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Featuring volunteer Donald Bennett

We sat down with our good friend and volunteer Donald Bennett to chat about his experiences over the years working with Dakshina. Here’s a short insight into what volunteers do for Dakshina and what they gain in return.

What drew you to Dakshina?

Donald with visiting artist Alarmel Valli

Daniel’s response to my thank you note after winning tickets to see the 2007 Fall Festival performance. During most of the 1980’s I lived in the small upstate New York village Woodstock and each summer enjoyed the summer theater’s presentation of 6 weekends of dance performance. I felt this would be a great opportunity to re-acquaint myself with watching dance.

And what keeps you coming back?

Three things: Daniel’s insistence that his work include social awareness; the concept that dance does not (and cannot) exist apart from all of the other arts; and, the fact that the Company is like an extension of family for all of its members.

What is your most treasured story of a visiting artist you met?

This is absolutely NOT a fair question as I have treasured memories from each of our guest artists. While I understand that each of them is a world class artist, I interact with them, and view them, as a new friend that I am hosting in my city.

Runners-up: Being the lunch guest of VP & Shanta Dhananjayan with Daniel at the Yogaville ashram; being invited to share the afternoon meal with Mallika Sarabhai and her dancers last fall; being invited to share rehearsal with only Lorry May, Melissa Greco Liu and Daniel.

However, you said “story”, so here is the winner:
During the 2009 Fall Festival, I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time with Madhavi Mudgal and her niece Arushi. As the guests were arriving for Leela Samson’s Saturday night performance, I met Alif Laila, who is a great friend of the Company, also my personal friend and an extraordinary sitar artist. Knowing I was watching over our guest artists, she asked about meeting them. I assured her I would introduce her to Leela after the performance. I added that Madhavi was coming to the performance to see her friend Leela and I would make sure she met her for a few private words. Alif asked, “Madhavi? Do you mean Madhavi Mudgal? You know her? Donald, she is like a goddess to me!” So, at intermission, I walked Alif Laila to meet her goddess, Madhavi Mudgal. The joy in Alif’s face – that I will never forget.

What one thing would you tell prospective volunteers?

This is very easy. Friends always ask, hey what did you do yesterday, last week, this past weekend. After a few Dakshina events – sitar, spoken word, backstage at the Lincoln Theater, rehearsals, – your friends will say: “Wow. You have a very interesting life”.

Have you considered volunteering with Dakshina? You’ll get the satisfaction of making dance a central part of the art scene in DC, and you’ll get to meet world class artists through out the year. There are several ways in which you can get involved. Please consider

  1. Joining our board
  2. Volunteering with us for special projects
  3. Interning with us–you can even earn course credit

Feel free to email us with questions at