Featured Facts About Ragamala Dance Company

February 23, 2022
Ragamala dancer is sitting on one leg with arms above her head and palms together

Ragamala Dance Company is the vision of mother-daughter South Indian American artists Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy. Through multi-disciplinary dance works for the stage, engaging the community, and educating the next generation, Ragamala epitomizes intercultural hybridity and immigrant narratives that evoke a shared sense of humanity. Rooted in the South Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam, the company has been hailed by The New York Times as “soulful, imaginative, and rhythmically contagious.

Top photo by Harris Flubacker

Aparna, Ranee, and Ashwini Ramaswamy

Photo by Ed Bock

Founder/Artistic Director Ranee Ramaswamy and her daughter, Artistic Director Aparna Ramaswamy, have been creating work together since 1992. Ranee was recognized in 2011 with a McKnight Distinguished Artist Award and Ashwini was awarded a project from the Arts National Dance Project in 2018. They have each received multiple McKnight Artist Fellowships for Dance and Choreography, the Doris Duke Artist Award from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and a joint Guggenheim Fellowship, among others.

Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy

Photo by Graham Tolbert

Founder/Artistic Director Ranee Ramaswamy and her daughter, Artistic Director Aparna Ramaswamy, have been creating work together since 1992. Ranee was recognized in 2011 with a McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, and they have each received multiple McKnight Artist Fellowships for Dance and Choreography, a Doris Duke Artist Award, and a joint Guggenheim Fellowship, among others.

Ragamala Dance Company performs at Kennedy Center

Photo by Teresa Wood

Ragamala Dance Company was founded in 1992 right here in Minneapolis, Minnesota by Ranee Ramaswamy. It is the only local company to perform at Northrop this season.

The river's edge of Varanasi under a pink sky

Fires of Varanasi, described as “a beautiful, meditative piece” (Broadway World), expands on the birth-death-rebirth continuum in Hindu thought to honor immigrant experiences of life and death in the diaspora. Varanasi is a city on the Ganges river in northern India that has a central place in pilgrimage, death, and mourning in the Hindu world.

Ancient temples of South India

To the Ramaswamys, the South Indian heritage dance form of Bharatanatyam (BAH-rah-tah-NAT-yam) is a living, breathing language with which to speak about the contemporary human experience. Originating in ancient temples of South India more than 2,000 years ago, the dance form integrates music, theater, poetry, sculpture, and literature.

Ragamala Dance Company performs Fires of Varansi at The Kennedy Center's 50th anniversary season.

Photo by Teresa Wood

Ragamala Dance Company has toured extensively across the United States and the world. Fires of Varanasi’s world premiere opened The Kennedy Center’s 50th anniversary season last September. Other notable venues include Lincoln Center in New York City, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, the Bali Arts Festival in Indonesia, and the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India, among many others.

Relevant Works

Body, the Shrine

In their first evening-length work as a trio, Body, the Shrine, mother and daughters, Ranee, Aparna, and Ashwini Ramaswamy, celebrate the power of song, dance, and poetry to incite change. The great Bhakti poets of India illuminated that spiritual equality superseded the burden of caste, and instead,  they colored themselves in the image of the sacred.


Close of dance with one hand to her face

Aham: Imagining Home

Aham: Imagining Home highlights our journey as immigrant women artists—our creative vision weaving the wisdom of our Indian ancestry with the openness of our new home in the United States. In a full evening comprised of three works, we reflect upon the transformative power of lineage, spirituality, and societal consciousness. Featuring a new solo created for Aparna by the world-renowned choreographer and Aparna’s guru, Smt. Alarmél Valli, this show tours with live music and 5-6 dancers.

Let the Crows Come

Evoking mythography and ancestry, Let the Crows Come uses the metaphor of crows as messengers for the living and guides for the departed. This 60-minute work for three dancers with live music explores how memory and homeland channel guidance and dislocation. Featuring Ramaswamy (Bharatanatyam technique), Alanna Morris-Van Tassel (Contemporary/Afro-Caribbean technique), and Berit Ahlgren (Gaga technique), Bharatanatyam dance is deconstructed and recontextualized to recall a memory that has a shared origin but is remembered differently from person to person. Composers Jace Clayton (dj/rupture) and Brent Arnold extrapolate from Prema Ramamurthy’s original Carnatic (South Indian) score, utilizing centuries-old compositional structures as the point of departure for their sonic explorations. Let the Crows Come is available for touring with NDP touring subsidy.

Sacred Earth

Sacred Earth explores the interconnectedness between human emotions and the environment that shapes them. Performed with a stellar musical ensemble from India, the dancers create a sacred space to honor the divinity in the natural world and the sustenance we derive from it. Inspired by the philosophies behind the ephemeral arts of kolam and Warli painting, and the Tamil Sangam literature of India, Sacred Earth is Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy’s singular vision of the beautiful, fragile relationship between nature and man.

Dancers in formation with swirls of sand on the floor

Written in Water

Conceived and choreographed by Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, Written in Water explores the universal archetype of a seeker on a journey to connect the human with the transcendent and reveal mysteries within the self. In this large-scale, multimedia dance work, dancers and musicians move freely between composition and improvisation, and activate the space by negotiating snakes and ladders--representing the heights of ecstasy and depths of longing.

Fires of Varanasi

“A beautiful, meditative piece... its transportive qualities fulfilled my desire for immersive art in a way that I have been desperately missing.” - Broadway World

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