Rangashree in the USA
Paulomi Pandit started Rangashree Dances of India in the U.S.A. after many years of work with classical and folk dances in India. Her purpose for Rangashree remains unchanged - to uphold the spirit of Indian dance traditions through authentic performances and educational efforts.
Paulomi recognized some unique needs and opportunities in the U.S., which influence Rangashree's activities here. Two important goals are
- to provide the Indian community in the U.S. with a genuine experience of Indian dance traditions, and an appreciation for their meaning, and
- to engage non-Indian audiences, students, and dancers in appreciating and sustaining India's art and culture.
Despite rapid change, and the disappearance of traditional patterns of life in India, the influence of traditions still lingers. Young generations can discover their traditions if they're interested. In the West, we only see parts of Indian life, and these are outside the context of India. It's easy for people of Indian descent living abroad to get a distorted view of India's traditions.
Many of India's important traditions are rooted in the spiritual aspect of life. They value the inner experience, and focusing only on the outer form misses their essence. But what is most commonly seen is an emphasis on style, technique, and appearance. Thus, there is a need to demonstrate these traditions sincerely, with the inner spirit intact, so people may experience the difference. And that they may understand that there is more to be discovered by delving deeper into their traditions.
The spiritual experience underlying Indian art and culture is universal; it's not necessary to be Indian to tap into it. The outer forms of Indian dances are, of course, entirely Indian. It requires some effort to understand and appreciate them, and then to develop a sense of the underlying meaning. This effort is rewarded with the enjoyment of a unique culture in which dance is a spiritual practice, and to behold the dance is a spiritual experience.
These are the goals that motivate Rangashree's activities. They require long-term effort; it'll take time to train a new generation of dancers, and to develop an audience that appreciates their work. With the performances that we present, and the educational activities that we provide, we are sowing the seeds.
India's classical dances are well developed art forms that involve many disciplines. A Bharatanatyam performance requires not only skilled dancers, but also skilled musicians, a nattuvanar, costume makers, and others. Creating the environment for Indian dance to thrive in the U.S. is not easy. Many talented Indian dancers and teachers have been working for decades to achieve the current status enjoyed by Indian dances. There is still much to be done.
Any performing art requires an appreciative audience. Developing an appreciation for Indian dance requires effort, and there is a lot to be done in this area too.
By collaborating with other artists, not only of Indian classical arts but from other traditions with a spiritual focus, we hope to increase interest in these art forms. Interest that will lead to bigger audiences, and to more practitioners of the arts.