Natyakalalayam Dance Company 

Natyakalalayam Dance Company

Ahimsa--a new evening-length piece by Chicago's foremost classical Indian dance company--represents a real triumph for this small but accomplished troupe. The show's goal is nothing less than moral regeneration, and to that end choreographers Hema and Krithika Rajagopalan (mother and daughter) have marshaled Indian mythology, Christian precepts, and the more modern belief in self-reliance. The title of the piece means "noninjury," and its traditional stories illustrate various forms of himsa, or violence: violence against children, women, and the downtrodden and between those who should be friends and equals. Each tale is first depicted by a dancer-actress whose facial expressions and motions reinforce the details of the story as it unfolds in an English voice-over. Then the narrative is reenacted in dance by a group of performers. Yes, the form is somewhat repetitive, but Ahimsa harks back to a time when theatrical performance was a genuine luxury, a real treat, and not just one option in a huge field of often flashy but mind-numbing entertainment. The dancing and live music are superb--we're fortunate that Natyakalalayam brings within such easy reach the sights and sounds of a long-ago culture from halfway around the globe. And we're not talking the tiny screens of the Internet here. The trick is to adopt a different mind-set, to sit back and let the wash of brilliant color and sound seduce you--the point is not the quick delivery of a story or message but the slow, sensuous embodiment of timeless beliefs and feelings. Friday and Saturday at 8 in the auditorium of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State; $10-$15. Call 773-296-1061 for tickets and information. --Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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