Kamala Dancing at the National Heritage Fellowships Concert September 2010!

Thursday, December 30, 2010
Imagine my surprise when I discovered a video clip of a 76-year-old Kamala Lakshman giving a dance demonstration as one of the awardees at the 2010 NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert in September!  The clip was linked to from the “News” section of the official website for Kamala’s current dance school in New York, Sri Bharata Kamalalaya.  Back in 2009, Richard did a great post about information found on the school’s website and rightly noted that it seemed to have not been updated in quite some time.  When I visited the website recently and found a new video clip, I had to share it here!

Starts 50:18

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 America’s many cultures for future generations.”  In an NEA interview, Kamala was pleased with her award and said “This is the best award.  It’s the greatest, greatest award of my life.”  Yay Kamala!

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), 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!


  1. Thanks again, Minai. It was great to see this (cringe-worthiness notwithstanding). Yay, Kamala from me too! :)

    P.S. I like your new format.

  2. Richard - Glad you enjoyed it as much as me! Thanks for the mention of my new format. I'm concerned that it takes longer to load and scroll, so I'll be tweaking it a bit. :)

  3. Hi Minai,
    if you see K .Vishwanath , Films you will find great dance,
    the all time great film is SAGARA SANGAMAM
    kamal hassan and jaya prada.

  4. Girish Makwana - Thanks for the recommendation - that is indeed a great dance film.


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