Malaysia, India once lifted trade ban for a dance

August 9th, 2008 - 12:55 pm ICT by IANS  


Kuala Lumpur, Aug 9 (IANS) Memories of the time when the Malaysian and Indian governments lifted a ban on trade of peacock feathers, just for 24 hours, to facilitate a dance performance still brings a smile to the face of legendary dancer Vatsala. As she and her late husband prepared for the ‘peacock dance’, they felt a need to replace the old feathers. It was however illegal to take them out of India, peacock being the country’s national bird.

In a surprise move that made headlines the world over, the Malaysian and Indian governments lifted the ban for 24 hours just so that the feathers could be flown in, the Star newspaper said Saturday.

Vatsala no longer performs after the death of her Guru and husband, V.K. Sivadas some years ago.

Vatsala, 66, was one of five Malaysians named recently by Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Mohammed Shafie Apdal as a living heritage treasure for her contribution towards the art and culture of the country.

Vatsala, V.K. Sivadas, Gopal and Radha Shetty were part of the Malaysian dance diaspora who inspired a generation of local dancers and enthusiasts to appreciate Indian dance.

Bharatanatyam dance is no longer confined to Indians, says Vatsala, who has spent over five decades performing, teaching and choreographing the popular dance form.

“It’s no longer confined only to Indians. Lots of other races are also learning Bharatanatyam and they’re as good as Indians,” she says.

“I’m teaching my eight-year-old granddaughter now, so hopefully she’ll continue where Sivadas and I left off.”

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