About-the world this week, 2 April to 8 April 2023. Dance moves of the world: Finland gets a new Prime Minister; NASA announces its team to the Moon; the dance of hush money; the rocket dance in Israel; and a classical dance in India’s Tamil Nadu.


The Dancing is Over: A New PM for Finland

The world’s youngest woman leader, Prime Minister (PM) of Finland, Sanna Marin, 37, lost her job in the just concluded Elections. She had bursted on to the political stage in 2019 heading a coalition of five parties, all led by women.

Finnish conservative ‘National Coalition Party’ Leader, Petteri Orpo won a nail-biting three-way election race, defeating Sanna Marin’s Centre-Left ‘Social Democratic Party’. Orpo secured 20.8% of the vote, ahead of the right-wing populist ‘Finns Party’s’ record of 20.1%, and Sanna Marin’s 19.9%. It was a bitter defeat for Marin, who however increased the count of her party’s seats.

Sanna Marin enjoyed high poll ratings and has been widely praised for steering Finland towards imminent entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and navigating her country through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite such successes, including a mature response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the election was largely fought on Finland’s economy and public debt, as all the mainstream parties backed the NATO membership.

Many Finns saw Marin as a polarising figure. She came under heavy scrutiny last year when a video emerged of her singing, dancing, and drinking at a party. Supporters said the controversy was steeped in sexism and women across Finland and the world shared videos of themselves dancing in solidarity.

Petteri Orpo, by contrast, has none of Sanna Marin’s ‘rock-star’ dancing qualities but hopes to make moves that get noticed in Finland… and the world.

Finland officially became NATO’s 31st member this Tuesday. And was warmly welcomed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg when Finland’s flag was raised alongside those of the 30 other nations in the alliance, during a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Finland’s has been the fastest accession process in the Treaty’s history.

Finland has historically maintained a position of neutrality in the face of its often complicated relations with Russia. NATO would now rise to Finland’s defence should it come under attack from Russia or any other Country.

The Moon Dance: NASA

The United States (US) space agency NASA has named the four astronauts who will take humans back to the Moon, after a gap of 50 years. This would be the Artemis-2 mission, which follows the successful ‘test Mission’ of Artemis-I. And, will in turn be followed by the Artemis-3 mission: the first landing of the new era, which is not expected to occur until at least 12 months after Artemis-2.

Christina Koch will become the first woman astronaut ever assigned to a lunar mission, while Victor Glover will be the first African-American astronaut. They will join Reid Wiseman and Jeremy Hansen to fly a capsule around the Moon late next year or in early 2025. The astronauts will not be landing on the Moon, but their mission will pave the way for a touchdown by a subsequent crew.

Reid Wiseman, 47, is a US Navy pilot who served for a time as the head of NASA’s astronaut office. He’s flown one previous space mission, to the International Space Station in 2015.

Victor Glover, 46, is a US Navy test pilot. He joined Nasa in 2013 and made his first spaceflight in 2020. He was the first African-American to stay on the Space Station for an extended period of six months.

Christina Koch, 44, is an electrical engineer. She holds the record for the longest continuous time in space by a woman-328 days. With NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, she participated in the first all-female spacewalk in October 2019.

Jeremy Hansen, 47, was a fighter pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force before joining the Canadian Space Agency. He has yet to fly in space.

Wiseman will be the commander; Glover will be his pilot; Koch and Hansen will act as the supporting ‘mission specialists’.

The four of them are essentially repeating the 1968 Apollo-8 mission, which was the first human spaceflight to reach the Moon.

The last human spaceflight mission to the Moon was Apollo-17 in December 1972. The first Moon landing was Apollo-11, in 1969.

NASA has outsourced development of the system capable of taking astronauts down to the lunar surface to Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. Called Starship, the vehicle is due to start flight testing in the next few weeks.

The Moon never got closer!

Hush Money Dance: Arrest of an Ex-President

This week, former US President Donald Trump surrendered to authorities in Manhattan after a grand jury indicted him for his role in a USD 130,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. He was indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

He arrived with his legal team and an 11-vehicle motorcade surrounded by Secret Service. Officials fingerprinted the former president, but did not handcuff him.

One poll found that nearly all Democrats approve of the indictment, whereas 79% of Republicans disapprove. But it also found that a majority of Americans believe the indictment was motivated by politics. That’s about the same everywhere?

On The Same Dance Stage: Israel

This week, Israeli Police raided the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem when several hundred Palestinians remained in the mosque after Ramadan prayers on Tuesday night. Israeli police tried to clear them peacefully, but a small group refused to leave. Police moved in after ‘several law-breaking youth and masked agitators’ brought fireworks, sticks, and stones and barricaded themselves inside the mosque. Many were injured and dozens arrested.

Following the raid, tensions flared-up in the highly sensitive and brittle region of the Middle East.

In the biggest attack since 2006 when Israel fought a war with the Hezbollah movement, rockets were launched from Southern Lebanon into Israel. Out of about 34 rockets, 25 were intercepted by Israeli Air defence systems. Israel was quick to pin responsibility on the terrorist organisation, Hamas, and responded in equal measure conducting air raids on Hamas positions in Lebanon and the Gaza. And the never-ending story continues to dance.

Indian Classical Dance: Kalakshetra

This week, and simmering over the past many weeks is sexual harassment allegations in India’s Kalakshetra Foundation – recognised and declared an ‘Institute of National Importance’, by the Government of India in 1994.

Kalakshetra Foundation, formerly ‘Kalakshetra’ is an arts and cultural academy dedicated to the preservation of traditional values in Indian art and crafts, especially in Bharatanatyam dance-the classical dance form of Tamil Nadu- and Gandharvaveda music.

Kalakshetra was founded in January 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale and her husband George Arundale in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It now operates out of a campus in Chennai’s Besant Nagar area, close to the sea shore.

The Institute aims to train and encourage young artists and to revive Bharatanatyam and other ancient arts and crafts. The Institutes under Kalakshetra are, the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, the Rukmini Devi Museum, Koothambalam (Kalakshetra theatre) and the Craft Education and Research Centre (including the weaving department, the Kalamkari natural dye printing and the painting unit).

The institution achieved national and international recognition for its unique style and perfectionism. Having studied the Pandanallur style for three years, in 1936 Rukmini Devi Arundale started working on developing her own, Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam, noted for its angular, straight, ballet-like kinesthetics. She introduced group performances and staged various Bharatanatyam-based ballets.

Rukimini Devi Arundale was a theosophist, dancer and choreographer of Bharatanatyam, besides being an animal welfare activist, in a side hustle.

Beginning in December 2022, allegations of sexual abuse on the campus began to surface after a former director wrote a social media post accusing a teacher of harassing and molesting students, but hadn’t specified names. In the following months, over a hundred students of Kalakshetra’s Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts accused senior faculty members of sexual harassment. The accusations spanned a number of years.

The accused was exonerated following an internal investigation, and Kalakshetra issued a gag order preventing students and staff from discussing the allegations. Then the National Commission for Women began investigating, but closed the investigation shortly, after a victim denied any sexual harassment during an enquiry. In end March 2023 the students began protests against the inaction of the Kalakshetra authorities, by walking out of a routine morning prayer when one of the accused walked in. The Government of Tamil Nadu has stepped-in and an investigation is dancing the rounds, hoping to come up with solutions.

The culture of Classical Institutes of this kind makes it extremely difficult to find wrong-doers and punish them due to the ingrained ‘Guru-Shishya Parampara’ (Teacher-Disciple tradition) in Indian Classical Dances, Arts, and Craft.

The system of Guru-Shishya Parampara traces its roots back to 5000 BC and has been an inseparable part of the ancient Indian civilisation relating to the relationship between a teacher and his disciple. A key feature of this system was that the students were required to stay at the Gurukul (the teacher’s residence) until their shiksha (education) was completed. The Guru’s words and actions are unchallenged in a tacit understanding. This assumes that the Guru is honourable and lives up to high standards of his position and leads by example. Now, somewhere fault lines have appeared, and in the arts, life moves in circles resulting in Gurus and Shishyas bumping into one another all the time. Institutes ought to wake-up to providing a safe environment for students to learn and grow fearlessly.

This week, The Padma Awards one of the highest civilian honours of India- announced annually on the eve of Republic Day-was presented to the Awardees by the President of India, Droupadi Murmu, in a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi. Over the past years the awards have become more inclusive bringing to the surface and recognising real heroes at the grassroots level. It has focussed on work done by people rather than on identities. And I’ll bring the inspiring stories.

More classic stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Dance with World Inthavaaram.