Artist Aniruddha Knight learned to dance as if it was his second language. Raised in an artistically-gifted family, Knight can trace his maternal genealogy nine generations back—two hundred years—to the revival of the Southern Indian religious performance of the bharata natyam.

Dance is not only inherent in his deep ancestry; his father is a classical drummer. Raised in both India and the U.S., Knight is a modern artist of an ancient tradition and will be performing at the College this weekend.

The Department of Music, in collaboration with the New England States Touring Program, will bring Knight and his musical ensemble to campus today and tomorrow.

It will not be the ensemble's first time performs at Bowdoin: the Department of Asian Studies brought them to campus in fall 2005. That event, however, was held during a power outage. With grace and professionalism, the ensemble performed in the Kresge Auditorium amidst the incessant hum of a generator.

The Department of Music will now sponsor a long-awaited reprisal—this time to be held in the better-suited Studzinski Recital Hall. Concert, Budget & Equipment Manager Delmar Small hopes the performance will attract Bowdoin students and community members interested in observing an art that is "beautiful to watch; graceful and very pleasant."

In true academic fashion, Small reasoned that it is important to expose students to other cultures, and to teach them. For this reason "it is part of the mission of the music department to bring in as much variety in ethnic music as possible," he said.

This opportunity is unique: with its roots in tradition and the specificity of its style, the bharata natyam is an art form that is rarely ever seen.

It is an ancient tradition from the temples of Southern India, but was not regarded as a performing art until it was popularized in the early 19th century in the U.K. courts.

It is these court performers that Knight's ancestors performed in. The ritual is a physical retelling of Hindu myths through dance and music. It is an act of worship, a display of the performers' intimate connection to religion. Today, a less traditional style of the bharata natyam is growing in popularity across India and is becoming a global sensation.

While Knight's artistic style is rooted in the traditional vocabulary of the dance, he opens his performance to improvisation. The music and dance are by necessity intimately related—in fact, inseparable.

The dancer and musical ensemble improvise, constantly playing off the others' cues to create a cohesive narrative. This achievement speaks enormously to the intimacy with which Knight knows the dance and the music.

The performance is not pure entertainment, it is an examination of culture. Knight uses the dance as a tool to expose audiences to Indian culture in hopes of having profound, even transformative, effects.

Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Sara Dickey echoed these sentiments. As her research primarily focuses on the culture of urban Southern India, Dickey spoke to the importance of having exposure to foreign cultures and the dangers of alienating ourselves from the unknown.

"When we make things exotic, we distance them from ourselves and make them less like us," said Dickey.

Dickey said she teaches her anthropology students to not view other cultures as unnatural because they are unfamiliar, that it is important "to understand their lives to make them less foreign."

Dickey hopes the lecture, as an illuminative component to the performance, will present Indian traditional dance as something "more familiar than exotic" in order to give greater significance to Bowdoin community members.

Indian and American, dancer and musician, Knight is a contemporary artist and a symbol of how tradition can not only withstand but incorporate modernity.

Knight's performance will take part on two occasions: a lecture and demonstration in a smaller venue tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Tillotson Room, Gibson Hall followed by a performance at 3 p.m. tomorrow in Kanbar Auditorium, Studzinsky Recital Hall.

The lecture component is intended to illuminate the meaning of the performance and the concepts behind the art.

"With the background of the lecture demonstration," said Small.

"The performance becomes an art that is beautiful, interesting, and very different from anything we are used to watching and listening to," said Small.

Both events are open to the public free of charge.