An honor for a Kathak devotee
- Anjani Ambegaokar, CA
Photos: Courtesy NEA
October 31, 2004
|When I received the call
from Barry Bergey, the Director of Folk and Traditional Arts, of the National
Endowment for the Arts, that I was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship,
the highest honor for the Traditional and Folk Artist in the USA, the dates
were set for me to travel to Washington, DC to receive the award.
There were supposed to be four different events and as the dates came closer,
the excitement was building fast. We went a day earlier as we were
also invited to perform for the Library of Congress concert series, which
was wonderful. The actual event for the award ceremony started with
a welcome reception at the View Ballroom of the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel,
in Arlington, VA, where we were all staying. As I walked into the reception,
the feeling of welcome was very real, and one by one I got to meet all
the voices of people that I had talked to for the previous two months since
the announcement of the award. All of us artistes were requested
to say a few words and each one's introduction set the tone for the next
three days of festivities. Also, for the first time I realized that I was
in the company of several artistes who were Grammy award winners more than
once. I also felt certain humility among all of us that continued
throughout the three days of festivity. I also acknowledged the diversity
of art forms of the United States and how it is nurtured.
Then, we were off to our rehearsal for the performance by each one of us at the George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. I have had this idea of collaborating with other award winners for quite some time, but it had not materialized. On the day of the performance, there was a complete run through of the show and each one of us saw our art form that we specialize in. I saw the ending of the show as award winner Charles 'Chuck' T. Campbell, Gospel Steel Guitarist and award winner Jerry Douglas, the Debro Guitar Player collaborate with their band of drummers and other musicians as a finale of the performance. As they finished their final rehearsal, I asked them if I could talk to them in the green room, of course by then, we had come to know each other well. I just asked them, “Can we (my daughter Amrapali and I) join you at the end with your collaboration and dance with our Ghungroo matching your rhythms?” The answer came from Charles, “Sure, why not.” He told the stage director before we went on to dress up for the show, “Add two foot mikes, Anjani and Amrapali will join us.”
The performance started with Sam Donaldson, very well known host of ABC news for many years, introducing each one of us award winners on the stage and we received standing ovation from the packed audience of about 1,450. Everyone's performance was highly appreciated. We joined the musicians at the end for 5-7 minutes and improvised with our Kathak ghungroo rhythms with their music of Gospel singing, guitar and drums. What an incredible finale that was!! An experience of a lifetime! I think we made history that day when we joined such diverse disciplines together. It was spiritual, rhythmic, joyous, and totally exciting. How did the audience respond? With a standing ovation for all the 5 minutes that we were dancing, clapping, dancing and singing with us!! It was one of those moments when I felt that arts cross all the barriers among people, the barriers of race, religion, language, beliefs and more. What a phenomenal ending to an amazing four days of my life!! I will cherish those four days for the remaining of my life and carry on the tradition of Kathak dance in the world.
Kathak dancer Anjani Ambegaokar runs Sundar Kala Kendra Dance School in California. She is the Artistic Director of Anjani's Kathak Dance of India.