An urban jungle springs to life in a fusion of classical Indian dance and ballet!
Inspired by Kipling’s The Jungle Book. (photos from the March 2, 2013 premiere, by Ron Lessard)
Monkeys jumping on trampolines, a cunning tigress, and a herd of buffalos in hard hats. Not what you would expect to see during a ballet performance. But, Lustig Dance Theatre (LDT) isn’t interested in doing the expected. Artistic Director Graham Lustig has found his niche in the dance world: weaving storytelling and ballet into dynamic dance theatre pieces. In his new work, “Jangala”, classical Indian dance meets ballet in an urban jungle to re-tell the familiar stories found in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”.
This is not, however, an idealized version of Kipling’s often dark and realistic world of the hunted and the hunter. Created with a family audience in mind and imbued with plenty of fun, enchanting moments, “Jangala” doesn’t adhere to the typical imagery of a lush jungle and talking animals. Costumed in business suits trimmed with fur and imaginative accessories, the dancers rely on articulated movements to portray their characters. Backdrops and props designed by Howard Siskowitz bring explosive color reminiscent of an Indian sari to the production.
Hosted as a performer by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in his 30’s, Lustig traveled to Bombay, Delhi and Jaipur. “Jangala” pays homage to his long-held respect for the arts and culture of India. “No production has yet truly represented the culture in which the stories take place, India,” states Lustig. “In classical Indian dance, the artists often portray themselves as gods or animals, their movement vocabulary richly bringing to life creature spirits such as a wolf, an elephant, a tiger or a snake.” Fusing classical Indian dance with ballet, “Jangala” is a symbiotic pairing of expressive hand gestures and grace.