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Northwest Children's Theater's production of 'The Jungle Book' uses dance as the universal language.

COURTESY PHOTO - Gowri Ganesh stars as Mowgli in Northwest Childrens Theater and Schools production of The Jungle Book Feb. 8 through March 1.

Northwest Children's Theater and School journeys deep into the heart of the jungle to tell the story of a mischievous young Mowgli and her adventures in India.

In collaboration with award-winning choreographer Anita Menon and the Anjali School of Dance, "The Jungle Book" tells its story through a mixture of traditional dialogue, a classical Indian dance form called Bharatanatyam, and even a little bit of Bollywood.

"In the original book, Mowgli learns the language of the jungle from each of the animals through words," Menon says. "In our version, dance is the language of the jungle. Each animal communicates through a different movement style, and through dance is how Mowgli learns. Dance and movement are universal languages, and stories of animals are common ground across all cultures."

NWCT first staged "The Jungle Book" five years ago, kicking off a partnership with Menon that would bring traditional India stories like "Chitra: The Girl Prince" and "Tenali: The Royal Trickster" to the mainstage. The productions have opened up the opportunity for Indian and Southeast Asian artists to authentically showcase a 2000-year-old art form while telling stories that resonate with an American audience. In fact, that is how Menon started on this journey.

"Raising Indian-American children, I wanted to find a way to tell familiar stories while maintaining our traditional culture. So I started using Bharatanatyam dance vocabulary to tell stories like 'Little Red Riding Hood' and 'The Wizard of Oz,'" she said.

Helping bring "The Jungle Book" to life through fresh eyes is new-to-NWCT director Tamara Carroll. "We are using the 2015 production as a starting place, but the script has undergone a fairly significant rewrite, which opens up new opportunities," she said. "This includes new and reimagined characters, resulting in new music, choreography and production design."

"The Jungle Book" features Gowri Ganesh in the role of Mowgli.

Ganesh, an eighth grader at Stoller Middle School, started dancing at age five and hasn't stopped yet. She made her first appearance on the NWCT stage in "Chitra: The Girl Prince," after learning from Menon, her dance instructor, about the opportunity.

"Right after working with NWCT I felt this amazing sense of belonging there that made me never want to leave," she said. She immersed herself into acting, and is doing double duty this year, performing on the mainstage and participating in NWCT's Second Stage program, Studio NW.

Show times are noon and 4 p.m. Feb. 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29 and March 1 at 1819 NW Everett St. Portland. The show is most enjoyed by those age 5 and above.

NWCT's 2019-2020 season offers sensory friendly performances for all productions, free of charge. Featuring shorter run times, no intermission, reduced or removed lighting and sound cues, and the constant presence of house lights, these performances are specially designed for children on the autism spectrum or with other sensory sensitivities. Each production also includes audio-described and American Sign Language interpreted performances.

For tickets and more call 503-222-2190 or visit nwcts.org.

­­—For The Review, Tidings

COURTESY PHOTO - Gowri Ganesh stars as Mowgli in Northwest Childrens Theater and Schools production of The Jungle Book Feb. 8 through March 1.


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