Glittering 'Gita'

Ornate Indian dance offers "Riverdance with a conscience"

The text of the "Bhagvad Gita" can be daunting for outsiders unfamiliar with the Hindu religion, and the complexity isn't merely doctrinal. The character names alone are bewildering. Krishna is variously known as Mohave, Hrishikesha, Keshava, Govinda, Madhu, Janardana, Varshneya, Vasudeva, and Hari. Arjuna has almost as many nicknames, and so do the other main characters. But the ballet is audience-friendly: If the sheer spectacle of the stage presentation isn't self-explanatory, ongoing narration in English sets up each scene and translates the relevant verses from the "Gita."

The battle scenes in act 2 showcase the full talents of the dancers as they explode in choreographed warfare in front of a painted backdrop of charging elephants. Lighting effects enhance the passionate emotions. These scenes also give the ballet an up-to-the-minute relevance.

"We have leaders absolutely unwilling to negotiate peacefully, in the name of good Dharma, that is, justice, for the world," Prakash says. She goes on to list other features of the ancient war that are relevant today. "Bribery, making pacts, offering lands and weapons to helpful neighbors who were once enemies... Witness senseless killings of young and innocent in the name of power, knowing peaceful ways are the best ways and yet pursuing active force and aggression to justify the cause. As our country seems to be on the brink of it all, how do we not draw parallels?"

Big ballet from a very big book
Big ballet from a very big book

Details

Performed by the Shakti Dance Company at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 6. Tickets cost $20 to $30. Call 954-924-8175.
Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center, 1770 Monroe St., Hollywood

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Prakash is excited about the ballet on the sheer artistic level, she says enthusiastically: "I am fortunate to have wonderful artists on my team, dancers and musicians, all who feel as passionately about this production as I do." But ultimately, she's drawn to the "Bhagvad Gita" because, "To me, it is the absolute truth."

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