support their continuing contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage.” Fellows receive $25,000 to recognize “individual artistic excellence and their efforts to conserve
I’m so delighted to see what Kamala looks like in live action these days. After seeing some not so flattering pictures of her in recent articles online (case in point: The Danseuse from Kismet; also Kamala at Seventy Five), it’s wonderful to see that she is in reality sweet, joyful, and constantly smiling. She’s simply adorable in the video if not a bit bumbling in her old age. I especially love how she comes onstage eager to take control of the demonstration and is always a step ahead of the host.
What really detracts in the video is the host Nick Spitzer who seems completely awkward and uncomfortable throughout. It’s just terrible. I think my favorite part of Mr. Spitzer’s stage skills are his profound reactions to Kamala: “uh,” “oh yah,” “yah,” and “nice.” Though perhaps the most amusing part is how he tries his best to hold the microphone near Kamala while looking as though he fears she will attack him at any moment with an errant dance move. I also wondered if the NEA/Spitzer mistakenly changed "Lakshman" to "Lakshmi," but Kamala's dance school website refers to her as "Laxminarayan," so that must be her preferred spelling.
Starting around 55:45, two student's from Kamala's dance school perform with live musicians. I found their dance disappointing. It’s decent enough for the American audience who probably doesn’t know better, but for someone as great as Kamala, I had imagined the students she would select to be proteges of her style.
Overall, while I’m overjoyed at Kamala’s presence, the whole thing was fairly cringe-worthy not only because the audience doesn’t understand how her demonstrations fit with the dance form (such as laughing at her abhinaya for “wonder”) but also by the tone set by the shifty and nervous Mr. Spitzer. Seems like she deserves better, but she got $25,000 so who can complain!
I could keep going on and on... but I'll stop here. Enjoy!