Led by Aparna and Ranee Ramaswamy or a Ragamala company member, this session introduces audiences/participants to Bharatanatyam, providing an overview of the technique, evolution, and development of this South Indian classical dance form and how Ragamala’s Artistic Directors—Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy—use it to express their own contemporary points of view. Examining issues of immigration, cultural hybridity, and the dynamic tension between history and the current moment, Ragamala sparks discussion about the place of culturally rooted art forms in the 21st century.
In an academic setting, activities can be tailored to a variety of disciplines, including Dance, Music, Religious Studies, Asian Studies, Women’s Studies, Literature, Visual Art, Anthropology, Arts Administration, etc.
Running time: anywhere from 15-30 minutes (for post-show talks) to 50-60 minutes (for stand-alone events or university classroom lectures)
We request that public Artist Talks be moderated
Technical requirements: speaking microphones for artists, if necessary for the space
May be presented with live music
Running time: 45-50 minutes
Technical requirements: sound system (for amplification of live or recorded music, as well as speaking microphones for artists)
Space: Smooth, non-carpeted performance area of no less than 20x20
Dance Master Class
Taught by Aparna or Ranee Ramaswamy or a Ragamala company member, this master class introduces participants to the Pandanallur lineage of Bharatanatyam, focusing on the rhythmic, gestural, and expressive vocabularies that are the underpinnings of the form. In addition to active dance instruction, the class explores concepts of lineage, aesthetics, the close relationship between music and movement in Bharatanatyam, the evolution of culturally rooted art forms, and their ongoing relevance in the 21st century.
Running time: 60-90 minutes
Technical requirements: sound system with iPod hook-up
Space: Smooth, non-carpeted space with room for all participants to move
Number of participants: no more than 40
Music Master Class/Lecture-Demonstration
Ragamala tours with exceptional musicians from India and the United States. These artists offer master classes and lectures that introduce participants to the historical and cultural context of South Indian Carnatic classical music, exploring concepts of aesthetics, lineage, stylistic influences, and the complex modal, rhythmic, and improvisational underpinnings of the form.
Hands-On Kolam Workshop
In conjunction with performances of Sacred Earth and Nocturne
Each day before sunrise, in southeastern India, millions of women create Kolams—intricate designs made of rice flour on the ground in front of the main entrances to their homes. This daily ritual creates a sacred space and becomes a link between the intimate home and the vastness of the outside world. The ephemeral art form of Kolam is one of the central inspirations for Sacred Earth, and is featured in the performance of the work.
Ragamala artists introduce participants to the history and background of Kolam and its philosophy of interconnectedness between humanity and nature. Participants learn to draw several Kolam designs on paper, and then create them with rice flour on the floor to experience the traditional method.
Snakes & Ladders – Interactive Game-Playing
In conjunction with performances of Written in Water
Ragamala artists lead attendees in playing the 2nd century Indian board game of Paramapadam (precursor to Snakes & Ladders), which is a central inspiration for Written in Water. This hands-on experience—along with accompanying discussion with the artists—invites audiences to delve deeply into the moral and psychological implications of the game, providing them with access to the abstract, conceptual nature of Written in Water and an entrée into the way Ragamala creates complex, multidisciplinary, and culturally hybridic dance works.
Activities can be tailored to engage specific audiences via multiple points of access to Written in Water, including: the poetry, music, and visual components of the work; the spiritual and moral significance of the game in Indian culture; the use of Hindu mythology to create the work; the tradition of playing the game during times of all-night fasting; and the current interest in gaming in American culture.
Game-playing can occur in a variety of settings, presented as a stand-alone activity or along with other programs, in partnership with diverse community partners. Examples of past activities include:
A workshop for docents from a consortium of Minneapolis museums (Weisman Art Museum, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, etc.) focusing on interdisciplinary practice in audience engagement
A lecture by Dr. Vasudha Narayanan (University of Florida) on the poetry of the South Indian Alwars, which serves as a textual underpinning for Written in Water
A game-playing meetup event hosted by Dreamers Vault Games
An artist’s talk at the Indian art gallery Khazana
A dinner event featuring James Beard Award-winning Indian chef Raghavan Iyer in which he, along with Ranee and Aparna, discussed the intersection of food, art, and ritual in India, focusing on the fasting traditions associated with Paramapadam
Game-playing in the lobby of the theater before each performance