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AWS founder Sheila Rubin celebrates 40 years of Natyananda Indian Dance

The Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation presents “Celebrate Unity, Honor Diversity II,” a multicultural, multimedia, artistic exploration of the universal mysteries of birth and death. This marks the 40th Anniversary celebration of Natyananda Indian Dance.

Saturday, August 18, 2018 Dorothy Jemison Day Theater at the Alabama School of Fine Arts 2 pm and 7 pm $25 Tickets on sale now at ASFA

Before AWS founder and former teacher Sheila Rubin started our school over 30 years ago in 1987, she helped to start the Natyananda Dance of India, a company that performs in the classical Bharata Natyam style of south India.

This production celebrates the 40th anniversary of Natyananda, and is inspired by Ms. Rubin’s own near-death experience. When she was a young mother in India, she became ill with malaria. “The third bout came on very swiftly - I collapsed on the bed and immediately felt myself being sucked up out of my body, then shooting through darkness,” she recalls. “I came to rest in an amazingly wonderful place of lightness, joy and peace.”

Ms. Rubin encountered a being who asked if she wanted to go on or go back. “Everything in me wanted to go on — that world was so beautiful and inviting,” she says. But she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her baby son behind. Her recovery was long and arduous. It took weeks before Ms. Rubin could gather the strength to even sit up. Today, this experience continues to bring her hope. “I know that when the time comes, that other world is waiting. I can tell you, though I’d like to be here longer, my heart is happy knowing that one day I’ll go there,” she says. “It makes me sad that so many people find the thought of death so frightening that it is taboo to even mention it,” continues Ms. Rubin. “But in talking to people as I was developing the ideas for this production, instead of fear I met an incredible sense of relief. After all, if something is too frightening to even mention, it must be terrible indeed. But just as in the fairy tales where facing and naming an evil can not only remove its power, but actually transform it to a good, having the courage to talk about death can relieve much of our anxiety.”

Through stories, songs, poetry and dance from different cultures, this performance will explore ideas of birth and death. Part of the proceeds will go to benefit one of the company’s star dancers and choreographers, Venkatakrishnan Mahalingam, who recently suffered a medical health emergency. He and Ms. Rubin worked together for the last 3 years to create this production, and most of the music and dances were composed and choreographed by him.

For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the Dorothy Jemison Day Theater at ASFA.

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