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The exhibit’s visual storytelling, through four galleries and a central courtyard, is so engrossing that you almost forget it’s art. But McGill explains that the exhibit includes some of the greatest depictions of these characters. Many works tell their own stories. A three-tiered theatrical mask for the character of Ravana (with nine heads that would be stacked above a dancer’s own) is borrowed from Washington, D.C.’s, Smithsonian Institution. It’s among the royal gifts presented in honor of America’s 1876 centennial by the King of Siam, today’s Thailand. (His father was depicted in “The King and I.”) shoes for dance.

A precisely detailed, accordion-folded painting of scenes from the Rama epic, from around 1870, was created in the final years before the British conquest of Burma (today’s Myanmar). In this Buddhist country, Sita is attired as a Burmese princess. There are incredibly detailed shadow puppets (two-dimensional joined figures, often painted buffalo hide) displayed in several galleries. They’re spotlighted against a fabric backing so the shadow is evident as well shoes for dance. One series of Cambodian puppets was crafted in 1973 by the last generation of local artisans before the Khmer Rouge’s genocide wiped out the tradition..

Even standing still, much of the artwork seems animated. A tall, 11th century figure of Sita (“one of the great Indian bronzes,” McGill says) shows notable lightness and sense of motion. One of the earliest artworks in the exhibition, a terra-cotta plaque from India that dates from 400-500, dramatically depicts Jatayus, the heroic king of the vultures, attempting to prevent Ravana from abducting Sita. There’s a remarkable variety in the scale of objects on display. They include a 15-inch-tall, elaborately carved ivory plaque (1600-1800) showing Rama and Sita enthroned, from India’s Tamil Nadu state. Another is a nine-foot-tall carved wood pediment from a building in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia showing the hero Rama standing on a monkey, like a performer in a dance-drama. It dates from approximately 1750-1825 shoes for dance.

More recent examples show the wide influence of the Rama epic. A lithograph that’s described as “calendar art” from India (approximately 1920-1950) depicts the monkey lieutenant Hanuman as a muscular strongman. “He’s like the patron saint of bodybuilders,” McGill suggests. From 1918 and 1922, there are exquisite photographs of American dancers Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn’s “Siamese Ballet” and “The Abduction of Sita.” The couple was among the many choreographers influenced at the time by the dance and art of Asia shoes for dance.

Western painters were influenced by the Rama epic as well shoes for dance. The exhibit includes a stunning painting from the 1890s by the French Symbolist Odilon Redon. Titled “Sita,” and borrowed from the Art Institute of Chicago, it features a mysterious figure with a golden halo, floating against a deep blue background. “The Rama Epic” doesn’t end in the museum’s galleries. More video features are available on the exhibit’s website, Several Bay Area artists are contributing to “Drawing Rama,” a colorful cartoon-like version that will be published in a limited edition. And dance performances from India, Cambodia and Indonesia will get the stories of Rama, Sita, Hanuman and Ravana up and moving..

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