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Small footprints, a journey of discovery

Footfalls from the land of happiness: A journey into the dances of Bhutan

Karen Greenspan

ISBN: 978-0-578-45484-9

Pages: 198

Bhutan was Shangri-La shrouded in mysticism. It was often she was even called the Last Shangri-La. That reputation perhaps contributed to rising number of tourists 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”. She found something more beautiful and intangible beckon her instead.

She felt and saw that something almost immediately after the Drukair touched down at Paro.

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, environment, Buddhism, culture and people.

What made into the making of the book shows. Humans, she says, are biologically wired to be moved to empathy and spiritual transformation by seeing something, particularly watching the dance. She ends up taking classes at the Royal Academy of Performing Arts. And the book!

For the Bhutanese, though, Footfalls from the land of happiness: A journey into the dances of Bhutan provides little beyond spurious reading. But it is a good book for the tourists for whom snippets are more than enough by way of introduction to Bhutan and the Bhutanese.

The book suffers from too little of everything.

Somewhere deep in the chapters of the book, Greenspan observes: “In Himalayan Buddhism, the chams 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.”

The book would have avoided the banal and the bathos with some sincere look at the depth. But perhaps that really wasn’t the purpose of the book.

There is a lot to relish and immerse oneself in Footfalls from the land of happiness: A journey into the dances of Bhutan, which will be launched at Taj Tashi today at 3:30pm. 

It is a book written by a foreigner for foreigners.

Choki Wangmo

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