“Chitrangada” Presented by ACTLab and Pratidhwani

A feast of color and movement! A tale of love! “Chitrangada” an Indian dance story is brought to Seattle audiences by the local South Asian cultural organization Pratidhwani. It’s an extraordinary performance featuring more than 40 dancers directed by Moumita Bhattacharya.

The tale originated as a minor story in the Mahabharata, the great Sanskrit epic of ancient India. It was revised and embellished in the late 19th Century by India’s most beloved poet and author, Rabindranath Tagore. It’s Tagore’s version we see on this stage. A love story about a princess, the only child and heir to her father’s kingdom. Thus it was necessary for her to learn martial arts, so she assumed the countenance of a man and became a great warrior. All would be well but she fell in love with another great warrior, Arjun. He, of course, didn’t know she was a woman. When that is finally revealed, true love ensues, and it’s a happily ever after story.

It’s a nice story, not terribly different from folktales of our own society. Ah! but it’s not just the story that’s the enticement of this production. What is so unforgettable about this is the dance in all its varieties, the music and costumes. “Spectacular color and movement” hardly do it justice.

The dancers utilize all parts of their body in a fashion unfamiliar to western audiences. Their hands are as significant as their feet and legs. Integral to most dances are gracious and elaborate finger movements that far exceed anything we see in western ballet. So too are the eyes used extensively as elements of the story telling.

The costumes are sumptuous. Golds, oranges, greens, shades of colors you’ve never seen before, all are integrated into glorious creations that not only look beautiful but allow the dancers a full range of motion.

If you have any interest in dance, this program is a must. So too for those who are interested in non-western cultures. And for anyone who just enjoys a great diversity of fast paced action this production is simply mesmerizing.

The wonder is that the enormous production crew, the large number of behind-the-scenes functionaries, and the huge number of highly skilled performers are all volunteers. How lucky we are to have them here in our region.

Through May 20 at ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle, (206-292-7676 or acttheatre.org.

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