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Ballet, Indian dance come together in Five...

PJ Star, Sunday, 14th September 2014


Although they originated on different continents, ballet and Indian classical dance have a lot in common — both are quite old, both require years of training, and though the effect is quite different, some of the moves are similar.


“They do a move like the plie, but they go all the way down,” said Tamra Challacombe, co-director of “Shakunthala — The Forgotten Ring,” a collaborative production between Mythili Dance Academy and the Peoria Ballet.


“The Forgotten Ring,” which will be performed at 7 p.m. Sept. 20 at Five Points Washington, is based on a beloved tale from Indian mythology.


“It’s like the Indian Cinderella,” said Rama Suresh, artistic director of Mythili Dance Academy. “It’s a romantic fairy tale, but very different from other fairy tales because of all the interesting twists and turns in the plot.”


The idea of a collaborative production has long been in Suresh’s mind. She approached the Peoria Ballet last year.


“It’s been my dream to see both these dances together on stage, to see how they are similar and how they are different,” she said. “Tamara loved the idea.” Challacombe was excited not only about the dance, but also about Suresh’s idea of making the production a fundraiser for congenital heart patients at Children’s Hospital of Illinois — both women have had loved ones treated there.


Suresh’s granddaughter, Trisha, spent some time there after her birth. Now 4 years old, she is the youngest cast member. Challacombe’s daughter, Vivien, 5, also a former Children’s Hospital patient, declined a role in the production.


“I tried to get her to be a little lion, but she wouldn’t do it,” said Challacombe. Vivien had a heart defect that was detected and repaired at the hospital when she was 3.


“She’s now perfect. If they had not done the surgery, she wouldn’t have lived to 30,” said Challacombe, whose oldest daughter Sophie, 14, is playing the female lead.


“It is a change to see a ballet dancer doing Shakunthula,” said Suresh. The melding of the two dance forms has been exciting for both directors. In some scenes, ballet is danced in a traditional manner — the same with the Indian dances. But sometimes dancers combine moves and gestures from both genres.


“Emotion is a very important part of Indian classical dance,” said Suresh. Combined with precise movements, the dancer’s expressions help tell the story.




In January 2011, the Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council for Overseas Indians discussed the concept of engaging with the younger generation of diaspora, mainly students and young professionals, with a view to...



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