Sita Ram gives heat for the holidays | Dance Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sita Ram gives heat for the holidays 

Based on Hindu mythology, this big-cast spectacle is no White Christmas

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Krithika Rajagopalan's circle of lithe

Krithika Rajagopalan's circle of lithe

Michael Brosilow

Holiday dance fare doesn't have to mean icy fairylands. Sita Ram simmers with the crowds, noise, and brilliant colors of India. Like the original production, which debuted at Lookingglass Theatre in 2006, this remount is a collaborative effort by Chicago Children's Choir, Natya Dance Theatre, and Lookingglass member David Kersnar, featuring no less than 110 singers, 32 dancers, 12 actors in principal roles, and 23 acrobats. Grammy-nominated composer Jai Uttal mined the world's music for his commissioned score, taking inspiration from Indian, African, Caribbean, and U.S. sources, including gospel, rap, and the blues. Krithika Rajagopalan's choreography is similarly wide-ranging—a blend of bharatanatyam and contemporary Western styles that communicates the emotional content of a moral tale.

Based on an ancient Hindu epic, the Ramayana, the dynamic story features two deities that have come to earth and taken human form as Princess Sita and Prince Rama. They're separated by the demon Ravana, an incarnation of corporate America—er, material wealth and power, anyway. So there's a timely message, as well as a divine love story and plenty of comic relief, mostly supplied by the monkey god and his roving bands of chattering simians.

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