Described as “thrillingly three-dimensional… rapturous and profound” (The New York Times) and selected as one of Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch for 2010, Aparna Ramaswamy is known as an insightful choreographer and explosive performer who actively questions and engages the dynamic tension at the intersection of tradition and innovation, ancestral wisdom and creative freedom, idiom and spontaneity.
Born in India and raised both in India and the United States, Aparna spent four months every year studying and performing in Chennai as senior disciple and protégé of legendary dancer/choreographer Alarmél Valli while building her own body of work as a dancemaker and performer in the United States. This cultural hybridity has given her the perspective to approach her idiom—the South Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam—as a living, breathing language through which to create works that speak to the contemporary experience.
Aparna is Co-Artistic Director, Choreographer, and Principal Dancer of Ragamala Dance Company with her choreographic partner (and mother) Ranee Ramaswamy. Together they have created their own specific sub-genre that combines a contemporary Western aesthetic with an Indian ethos.
Aparna’s choreographic work for Ragamala work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, MAP Fund, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, New Music/USA, and USArtists International, and commissioned/presented by the Walker Art Center, Lincoln Center, Krannert Center at the University of Illinois, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, the Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, and Opening Nights Performing Arts at FSU. She has developed work in residence at the Magee Allesee National Center for Choreography, the Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, and during an NPN residency at The Yard.
Aparna has toured extensively, both as a soloist and with Ragamala, highlighted by the Kennedy Center, American Dance Festival, Lincoln Center, the Music Center of Los Angeles, Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art (Illinois), International Festival of Arts & Ideas (Connecticut), University Musical Society at the University of Michigan, the Bali Arts Festival, Open Look Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, Nagoya Kita Bunka Shogekijyo in Japan, the Music Academy in Chennai, India, and the Soorya Festival in Kerala, India, and National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India.
Her solo work, presented with live music, has toured the U.S. and India with support from the National Dance Project and USArtists International, highlighted by Narada Gana Sabha in Chennai and the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai. Most recently, the Joyce Theater in New York presented the world premiere of her newest solo work, They Rose at Dawn.
Aparna has been awarded several honors, including a 2016 Joyce Award from the Joyce Foundation, a 2016 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, three McKnight Artist Fellowships for Dance and Choreography, a Bush Fellowship for Choreography, an Arts and Religion grant funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, choreographic and travel support from the Jerome Foundation and Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Lakshmi Vishwanathan Endowment Prize from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (Chennai, India).
In addition to her creative work, Aparna is committed to inspiring a new generation to think and act innovatively. She has served as guest lecturer at colleges and universities throughout the U.S., including Carleton College, Bucknell University, the University of Minnesota, Pace University, Lawrence University, and the University of Iowa to spark conversations that articulate new possibilities for cultural hybridity in the 21st century.
Aparna is an empaneled artist with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations of the Government of India. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Dance/USA. She has a B.A. in International Relations from Carleton College.