Thank you India
Americans and Europeans go to India to seek ancient wisdom. Freed somewhat from the oppressive caste tradition, those formerly considered “lower-class” Indians are making bank as software gurus and are sending their kids to Ivy League schools in the U.S. There’s a yoga studio on every other block in Chicago. India is the poster child for the rising tide of globalized culture.
These are the kinds of things that interest Pranita Jain, Indian native and artistic director of Kalapriya Dance—and she senses she’s not the only one. “There is great excitement right now about Indian culture and the Indian economic situation,” says Jain. “There’s techie culture, there’s Bollywood culture.”
Jain is hoping to reflect on India’s vast history and the modern trends that have arisen from it, in a production called Looking East: Mantra and Chakras at the Harold Washington Library Theater on Saturday 26.
In the opening piece, dancers perform repetitions of the surya namaskar (sun salute exercise from yoga, a prayer to the sun god, whose light makes us intelligent). Jain explains how the sun salute is like a mantra. “A mantra is a statement, a word, something which is repeated with sincerity and pure faith, over and over again,” she says. “I believe it has overwhelming power to achieve what you want.”
While those of us who have taken a couple of yoga classes might think of a chakra as an energy center in the body, “Chakra just means cycle or wheel,” says Jain. She cites the chakri dance, a twirling dance that is done all the time by Indians at celebrations.
And then there’s Bollywood. A mash of club, street, classical and contemporary movements have been fused into a style by India’s film industry. As Jain says, “There are many different ways to raise your chakras.”—Asimina Chremos