Ragamala Dance Company’s Song of the Jasmine explores tension between the ancestral and the contemporary, February 7

Thursday, January 15, 2015

CONTACT: Sarah Snyder

College Park, MD—Choreographed by mother and daughter team Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy of Ragamala Dance Company, Song of the Jasmine is inspired by the writings of 8th century Tamil mystic poet Andal and employs traditional Indian Bharatanatyam dance to conjure the past in order to experience the power of the present. The performance, which takes place on February 7, 2015 at 8pm in the Kay Theatre of The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, explores the interconnectedness of the spiritual, the sensual and the natural that is the lifeblood of the Indian psyche.

Constructed in close collaboration with the choreography, Song of the Jasmine also features a live musical score composed by Rudresh Mahanthappa.  The score is performed live by Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, UMD alum Rajna Swaminathan on mridangam, UMD alum Anjna Swaminathan on Carnatic violin, Rez Abbasi on guitar and Raman Kalyan on Carnatic flute.  Song of the Jasmine is co-commissioned by The Clarice.

About mystic poet, Andal

Throughout her short life, Andal refused to marry any mortal man–-Krishna was the sole object of her affection. Her feverish urgency to unite with Him is likened to the unbearable urgency of a fish out of water. It is said that He was so pleased with her devotion that He appeared to her father in a dream, instructing him to bring Andal to the temple at Srirangam, on the banks of the Kauveri River in southern India. Legend says that the moment she entered the sanctum of the temple, she was surrounded by a blaze of light and was absorbed into the image of Vishnu. She was only fifteen years old.

About Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy (Concept/Choreography)

Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy are Artistic Directors, Choreographers, and Principal Dancers of Ragamala Dance Company, founded by Ranee in 1992. As dancemakers and performers, they 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 the curiosity, openness, and creative freedom fostered in the United States. 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.

Ranee and Aparna’s work is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, MAP Fund, The McKnight 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), and the American Composers Forum. Ranee and Aparna were jointly named “2011 Artist of the Year” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  Their upcoming work, Written in Water, has been selected for a development residency at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC).

Ranee has worked tirelessly for the last three decades to find a place for Bharatanatyam in the landscape of 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. Among her many awards are 14 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Choreography and Interdisciplinary Art, a Bush Fellowship for Choreography, a 2011 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, and a 2012 United States Artists Fellowship. Ranee serves on the National Council on the Arts, appointed by President Barack Obama. Most recently, she is the recipient of a 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award.

Aparna has toured her work extensively, both as a soloist and as choreographer/principal dancer of Ragamala. She has been awarded several honors, including three McKnight Artist Fellowships for Dance and Choreography, a Bush Fellowship for Choreography, an Arts and Religion grant funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, two Jerome Foundation Travel Study Grants, an Artist Exploration Fund Grant from Arts International, two Artist Initiative Grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation Choreographic Support, and the Lakshmi Vishwanathan Endowment Prize from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (Chennai, India). Her solo work has toured the U.S. and India with support from the National Dance Project and USArtists International. In 2010, Aparna was named one of “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine. Aparna is an empaneled artist with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (of the Government of India). She serves on the Board of Trustees of Dance/USA.


More information can be found on our website. Tickets for this performance are $25/$20/$10 (Regular/NextLEVEL/Students), and can be purchased online or by calling (301) 405-ARTS (2787).


Located on the University of Maryland campus and a part of the College of Arts and Humanities, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is a premier presenting arts venue and collaborative laboratory shared by the Artist Partner Program (APP), the School of Music (SOM), the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS), Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library (MSPAL) and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC).  The Clarice made its debut in 2001 and has grown into a national model for campus performing arts centers, presenting performances and programs by artist partners as well as by students, faculty and alumni of SOM and TDPS. The Clarice is building the future of the arts now.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

This engagement of Ragamala Dance Company is made possible through the ArtsCONNECT program of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The presentation of Song of the Jasmine 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.

This presentation is also supported in part by a generous gift from Janet and Jay Hawley.

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business & Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the Maryland State Arts Council is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.