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Dances of India will celebrate 40th anniversary with traditional and modern performances

Theckla Mehta (left) and Nartana Premachandra (right) talk about Dances for India's upcoming 40th anniversary performance.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio
Theckla Mehta (left) and Nartana Premachandra (right) talk about Dances for India's upcoming 40th anniversary performance.

Classical Indian dance is a traditional art form with roots in India that date back over 2,000 years. The rhythmic dance often tells stories with body movements, facial expressions and symbolic clothing.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked to Dances of India members about the history and tradition of their dance. The company was founded in St. Louis in 1976 and was the first of its kind established in Missouri. 

“What really distinguishes it from other art forms around the world is the depth and range of expression in storytelling – because that’s so integral to the art form,” Nartana Premachandra, dancer and president of Dances of India, said. The intricate depths of the facial expressions and body movements are meant to transmit stories to an audience not able to read.

Theckla Mehta, artistic co-director of Dances of India, danced throughout her life. She said she became interested and then astonished by Indian dancing when her Indian husband took her to a traditional dance performance.

“I’m a Nebraska farm-girl. For a chance to wrap myself in silk and jewels and dance the dances, to be a consort of the gods — it is very compelling,” Mehta said.

The dance company will host their 40th anniversary with a two-part performance on Nov. 17 and Nov. 19. The first half will be a series of traditional dances from the company dancers – as well as guest dancers from France, India and New York. The second part will be an Indian take on the western classic, "Devi of the Ashes--Cinderella in India.”

“There are nods to the Disney’s Cinderella, but it very, very Indian,” Premachandra said. She wrote and will narrate the script to go along with the performance. Mehta said the story will also take a comedic turn, with puns, physical humor and a few pratfalls – which is unusual in Indian dance.

The dance company hopes to attract people of all backgrounds to its performances.

“One of our missions is to pull in people like me, westerners, to see Indian dance and to educate them to how gorgeous it is and what a wonderful story telling vehicle it can be,” Mehta said.

Listen below to Premachandra and Mehta explain the history and traditions of Indian dance: 


Related Event:

What:Dances of India 40th Annual Performance "Devi of the Ashes--Cinderella in India"

When: Nov. 17, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. & Nov. 19, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.

Where: Skip Viragh Center of the Arts at Chaminade High School, 425 S Lindbergh Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63131

More information

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.

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