Western Parable Gets Eastern Treatment

Western Parable Gets Eastern Treatment

"Snake And Ladder," A Navarasa Dance Theater Production, Premiers At Keshet Center For The Arts Feb. 18.

The show, about a warrior prince who plays a board game with the personification of Death, is based on Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 Swedish film “The Seventh Seal.”

“I conceived [Snake and Ladder] as an Eastern Hindu version of Bergman’s brilliant western, Christian parable,scriptwriter S.M. Raju said, but “I have taken some artistic liberties.”

In “The Seventh Seal,” Death is a man. In Raju’s version of the story, Death is a woman.

“Death is a woman who can be beautiful, seductive and make you question your actions,” he said. In Raju’s story, the prince and Death have a romantic attraction to each other.

“Everyone experiences death differently. Some may fear it. Some may be attracted to it,” choreographer Aparna Sindhoor said. Sindhoor also plays Death in the show.

Another difference from Bergman’s version is rather than playing a game of chess, the prince challenges Death to “Snake and Ladder,” an ancient Indian board game.

“Snake and Ladder” is like the American “Chutes and Ladders,” but has a spiritual aspect to it. In the game, snakes represent vice, while ladders represent virtue.

“If you donate to a charity, you go up the ladder. Every time you do something bad, like show greed, you come back down,” Sindhoor said.

Set designer Vic Browder used ropes to represent snakes and custom-built ladders to create a life-size board game for the production.

“When you think about a board game, it’s flat on a table. With our idea, you see the game come to life on a vertical level,” Sindhoor said.

“Snake and Ladder” is part of Keshet Dance Company’s International Dance Festival. The production will tour the United States, Canada, and India throughout 2017.

Dancers in the show perform Indian classical and contemporary style dance, acrobatics, aerial, yoga and martial arts.

“Because it’s a universal tale, the range of movement is also wide,” Sindhoor said.

Along with dancing in various styles, the “Snake and Ladder” cast sings songs in English, Sanskrit, Spanish and the Indian language Kannada.

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Sara MacNeil is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.