Ragmala Dance, dance company member, Minneapolis, MN

Ranee & Aparna Ramaswamy, artistic directors

1.    Describe your organization’s mission and its work in 3 adjectives.
Please explain the adjectives you selected.

Preserving, innovating, uplifting.

Our work re-frames the cultural specificity of Bharatanatyam, bringing the eloquence of the form to universal themes in order to move beyond the personal and spark a global conversation. In an era where innovation is so often seen as a rejection of the past, we are committed to the philosophy that in order to reach into the future it is vital to retain our roots in our collective history.

2.    What inspires the work of your organization and why?

As Ragamala’s co-artistic directors, our main inspiration is the incredible depth of the dance form of Bharatanatyam, as well as the philosophy, spirituality, mysticism, and myth of our South Indian heritage. We see the classical form as a dynamic, living tradition with vast potential for conveying timeless themes and contemporary ideas.

3.    What accomplishment from the past year is your organization most proud of and eager to share with Dance/USA’s membership and the field at large?

The 2011-12 season was Ragamala’s 20th anniversary, and the year has been truly remarkable. The season began with a sold-out show at the Kennedy Center, a 27-city U.S. tour, and an electrifying reception at the American Dance Festival this past July. Ranee Ramaswamy received a 2011 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award. The artistic pair of Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy received a McKnight Foundation Choreographic Fellowship and the Minneapolis Star Tribune "Artist of the Year" designation. Most recently, President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Ranee to the National Council on the Arts, a committee that advises the National Endowment for the Arts.

4.    Where do you see dance in the future and how does your organization fit within that vision?

We believe that dance must have the ability to move audiences in some way, and it is the responsibility of the artists to make that connection. Ragamala creates not just works but worlds, using Indian art forms to provide deep artistic experiences and make contemporary statements.

5.    As an organization, what do you hope your dance legacy to be?

We live in a country that is made up of many cultures, and dance is a part of every culture. Cultural dance and contemporary dance should not be seen as two separate entities—high quality cultural dance has an important place in the current dance landscape, and Ragamala Dance is breaking that divide. We hope that our legacy will be as one of the first companies to bridge that divide, to be seen as vibrant, contemporary artists who happen to work within a culturally specific form.