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Path to Peace is a multimedia dance-theater production featuring archived footage of Mahatma Gandhi at appropriate moments in the narrative to underscore the importance of Gandhi’s message in today’s world. Sridhar Shanmugam, choreographer says, “The name of Mahatma Gandhi is invoked all over the world in a symbolic manner with no concrete steps being taken to solve conflicts through peaceful means.” Shanmugam has been trained by Chandralekha, a dancer who attained international acclaim for stepping out of the boundaries of bharatanatyam to make a unique dramatic statement. Chandralekha explored issues outside of mythology to look at contemporary issues and often choreographed productions where the musician set the score after watching her dancers bring ideas alive through finely chiselled movements. In her productions, even silence on stage was used to convey a heightened sense of drama. When the moment elapsed leading to a burst of movement and music, one’s eyes were frequently transfixed on the dancers’ bodies where every part of the body was used to convey meaning. “I think of Chandralekha every day,”says Shanmugam remembering that she passed away recently. “Every time I watch a performance, I think of her. Her ideas have had a tremendous influence on me.” The performance will feature seven professional dancers led by Shanmugam.

Rare, archived footage of Mahatma Gandhi obtained from the Gandhi Peace Foundation will be used to bring alive a leader who led India to freedom using non-violent means. Andrew Sterman has composed the music for this one-of-a-kind performance.

The performance is a fundraiser for Ekal Vidyalaya, a non-profit organization that works to promote literacy through a novel system of non-formal one-teacher schools popularly known as Ekal Vidyalayas. Currently, Ekal Vidyalaya has more than 20,142 schools throughout India that provide education for 604,260 children. Gandhi had campaigned tirelessly to increase literacy among India’s poorest children. Almost six decades after his demise, his goal of universal literacy is yet to be reached, and his message of non-violence has been relegated to the backstage in the international arena.

Shanmugam says, “I hope that audience members can look at the performance and relate Gandhi’s life to the struggles for justice that they see around them. I hope that it will compel them to think differently about struggles and conflicts.”

September 9, Sunday, 4:30pm registration; 5:30pm performance. Gary Soren Smith Center, Ohlone College, 43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont.
$25, $35, $50. Call (510) 490-4620 or (408) 480-7309.

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is on the editorial board of India Currents.


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