Amma | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Sometimes we forget that multiculturalism isn't just a much funded, much maligned trend in the arts but the way some people live their lives. Hema Rajagopalan, artistic director of the bharatanatyam troupe Natyakalalayam Dance Company, and Jan Bartoszek, artistic director of the modern group Hedwig Dances, have put their heads together on an hour-long piece about the experience of immigrant mothers and their children, Amma (which means "mother" in several Indian languages). Both interviewed women here, but they also relied on their own family histories. Bartoszek's grandmother Hedwig (the troupe's namesake) moved from her native Poland to northern Michigan, where she raised ten children, and Bartoszek often wondered how she coped, "insulated...by her culture, language, and very private nature." Rajagopalan's experience was more immediate: she moved here in 1974, when her daughter Krithika was two, and so has fought the battles of acculturation within her own family. She must have won: Krithika performs in and helped choreograph Amma, which successfully blends Eastern and Western movement. The duet I saw evokes not only different styles of dance but the way mothers and daughters both console and antagonize each other, the two dancers moving in their own orbits until they suddenly intersect. At one point mother and daughter drop unexpectedly to the floor and sit back to back, heads lolling, necks touching in a movement that expresses mutual comfort and support. Inspired by an idea Hema had in 1995, when she and Bartoszek collaborated on another piece, Amma represents the fruition of a cultural as well as artistic process. Thursday, May 18, at 7:30; Friday and Saturday at 8; and Sunday at 3 at the Ruth Page Theater, 1016 N. Dearborn; $16 (a postperformance benefit for Hedwig Dances on Thursday is $35, which includes the show). Call 773-871-0872 for tickets and information. --Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eileen Ryan.

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