Bharatanatyam choreographer and dancer Ashwini Ramaswamy (Ragamala Dance Company) deepens a choreographic methodology she began in 2019 with Let the Crows Come—named a “Best of the Year'' in The Washington Post and a critic’s pick in The New York Times. This collaborative reimagining of Italo Calvino’s metaphysical novel interweaves cultural perspectives with a dynamic group of dance artists—Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy (Bharatanatyam), Berit Ahlgren (Gaga), Alanna Morris (Modern), Joseph Tran (Breaking)—and visual artist, Kevork Mourad, who creates Invisible Cities’ interactive, immersive projections in real time.

Ashwini Ramaswamy and Kevork MouradInvisible Cities is a Northrop Centennial Commission.

“Ramaswamy’s imagination had united and flourished, making space, not just for more generations but for more ways of thinking.” —The New York Times


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Event Details

This in-person performance will be at The Cowles Center

Event Information Email

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Learn More - Explore These Themes

The content below derives from the Northrop Across Campus Program that supports Northrop's mission towards intersections between performing arts and education for the benefit of all participants now and for generations to come.

Find ways to make thematic connections to these suggested topics:

  • South Asian Studies
  • Global Studies
  • Dance: Contemporary
  • Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature
  • Architecture
  • City Planning
  • World History
  • Creative Writing & Literature

Start a conversation about the performance, or encourage reflection, using these questions as inspiration.

Ashwini Ramaswamy’s Invisible Cities is a reimagination of Italo Calvino’s metaphysical/philosophical novel Invisible Cities for the stage. Ramaswamy draws from the myths and culture of her homeland to resurrect her relationship with the past and reprocess that past into the present. Her work is aimed at second and third generation immigrants longing to make connections between the ancestral and the current.

  • What ways can art be a reflective tool to discover more about oneself?
  • How can an artistic practice connect an artist with their lineage or ancestry? If you are an artist, what are some ways your art helps you to connect with your history?
  • What myths and cultures inform your relationship with the past and present?

Working with groups of dancers of four diverse cultural backgrounds and dance lineages (Bharatanatyam led by Ramaswamy, Gaga technique led by Berit Ahlgren, Contemporary/African Diasporic led by Alanna Morris-Van Tassel, and Breaking led by Joseph Tran), Ramaswamy deepens a unique choreographic methodology of reinterpretation, anchored in the South Indian classical dance form.

  • What are the benefits of collaborating with colleagues of diverse backgrounds and cultural lineages? 
  • What possibilities emerge when different disciplines or creative expression are used to interpret the same topic?
  • How would you approach a creative collaboration with people outside your own field of study or research?

Ramaswamy will also be collaborating with internationally renowned artist Kevork Mourad to create an interactive experience using animation. According to The Great Northern's website, Mourad’s “visual architectures provide a dynamic and unpredictable dimension to the artists’ examination of the way the built environment and human life interact.”

  • From this Invisible Cities excerpt link, we get a view of Kevork Mourad’s work in the piece. How do you imagine Mourad’s approach to creating the work live for an in-person audience differs?
  • What is your relationship to the environment and to the place you call home? How do you care for it?

Ramaswamy’s work, according to the The New York Times, has been described as a “weaving together, both fearfully and joyfully of the human and the divine.” As an artist of the diaspora, she refers to herself as a “cultural carrier with an instinct to move within ancestral patterns.”

  • What ancestral patterns do you carry?
  • What creative processes are you naturally drawn to? What is the story of why you believe you are drawn to them?
  • Do you believe that all art is spiritual? Why or why not?


Minnesota State Arts Board logo

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit