Cover Story

The Shiva of New York

Destroy, but Create and Protect. They are the paradoxical but vital concepts of the Shiva in Hinduism God. Well, these are also fundamental to human development history itself. There is a woman whose solely been keeping and seeking the conception of Shiva in New York City for more than 30 years within the profound arts world. She is ‘Kamala Cesar Buckner’ – breaking traditions, generating new creations, and protecting the originality of the sublime arts.

Authentic Disciple of T. Balasaraswati, South Indian Dance ‘Bharata Natyam’
Ms. Kamala C. Buckner was born in Brooklyn in New York City, she is of Mohawk Tribe and Filipino descent. She was a college student when she became attracted to Indian dance and determined to become a professional Indian dancer at the University of California Berkeley in eighties. She was interested Indian meditation and Buddhism at first but her theatre experience motivated her to enter the world of Indian dance.

Ms. Buckner is a disciple of T. Balasaraswati (Bharata Natyam, South Indian Dance). She represents the classical dance genre of South India in the United States in the style of T. Balasaraswati, Bharata Natyam’s legendary and foremost exponent.

Lotus Music & Dance – Edited Promo from Lotus Music and Dance on Vimeo.

Lotus Music & Dance, New York since 1989

She tells how it was hard to study with the dance master, T. Balasaraswati because difficult communication due to their language barrier. She needed to study Indian languages, history, cultures and more to master the Bharata Natyam. In the process of navigating these cultural and language differences, she expanded her mission to promote cultural exchange worldwide beyond Indian dance studying. It was like an evocation of hers when she founded Lotus Music and Dance, 501 (C)(3), nonprofit charitable arts organizations in New York City in 1989.

Imagine, a beautiful traditional Indian dancer in New York City, 1989. Imagine the arts scene in during this time period. It was true that there were few traditional artists or even institutes – few people who could have understood and enjoyed the aesthetics of the unfamiliar Eastern traditional artform. Ms. Kamala managed to overcome and cultivate an Asian traditional arts scene in the wilderness of New York, furthermore managed to bring traditional arts across the borders of the world (a genre now called ‘world music’).

Because It is Important to Exchange Cultures and Arts to Understand Who We Are and What We Do for Life

In retrospect, Ms. Kamala remembers the difficulties to work with Burmese artist early on. In the 1990’s, she worked with Burmese traditional dancers on educational programs and performance events organized by her organization, Lotus Music & Dance in New York. Especially difficult was obtaining US visas for them. This was one of the hardest obstacles to promoting the programs and the management of the dancers and musicians, aside from difficulties of language and cultural differences. What conviction led her to keep going through with these projects, despite the realistic obstacles? When asked this crucial question during the interview, she answered simply, “Because it is important. We should understand each other – who we are and what we do for our lives. We live together, we are not alone.”

Next Mission, Transmit the Spirit

Ms. Kamala is completing her mission successfully, it has already been about 30 years. Indeed, there were meaningful memories and sometimes hardships, but they could never stop her. She has been playing three roles of the dancer,the director, and the teacher at Lotus Music & Dance. These days, she is putting more time and energy into teaching her pupils in her dance classes. That is also one way to advance her dancing artistry more deeply. She usually teaches 1 or 2 classes per week with 8-10 students. Some classes are attended together by a mother and daughter. It would be one of the most exhilarating time for them dancing, dancing and dancing again. That’s why the daughter yells, “It’s better than watching TV, it’s Dancing!”

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