Tuesday 28 March 2017

Article - Indian Dance in America began in 1880 - Rajika Puri

When Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham, (directors of From the Horse’s Mouth, a NY-based but pan-US dance institution) asked me to curate a special edition of their show to be entitled “Indian Dance in America”, I was delighted at this recognition of our US Indian dance community. Since the heart of the show consists of stories told by elder members of a particular dance community, I immediately began to think of those who first established Indian dance in this country – and realised that the story of ‘Indian dance in America’ actually begins in America; the early pioneers were all Americans! 

As early as 1906, Ruth St Denis had choreographed and performed a dance called ‘Radha’. This was even before she met Ted Shawn and they pioneered American dance itself, established the Denishawn School and company (1915) and, later, toured India with over a hundred performances (1926). I have always thought, thus, that 1906 was the beginning of ‘Indian Dance in America’, only after which came legendary dancers like Ragini Devi (mother of Indrani Rahman, born Esther Luella Sherman) and La Meri (Russell Meriwether Hughes) who invited Ram Gopal to New York to dance in her company (1930) and who, to complete the circle, started the School of Natya with Ruth St Denis in 1940!

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