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, Ashwini Ramaswamy

Producer: Ragamala Dance Company

Light Design, Art Director: Willy Cessa

Stage Installation: Manav Gupta

Length: 65 minutes, no intermission

Touring Company: 5 dancers, 3 tech, 1 staff, musicians TBD


From the Artistic Directors:

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

This project has grown out of our shared personal experience of the death of our father/grandfather away from his homeland. Reckoning with the experience of death in the diaspora is a reality for millions, yet the way in which each of us experiences it is intensely individualized. How do we maintain our traditions across time and place while interrogating the power structures that are embedded within them? Death is the ultimate remover of hierarchies, as gender, caste, and station are obliterated in the fire.

Fires of Varanasi is a large-scale, multidisciplinary dance work in which we explore the liminal spaces in the birth-death-re-birth continuum to understand human experiences of migration—physical, cultural, emotional. For us, the transformation of a body after cremation—and the remnants of bone found within the ash—is a powerful metaphor for the Indian ethos of resilience, and the profound belief in the tenacity of people and cultures.

Set to an original score and soundscape (we are actively speaking with several composers; currently the music is undecided), the dancers will bring to life the spirit of the sacred city of Varanasi, India—its cremation fires, and the ashes that drift through the waters of the Ganges River.

New Delhi-based visual artist Manav Gupta will design a large-scale stage installation, transforming thousands of Indian earthen vessels into an homage to the swirling waters of the Ganges.

We will work in close collaboration with renowned French light/set designer/art director Willy Cessa to create a multi-sensory experience that weaves together choreography, nature, and ritual. We feel that Cessa, who creates work for some of today’s most dynamic dance and theater artists, will bring to life the beautiful and apocalyptic world of Varanasi to the stage.

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

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.