Lotus Music & Dance 30th Anniversary Gala T. Balasaraswati Centenary Celebration

Monday, March 25, 2019

Performance Program 6pm,  

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School Theater, New York City

New York, NY, March 2, 2019 – Lotus Music & Dance will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in 2019 with a benefit dinner and performance on Monday, March 25th.  This year also marks the 100th Birth Anniversary of bharata natyam dance guru, T. Balasaraswati (“Bala”).   Since Lotus was inspired by Bala’s wish to have her style represented in New York City, “the dance capital of the world”, we will celebrate both milestones on March 25th.  We will honor legendary choreographer, George Faison with the inaugural Bala Award for Excellence in addition to honoring Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer for her support of cultural diversity in the performing arts.

Thirty years ago, Lotus Music & Dance was founded by Kamala Cesar, disciple of T. Balasaraswati, to continue her style in New York. Lotus expanded its mission to include the traditional dance and music of all world cultures and has been fortunate to work with many traditional bearers of their cultures from all parts of India, West Africa, Polynesia, Native America, Tibet, Myanmar, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Indonesia, Spain, the Middle East, the Philippines, Japan, China and more.  

The Program, which will take place at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School Theater, will include an evening of guest speakers, performers and a screening of the 1962 Wesleyan documentary, Balasaraswati, in which Bala performs her signature piece, Krishna Ni Begane Baro. We will also acknowledge the lifelong dedication of Nandini Ramani and Priyamvada Shankar to preserving Bala’s legacy and pay tribute to Luise and Sam Scripps, who made it possible for Bala to teach and perform here in the United States, in addition to Jon B. Higgins, whose PhD dissertation has made a major contribution to the understanding of Bala’s repertoire.

The Program emcees will be Anita Ratnam and Rajika Puri, highly-acclaimed performers and ambassadors of Indian dance and culture. Guest artists include Priyamvada Sankar and her sister, Nandini Ramani, both disciples of Bala since 1951 and 1955, respectively, and Kay Poursine, Bala’s American disciple from 1972-1983 and has continued with Nandini Ramani from 1986 to present.  Also on the Program will be advanced students of Kamala Cesar, who began studying with Luise Scripps in Berkeley, CA in 1970 and then with Bala from 1972 to 1983. The students will present a collaborative piece with Odissi dancers, Bani Ray and her daughter, Shefali Ray. The evening will witness the world premiere of Lotus: The Energy Within with special choreography by Guru Durga Charan Ranbir, made especially for this occasion.  Guru Ranbir composed the music as a signature piece for Lotus Music & Dance and depicts the meaning of the symbolism of the Lotus flower in Hindu mythology.

The Benefit Dinner will take place at Utsav Restaurant at 8pm where Gale Brewer and George Faison will be honored.  The Benefit Dinner will also hold a silent auction, offering unique and beautiful items that represent our multi-cultural institution, including:  art and photography, specialty restaurants and events. A Silent Auction Catalog showcasing the wide selection, from Tibetan Thangka Wall Hanging to Navajo and Zuni jewelry, will be available for viewing shortly.  The evening will culminate with festive dancing for guests.


T. Balasaraswati (1918-1984) was considered one of India’s greatest Bharata Natyam dancers of the twentieth century.  She was the seventh generation in a family that hailed from the Tanjore courts and produced dancers and musicians for some 250 years. Her mother, Jayammal was a great singer and her grandmother, Dhanammal was one of the most celebrated vina players of her time. She was trained by the eminent Kandappa Pillai who was the great-grandson of Ponniah Pillai of the Tanjore Quartet, the four brothers who were teachers and composers responsible for codifying the Bharata Natyam training and repertoire. Bala made her arangetram (debut) at the age of seven at the Amanakshi Amman temple at Kancheepuram to an enormous audience which included savants and rasikas (connoisseurs) of Bharata Natyam. She was introduced to Northern Indian in 1936 by the famed dancer, Uday Shankar. In1961 she performed at the East/West Encounter in Tokyo and the following year embarked on a North American and European tour which started at Jacob’s Pillow. Under the auspices of the American Society for Eastern Arts, founded by Luise and Samuel Scripps she was in residence at various institutions from 1962 to1982 including Wesleyan University, UCLA, Mills College, University of Washington, Seattle, The Center for World Music (Berkeley), California Institute of the Arts and the American Dance Festival. Her brothers, T. Viswanathan (flute) and T. Ranganathan (mrdangam) who accompanied her in performance, taught music at Wesleyan University. She received some of the highest awards in her own country including the Presidential Award (1955), the Exemplary Golden Lotus (1977), an honorary degree from the Rabindra Bharati University (1964), elected president of the Madras Music Academy Conference, entitled Musical Treasure (1973) and elected the president of Indian Fine Arts Society Conference with the title  Crown Jewel of Musical Art (1981). She was the subject of the documentary film, “Bala”, directed by Satyajit Ray. Balasaraswati’s complete understanding of the inter-relationship of the music and dance in bharata natyam along with her gifts and training enabled her to achieve such high distinction as both dancer and musician.

Lotus Music & Dance is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1989 by master Bharata Natyam dancer Kamala Cesar. It is a center of education for traditional and indigenous performing arts. The mission is to protect, promote and celebrate the music and dance traditions of all world cultures. Lotus Music & Dance is one of the few institutions of its kind in New York City where master artists from India, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, the South Pacific, West Africa, Spain and the Mohawk Nation collectively call home.

Aside from our highly-regarded and sought-after schedule of unique, multi-cultural performances and festivals, we offer instruction in traditional forms of ethnic dance and music as well as Arts-in-Education programs to K-12 schools throughout the tri-state area. Lotus Music & Dance also presents Manhattan’s only open air pow wow, the annual Drums Along the Hudson: A Native American and Multicultural Celebration.  

For more information:

Lotus Music & Dance 212.627.1076

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Kamala Cesar, disciple of T. Balasaraswati (Bharata Natyam, South Indian Dance), was born in Brooklyn, NY, and is Native American (Mohawk Tribe) and Filipino. She studied Bharata Natyam (the classical dance of South India) both in the United States and in India, under T. Balasaraswati, Bharata Natyam’s legendary and foremost exponent. She is one of the few American disciples carrying on the style of T. Balasaraswati in this country. Ms. Cesar has participated in programs sponsored by the American Society for Eastern Arts, the Center for World Music, Asian Traditions, The American Dance Festival, and Wesleyan University. In 1986, she was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Folk Art Apprenticeship. She has performed extensively in the United States, Europe, and India. Ms. Cesar is the Founder and Artistic Director of Lotus Music & Dance, a not-for-profit organization that since 1989 has been supporting multicultural programs that further the understanding, appreciation, and preservation of traditional arts and the creation of new works that evolve from traditional art forms. She has produced several cross-cultural productions, including: The New York Ramayana; Eagle Spirit- A Tribute to the Mohawk High Steelworkers; Message of Peace- An Excerpt from the Peacemaker’s Journey; World in The City; Dancing Across Cultural Borders; World Dance Passport; and Lotus – the Energy Within. Since 2002, she has produced Drums Along the Hudson: A Native American Festival and Multicultural Celebration, Manhattan’s only open-air Pow Wow celebrating Native American heritage along with world cultures and their traditional dance and drumming.

Lotus Music & Dance 30th Anniversary Gala

T. Balasaraswati Centenary Celebration

Monday, March 25, 2019

Performance Program 6pm,  Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School Theater, 120 West 46th St.

Including the world premiere of  new works by Odissi Guru Durga Charan Ranbir and Tony Award winning choreographer, George Faison in homage to T. Balasaraswati

Guest Speakers: Charles L.  Reinhart, Director Emeritus-American Dance Festival,

Ralph Samuelson, Senior Cultural Advisor, Asian Cultural Council

$100 Patron, $25 General Admission (Performance Only)

Benefit Dinner 8pm at Utsav Restaurant 1185 Avenue of the Americas (entrance on 46th St.)

Honoring Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President and

George Faison, Tony Award winning dancer/choreographer

$500 Diamond Lotus, $250 Gold Lotus, $150 Silver Lotus

(Includes Program)

For details and ticket information call 212.627.1076


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