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Mandala South Asian Performing Arts draws inspiration from the work of 13th century Persian poet, Islamic scholar, and Sufi mystic Rumi in its hour-long performance, With Rumi, Saturday, September 26 at 3 and 6 p.m., performed live for a limited audience (pending city and state restrictions) and livestreamed for a digital audience at High Concept Labs, located at Mana Contemporary Chicago, 2233 S. Throop Street, Chicago.
Each performance welcomes a maximum of 10 in-person audience members. The 6 p.m. performance also will be streamed live for a virtual audience. The 3 p.m. performance will be recorded and made available through October 1 on Mandala’s website, mandalaarts.org, to those who purchase tickets. In-person audience members will wear masks and sit at least six feet apart. Performers’ costumes will incorporate masks, as designed by Tara Perry. “Bharatanatyam incorporates accentuated eyes in its movement vocabulary, further emphasized by the dancers’ covered faces,” explained Mandala Executive Artistic Director PranitaNayar, who conceptualized and choreographed the work.
With Rumi derives from Rumi’s forlorn description of lovers—tahwid—who are unable to experience transcendental “oneness” due to physical and emotional distance. Through her choreography, Nayar tells the lovers’ stories as well as recreates the lyrical shapes of their calligraphic appearance, joining the natural curves of Persian calligraphy with the angles of classical Bharatanatyam dance and the free flow of modern dance. The choreography is further devised by Moeka Osada and Ashwaty Chennat. A digital animation film by Aadit Arora and Kevin Monteith bridges the dimensional gap between page and performance. An original score by Sufi composer Niloufar Nourbaksh accompanies the dance and film, performed live by Manou Magdalena Chakravorty, cello and Farzad Amoozegar on taar and setar, Persian instruments.
Rumi has greatly impacted the culture, art, and spirituality of Asia and the Middle East, influencing artists in a variety of disciplines. His lyricism and universal articulation of love and access to the divine serves as the basis for much Persian and Afghani music. His poetry is iconic in Persian art, where visually striking Farsi calligraphy adds graphic dynamism to the rich meaning of the text. With Rumi springs from an appreciation for the beauty of written language and recreates the flourishes of Farsi with the human body.
Nayar and her collaborators offer a new interpretation of Rumi’s poetry, its meaning, and its visual presentation in the transposition of an old story into a contemporary context.