Go down the rabbit hole with 'Alice in Indian Wonderland'

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Fundraiser: For the eighth year, Dances of India will help raise money through its performance at Duane Smith Auditorium

By Jennifer Garcia

Get a taste of India and travel down the rabbit hole with “Alice in Indian Wonderland,” from 4-6 p.m. Sunday at the Duane Smith Auditorium.
For the eighth year, Kavita Nandakishore and Alina Deshpande will present the “Dances of India” fundraiser. This year, it will benefit Bharat Vidyalaya, a school for children living below the poverty line in Wai, Maharashtra, India.
Nandakishore and Deshpande teach Kathak and Bharatnatyam dance classes at the Y. Deshpande teaches Kathak, an East Indian classical dance that involves combinations of hand and foot movements set to a combination of beats, while Nandakishore teaches Bharatnatyam, a classical dance from South India that combines postures, drama, expression and rhythm in an attempt to “embody the divine beauty, charm, rhythms and symbols that exist in heaven as a means of spiritual elevation,” according to the Y’s website.
Each year, the duo chooses a different story to interpret. This year, they have decided to take on “Alice in Wonderland” and infuse it with some Indian flavor. As a result, they will present “Alice in Indian Wonderland,” which will see the classic tale take place in India. Most of the main characters will still be a part of the tale, it will just be different. For example, the Red Queen will reside in an Indian Palace, with Tweedledum and Tweedledee as her guards.
“We tried to incorporate Indian dances and elements of the actual story,” Deshpande said. “We used our creative license to morph the story.”
As a result, the tale might will not be exactly the same as the classic version. For example, Alice’s sisters will have a bigger role in this version. However, Alice’s journey will still take her through different adventures.
Other characters like the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit will still be included in this version of the tale.
Deshpande said she took advantage of the fact that in this production, she didn’t have to go by the book.
“It fed my creativity better,” Deshpande said of this year’s production. ‘When we did ‘Snow White,’ the storyline didn’t change, it was just set in India.’ ”
Despite the fact that they only put on one show, it takes anywhere from nine months to a year to pull together each production. As in past performances, this year’s dance will feature students from both Deshpande’s and Nandakishore’s classes at the Y. Some guest dancers from Los Alamos’ Indian community will also perform — particularly in the folk dances. In addition, some high school students will play various characters.
In addition to the new storyline, some of the performers’ costumes will also be new this year. Deshpande said they were made by a tailor in India and will be used for “Alice in Indian Wonderland.”
The proceeds from this year’s production will go toward helping to maintain Bharat Vidyalaya. Last year’s production netted approximately $3,000 and went toward Karnataka Parents Association for Mentally Disabled Citizens in Bangalore, India. Each year, Deshpande and Nandakishore choose to help a different charity in India.
Another new element to this year’s fundraising efforts is the henna application being offered by Priya Dighe. Dighe will apply henna designs to peoples’ hands from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Y.  Donations of $2 for small hands and $4 for larger hands is recommended.
Various sponsors help in the fundraising effort through in-kind and cash donations. And even though there is no charge for admission to the performance, donations made by either cash or check is accepted.