Dr. Swarnamalya Ganesh
Fulbright Visiting Scholar, minoring in World Arts, Cultures and Dance, working with Bharatanatyam from India
Pursuing dance academically was an extension of my otherwise questioning mind as a performer. I embark upon my journey here, in this land of opportunities, to teach and explore. When I heard back from the prestigious World Arts Cultures/ Dance Department that they wanted to invite me as a visiting scholar to not just teach for a few quarters but also pursue my postdoctoral work, I was thrilled. I’m humbled by this wonderful opportunity that is bestowed upon me by Fulbright and by UCLA.
While I was a Graduate student years ago I attended a Fulbright fair that USIEF (United States -India Educational Foundation) had conducted. Right there, I decided that I would apply for the Fulbright not as a student scholar but after completing my doctorate, for a teaching fellowship. I worked from January 2013 towards my goal of looking up the Fulbright program, speaking to earlier Fulbrighter-s, connecting with various universities here in the US and preparing my project proposal. I think it was the right guidance by USIEF, the clarity of my own purpose and vision for my visit, combined with a strong letter of invitation sent by UCLA expressing interest in having me come as a Fulbright fellow to teach that won me the fellowship.
I have come to Los Angeles as a Representative of the arts world of South India. My goal is not only to show the grandeur of our art but to also demonstrate the inherent inclusiveness and secularism in the arts. My research is on Bharatanatyam, the Classical dance of South India, one of the oldest South Indian classical forms, which is a bundle of multi-cultural assimilation. Before I begin my teaching quarter, I’ve had the opportunity to audit classes offered by some of the colleagues in the department. I remember, a few weeks ago when the class was learning/ discussing the contributions of early modern dancers. Every one of the dancers had been influenced by Indian philosophy, dance and music. I was able to lend an eastern perspective to this discussion and also was learning even as I shared my knowledge and that is when I truly recognized the power of international interactions and exchange.
Instances that touched my heart: One day, when I didn’t know which bus to take and was going in circles around the same area for half hour, a young girl came forward to walk me through the route all the way to my school. I was touched by how much patience she had. Another day, I was at a Mexican fast food joint. I ordered my food and sat down to eat. I wanted a drink, so I walked up to the counter half way through eating and asked for a small drink, the guy gave it to me and refused to take money for it. Instead he said “enjoy your meal, you shouldn’t have to juggle with change (coins) while eating”. On the buses and trains there are designated areas/ seats for wheelchairs and senior citizens. If that is heartening, I was so touched by how every one, I mean everyone is tuned to the idea of getting up to offer a seat to a senior citizen or to help a handicapped person. It comes naturally to all here. There is a general feeling of altruism in the air.
Jai ho! and Godspeed.
>> For more information on India or South Asia, please visit the UCLA Center for India and South Asia or the UCLA Asia Institute