“Murder on the Ganges”

Dancing down the Ganges, Agatha Christie style

Anita Menon's "Murder on the Ganges" takes a famous murder mystery and dances it in a new place

This has been a good month for Indian dance teacher/choreographer Anita Menon and her Anjali School of Dance. It started with a Newmark Theatre production of Murder on the Ganges, a dance adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile that gathered various local Indian dance groups into one stunning dance travelogue. It ended with the announcement that the Regional Arts and Culture Council had awarded Menon its $20,000 performing artist fellowship this year, along with choreographer Linda Austin, who founded Performance Works Northwest.

For me, Murder on the Ganges was very personal: When I was in 8th grade my parents took me out of school for six weeks to travel across Northern India. We traveled by train from Delhi to Agra and to Jaipur. On the Jaipur leg of the trip I bought an Agatha Christie novel from a train station bookseller. I was already a Christie fan, so it was that much more thrilling to be in someplace so unfamiliar and find something so familiar and comforting.

"Murder on the Nile" was a dance version of Agatha Christie/Photo courtesy Anita Menon

Alisha Menon, Shaila Ramachandran, Maya Jagannathan, Saloni Parikh and Renuka Ramanathan in “Murder on the Nile”/Photo courtesy Anita Menon

I read this novel (sadly I don’t remember which it was anymore) while traveling by train across the Jaipur desert, sitting in a vintage club chair on an old train, watching the desert flash by the windows as the train chugged and swayed side to side. It was wonderful. It was visceral. It was my Agatha Christie come to life.

Since that trip, Christie has become synonymous with India for me. I have also grown a small, maybe large, obsession with Hercule Poirot and his little gray cells. I enjoy his attention to detail, his sense of order and his confidence that everything will turn out OK in the end.

I am also a big fan of Indian classical dance. It was the first form of dance I ever learned as a child, and I have revisited it over and over in my dance training throughout the years.

So when I saw that Menon had taken Death on the Nile and transformed it for the stage into Murder on the Ganges, I was elated – and very curious about how this transference from text to dance and Egypt to India could be done.

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