What Students Will See & Hear

Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy’s Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim

Rooted in the expansive South Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam, Ragamala Dance Company manifests a kindred relationship between the ancient and the contemporary. In their latest evening-length performance, Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim, eleven dancers conjure a realm where time is suspended and humans merge with the divine. Award-winning creators Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy imagine a metaphorical crossing place that enters into a ritualistic world of immortality, evoking the birth-death-rebirth continuum in Hindu thought to honor immigrant experiences of life and death in the diaspora.This work is the culmination of a two-year partnership with Northrop that included a reimagined 2020-21 Ragamala Rooted residency with free monthly engagement activities.

This event will be captioned, with other accessibility services available upon request.

Please note that this in-person matinee will have reduced seating capacity to allow spacing between classes in the theater.


“soulful, imaginative and rhythmically contagious … every gesture radiates joy or generosity or a sense of striving toward some higher form of being.”  —The New York Times

Event Info

Fri, Feb 25, 2022, 10:30 am-11:45 am  CT
In-person and Livestream
Available on-demand through, Mar 4,  2022

Recommended for Grades 5-12

In person = $3.50 per person 
On demand= $25 per classroom 
$5 per homeschool 



Teacher & Student Resources

Find educational resources in the tabs below to use before and after the performance.

Write a Review

Use this writing activity for students to evaluate the Ragamala Dance Company performance in a review format.

Ask students to imagine that they are an arts critic for the school newspaper. They are going to write a review of the performance to inform others about what they experienced. They should describe with detail and accuracy:

  • What they saw 
  • What they heard 
  • What the performance was about (in their opinion) or the story it conveyed 
  • How the performance made them feel 
  • What the performance reminded them of 
  • What their favorite part was and why 
  • Would they recommend it and why

Remind the students that they must paint a picture of the experience with their words so that others who did not see the performance can imagine it as vividly as possible.

Northrop exterior under a blue sky with fluffy clouds and purple flowers in the foreground

The heart of the University of Minnesota’s east bank campus and a state historic landmark, Northrop has served as the University’s primary gathering place for the performing arts, world-renowned dance performances, concerts, academic ceremonies, and major civic events.

Since it’s opening in 1929, Northrop has hosted a dizzying array of artists, entertainers, and public figures from Igor Stravinsky to Santana; Mikhail Baryshnikov to the B-52s; His Holiness The Dalai Lama to the Grateful Dead.  

Tens of thousands of students, arts patrons, and Upper Midwest citizens have marveled at its majestic design and experienced its diverse programming. But what’s the history of this famous building?

Northrop was first conceived of as the northern anchor of a 1907 Cass Gilbert-designed campus gathering area, today called Northrop Mall. Officials wanted the anchor to be an auditorium to serve as “a lively center for the arts.” Along with the auditorium, named in honor of the University’s second president, Cyrus Northrop, fundraising started in 1922 to raise $2 million to also build a stadium along the mall. Memorial Stadium would be dedicated to the 3,200 Minnesotans who had died in World War I.

Designed by Clarence H. Johnston Sr., the monumental Classical Revival building was dedicated on Oct. 22, 1929, on the site of a former medicinal plant garden. The University celebrated Northrop’s opening that fall with three concerts. The Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, soon to take up residence in Northrop for the next 44 years, led off the events.  

For decades, Northrop was the only large multi-purpose hall and primary arts presenter in the area. Its importance to the cultural life of the entire community from the 1930s to 1970s cannot be underestimated. 

In the 1970s, interest in dance was gaining popularity. Northrop’s seating capacity and the size of its proscenium stage made it one of the only facilities in the region with the ability to present major touring dance companies. The Northrop Dance Season was established in 1970–71 and has flourished ever since.

Fast-forward to the 21st century. After years of deferred maintenance, an extensive interior renovation of Northrop began in 2011. The project closed Northrop for three years but when the building reopened in 2014 to fanfare, the iconic building included a new multipurpose main theater with state-of-the-art acoustics, improved sightlines, cutting-edge technologies, and updated amenities.

Since that Grand Reopening in 2014, Northrop has hosted more than 5,000 events and welcomed 1 million people through its doors. Nearly 90 years after its initial dedication, Northrop remains a center of discovery and transformation that connects the University of Minnesota and communities beyond by celebrating innovation in the arts, performance, and academics.

How to Enjoy the Performance at Northrop
Tips and advice on how to best experience a live performance

Going to a theater to see a live performance is very fun. If you do the following things you’ll enjoy the show and you won’t disturb the people sitting next to you.

  • Leave your backpack at school.
  • Leave all food, drinks, and gum at school or on the bus.
  • Use the restroom before the show starts.

If you have to go to the restroom, or anywhere else, be sure to go with a teacher or an adult.

  • Turn off and put away cell phones before the performance begins.
  • Stay seated and remain still during the performance.
  • Be respectful of the performers and other people in the audience by not talking during the performance. Remember, the performers can see and hear the audience just like you can see and hear them.
  • Appropriate responses such as applause or laughter are always welcome.

How to Enjoy the Performance at Northrop
Tips and advice on how to best experience a live performance

  • Leave all food, drinks, and gum at school or on the bus.
  • Turn off and put away cell phones before the performance begins.
  • Refrain from texting during the performance.
  • Use the restroom before the performance or wait until it is finished.
  • Respect the theater. Remember to keep your feet on the floor and stay seated during the performance.
  • When the house lights dim, the performance is about to begin. This is the time to stop talking and focus on the stage.
  • Appropriate responses such as laughing and applauding are appreciated. Pay attention to artists on the stage because they will let you know what is appropriate.
  • Open your eyes, ears, mind and heart to the experience.
  • Enjoy yourself. 

Interior view of an audience inside the Carlson Theater at Northrop
  • Seeing a live performance is a special and unique experience. Although it is not required, many people enjoy dressing up when they attend the theater.
  • Unlike the passive experience of watching a movie, audience members play an important role in every live performance. The performers on stage are very aware of the audience's mood and level of engagement.
  • Ushers at many live performances will not allow audience members who are late to their seats to sit down and disrupt other patrons until a specific break -- such as after a song or scene has ended and before the next one starts.
  • Each performance calls for a different response from the audience members. Bands may wish for the audience to clap along while dancers may want the audience to focus silently on the stage and applaud only during natural breaks in the performance or at the end.
  • Audience members can often take cues from performers on how to respond to appropriately.
  • For example, performers will often pause or bow for applause at a specific time. As you experience the performance consider the following questions:
    • What kind of live performance is this (a play, a dance, a concert, etc.)?
    • What is the mood of the performance? Is the subject matter serious or lighthearted?
    • What is the mood of the performers? Are they happy or somber and reserved?
    • Are the performers encouraging the audience to clap to the music or move to the beat?
    • Are there natural breaks in the performance where applause seems appropriate?

Goldy in the rehearsal studio doing a ballet exercise

Learn about dance terms and language

Abstract: not depicting something in its original or literal form, but showing the essence of the idea or object.

Axial movement: a way of moving the body without traveling or moving through space: staying in one spot. Also called locomotor movement.

Balance: a state of stability with equal weight and energy on either side of the dancer’s “center”. 

Choreography: the arrangement of movement in space and time. A series of moves set to music.

Contemporary Dance: a style of expressive dance that combines elements of several dance genres including but not limited to modern, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, and classical ballet.

Costumes: used to help bring the choreographed dance to life and to help communicate a story or idea.

Creativity: the ability to go beyond traditional ideas, rules, and patterns in order to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods , and interpretations.

Duet: two dancers performing together. .

Dynamics: the way in which movement is executed (i.e. wiggly, smooth).

Ensemble: a group of dancers performing together.

Energy: refers to the force applied to dance to accentuate the weight, attack, strength, and flow of a dancer’s movement. Adjectives such as explosive, smooth, free, restrained, wild, etc. describe some of the different types of energy  that dancers can exhibit. 

Excerpt: a part of a dance, not the whole dance.

Levels: utilizing different height ranges such as low, medium, and high movement.

Locomotor Movement: a movement that travels across the floor.

Phrase: a sequence of steps and gestures. Phrases make up a dance the same way that words are put together to form a sentence.

Rehearsal: practice in preparation of a public performance. 

Repertory: the group of dances that are actively performed by a dance company.

Solo: a dance performed alone (one dancer) or set apart from the other dancers on stage.

Space: the area in which a dancer moves, encompassing level, direction, floor, pattern, shape, and design. 

Spatial Pattern: the way the dancers move through the dance space and the group designs dancers make on the stage.

Technique: a set of skills which dancers develop to perform a certain dance form. Sometimes, particularly in modern dance, choreographers become famous for their own dance technique. 

Tempo: the time, speed, or rhythm of the beats of a piece of music or the pace of any movement activity.

Trio: a dance for three people: a pas de trois.

Unison: the same movement or series of movements performed at the same time by more than one dancer.

Malandain Ballet Biarritz - La Belle et La Bete

Learn about theater terms and performing arts language

Backstage: the part of the theater which is not seen by the audience, including dressing rooms, wings and the green room.

Box Office: the place that sells tickets to a performance.

Cast: the people who perform in a show.

Choreographer: the person who creates dances and arranges movements for the performance.

Costumer: the person in charge of costumes for a show. 

Stage Crew: all the people who work together backstage on a show except the cast.

Downstage: the part of the stage which is closest to the audience.

Dressing Rooms: rooms in the theater provided for the actors where they change their costumes and put on make-up.

Green Room: a place for the performers to relax while waiting to go on stage.

House: used to describe the audience or as a short way of saying “Front of House”.

House Manager: the person in charge of the theater auditorium and anything to do with the audience. 

Offstage: the area of the stage which the audience cannot see.

Orchestra Pit: an area at the front of house, usually sunken, where musicians and conductor are located during performances with live music.

Props: objects (except costumes or set pieces) that are used on stage by the actors or performers.

Rehearsal: repeated practice in preparation for a performance.

Set: the setting of the stage for each act and all physical things that are used to change the stage for the performance.

Upstage: the area of the stage that is farthest away from the audience.

Wings: the areas of the stage that are to the sides of the acting area and are out of view - these areas are usually masked by curtains.

Students dance on the steps of Northrop

Three articles of different reading levels about the role of dance in society

Why Do Humans Dance?

Why DO humans dance?

You might think it's an easy question to answer. It isn't. Not for me. It took a whole book! Seven chapters!

Yet it is also true that themes of those chapters spiral around one another, forming a thick cord that, I am hoping, different people can grasp in different places, wherever it comes closest to where they are.

So then, why do humans dance?

Is Dance a Sport or an Art?

I’ve been dancing since I was two years old. When I was younger, dance was just for fun, but as I got older, I became more and more serious about dance. When I was six I started to dance competitively. Now, when people ask me what sport I play, my answer is always that I dance. I usually get some funny looks. So, clearly, there is a question in people’s minds about whether dance is a sport or an art.


Dance is when people move to a musical rhythm. They may be alone, or in a group. The dance may be informal play, part of a ritual, or part of a professional performance. There are many kinds of dance, and every human society has its dances.


National Endowment for the Arts

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 an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. 
To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.

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