7:30 p.m. Oct. 8
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago
A poor peasant. A magical plant. An evil villain.
Those elements seem to fit your standard fairy tale, but this
story, The Flowering Tree, is more than a Jack and the Beanstalk
knock-off. The original dance performance, debuting at the Harris
Theater this month, aims to introduce the Indian folktale and its
deeper meaning to children of all ages.
The Flowering Tree uses Bharata Natyam, a form of traditional
Indian dance, and a narrator, called the sutradhara, to tell the
story of a young girl, Kumudha, who comes from a very poor family
and is ostracized for being different. She appeals to the heavens
and the "higher powers" give her a magical mantra to say. It turns
her into a beautiful tree that gives flowers to the townspeople-but
only as long as they nurture and care for it.
Throughout the tale, others, including the handsome prince who
falls in love with Kumudha, take advantage of her power and treat
her poorly, leading to the realization that all of nature must be
regarded with respect.
"It's a story of humanity respecting nature and nature
consistently giving to humanity," says co-artistic director
Krithika Rajagopalan. "Who doesn't want to teach their kid we've
got to be good to the world around us?"
The story also emphasizes the importance of treating one another
with respect and love.
The entire show is original, from the costumes to the score, and
the dancers come from the Natya Dance Theatre in Chicago. With a
running time of one hour and 20 minutes, it's short enough to
appeal even to young children.
"It's very accessible to anybody," says Rajagopalan, who also
serves as the sutradhara. "If you're afraid of not knowing what
it's all about, don't be."
She says the story is told not only by the sutradhara, but also
through the athletic dancing, vibrantly colored textiles, rhythmic
score and the dancers' facial expressions.
"My 3-year-old gets it," Rajagopalan says. "(If) you can take
them to Sesame Street on Ice at 3, you can take them to this at 3 …
It's an evening that I would recommend to anybody at any age."
And for those whose little ones really get into the music,
Rajagopalan has one final piece of advice: "It's best to get an
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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