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Abhinaya Dance Company tackles an issue that has domnated our news pages recently, the environment, using Bharatanatyam to stage “Prithvi: Mother Earth.”

The genesis of the production lay in a document written by J.U.B.V. Prasad, whose daughter is an alum of the Abhinaya Dance Company. Prasad says, “I had watched Mythili successfully stage dance productions on the issue of domestic violence, and another on Mahatma Gandhi. I felt that our relationship with Mother Earth could be explored using the same classical dance vocabulary. I wrote a brief concept document and that’s how this project got started.”

From this starting point, Mythili researched the issue thoroughly and has used verses from the Prithvi Sooktha drawn from the Atharvena Veda to begin an artistic exploration. In these verses are hidden contemporary ideas such as this—”O, Prithvi, you are my mother, and I am your son.” The concept that the bounty on Earth was essential to our well-being was stressed in the verses written centuries ago. The first half then explores different myths associated with Mother Earth, ending with a solo by Rasika Kumar on how Seetha implores Bhoomidevi to accept her when she is asked by Rama to prove her purity by walking through fire.

The second half of the program hs 4 segments which examine contemporary issues such as Industrial pollution, poaching of wild elephants in Zambia, the lingering effects of the Bhopal tragedy, and natural disasters prompted by human recklessness.

Of the five elements of wind, water, air, ether and earth, Earth symbolises a sense of solidity and stability that can be challenging to present as movement on stage, I say. Asha Ramesh who has composed the music for the production agrees and says, “The choice of ragas has been dictated by the theme. I have tried to choose heavy, melancholic ragas to suit the imagery evoked in our minds when we think of Mother Earth.”

I enjoyed watching, “Surya: the Sun God” a few years ago. Abhinaya productions adhere to high standards of classicism. They are proof of the ability of Bharatanatyam to adapt suitably while handling modern themes, when executed by choreographers of Mythili’s calibre.

Saturday, November 17, 7 p.m. and November 18, 4 p.m. Mexican Heritage Theater, 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose. $15, $25, $10 students and seniors, $45 family of 4 (2 general and 2 students/seniors). (408) 983-0491.

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is on the editorial board of India Currents.

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is a multifaceted artist - a dancer, writer, storyteller, and educator. She founded the Sankalpa School of dance, where she trains the next generation of committed dancers to pursue...