Launch Of Karen Greenspan’s Footfalls From The Land Of Happiness: A journey Into The Dances Of Bhutan
The book delves into familiar subjects that are what continues to shape Bhutan’s image.
By Choki Wangmo | Kuensel
Bhutan has the reputation of being a ‘Shangri-La’ shrouded in mysticism and this has perhaps contributed to the rising number of visitors since the country opened its door to tourism in the early 1970s.
When Karen Greenspan, the New York City-based dance journalist first visited Bhutan in 2011, her aim was to experience the iconic Bhutanese Himalayas with ‘the least amount of altitude sickness.’
However, she found something more beautiful and intangible beckoning her instead. In fact, Karen felt and saw that ‘something’ almost immediately after Drukair touched down at the Paro International Airport.
Synopsis of the book
Karen Greenspan’s book - Footfalls from the land of happiness: A journey into the dances of Bhutan, delves into familiar subjects that are what continues to shape Bhutan’s image - festivals, Gross National Happiness, environmental issues, Buddhism, its culture and people.
Photo: Karen Greenspan
She has been to specific Bhutanese festivals for a close-up view of the dances and rituals as well as interviews with dance masters, Buddhist experts, and dance practitioners from both monastic and lay communities.
The unfolding narrative flows with vivid dance prose, content-rich sidebars, and a multitude of color-drenched dance photographs, giving the fullest experience of the omnipresent culture of dance in Bhutan.
Humans, she says, are biologically wired to be moved to empathy and spiritual transformation by seeing something, particularly watching a dance. Thus, she ended up taking classes at the Royal Academy of Performing Arts.
For the Bhutanese, though, Footfalls from the land of happiness: A journey into the dances of Bhutan provides little beyond spurious reading.
Appraisal of the book
The book suffers from ‘too little’ of everything. Somewhere deep in the chapters of the book, Greenspan observes: “In Himalayan Buddhism, the chams (religious dances) are an essential element of ritual and ceremony used to express all that is sacred—welcoming, offering, appeasement, subjugation, liberation, power, victory, compassion, and many more.”
Source: Youtube/Druk Asia
Karen Greenspan could have avoided the banal and the bathos with some sincere look at the depth of Bhutanese dances and rituals. But perhaps that really was not the purpose of the book.
Yet there is still a lot to relish and immerse oneself in - Footfalls from the land of happiness: A journey into the dances of Bhutan, which was launched at the Taj Tashi on 4 October 2019.
Nevertheless, it is still a good book for tourists for whom the snippets are more than enough by way of introduction to Bhutan and the Bhutanese. By and large, it is a book written by a foreigner for foreigners.
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.