This sensory-rich, idea-steeped work elevates snakes and ladders to spiritual heights.
— The Washington Post

Conceived and choreographed by Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, Written in Water explores the universal paradigm of a seeker on a journey to connect the human with the transcendent and reveal mysteries within the self. In this large-scale, multimedia dance work, dancers and musicians move freely between composition and improvisation, and activate the space by negotiating snakes and ladders--representing the heights of ecstasy and depths of longing. 

Forging new artistic paradigms, Ragamala has commissioned a score from Carnatic composer Prema Ramamurthy and Iraqi-American composer/musician Amir ElSaffar -- who leads a live, 5-person musical ensemble with a distinct alchemy of Iraqi, jazz, and South Indian instruments. The work unfolds amidst lush images of paintings commissioned from visual artist V. Keshav (Chennai, India), projected on the stage floor and upstage scrimm.

Written in Water is commissioned by the Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (Lead Commissioner) and Opening Nights Performing Arts at Florida State University. The creation of Written in Water was made possible, in part, by a 2016 Joyce Award from the Joyce Foundation, the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards program, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music/USA (made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Baisley Powell Elebash Fund, Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation), the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), the Fredrikson & Byron Foundation, and the Carolyn Foundation, and was supported in part by choreographic and production residencies at The Yard in Martha’s Vineyard, the Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts in Minneapolis, MN.
Aparna Ramaswamy is a vision of sculptural lucidity whose dancing brings a full-bodied awareness to complex rhythms and shifts of dynamics
— Gia Kourlas, The New York Times

In this solo work, women are depicted as carriers of ritual. Navigating inner and outer worlds, they invoke a sense of reverence, of unfolding mystery, of imagination. A stellar Carnatic musical ensemble accompanies Aparna Ramaswamy as she explores the spontaneous interplay between music and movement and the dynamic contours created by the artists onstage.


Video: the Making of They Rose at Dawn

They Rose at Dawn was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Visually opulent and filled with zest
— The Hindu

Sacred Earth explores the interconnectedness between human emotions and the environment that shapes them. Performed with live music, the dancers create a sacred space to honor the divinity in the natural world and the sustenance we derive from it. Inspired by the philosophies behind the ephemeral arts of kolam and Warli painting and the Tamil Sangam literature of India, Sacred Earth is Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy’s singular vision of the beautiful, fragile relationship between nature and man.




The creation of Sacred Earth was made possible in part with funds from the National Dance Project and the National Endowment for the Arts.
An enchanting journey—for one hour we are transported into an exquisite dream state.
— Minneapolis Star Tribune

Nocturne is the first major work to be conceived/choreographed by long-time Ragamala soloist Ashwini Ramaswamy. Inspired by the natural, emotional, and spiritual migrations that occur after nightfall, Nocturne summons the different facets of the night—the natural world of flora and fauna, the emotional world of anticipation and longing, and the heightened spiritual potency of pre-dawn. 

Only available with recorded music.


video excerpt

The music for Nocturne is commissioned by the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation.
[The piece] demonstrates yet again why Ragamala is so vital to the Twin Cities dance scene... there’s a slice of heaven to be found in “Body, the Shrine.”
— The Star Tribune

In Body, the Shrine, choreography, mythography, and Bhakti poetry entwine to connect the spiritual, the immediate, the intimate, and the transcendent. ‘Bhakti’ is a Sanskrit term meaning both ‘devotion’ and ‘participation.’ The Bhakti poets erased any dichotomy between the sacred and the personal, seamlessly interweaving the two to express deep longing, anguish of separation, ecstasy, and the desire to reach salvation/transcendence. Body the Shrine excavates the visceral wisdom of this poetic tradition—a tradition that strikes a chord across time and geography—to explore the sacred sanctuary that exists within each of us.



The creation of Body, the Shrine was supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Marbrook Foundation, the Goodale Family Foundation, and New Music USA (to follow the project as it unfolds visit Music for Body, the Shrine was commissioned by the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation.

Creators and Directors: Ranee Ramaswamy, Aparna Ramaswamy

Choreographic Associate: Ashwini Ramaswamy

Scenic and Light Design: Willy Cessa

Producer: Ragamala Dance Company

Length: 65 minutes, no intermission

Touring Company: 11 dancers, 2 tech, 1 staff   

From the Artistic Directors:

In Fires of Varanasi, we evoke and embody the millions of pilgrims whose feet rewrite the city’s geography year after year. The dancers become lingering echoes of ritual and ceremony, bridging the space between internal and external, the secular world and a sacred state of mind.

This project has grown from our experience of the death of our father/grandfather away from his homeland. A devout Hindu, he yearned for his ashes to be scattered in the Ganges River in the sacred city of Varanasi, India, just as our ancestors before him.  

For millennia, Varanasi—the earth’s oldest continuously inhabited city—has symbolized the crossing place between this world and the ‘far shore.’ Cremation fires burn night and day, and one is surrounded by rituals of death, both beautiful and apocalyptic.  

Fires of Varanasi is a large-scale dance work in which we expand upon the birth-death-rebirth continuum in Hindu thought to examine immigrant experiences of life and death in the diaspora. We see the transformation of the soul after cremation as a powerful symbol for the Indian ethos of resilience, and the tenacity of people and cultures across time. By bringing human experiences of migration—physical, cultural, emotional—to the stage, we underscore the need for cultural sustenance across generations. We honor the legacy of immigrants who inscribe our past lives into the history of our new homes.

An original score will layer South Indian Carnatic compositions—using lyrics from Indian classical and modern poetry—with Hindu Vedic chants and Buddhist mantras.

We will work in close collaboration with French scenic and light designer Willy Cessa to create an immersive visual environment that evokes the heightened state of the city where nature and ritual permeate night and day.

Contact: Jake Anderson, Managing Director: 517.290.0278 (c), 612.824.1968 (o),

Lead commissioner: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Co-commissioned by the Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance

Co-commissioned by and developed in part at The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College and the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, Cal State Northridge

With additional commissioning support from: Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center at Auburn University; Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington; and the American Dance Festival

This project was created in part through Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy's 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship and a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy, and made possible in part by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and New Music USA. To follow the project as it unfolds, visit our project page: