Ranee Ramaswamy founded Ragamala Dance Company in 1992 and currently serves as Co-Artistic Director, Choreographer, and Principal Dancer along with her creative partner, and daughter, Aparna. As dancemakers and performers, Ranee and Aparna explore the dynamic tension between the ancestral and the contemporary, making dance landscapes that dwell in opposition—secular and spiritual life, inner and outer worlds, human and natural concerns, rhythm and stillness—to find the transcendence that lies in between. As mother and daughter, each brings her generational experience to the work—the rich traditions, deep philosophical roots, and ancestral wisdom of India meeting and merging with their hybrid experience as Indian-American artists. As protégés and senior disciples of legendary dancer and choreographer Alarmél Valli, known as one of India’s greatest living masters, Ranee and Aparna’s training in the South Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam is the bedrock of a creative aesthetic that prioritizes truthful emotion above all else.
For the last three decades, Ranee has worked tirelessly to find a place for Bharatanatyam in the landscape of contemporary American dance. Since her first cross-cultural collaboration with poet Robert Bly, Ranee’s work has merged the classical language of Bharatanatyam with a contemporary Western aesthetic to create timeless pieces that freely move between the past and the present.
Ranee is a recipient of a 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a 2012 United States Artists Fellowship, a 2011 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, a Bush Fellowship for Choreography, and 14 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Choreography and Interdisciplinary Art.
Her choreographic work is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, MAP Fund, The McKnight Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, New Music/USA, USArtists International and the Japan Foundation, and has been commissioned by the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Lincoln Center Out of Doors (New York), the Krannert Center (University of Illinois), the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (University of Maryland), Opening Nights Performing Arts (Florida State University), and the Arts Center at NYU-Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), and the American Composers Forum. 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. Along with Aparna, she was named “2011 Artist of the Year” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Ranee currently serves on the National Council on the Arts, appointed by President Barack Obama.