DOWNTOWN — Buddhist teachings describe five "aspects" of love: attentiveness, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing. The "Sixth Love" is attained by practicing all five aspects at once. Achieving that can unlock the "Seventh Love," which is selfless and universal.
That teaching provides a stark contrast to stories of Chicago women's experiences with domestic violence, voiced over classical Indian dance in Natya Dance Theatre's newest piece, "The Seventh Love," which will be performed only once at the Harris Theater Nov. 2.
"We wanted to create stories that were more contemporary in nature, derived from situations that exist here and now," Natya's associate artistic director Krithika Rajagopalan said of the subject matter's pairing with India's heavily traditional dance style, Bharata Natyam, Natya's specialty.
The art form is "highly expressive in the face. It's very much like acting, but it's also utilizing hand gestures [and] body positioning," Rajagopalan said.
Rajagopalan partnered with Lookingglass Theatre writer/director David Kersnar to develop "The Seventh Love" script, drawing from religious texts and interviews compiled by Elissa Efroymson for her DePaul University study of domestic violence among South Asian women in Chicago.
Those women's stories will be voiced over an original score composed by India's Rajkumar Bharathi, paired with traditional Bharata Natyam steps and modernized interpretations of traditional poses and choreography.
"They're real situations, and real stories. At the end, [the show] is about how they found their voice, to be who they are," she said. "We looked more at the idea of self-realization: love of thyself and then love of one another, and it became a story of transformation."
"It speaks to creating an understanding through affection, attention, appreciation, allowing, and also finding a place where all of these elements of love can coexist. And the very first element of where that starts to happen is where you love yourself enough to say, 'I need my voice, this is my voice. I'm going to speak what I want. It is a moment in time where these women are able to stop and say 'I want to speak, and they allow themselves to do that.'"
Rajagopalan says the themes of the show don't only appeal to women, or to South Asian audiences — everyone can stand to learn or be reminded about the five stages of love, she said, and viewers of the one-night-only show Saturday may leave the theater with a new perspective.
"I want people to leave saying, 'Hey, we can share a cab,' or 'I can drive you home,'" she said. "Maybe this is a way to reach out to people who aren't Buddhist, who don't know what mindful loving is, who don't understand the message behind Krishna's words."
While it may not change the world, Rajagopalan said this message could at least help with road rage on Lake Shore Drive — one of many opportunities for Chicagoans to show love to one another.
"If we could wait, and not honk at red lights, that would be great," she said. "That's the acceptance part."