Meet the Lead Artists

Written in Water


Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy - directors and choreographers

For the last three decades, Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy have worked in a collaborative partnership, collectively defining their Diasporic identity.

In Written in Water, they explore the concept of spiritual ascension through the 2nd century Indian board game Paramapadam (a precursor to Snakes & Ladders), the 12th century Sufi text The Conference of the Birds, and the Hindu mythological story Ksheerabthi Madanam, the churning of the seven seas.

In developing Written in Water, the dancers played the game hundreds of times, using the floor as the board. The projected images are from original paintings by Chennai-based visual artist Keshav, specially commissioned by Ragamala for this work. Written in Water was developed through an ongoing collaboration in which choreography, music, and visual art were constructed simultaneously in a constant artistic dialogue that spanned two years. 

Amir ElSaffar - composer and musician

"one of the most promising figures in jazz today" 
Chicago Tribune

Amir ElSaffar is a trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer who has distinguished himself with a mastery of diverse musical traditions and a singular approach to combining 

Middle Eastern musical languages with jazz and other styles of contemporary music. With Written in Water, his compositions are interwoven with south Indian composer Prema Ramamurthy's Carnatic compositions to create a new soundscape. He leads a musical ensemble with a distinct alchemy of Iraqi, jazz, and Carnatic instruments. 

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V. Keshav - visual artist

"I view art as a whole - dance, music, sculpture, architecture and more all go to makeup my understanding of a complete artist," says acclaimed Chennai based artist V. Keshav. "You cannot appreciate one art and not another - for me that is impossible." 

Keshav's journey into painting started with an enquiry into myths and symbols in Indian art as represented in the epics. In Written in Water, his visuals are projected on the floor and behind the stage. Keshav's search for a mean between tradition and modernity brought him to ancient  Indian texts which he says are "ideas conveyed through symbols.  The epics have conceptualized abstract human thoughts,  personified them and created beautiful stories. Once you  understand the stories, they vanish because their universality  engulfs you."