Ashwini Ramaswamy featured in Minneapolis Star Tribune's Top Dance of 2015

Top dance of 2015: Dazzling moments here, there and everywhere

Sheila Regan, Star Tribune
December 20, 2015
Original Article

This year proved again how lucky the Twin Cities is to have such a robust dance scene. With venues that bring in high-caliber troupes from all over the world; homegrown companies that deliver high-quality work season after season; a booming infrastructure that nurtures up-and-coming choreographers, and audiences and funders that support the ecosystem, our dance scene dazzled almost every weekend of 2015. Here are some of the most magical moments:

Out-of-towners: We lucked out this year, with the likes of Camille Brown and Lula Washington bringing their work to the Twin Cities, and New York-based Joanna Kotze working with Zenon and James Sewell Ballet to stage exciting works. The highlight was Maureen Fleming, whose elastic talents in the astonishing “B. Madonna” at the O’Shaughnessy made for a transcendent night.

Local choreographers: They more than held their own, with TU Dance, Sewell, Minnesota Dance Theatre, Zenon, Arena Dances, Ananya Dance Theatre and Stuart Pimsler among the companies that reliably brought a mix of new works and old favorites.

Recognition: Many local artists won acclaim outside the Twin Cities. Minneapolis choreographer Chris ­Schlichting, whose intricate and breathtaking “Stripe Tease” started the year off right at Walker Art Center, went on to receive kudos from the New York Times and Washington Post. Ashwini Ramaswamy of Ragamala Dance also received a New York Times rave, and the company made the Chicago Tribune’s year-end Top 10. TU Dance artistic directors Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands of TU Dance were named USA Fellows, winning $50,000, and Minnesota companies bopped around the world, from southern France (Zenon) to Ethiopia (Ananya).

Fresh spaces: There was plenty of dance outside the theaters, too. Morgan Thorson set her five-hour endurance piece “Still Life” inside the Weisman Art Museum’s galleries, while BodyCartography Project traveled around the Twin Cities with its “closer” project, bringing individualized dances to audience members before mounting a full-length work at Red Eye. Ragamala hosted a cultural festival in the Hindu tradition called Navarathri, where dance was just part of the celebration, and Hennepin Theatre Trust brought in guest curators April Sellers and Laurie Van Wieren to launch a dance series in indoor public spaces in downtown Minneapolis.

In retrospect: Minnesota Dance Theatre staged a moving tribute to founder Loyce Houlton; Joanie Smith nodded to early feminism with her piece “Tableau Vivant,” and Karla Grotting’s “Lost Voices in Jazz,” presented with Eclectic Edge Ensemble, honored the choreographers and dancers lost to the AIDS crisis. Mathew Janczewski, from Arena, also took reflected on past works for the company’s 20th anniversary.

New talents: Emerging choreographers such as Pramila Vasudevan and Kaleena Miller carved out their own spaces, while Divya Maiya owned the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the second year in a row with her exuberant, wonderful Bollywood dance troupe.

Song of the Jasmine helps Cleveland Museum of Art win award for 'Adventurous Programming'

Performing Arts Series at Cleveland Museum of Art wins award for 'Adventurous Programming'

Zachary Lewis, Cleveland Plain Dealer
December 15, 2015
Original Article

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Christmas has come a few days early for the Performing Arts Series at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

On Monday, the series announced its receipt of a 2016 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, an honor bestowed annually by Chamber Music America and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

The award recognizes outstanding commitment to the music of the last 25 years, on the part of both performers and presenters, as well as the ability of winners to attract audiences.

"You never expect this sort of thing, but I've always had a keen eye on it," said Tom Welsh, director of the Performing Arts Series. "It shows great respect [for the museum] in the field nationally, and we take that as an honor."

The museum won in the mixed repertory division of the "Large Presenters" category, a group that includes other art museums as well as universities and independent performing arts centers. The category also includes a jazz division.

Specifically, Welsh said, the award acknowledges six performances or series of events on the museum's 2014-15 season: the Calder Quartet, the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, Ragamala Dance Company and Rudresh Mahanthappa, the Mivos Quartet, Roomful of Teeth, and Wu Man.

Welsh also said the award entails a small honorarium and a presentation at Chamber Music America's national conference Jan. 10 in New York.

As it happens, this is not the first time the museum has received a CMA/ASCAP Award. The museum also won in 2005, during the tenures of longtime former curator of music Karel Paukert and former assistant curator Paul Cox.

"There's a long precedent here," Welsh said, "and it's a tip of the hat to the kind of programming we do."

Chicago Tribune Names 'Song of the Jasmine' a Top 10 Dance Event of 2015

Dance Top 10 for 2015: Women had an outsized role on this year's list

Laura Molzahn, Chicago Tribune
December 10, 2015
Original Article

With shows by Wendy Whelan in January, Carrie Hanson in March, Onye Ozuzu in August, Twyla Tharp in November, and the female choreographers of Hubbard Street's winter program this weekend — well, 2015 has proved the year of the woman. That shouldn't be remarkable, because women predominate in dance, but it is. You'll find an unusually high number of additional picks by women in my chronological list below of the top 10 dance works of the last year — along with some fine representatives of the other sex.

"Song of the Jasmine," Ragamala Dance, April at the Museum of Contemporary Art: Minneapolis-based mother-daughter team Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, collaborating with innovative composer-saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, commingled jazz, carnatic music and bharata natyam dance in this synergistic, utterly contemporary evening-length piece. As a performer, Ramaswamy elicited the essence of the feminine; moving precisely, delicately, she used her hands and face so wholeheartedly you could smell heavenly jasmine yourself.

"A Streetcar Named Desire," Scottish Ballet, May at the Harris Theater: In a brilliantly structured reimagining of the Tennessee Williams classic, choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, aided by theater and film director Nancy Meckler, wasted not a moment or a step as she created empathy with Blanche (no easy task) and with the story's gay lovers (unseen in the play). In this lush, emotional work — Lopez Ochoa's first full-length narrative ballet — the sparing use of point work gave it all the more impact. The Scottish Ballet dancers, making their Chicago debut, were wonderful.

"Clover," The Cambrians, June at the Preston Bradley Center: In the decayed grandeur of a 1926 Masonic hall, Chicago artists Benjamin Holliday Wardell, Michel Rodriguez Cintra and Melinda Jean Myers presented the charismatic final version of their jointly created and performed "Clover." In a departure from earlier "Nexus Project" works, this piece had more structure, more dancing, and fewer spoken texts and jokes. The result was a stronger connection between the dancers and with the audience — and a real emotional wallop.

"Don Quixote," Royal Ballet, June at the Auditorium Theatre: Carlos Acosta's boisterous 2013 staging proved marvelously comic, carrying its three hours with ease and concluding with a sunny, beneficent vision of the good and beautiful. The Royal Ballet, which hadn't performed here in 37 years, met all expectations, and on opening night Acosta as goodhearted, rowdy Basilio and Marianela Nunez as his eager lover were at once convincing flesh-and-blood people and superhuman dancers. Thankfully, this 19th-century ballet lived and breathed.

"Supreme Love," Tapman Productions and M.A.D.D. Rhythms, September at the Athenaeum Theatre: This 50th-anniversary tribute to John Coltrane's album "A Love Supreme" featured live music by the Rajiv Halim Quartet and some stirring, nuanced tap dancing. One of the great joys of the true-blue American forms of jazz and tap is what they reveal of the individual artist, revelations fostered here by the intimate space and well-balanced sound. Though the slim narrative was a bit clumsy, its heart was in the right place.

"Bloodlines," Stephen Petronio Company, October at the Dance Center of Columbia College: A program of three works, including Merce Cunningham's "RainForest" and Trisha Brown's "Glacial Decoy," provided the absolute best kind of education — that is, the fun kind. Though Petronio's troupe struggled a bit with the Cunningham dance, it was good to see the leap from this pathfinder's work to that of Brown and her successor, Petronio. His "Non Locomotor," however, proved the most delicious of the bunch. Generous use of the spine and an experimental hip-hop score by Clams Casino suggested an intelligent night at the club.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, October at the Harris Theater: It was a feat (and a treat) to present three William Forsythe works on one bill, only one of which, "Quintett," was already under the company's belt. The other two required vastly different skill sets: While the 14 dancers of "One Flat Thing, reproduced" had to be acrobats, basically, to negotiate a grid of 20 large steel tables, the four dancers of "N.N.N.N." needed to be quiet, to listen, to respond sensitively, all while maintaining a sense of humor. As wonderful as Gustavo Ramirez Sansano's new "I am Mister B" was in March, the Forsythe program was the year's most astonishing feat.

"Jewel Tones: Spectrum," October at Links Hall: You didn't have to be a Buddhist to love the concluding performance of Jessica Marasa's improvised "Jewel Tones" series, mining the Buddha's teachings on light. The eighth and final show, "Spectrum," brought together three of Chicago's top experimental jazz musicians — Mike Reed, Jason Roebke and James Falzone — with four marvelous dancers: elegant mischief-maker Ayako Kato, sly Adriana Durant, powerful Onye Ozuzu and joyous Marasa. Getting seven distinctive improvisers to come to a conclusion was like herding cats, with no one to do the herding, but the end proved thrilling, satisfying.

Jessica Lang Dance, November at the Harris Theater: This exquisite company made its Chicago debut with a program distinguished by Lang's strong sense of design, extending to both the look of the stage and the crisp lines of her choreography. Her intellectual curiosity — evident in "Tesseracts of Time," a collaboration with architect Steven Holl, and in the moving "Thousand Yard Stare," for which she did extensive research on veterans — added depth and interest to a smart, unique evening.

"The Nutcracker," Joffrey Ballet, December at the Auditorium Theatre: Earlier in the year the Joffrey gained some terrific new repertoire with the company premieres of Stanton Welch's "Maninyas" and Justin Peck's "In Creases" as well as a world premiere by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, "Mammatus." But the final run of Robert Joffrey's "Nutcracker," concluding Dec. 27, made me fall in love, finally, with what has become, over 20 years, Chicago's sweetheart. Maybe the set and costumes are disintegrating, but we can't tell. And maybe its air of self-indulgence is a little cloying. It's also sweet. And year after year, no matter the cast, the dancing is top-notch.

Ragamala receives Building Demand for the Arts Exploration grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

November 23, 2015

THE DORIS DUKE CHARITABLE FOUNDATION AWARDS
$600,000 IN GRANTS TO ARTIST AND ARTS ORGANIZATION PARTNERSHIPS THAT BUILD DEMAND FOR THE ARTS

Eighteen Collaborations Nationwide Receive Support to Explore Strategies That Will Reach New Audiences and Increase Demand for Jazz, Dance and Theatre

NEW YORK, NY, November 17, 2015 —The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) today announced the 18 teams of performing artists and arts organizations selected to receive a total of $600,000 in Exploration grants through the foundation’s Building Demand for the Arts program. This group of grantees is the third and final cohort to receive Exploration funding through the program, which launched in 2013 and supports inventive arts collaborations aiming to understand and connect more deeply with a particular audience through the fields of jazz, dance and/or theatre. This year’s grantees represent a wide geographic span and interest in reaching diverse target audiences such as inner-city young adults, specific ethnic groups and the national deaf community.

“We are delighted to support this last cohort of artists and organizations as they imagine new ways to build demand for the arts,” said Ben Cameron, program director for the Arts at DDCF. “Broadening our thinking about who our audiences are and how we connect with them is enormously challenging. We look forward to the bold ideas these teams generate and the impact they will make on their respective fields.”

The Building Demand for the Arts program offers two types of grants: Exploration grants, which support investigative conversations between artists and organizations about ways to build demand for the performing arts, and Implementation grants, which support the implementation of previously crafted plans to build arts demand. The next Implementation grants funding specific projects of artist-organization partnerships will be announced in early 2016.

Ragamala Dance Company receives Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Leadership in Dance Award

August 18, 2015

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) announced today the 18 outstanding dance companies and presenters receiving grants through the first-ever Leadership Grants Program for Dance. This all-new initiative supports the self-defined, long-term goals of organizations that have demonstrated excellence in and sustained commitment to the field of dance.

Grantees distinguished themselves by the quality of their choreography, the impact of their touring on communities across the country, and the successful expansion of their own initiatives and educational programming. DDCF is now providing each organization with flexible funds that encourage them to build upon the unique courses they have already charted and to continue to pursue their vision for the long term. This new support will enable grantees to realize their plans to increase organizational capacity, execute new artistic initiatives, strengthen data and evaluation systems, or other strategies that they have determined will best lead them to continued success.

Ben Cameron, program director for the arts at DDCF, said, "These grants support dance companies and dance presenters that have been leaders, both artistically and organizationally, thinking creatively about reaching audiences in exciting new ways. We are honored to support their work with these flexible grants, designed to help them achieve their self-defined, long-term goals."

The 18 organizations are:

  • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (New York, NY), with a grant of $500,000
  • Alonzo King LINES Ballet (San Francisco, CA), with a grant of $500,000
  • AXIS Dance Company (Oakland, CA), with a grant of $200,000
  • Ballet Hispanico (New York, NY), with a grant of $500,000
  • Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) (Brooklyn, NY), with a grant of $500,000
  • Danspace Project, Inc. (New York, NY), with a grant of $200,000
  • Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Chicago, IL), with a grant of $500,000
  • Jacob's Pillow Dance (Becket, MA), with a grant of $500,000
  • The Joyce Theater (New York, NY), with a grant of $500,000
  • Margaret Jenkins Dance Company (San Francisco, CA), with a grant of $200,000
  • Mark Morris Dance Group (Brooklyn, NY), with a grant of $1,000,000
  • ODC (San Francisco, CA), with a grant of $500,000
  • Stephen Petronio Company (New York, NY), with a grant of $200,000
  • Ragamala Dance Company (Minneapolis, MN), with a grant of $200,000
  • STREB (Brooklyn, NY), with a grant of $400,000
  • Paul Taylor Dance Company (New York, NY), with a grant of $500,000
  • Urban Bush Women (Brooklyn, NY), with a grant of $200,000
  • White Bird (Portland, OR), with a grant of $200,000

The Leadership Grants Program for Dance responds to the ongoing and dynamic evolution of the dance field in which many nationally celebrated companies may face future challenges or changes. The initiative acknowledges the various ways grantees may choose to embrace the years ahead, whether through artistic and/or organizational means. (Potential uses of the grant exclude physical capital investments and bricks-and-mortar projects.) DDCF has offered small organizations $200,000, mid-sized organizations $400,000 and large organizations $500,000 in grants that span up to four years. A single grant of $1 million goes to the Mark Morris Dance Group in recognition not only of the company but of its extensive efforts in education and outreach, including its dance program for Parkinson's disease patients. DDCF has also offered additional planning grants, ranging from $25,000-50,000 each, to provide several organizations with long-term strategic planning assistance.

About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people's lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke's properties. The Arts Program of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation focuses its support on contemporary dance, jazz and theatre artists, and the organizations that nurture, present and produce them. For more information, please visit www.ddcf.org.

Aparna Ramaswamy Awarded a National Dance Project Production Grant for They Rose at Dawn

July 27, 2015

The New England Foundation for the Arts announced their support of the creation of 18 new dance works that will tour the United States, including Aparna Ramaswamy’s newest solo work, They Rose at Dawn.

These awarded works will be created by choreographers and companies with exceptional artistic voices and at different stages in their career, all of whom have a track record of professional production and touring. Eighteen projects were selected out of 124 competitive applications by a panel of national dance leaders who serve rotating three-year terms.

NEFA Executive director Cathy Edwards noted, “The impact of the National Dance Project in the creation and distribution of new dance works in the United States is extraordinary. This sustainable model, supported by visionary funders at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has been critical to the choreographic landscape in the United States.”

They Rose at Dawn will premiere October 6-8 at The Joyce Theater in New York. Confirmed presenting venues include NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center (UAE), The Cowles Center (Minneapolis, MN), The McCarter Theater (Princeton, New Jersey), The Weitz Center at Carleton College (Northfield, MN), and Maui Arts & Culture (Maui, HI).

Since 1996, NDP has been a primary system of support for the contemporary dance field, supporting the creation and touring of new dance works.  In a field that has been historically under-funded, NDP remains the only national program dedicated to supporting individual dance artists and companies in a broad range of genres, whether established or emerging.  To date, including these awards, NDP has supported the creation of 359 new dance works, partnering directly with more than 350 U.S. presenting organizations to bring high caliber dance projects to all 50 states, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Each year, 20 to 25 different dance projects are featured in engagements in an average of 250 communities across the country. These touring engagements create new connections between community members and artists, offer unique opportunities for artistic growth, and increase access to the arts and the creative process. NEFA's National Dance Project Production and Presentation grants are generously supported with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

NYU Abu Dhabi is lead commissioner of Written in Water & will present the Middle East premiere of They Rose at Dawn

June 24, 2015

Ragamala will be traveling to New York University's campus in Abu Dhabi, UAE, for two weeks in October for the Middle East premiere of Aparna Ramaswamy's They Rose at Dawn (fresh off it's world premiere at the Joyce Theater in New York), and a developmental residency for the company's newest work, Written in Water. Additional commissioning partners include Opening Nights at Florida State University (Talahassee, FL), The Cowles Center for Dance & Performing Arts (Minneapolis, MN) and The Yard (Chilmark, MA).

"We are thrilled that our first full season will include some of the world's most influential master artists, alongside innovative artists from younger generations, nearly all of whom will be performing in the UAE for the very first time," says Bill Bragin, The Arts Center Executive Artistic Director.

14 dancers and musicians will participate in the residency, which includes a site-specific performance of Sacred Earth as part of Sabab: A Creative Convening; the Middle East
premiere of They Rose at Dawn at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi;

development and rehearsals of Written in Water, including open rehearsals and work-in-progress showings; classes, lectures, and master classes/workshops led by Artistic Directors Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy.

For more information, please visit the Arts Center website

The Joyce Theater to present Aparna Ramaswamy this October

May 20th, 2015

They Rose at Dawn premieres at
The Joyce Theater
October 6-8, 2015

"Rapturous and profound," says The New York Times about Aparna Ramaswamy, the Bharatanatyam dancer/choreographer who makes her Joyce debut with They Rose at Dawn. In this solo work, women are depicted as carriers of ritual who navigate inner and outer worlds as they invoke a sense of reverence, of unfolding mystery, of imagination. 

A stellar Carnatic musical ensemble accompanies Ramaswamy as she explores the spontaneous   interplay between music and movement and the dynamic contours created by the artists onstage.

The Joyce Theater website

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
(212) 691-9740 

Ragamala turns 23 with a series of summer events

April 15, 2015

A recent study by the London School of Economics concluded that 23 and 69 are the happiest ages - and we agree! Ragamala turns 23 this summer, and we couldn't be happier with where we are today.

Our very first production, Ragamala: A Painting in Motion, premiered in 1992, and since then we have created over 40 original productions, toured to more than 200 cities, and reached thousands of people - and we're ready to celebrate! Ragamala will be partnering with Al's Breakfast, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the Cedar Cultural Center - iconic establishments that help define the Twin Cities - on a series of events to celebrate Ragamala's birthday. We hope you will join us for some (or all) of the festivities!

Annual Indian Dinner at Al's Breakfast - Dinkytown, Minneapolis
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Anytime between 5:30 and 8:30pm

Over 60 years old, Al's Breakfast is a James Beard Award winning Minneapolis staple that has been featured on The Food Network's "Dives, Diners, and Drive-ins." An annual fan favorite, our "Al's Dinner" transforms the beloved diner into a south Indian hotspot for one night only.  

Enjoy a home-cooked Indian dinner designed and prepared by co-Artistic Director Ranee Ramaswamy with help from the Ragamala dancers and staff. Pull up a stool and chat with the company members while you eat, or stop by for quick and easy take-out!

Suggested donation: $15 per plate


FEATURED EVENT: 
Birthday party/annual fundraiser at the Cedar Cultural Center
featuring DJ Rekha
Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Cedar Cultural Center is a highly eclectic music venue that is fundamental to the city's vibrant arts and culture scene. The Cedar and Ragamala are excited to collaborate to bring New York-based DJ Rekha to the Twin Cities for the first time! 

Credited with pioneering Bhangra music in North America, Newsweek recognized her as one of the most influential South Asians in the US,and she has received accolades from The New York Times, CNN, The Fader, The Village Voice, and The Washington Post, among others. Join DJ Rekha and Ragamala for the dance party of the summer! All ages welcome.

Tickets: $18 in advance $20 at the door
$50 Birthday celebration tickets are also available, $30 is a tax-deductible donation to Ragamala.