The Tree-Hugger is based on a true story from 1730 in India. A young woman, Amrita Devi and her three daughters sacrifice their lives to protect the trees in their community. On seeing their sacrifice, many people from her village follow suit: laying down their lives to save the trees.


The sacrifice of Amrita and her community later inspired one of India's most effective environmental movements called CHIPKO in the 1970s. In turn, this inspired many similar movements worldwide.


The script for this performance, inspired by the true events, is written by Mona Sehgal for young audiences.

Preeti Introduces the Story

In the video below, Preeti Vasudevan (Artistic Director of Thresh, the company behind the Red Curtain Project) provides a short introduction to the story, and its relevance to today's world.

The Performance

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This true story from eighteenth-century India is presented in a new verse form by author Mona Sehgal. Mona shared with us a video discussing her process which you can see here.


The story is produced in partnership with The Culture Tree, a leading New York-based organization that promotes cultural literacy about South Asia through language, educational & cultural programs. For more information on The Culture Tree's exciting range of programs, please visit



In the video above you see Preeti use a mixed bag of facial expressions and hand gestures ("mudras").

Now let's break this down: you'll find a series of short video clips below, in which Preeti demonstrates each gesture and the facial expressions she's chosen to use.


For each one, she includes the name in Sanskrit (the classical language of India) and some further examples and applications.

"Mudras" (hand gestures) & body positions

First we'll look at hand gestures and body positions.


Every culture uses its hands for expression. Preeti grew up learning Indian classical dance (bharatanatyam) in South India where gestures are classified in minute detail. Each gesture has specific meanings and applications. And lower body positions are...

Be sure to scroll / swipe through all the videos (there are three in total).

Facial expressions & Emotion

In Indian dance and theatre, the face is a key tool for communicating emotion—Indian dancers and actors train for years to perfect their control of their facial muscles!


There are many techniques to isolate the movements of the face, which are classified as "bheda" (BAY-dah). Indian classical performer uses these in combination to create an emotional mood under what is called "saatvika abhinaya" (SAAT-vika ab-in-EYE-a).


In particular, watch these short demo videos to see how Preeti manipulates different aspects of facial expression (eyes, lips, eyebrows etc.) to create the emotional effect.



Preeti breaks down the performance

There's a lot going on in Indian classical dance, even in a short sequence such as this. In the two videos below Preeti talks you through how she's using the classical gestural vocabulary to tell the story.



Think you're an expert? Try this quiz!


This week we'd love you to create a drawing inspired by Amrita and her daughters great sacrifice to protect trees and thus our lovely environment. If you had to make a small sacrifice for our environment, what would it be? Can you be inspired by this story and draw what you might do to help save our planet?


Your drawings and ideas will help make others imagine and create a fantastical world! Send your drawings to us at info@threshdance.orgWe'll publish as many as we can on this site! (And you can see some great drawings we've received so far from kids around the world by clicking here!)


Swipe or scroll through these images relating to environmental protection in India—particularly various movements to protest and prevent deforestation.




Kamala Sankaram


New York, USA

I'm a composer and teacher who likes to write music for opera and theater. My dad is from Andhra Pradesh in Southern India, so I'm always looking for ways to combine Indian and European classical music.


I've been thrilled to write two children's operas that do this: The Jungle Book, written for the Glimmerglass Festival, and Monkey and Francine in the City Tigers, written for Houston Grand Opera. I also have a band called Bombay Rickey. We love it when people come to our shows and dance, so I hope we'll see you at one soon!

To read more about Kamala's work and her many accolades, visit

We also asked Kamala to share with us her inspiration for her music composition. Click the button below to see a short video.

Shreya Mehta


New York, USA

Shreya Mehta is an award-winning visual artist who confronts questions of identity and spirituality in her vibrant and eclectic practice. 


Shreya was born in India and raised in Antwerp, Belgium, where she attended the Royal Academy of Art as its first woman of Indian origin. After graduating with the prestigious V.R.I.K.A Award, she eventually settled in New York, where she continues her practice. Mehta’s work has a global presence and has been exhibited at galleries and fairs in New York, Dubai, and Mumbai. Her paintings can also be found in several prestigious private collections, such as that of the Prime Minister of India. See more of Shreya's work at her website

We also asked Shreya to share with us her inspiration for her artwork. Click the button below to see a short video.

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We loved collaborating with online learning experts Learn Interactive on this project. 


If you're an artist or an arts organization looking to create online learning content in these challenging times, contact Learn Interactive who'll be delighted to discuss your project!