Mahajanaka Dance Drama (talk and performance)

A dancer kneels over another, face to face, in a 'love duet' photographed by Oliver Holms

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One of the oldest surviving folk tales in the world retold through dance

One of the oldest surviving folk tales in the world retold through dance, music and animation, featuring an award winning team of artists from Thailand and the UK. 

British Composer-Producer Sebastian Reynolds and Neon Dance Director-Choreographer Adrienne Hart collaborate with renowned Thai dance artist Pichet Klunchun to retell the story of Mahajanaka Jataka.

Bringing together east and western dance and music performance traditions, this enchanting production fuses ancient and modern with animated scenes from Sun and Moon Studios. 

Tickets include a pre-show talk at 17.15 (Knowledge Centre Theatre) by Sarah Shaw of Oxford University and author of The Jātakas: Birth Stories of the Bodhisatta (Penguin Classics).

Jatakas are stories that depict the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form. They’re wonderfully illustrative tales and one of the largest and oldest surviving collections in the world. In Jataka tales, the Bodhisatta (‘Buddha to be’) may appear as a king, an outcast, a god, even a hare, but in whatever form, he is working to cultivate one of the ten great perfections which enable him to attain the Nibbana (enlightenment) in his last life. 

In the tale Mahajanaka, Prince Mahajanaka swims through the ocean for seven days and seven nights until the Goddess Manimekhala comes to his rescue. This famous scene (to be found painted on temples throughout Asia) symbolises the virtue of perseverance and heroic effort; however the main virtue in Mahajanaka is considered by academics to be one of renunciation. Prince Mahajanaka becomes King and chooses to give up his kingdom with all its material wealth to live a holy life, much to Queen Sivali’s despair. Husband and wife are intrinsically linked throughout their many lives in Jataka tales and this dichotomy between spiritual fulfilment and marital expectation makes for a compelling and heart wrenching tale. 

Choreography / Director: Adrienne Hart Composer / Creative Producer: Sebastian Reynolds Dance Artists: Pichet Klunchun & Tilly Webber Musicians: Great Lekakul & Pradit Saengkrai Animation: Sun & Moon Studios Lighting Design: Frazer Riches Dramaturgy: Miranda Lawrence Costume: Emma Lyth, Sophie Meyer & Andie Scott Research Support: Dr Sarah Shaw 

This new stage work has been developed at DanceXchange in Birmingham with the support of Arts Council England, Oxford City Council’s Culture Fund and Oxford Dance Forum’s Evolution Fund.

Part of our Buddhism exhibition events series. See more events and adult courses inspired by the exhibition.


Name: Mahajanaka Dance Drama (talk and performance)
Where: British Library St Pancras
When: -
Price: Full Price: £16.00
Member: £16.00
Senior 60+: £14.00
Student: £8.00
Registered Unemployed: £8.00
Disabled: £8.00
Under 18: £8.00
18-25: £8.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546