In praise of classical dance

Pierre Ortlieb’s recent article (“Bollywood invades South Asian dance,” Sept. 11) suggests that the decline of Anjali, Yale’s South Asian Classical dance troupe, was inevitable. His sources rightly point out that classical dance requires training, and the religious stories traditionally depicted are difficult for some audiences to understand. Yet their suggestion that these challenges justify the abandonment of the art in favor of dance forms that potentially require less skill and catchier music is worrisome. To me, this sentiment is akin to justifying the extinction of classical ballet in favor of Zumba.

In 2009, I founded Anjali to increase awareness and appreciation of classical dance, an art that has been flourishing for more than 5,000 years. Indeed, there is no dearth of South Asian classical dancers at Yale. Through Anjali, we aimed to bridge cultures by choreographing classical steps to modern Western music, and showcase aspects of our culture beyond those that, according to Ortleib’s article, more easily appeal to Western audiences. This approach was by no means novel, but was borrowed from traditional dance teams at Duke, UNC, Johns Hopkins and Harvard. Today, as detailed in the New York Times, the movement to promote South Asian Classical dance on college campuses across the U.S. is burgeoning, with many traditional dance teams performing and competing on national stages.

At Yale, my classmates with no exposure to South Asian Classical dance praised Anjali for its costumes, music,and footwork. We were invited to perform at countless charity and cultural shows. Through collaborations with such groups as A Different Drum and Konjo, we appreciated the excitement and eagerness with which non-South Asian dancers learned the traditional dance styles.

These facts suggest that there is a place for South Asian Classical dance in modern contexts. Therefore, while I embrace the recent foundation of fusion and folk dance teams, I submit that the “new era of Yale’s South Asian dance scene” may rise alongside instead of from the “ashes” of traditional art forms.

Pooja Yerramilli

Sept. 17

The author is a 2012 graduate of Ezra Stiles College.

Red herrings in 
Yale-NUS debate

There are good reasons to question Yale’s involvement in Singapore. Sarah Ong does not provide any(“Failings and flaws at Yale-NUS,” Sept. 16). Instead, she reveals her motivations when she writes “the presence of Yale-NUS seems to be reducing the value of a Yale education in Singaporean public opinion.” At the heart of her complaint is a self-interested deconstruction of her Yale diploma as however many dollars’ worth of social capital.

As Sarah points out — indeed as I reminded her over the summer — the Yale Club of Singapore has its own constitution, can define its own membership, and does not need to follow the dictates of the AYA. I am not quite sure why she’s raising this issue in these pages, except to cause alarm about being swarmed by hordes at the gates.

Granted, Yale has let a lot of misinformation stick, which the Office of Public Communications should address. Granted, too, involving NUS alumni in Yale’s day of service in Singapore is thoroughly loopy. But these are, in themselves, not reasons for her to warn us to “take heed.”

Sarah criticizes Yale faculty for being unable to provide a metaphor for Yale-NUS when challenged. They might have wished to avoid a reductionist depiction of the relationship — but I recognize that this lack of clarity might be a bad sign, and like many, I await more direction from President Salovey’s administration.

There certainly might be ramifications to Yale’s association with Singapore. But I do not see her piece articulating the ones worth worrying about.

Rayner Teo

Sept. 16

The author is a junior in Morse College.