In Hindu cosmology, it is sound that leads to creation.
"Lord Siva, when represented in dancing form, holds a drum in his hand, and when beating this drum, the sound that comes out creates the universe," says Indian dancer Ramaa Bharadvaj who, with her twin sister Uma Suresh, has created the "Facets of Siva" dance concert on Sunday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.
So it is not surprising that dance, according to Hindu aesthetics, says Suresh, "should be divine, holy.
"A dance becomes one of the four holy scriptures," she says. "We are trying to maintain that sanctity, portraying the spirituality as much as the entertainment, but in such a way that you do not sit there feeling you are listening to a sermon.
"For our concert we have taken the themes of creation, sustenance and transformation, which are the three principles on which the religious philosophy of India is based. We don't say death because something has to end before it can transform into something else."
The sisters, born in 1958, have lived in Orange County for three years. They went to India to research the themes of the program, they said, and joining them in performance will be daughters Swetha Bharadvaj, 12, and Priya Suresh, 11.
The first half of the program will range through the masculine, feminine and androgynous manifestations of Siva. The second will take the religious themes and through two dance dramas, says Suresh, "bring them down to the human level" by showing how ordinary people can achieve great spiritual achievement "not only through religious rites but also through love and faith."
"Contrary to popular belief that Indians worship many different gods, Indians use different symbols or manifestations of one superior entity," Bharadvaj says. "The manifestations that we worship all have different characteristics because human beings have different characteristics. So they can attach themselves to the manifestations they feel close to.
"Siva is just one manifestation. Symbols in Hindu religions are just like language. If you have an idea, you need language; you can use writing. If you have an idea about divinity, you need symbols. Hindus look at nature itself, for instance, as a symbol of the divine being.
"But the philosophies behind the religions are universal. Before each scene of our program, we will have a narrator and paintings and slides to bring out the metaphysical aspects we are hoping to achieve."
Adds Suresh: "You cannot reach the (one) God unless you can focus on something. The one God, we call Brahman, is permanent, changeless. We need these (other) forms because there has to be something for a mind to concentrate upon, which leads it on to concentration on divinity."
"The fact that the God we are going to portray is Siva should not matter," says Bharadvaj. "It should not be a barrier. We are bringing out the similarity of religions to Siva because that is the one we are familiar with. We have that God to focus upon, mainly because we are (Indian) dancers. At the end of the program, everyone should feel closer to divinity."
What: "Facets of Siva" Indian dance program.
When: Sunday, March 3, at 5 p.m.
Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine.
Whereabouts: UC Irvine campus across from the Market Place mall.
Wherewithal: $10 to 20.
Where to call: (714) 643-1941 or (714) 692-1695.