“Panchatantra Tales” to bring Indian dance and culture to the theater stage

Dancers of “Panchatantra Tales” during a rehearsal

Rachita Menon remembers reading the Panchatantra, a series of Indian fables, in her youth.

Now these childhood stories, which many Indian children like Menon grew up with, will become a stage production for the first time.

“These stories have always stuck with me,” she said. “I wanted to bring them to life.”

Menon’s Rasika School of Dance collaborated with Gamut Theater to create “Panchatantra Tales”, featuring classical and folk Indian dance in central PA. The show will take place at the Gamut Theater for one weekend only, April 8-10.

In her dance studio in Enola, Menon teaches the traditional South Indian dance style “Bharatanatyam”. She always thought this dance style would be perfect for the stage, with her expressive hand gestures and beautiful dress, she said.

“We’ve seen this in the big cities, but we haven’t seen anything like this in central AP,” Menon explained.

“Tales from Panchatantra” was written by Sean Adams and is co-directed by Menon and Gamut Executive Director Melissa Nicholson. It is based on Indian stories comparable to “Aesop’s Fables”. The show is both comedic and meaningful, tackling themes of kindness and respect just like the original stories.

The show follows a noble king of ancient India who has three big problems: his children, the reckless and lazy royal princes. He fears for the future of his people and so consults a wise guru, who teaches young princes through animal stories and folk tales. These lessons are woven together to form the Panchatantra (“Five Treatises”). In the end, the princes will learn about dharma – the duties and virtues expected of us – and the importance of being part of a larger whole.

Students from Rasika Dance School and actors from Gamut’s Young Acting Company will perform together in the show. The artists are between 6 and 18 years old.

“It’s a big dream come true for me,” Menon said. “To promote this dance style in a way that the global masses can relate to. It is crossing borders.

Spectators can expect to see plenty of dancing, of course, but also singing, beautifully crafted costumes, thrilling fight choreography and classic Indian hand gestures. It’s a piece that anyone, regardless of age, will enjoy, Menon said.

“It’s an experience that everyone should come and see,” Menon said. “It’s not something you’ve seen before.”

Gamut Theater is located at 15 N. 4and St., Harrisburg. For more information on “Panchatantra Tales”, visit their website. Tickets for the show are still available, but are selling out quickly, according to Menon. They can be purchased at Gamut website.

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