Friday Review

Luise Elcanness Scripps, a peerless patron

Luise Scripps

Luise Scripps  


The Stripps were not only responsible for dance doyen Balasaraswathi’s fame in USA, but also made history in the pages of patronage to Asian art forms

The passing away of Luise Elcanness Scripps in the USA (Manhattan) last month is an insurmountable loss to the world of arts, more so to the number of Indian artistes settled abroad, says Douglas Knight, author, and mridangam artiste and son-in-law of the dance doyen T. Balasaraswathi. “Without the Scripps couple — Samuel and Luise, Balamma and her family would not have been able to make a name in the West,” he pauses before he clarifies further. “I was not even known to the family then in the early 60s. Balasaraswathi who was a national figure in the field of dance then, was invited by the then Asia Society in the US. This first tour of hers spun magic over the Western world, it was reported. “It was made possible to a large extent through Scripps sponsorships,” says Douglas Knight.

Luise Stripps contribution to art in America has made history in the pages of patronage to Asian art forms. She became a pupil of Balamma and remained so till the latter’s death in the 80s. Luise as she was fondly addressed by all those who knew her on familiar terms, also gave a few performances but for the most part she opted to remain her guru’s right hand.

Along with her husband, a millionaire, she helped the likes of Ustad Ravi Shankar, Alla Rakha, Ali Akbar Khan, Nikhil Banerjee to take a foothold in America. The Scripps were responsible for many Indian artistes making the US their home!

They instituted number of awards in the field of dance. Luise established the ‘Balasaraswathi/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Chair for Distinguished Teaching in the 90s. Such was the couple’s impact on the American dance scenario, that the American Dance Festival dedicated their 1999 season to Samuel and Luise Scripps!

According to Douglas Knight, one had yet to come across someone, here or in the West, so dedicated and devoted to one’s teacher. Balamma was on a whirlwind for more than two decades, be it her high-profile tours on north America or far East like Japan, Bali, Sumatra and so on or her residency (teaching) in nearly 12 universities where she taught her dance or the festivals of dance organised in Balamma’s name. The Scripps formed a non-profit trust, ‘The American Society for Eastern Arts’ in San Francisco. Its sole aim was to expressly bring Balasaraswati back to the US. “It was not about being wealthy. The Scripps attitude to arts was something amazing to me who entered their lives much later. It was as if Luise was born to bring Balamma to the West and make her a name to reckon with in the US, which just happened. But for Luise, Balamma would have been another vague dance exponent on a visit abroad. They realised the magnitude of her art and wanted the West to acknowledge it and they did.

Today, though Luise closed down the ASEA due to a change in the American mindset, The Centre for World Music, one of its arms, still remains active in California.

The Scripps children and grandchildren share her respect for art and are great patrons to this day.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 3:29:06 PM |

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