Sacred Earth

As I’ve walked around campus the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen posters for an upcoming performance, “Sacred Earth,” by the troupe Ragamala Dance, who perform Bharatanatyam, a classical dance style from south India.

The performance is being promoted by the university’s Performing Arts Series as follows. I’ve highlighted phrases that invite commentary.

Experience transcendence. With magical grace, Ragamala dances the ancient temple art form, Bharatanatyam. Performed against a vivid backdrop of painted prayers, Warli paintings, on a stage covered with ephemeral Kolam rice flour drawings, Ragamala’s Sacred Earth transforms the stage into a sacred space. The stunning dancers give physical form to the spiritual expression of the Warlis and Kolams, illustrating the ephemeral nature of our existence and celebrating the ongoing, ever-renewing cycle of life.

I’m struck that among the performance’s sponsors is the “Ford Family initiative on Spiritual Meaning & Purpose.”

Thought question: What kind of experience do the performers understand themselves to be offering the audience? What kind of experience do planners here at the university understand that they are offering the audience? And what kind of experience do audience members understand themselves to be having? Artistic? Cultural? Religious? Spiritual? What’s the difference?

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