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Christel Stevens & Lori Clark

Images of women in Indian dance, sacred and profane.

Stevens, Christel & Clark, Lori: "Images of women in Indian dance, sacred and profane", 16th International Congress on Dance Research, Corfu, Greece, 30/10-3/11, 2002.

1. Preface

This study is an exploration of the status of women in classical Indian dance and popular Hindi films; as society perceives them and as they perceive themselves. As professional dancers, the authors have personally experienced the entire range of complicated reactions described in the text. We believe that these reactions and opinions are common, in varying degrees, to dancers of every culture. Dancers face a peculiar challenge because it is the human body that gives form to their artistic expression. Female dancers face the greatest obstacles because the female body is historically the subject of maximum social, religious, and political conflict.

India has been struggling with mixed emotions about women and dancers for most of its history. The most common reaction among its people has been a visceral negative attitude with regard to actresses and dancers. Despite the commonly held negative perceptions of the performers themselves, however, most Indians appreciate the art of dance. Dance, as a unique expression that embodies all the Indian arts, holds a proud position in India's cultural heritage. For this reason, the subject of women as dancers makes a fertile field of study. Whether it is the roles they play or their personal lives and experiences, female performers, as public and popular examples, influence the lives of Indian women at large. They are at the forefront of the India's social revolution.

India is a complex nation, the seventh largest country in terms of land area, inhabited by one billion people, the second largest population on earth. Most of these people live in densely populated urban areas. Nonetheless, its roots are fundamentally agricultural even as it is broadening its technical and commercial economic bases. It has one of the most influential ancient civilizations on earth, a civilization that was home to the Indo-Iranian (Aryan) tongue, Sanskrit, considered to be the mother tongue of all Indo-European languages. Ancient Indian civilizations gave us many advances in science, art, and philosophy. Today, despite the political upheavals and corruption, India has become a nuclear superpower in South Asia.

Each region of India is culturally distinct and within each region there are further divisions according to caste and religion. There are approximately thirty-three major languages and thousands of dialects. The most significant division is between the Indo-Iranian languages of the north and the Dravidian languages of the south. These two language groups are unrelated except for loan words. Eastern languages, such as Meitei, are unrelated to either of the two major groups. Often, the underlying factors in the recurring political and territorial conflicts afflicting the sub-continent are to be found along language boundaries and religious divides.

India has eight major religions with a variety of sects within each faith. These include Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroastrian, Christianity and Judaism. There are also many forms of animism practiced throughout the countryside. Although Hinduism is the leading religion, there is no single ruling body and therefore, practices vary widely. Islam has the second largest following; nevertheless, Muslims are considered a minority.

Another important point to consider when discussing Indian culture is that before the European colonists established the present-day borders, the original "India" encompassed a much wider terrain, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, and parts of Myanmar (Burma). Its influence extended throughout Southeast Asia and it still has close cultural ties with Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka. Until India achieved independence in 1947, it was never a unified nation in the modern sense, but rather a collection of kingdoms with various alliances, which changed throughout history.

The numerous divisions in India, as enumerated above, are the cause of countless past and present violent conflicts. These inescapable differences permeate Indian life at every level and filter down into the arts. Indian dance represents this fractionalization in various ways. The dances of India have developed along parallel pathways, yet retained their individuality and cultural differences.

Each of India's traditional dance styles is identified with a distinct geographical location, as well as with a particular linguistic group. Kathak is indigenous to the northern and central parts of India, with its poetic roots in Urdu and Braj Basha languages. Its modern exponents speak Hindi. Bharata Natyam is native to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and the lyrics are written in the old court languages of Tamil and Telugu (as opposed to their modern usage). Kuchipudi comes from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, Odissi from Orissa in the east; Manipuri comes from Manipur; Mohini Attam and Kathakali come from Kerala; Chhau dance is from the towns of Purulia, Mayurbanj, and Seraikella. The list could go on and on. Many Indians view dance not only as an entertainment and an art form, but also as a symbol of their native region and a reinforcement of their individual ethnicity.

One common thread among all of these societal and cultural differences, which together make up the fabric of India, is the way in which female performers/dancers are perceived and treated by society at large. The image of the dancer as courtesan/prostitute cannot yet be erased; but this perception can now be recognized and examined. In each region where a particular dance style emerged, questions arose about the characters and extra-curricular activities of the individual dancers.

Manipur provides the exception which proves the rule. The women of this region have their own wealth in the form of textiles, which they produce and the profits from which are theirs to keep, and prostitution is rare. Because it is customary in Manipur for everyone, male and female, to participate in dance rituals, there is no separate class of dancing women who have an alternative lifestyle that can be scrutinized and criticized. It is a region isolated from the rest of India, and the dance falls outside of what is commonly known as the Natya Shastra tradition. While Manipuris do not view their own dancers in a negative light, it cannot be said that the rest of India does not view them in such a way.

2. Women in India

Women in India are regarded as more than simply half of the gender equation. Their importance stems from their status as mothers who are capable of perpetuating the human race. Hinduism requires its followers to marry and produce sons who will perform the funeral rites, which ensure their parents' passage into the next life. Women are also earthly manifestations of the goddess. India is perhaps the last living center of goddess worship in the world today. The goddess in India is seen as both the mother of the human race and as an avenging warrior. These two facets of the goddesses' power lie at the root of the contradictory attitudes toward women in society.

Women are revered for their virtue, but they are also feared because of the power of their sexuality. As if this dual perception were not complex enough, woman, who is exhibited as the emblem of her family's status, must also be carefully controlled as the potential bearer of the family's offspring, most particularly of sons. Sons alone can guarantee their parents' place in the next life. Producing a son is the very reason for a wife's existence.

Even at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the struggle to establish dance as a respectable profession is still a part of every female performer's life. There are varying degrees of acceptance of dance as a profession even among India's urban upper classes. Although dances of all kinds are a popular form of entertainment, and there is no stigma attached to watching dance on stage and screen, moral questions arise when a family member is directly involved.

Starting in the 1920's, courageous women of the highest classes were instrumental in bringing dance to its current level of respectability; yet issues about the propriety of having a dancer in the family remain even today. From the beginning, only women of the urban elite had the education and potential freedom to even consider pursuing dance as a career. Only they, because of their status in society, could imbue dance with an aura of respectability.

One of the main reasons for the preponderance of women from wealthy families in the classical dance field is financial. Dancing lessons, music lessons, payments to accompanists, costumes, and jewelry constitute major expenses. Frequently the cost of renting a performance venue falls to the dancer herself. Without the support of fathers or husbands, these dancers would not have been able to achieve recognition.

For the vast majority of India's population, the urban poor and the eighty percent who live outside of large cities, dance remains a fantasy rather than a career alternative. For most, it is not even a possible hobby. The only exceptions are those from traditional dance families or castes. Among the upper classes, there are still many conservative families that would never countenance a professional dancer in the family. The varying levels of acceptance include those families that allow girls to learn dance only before marriage; those who would allow a daughter-in-law to teach dance, but not perform publicly; those that would encourage classical dance training as long as it does not include film participation; those least conservative that place no limits; and those who ban the art completely.

The strain of overpopulation and industrialization has taken its toll on the national heritage of India. Modern restoration techniques have only recently been introduced. Consequently, many ancient treasures have been and continue to be lost. Manuscripts, miniature paintings, and monuments are rapidly disintegrating. The performing arts, in the form of dance and music, are crucial windows on the past. They survive because of the determination of the practitioners, the appreciation of the audience, and a strong oral tradition rooted in the guru/student relationship. When the monuments of the past have gone, dance will remain.

3. Goddess or courtesan: Woman in Indian society

Sacred and profane are two apparently opposite concepts that lie at the heart of this study. These terms are used to describe perceptions about dance and dancers that are prevalent in India. During the course of this research, it became clear that sacred and profane were not mutually exclusive. In fact, when discussing dance, these terms are intimately related. Many dances in India have both sacred and profane interpretations. The love story between the divine Krishna and his earthly consort, Radha, can be variously interpreted as symbolic of the human quest for union with the divine or as a salacious tale of an illicit affair between a teen-aged cowherd and an older married woman. For purposes of this study, "sacred dance" refers to Indian classical dance, which formerly was often performed in a religious setting, or which frequently carries a spiritual message. "Profane dance" refers to dances of popular culture; particularly dance as depicted in Hindi films. "Image" is a comprehensive yet elusive term that, when applied to the art of dance, can become a key to unlocking some of the mysteries and complexities of the art form and the identities of its practitioners. The word "image" signifies numerous meanings. An image may be as concrete as a statue in a temple, or as evanescent as a reflection in a pool. An image is often an ideal, whether fantasy or reality. Image may be a mental picture or a tangible photograph or film. This study embraces "image" in all its definitions, as applied to the art of dance and how it is related to women in India. Image is the key word in this study, because in the world of dance, perception, that is, the sensory comprehension of image, is reality.

According to Hindu thought, which is the philosophical background for a large portion of the art of dance in India, each individual's perception of the world is the true reality, and Maya, meaning image or illusion, is simply a phase of that reality. This understanding of illusion as a facet of reality allows contradictions to coexist and even to converge without excluding one another. A painting of an eye may resemble a fish, but is it a fish, or an eye? The Indian response is that it is both, and we can, if we concentrate diligently, see the eye and the fish simultaneously. "Fish-eyed maiden", indeed, is a standard poetic device in Indian lyric and dance. The principle of perception as reality implies by derivation that image equals identity. The multiple images of women in India combine to create a complex identity that may seem contradictory. It is these very convergent contradictions that are glaringly evident in the way women are perceived in India.

Women in India are regarded as more than simply half of the gender equation. Their importance stems from their status as mothers who are capable of perpetuating the human race. Hinduism requires its followers to marry and produce sons who will perform the funeral rites that ensure their parents' passage into the next life. Hinduism is not a religion that admits converts, but rather a way of life into which one is born. Therefore it is essential to the future of the religion that its members produce offspring to carry the belief system forward.

India is perhaps the last living center of goddess worship in the world today. Women are earthly manifestations of goddesses. The goddess in India is seen as both the mother of the human race and as an avenging warrior. These two facets of the goddess's power lie at the root of contradictory attitudes towards women in Indian society.

Women are revered for their virtue, but they are also feared because of the power of their sexuality. Women also bear the responsibility of embodying both the status and honor of the Indian family. Status is shown by the woman's clothing, ornaments, employment potential, and leisure activities. Honor is demonstrated through marriage only. While being exhibited as the emblem of her family's social standing, a woman must also be carefully controlled as the potential bearer of her family's offspring, most particularly of sons. Sons alone can guarantee their parents' place in the next life. Producing a son is the very reason for a wife's existence. Becoming a wife and mother is the reason for every female's existence. It is, according to Hinduism, her dharma, or religious duty. This is the orthodox paternalistic theory of Hinduism, which was superimposed on early religious expressions of India's indigenous peoples, many of them goddess cults, at the time of the Aryan invasions.

Dancers appear to contradict the prevailing image of woman as wife and mother. Dance as a vocation is thought to preclude both wifely devotion and the demands of motherhood. A woman after marriage is supposed to spend her time in activities that bear directly on the life of her (husband's) family. Not only preparing meals and caring for the familial home, but also observing ritual practices thought to guarantee her husband's health and longevity, are presumed to take up all of her time. Dance, as an expression of her own personality, or as a creative activity, is considered inappropriate. Once a wife becomes a mother, it is considered impossible. Thus, in the traditional Indian social formula, a "good" woman must be a wife and mother, a dancer cannot be a wife and mother, therefore a "good" woman cannot be a dancer.

Even in the twenty-first century, the struggle to establish dance as a respectable profession is still a part of every female performer's life. There are varying degrees of acceptance of dance as a profession even among India's educated urban upper classes. Although dances of all kinds are popular forms of entertainment and there is no stigma attached to watching dance on stage or screen, moral questions arise when a family member is directly involved.

Starting in the 1920's, courageous women of the highest classes were instrumental in bringing dance to its current level of respectability; yet issues about the propriety of having a dancer in one's family remain. From the beginning of the twentieth century, only women of the urban elite had the education and potential freedom to consider the pursuit of dance as a career. Only they, because of their status in society, could imbue dance with an aura of respectability.

One of the main reasons for the preponderance of women from wealthy families in the classical dance field is financial. Dancing lessons, music lessons, payments to accompanists, costumes, and jewelry constitute major expenses. Without the support of parents, husbands, or other patrons, these dancers would not have been able to achieve recognition. For the vast majority of India's population, the urban poor and the eighty percent who live outside of large cities, dance remains a fantasy rather than a career alternative.

For most, it is not even a possible hobby. The only exceptions are those from traditional dance families or castes. In some parts of the subcontinent there are families whose members are traditionally musicians or dancers. Some of them are descendants of itinerant theatrical troupes or minstrels, who can still be seen entertaining crowds at livestock fairs, religious pilgrimage sites, or rural marketplaces. Others trace their lineage to court musicians and dancers who were rendered homeless when the maharajas ceded their kingdoms to the new nation of India in 1947. Unfortunately they are treated as mere gypsies by the upper echelons of society. If they earn enough money by singing and dancing for tourists, they send their children to be trained as office assistants rather than artists.

Among the professional and business classes, there are still many conservative families that would never countenance a professional dancer in the family. The varying levels of acceptance include those families that allow girls to learn dance only before marriage; those that would allow a daughter-in-law to teach, but not to perform publicly; those that would encourage classical training as long as it did not include film participation; those least conservative that place no limits; and those who ban the art completely.

4. The problem of the dancer in society

The images of women in Indian dance in both the classical and popular realms reveal Indian society's dual perception of the status of women. In India, just as in the rest of the world, female performers are an anomaly. They are subjects for envy, admiration, and vilification. They are powerful, independent women, glamorous and sometimes wealthy, yet their sexuality is simultaneously alluring and threatening. Dance is a powerful art form that assaults the senses with color and rhythm. It is evocative, conjuring up complex emotions in the viewer, with the dancer as the catalyst.

The fundamental problem is precisely the fact that the female performer lays herself bare to the projections of the repressed fantasies of both men and women. Any female whose body is material for public performance encounters this dilemma. Many potential female performers are even dissuaded by this situation from pursuing professional careers in the performing arts. Dancers are particularly vulnerable to this state of affairs as the body is not only the tool; it is the medium of their artistic expression. Although less obvious in the West than in some traditional cultures, this situation is undeniably present for all female performers of dance. The position of women in the arts, in fact, is a microcosm of women's ambiguous place in Indian life.

The axiom that India is a country of extremes is vividly underscored in the case of women. India's complex and diverse traditions exist simultaneously: urban-rural, rich-poor, intellectual-illiterate. It is a country in which strict discipline exists alongside anarchy and where erotic art exists alongside asceticism. Indians are bound by convention yet possess a glorious individuality. No wonder then that the position and, equally important, the perception of women in Indian society is also characterized by such complex duality and reveals itself as a pattern of extremes.

Indian society is modeled on the family structure, and the mother is the pivotal member of the group. Every form of address, during daily social commerce, implies a fictive relationship such as brother, sister, uncle, and auntie. In this scheme of society as family, the nation is the mother, "Bharat Mata" (Mother India). The Indian woman is the repository of virtue, purity, and honor, not only in individuals, but also in society at large. This unique position gives women impressive powers. As long as their sexuality is properly channeled within the family structure, they are respected.

Indian mythology is rife with extreme images of women. Sita, the virtuous wife, who went through fire to prove her purity, contrasts with Menaka, the dancing temptress who robbed the sage Vishwamitra of his power. There is also Kali Ma/Durga, the murderous goddess-mother figure. In her so-called "black" manifestation, she is the embodiment of awesome spiritual power that is expressed in a bloodthirsty rage, while in her "white" character, she is the fount of motherly love and caring. The phenomenon of the dancer reflects, and to some extent unites these extremes and complexities in both performance and life. The dancer not only enacts the dramas and stories derived from mythology on stage, but also lives them. She cannot escape the consequences of her career choice in her private life.

The dancer is an alluring, yet intimidating figure that embodies the spirit of female sexuality. India's patriarchal social structure, superimposed on the ancient matriarchal society, has revered, feared, and felt the need to control female sexuality since the imposition of the misogynist laws of Manu (ca. first and second centuries B.C.E.). Even the supremely "male" deity Shiva, commonly symbolized by a stone phallus, is portrayed as Ardhanarisvara, half male and half female.

How is it that a dancer in India can be regarded as both a goddess and a whore? The fact is that in India, the sacred and profane sometimes overlap in unexpected ways. When discussing women and dance, it is an oversimplification to say that sacred equals classical and profane equals popular. Take, for example, the Devadasi, or temple dancer, long romanticized in both Eastern and Western imagination. She was married to god and danced in the temple, yet sometimes catered to temple patrons. She was an accomplished artist, for which she was revered; yet she was not allowed to participate in society as a normal woman. Another traditional Indian female performer, whose origins pre-date those of the Devadasi, was the courtesan. A highly trained artist, she combined music, dance, poetry, courtly etiquette, and the arts of love.

India's earliest professional dancers were employed in the service of emperors and kings. The courtesan occupied a specific niche in the social structure of ancient times, and the profession had its own complex hierarchy. Ganika, Rajadasi, Narthaki, and Vaishya are some of the ancient classifications. Their duties ranged from presenting appropriate entertainments for state occasions, to performing rituals that were believed to remove evil influences from the royal family. Many of these women attained great political influence under royal patronage, so that eventually they were able to establish themselves independently and serve the minor aristocracy as well the institution of the courtesan continued well into the colonial period. European traders often hired them to perform at functions for visiting dignitaries. Many European merchants and soldiers took courtesans under their protection, a situation which hastened the arrival of European "mem-sahibs" who set up their own exclusive society on Indian soil.

One of the most prevalent, persistent, and pernicious pieces of misinformation haunting dance scholarship in India is the widely-held belief that Indian dance originated in the temple setting and later moved into the court setting. This idea permeates the mind of the nation to the extent that even the most educated writers and researchers overlook easily available facts.

A simple historical overview reveals that temple building in India began only after the decline of Buddhism near the beginning of the Common Era. Yet it is a generally-held opinion, repeated frequently in dance books and articles, that dance in India is over 2,000 years old and originated as a temple ritual, even though "The full development of built temple architecture coincided with the period of the Brahmanical renaissance, about half-way through the first millennium." (p.134, Antonio Monroy, India, New York, Gallery Books, 1985). Many dancers cite the Natya Shastra of Bharatamuni, an early theatrical treatise, as the source of their dance, without taking into account the fact that Bharatamuni gives specific instructions for building a stage for the purpose of dramatic presentation. There is no mention of a temple, and the ritual dedication of the space is part of the procedure. The ritual purification must precede the performance because the stage was not a permanent structure in a temple, which would already have been purified, but a purpose-built temporary edifice.

Many people credit Indian dancers with an uncommon degree of spirituality, stemming from the religious origin of their art form. Dancers often follow some of the ancient precepts for ritual dedication of the stage before they begin a performance, including installing an idol decorated with flowers, fruit, and incense; sprinkling water and flower petals; and applying red kum-kum powder to the musical instruments, the ankle-bells, and all the performers involved. However, this kind of ritual is not unusual in India. Workers in every field, on every social level, begin their workday with similar rituals. Shopkeepers may be seen offering incense and fresh flowers to tiny images behind their display cases at the start of the business day, and taxi-drivers usually burn a few sticks of incense near a photograph of the monkey god Hanuman glued to the dashboard, before picking up the first fare of the day.

How did this curious historical obfuscation, the belief that dance originated in temples, occur, and how has it gained so much credence? How did dance become associated so strongly with the temple tradition, and how does this state of mind affect female dancers of the modern era? The answer to the first question is that kings who maintained court dancers were the first to install some of them in temples as a kind of gift. Kings gained perpetual merit by sending dancers to be dedicated in temples, not only to dance before the deities as part of ritual observance, but to dance before the devotees, thus making the refined court dance available to the common folk. Pran Nevile, in his Nautch Girls of India, writes that "Kalhana in his Rajatarangini (12th century) referring to the institution of devadasis in Kashmir mentions that King Jaluka gave away a hundred women of his harem, well versed in music and dance, to serve in the temple of Jyestharudra." In a typical example of Indian dance historian doublespeak, Nevile contradicts himself several times in his lyrical description of dance through the ages. On page thirteen, he states that the apsaras, the heavenly dancers, were created "to entertain the gods", because the gods were "bored with life, for they had everything at their command and nothing to look forward to." In short, the first purpose of dance was not to worship, but to entertain.

On page twenty-one, Nevile writes, "Devadasis as temple dancers were the first recipients of this art… over the centuries their devotional dances became an essential part of the temple service." Subsequently, on page twenty-nine, he describes the activities of the Ganika, the professional dancers of the Mauryan period, without explaining that the Mauryan period pre-dated the construction of the first temples by some 500 years. Nevile even refers to the Ramayana, one of India's great epics which was handed down orally over centuries and was written down between 4th century B.C.E. and 4th century C.E. "King Dashratha is said to have invited an entire community of dancing girls to attend the Ashvmedha Yagna (the royal horse sacrifice). Rama and Sita on their return from exile were welcomed with a dance performance by the celebrated ganikas of Ayodhya." (p.29, Pran Nevile, Nautch Girls of India: Dancers, Singers, Playmates, New Delhi, Prakriti India, 1996).

The dancers to whom the Ramayana text referred did not dance for religious reasons, to worship Rama as a god, but as entertainers who dance before Rama the King of Ayodhya, or at the behest of his father, King Dashratha. It is clear that the court tradition of dancing pre-dated the temple tradition, and indeed, the temple dancers were simply court dancers who were reassigned by the King as part of a donation to the temple.

It is not only Indian dance scholars, but Western scholars as well, who have shown a tendency to be confused about the connection between kings, dance, and religion over the course of India's history. Frederique Marglin, who elucidates the relationships of the kings of the state of Orissa with the dedicated dancers of the Jagannatha temple at Puri, cites quotations from two separate historical periods when she compares the same quotation from Ramayana, to which Nevile (above) referred, with a quotation from Kalidasa, a court poet of the Gupta period, about 320 to 415 C.E., which describes dancers waving fly-whisks in a temple at Ujjain.

5. Conclusion

The strains of overpopulation and industrialization have taken their toll on the national heritage of India. Modern restoration techniques have only recently been introduced. Consequently, many ancient treasures have been and continue to be lost. Manuscripts, miniature paintings, and monuments are rapidly disintegrating. The performing arts, in the form of dance and music, are crucial windows on the past. They survive because of the determination of the practitioners, the appreciation of the audience, and a strong oral tradition rooted in the guru/student relationship. The dancers of the present day inherited a complex set of traditions, attitudes, and ambiguities associated with both Devadasis and courtesans. As a result, they have struggled to overcome the social stigma attached to them as public women or "dancing girls." Since the revival of classical dance in the twentieth century, dancers have tried to establish a new social status, which would permit them to practice their art without sacrificing their respectability. Results of this struggle have been mixed, and every dancer still feels the need to fight her own battles for respectability and artistic validity. Each dancer also bears the burden of the passage of a rich and intricate oral tradition to the next generation of Indians, especially in the Indian Diaspora. When the monuments of the past have gone, the dance itself, continuously passed down in oral tradition, will remain. The images of women enshrined within the Indian dance culture, whether unattainable ideals or unreachable fantasies, will perpetually shimmer and sway in the minds of the beholders.

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The authors

Christel Stevens is a scholar, performer, and teacher of dances from India. She holds a Master's Degree in Dance from The American University at Washington, DC, specializing in Bharata Natyam and Manipuri classical dances of India. Christel learned Bharata Natyam at Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts, Chennai, India, under full scholarship from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation. Later, she returned to India to live in New Delhi on scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, studying Manipuri dance under Nabaghana Shyam Singha, Guru Bipin Singh, and Ojha Th. Babu Singh. She also continued her Bharata Natyam studies at Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra under Padma Shree Km. Leela Samson. Christel has visited Manipur several times for research and training in Manipuri dance. She was awarded a Visharad degree in Manipuri Dance from Sri Sri Govindajee Nartanalaya, now ManipurStateDanceCollege, under Principal Guru S. Thambaltombi Devi, daughter and disciple of (late) Sarangthem Guru Meitei Tomba. In 1996, Christel returned to India with colleagues Lori Clark and Dr. Naima Prevots of American University to conduct the study, "Images of Women in Indian Dance, Sacred and Profane," funded by the Smithsonian Institution Foreign Currency Program. Christel is currently employed as Dance Specialist at the Arts and Cultural Heritage Division, Department of Parks and Recreation, Prince George's County, Maryland. She teaches Bharata Natyam at India International School of Northern Virginia, Annandale, VA, U.S.A.

Lori Clark is a scholar, researcher, and accomplished performer and teacher of dance. Trained in Ballet and Modern dance, she has distinguished herself in Kathak (classical North Indian style), Flamenco, and Arabic dance as well. She holds a Master's degree in Dance form The American University, Washington, DC. Lori performs regularly with the Washington Opera, most recently as a solo dancer in the opera "Salome." Lori teaches Ballet and Flamenco at the Athenaeum (The Alexandria Ballet), and in Alexandria, VA public schools. She has twice traveled to India on scholarship to study dance and language, most recently in 1996 as a member of the Smithsonian Institutions research project entitled "Images of Women in Indian Dance, Sacred and Profane." She performs Arabic dance in America and abroad.

Christel Stevens

 

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