Amazing Grace 

Temple dancers twirl in Hayward

SAT 5/31

If it weren't for early-20th-century pioneer innovators like Rukmini Devi Arundale, the ancient art of South Indian temple dance known as bharata natyam would not be practiced today, let alone performed before secular audiences. It was traditionally performed by generations of women dancers and musicians in Hindu temples. In a practice that reportedly continued until 1988, young girls were "married" to a temple deity and made divine prostitutes, forced to serve upper-caste community members. Now, their elaborate dances have been given new life through revival of the ancient form with experimental choreography. Choreographer and director Sundara Swaminathan of the San Jose-based Kala Vandana Dance Center pays tribute to the centennial of her mentor Arundale, with whom she trained in Chennai (Madras), in Tales of Temple Dance, a dance drama enacting the evolution of bharata natyam "from the heavens to contemporary stage," at Chabot College's Center for the Performing Arts in Hayward this Saturday (4 p.m., 25555 Hesperian Blvd.). The production promises to depict, among other things, the creation of the cosmic dance in the heavens, celestial dancers, and more earthbound practices such as temple rituals and the courtesan dance. Accompaniment includes a live orchestra from India featuring mridangam (a South Indian percussion instrument), violin, flute, and vocals. See for information. Once you're inspired to learn the dance yourself -- without becoming a temple courtesan, of course -- check the site for news of upcoming classes in the East and South Bay. -- Frako Loden


True Brit

Go ahead and snort derisively. Agatha Christie is arguably the world's favorite author of mysteries, and The Mousetrap can lay claim to being her most popular creation. The stage version has played 51 years in London, it's celebrating its 25th year in Toronto -- and now it's made its way back to Orinda. In the Starlight Village Players' outdoor production of Christie's whodunit about murder in a bed and breakfast, Malcolm Cowler (a "True Brit," according to Starlight) plays Trotter the Detective, with Jill Gelester and Bill Chessman as the couple who own the B&B and Jim Kula as the Man without a Reservation. The Mousetrap opens Friday for a run through June 28 at the Outdoor Theater at the Orinda Community Center, 26 Orinda Way, near the BART station. Phone 925-253-1191 for details. -- Kelly Vance

MON 6/2

Rapid Ryhmes

Iambic Indian

You snooze, you lose. That's what's happened with the location of Poetry Express , which moved to a private residence when the Berkeley Bakery closed for remodeling. Tired of waiting for the old space to open back up, the event is now taking place at Priya Indian restaurant (2072 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley). The kickoff event for the weekly series happens Monday at 7 p.m., and will be an all-open mic. If you need a little fire in your belly before you can step up to read, mention Poetry Express at the restaurant after 5 p.m. and get 20 percent off dinner. And though no purchase is necessary, attendees are encouraged to sample some of Priya's Indian hospitality. -- Stefanie Kalem


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