Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts

Six masked figures in red and gold robes leap gracefully onstage and sweep across the polished wooden floor in a shuffling dance–blessing the space, preparing it for a scene from a traditional Tibetan opera. Ironically, a performance in Chicago by the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts is one of the few opportunities you’ll get worldwide to see traditional Tibetan songs and dance: the nation’s religious and cultural arts have survived in exile since the Chinese occupied Tibet in 1959, destroying monasteries and imprisoning, killing, or exiling guerrillas, monks, artists, and intellectuals. Some would argue that this group offers only a glimpse of a dying culture or the nostalgic reinvention of a nation that’s lost the source of its folk tradition, the land itself. But the Institute–which first performed traditional opera in refugee camps–hopes that combining traditional prayers, a circling lute dance, historical dramas, a harvest beer celebration, and the high clear tones of women singing an ancient folk song will both celebrate and preserve the Tibetan diaspora until its people can return home. This tour is a chance to see what’s been lost–and saved–by a proud, ancient culture. Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 773-935-6860. Saturday, September 20, 8 PM. $15-$25 (proceeds benefit the Tibetan Alliance of Chicago). Then at New Trier West Center, 7 S. Happ, Northfield, 847-604-3938. Saturday, September 27, 8 PM (the performance will be followed by a slide show, “Tibet: Saving the Precious Jewel”). $18; $5 for children (proceeds benefit Solutions in Action, an American agency that offers educational programs for Tibetans, and the Central Tibetan Administration’s Department of Education in Dharamshala, India). Then at Elmhurst College, Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel, 190 Prospect, Elmhurst, 630-617-6459. Sunday, September 28, 7 PM. $5. –Carol Burbank

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.