Fires of Varanasi, trailer

Sacred Earth Trailer

2022/2023 Tour Dates

Jan 14, 2023
Annual Elsie Management Showcase
New York, NY
Thu - Sat,
Feb 9 - 11, 2023
Meany Center for the Performing Arts
Fires of Varanasi
Seattle, WA
Fri - Sun,
March 10 - 12, 2023
Performing Arts Houston
Fires of Varanasi
Houston, TX
Wed - Fri,
March 15 - 17, 2023
McCArter Theater Center
Fires of Varanasi
Princeton, NJ
April 2, 2023
Performing Arts Santa Fe
Sacred Earth
Santa Fe, NM

Please check back soon for newly announced tour dates!

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“‘Fires of Varanasi’ cultivated a sense of shared humanity through their nested narratives of resilience and healing…

– Tatum Lindquist, The Daily
full article (PDF)

There is something transcendent that makes its way to the music and movement.

-The National
full article (PDF)

Ragamala conveys beauty through mastery of technique

– Sheila Regan, Star Tribune
full article (PDF)

“The eye often goes straight to Ms. Ramaswamy’s impeccable technique and incandescent beauty. Through her dancing, the music’s textures come into view.

– Siobhan Burke, The New York Times
full article (PDF)

More Press

For one hour we are transported into an exquisite dream state, one that exists deep in the heart of night.

-Caroline Palmer, Star Tribune
full article (PDF)

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


Aparna Ramaswamy graced the stage with vibrancy, energy, and light…she introduced audiences to [Bharatanatyam] in a most spectacular way.

full article (PDF)


“‘Song of the Jasmine’ [is] a soulful, imaginative and rhythmically contagious collaboration with the superb jazz composer and alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa.

New York Times
full article (PDF)


That’s when the magic of ‘Song of the Jasmine’ reveals itself — the relationship between the music and dance in this work is not only meant to be, it exemplifies what happens when artistic boundaries (real or artificial) are radically tested, if not knocked down all together.

-Star Tribune
full article (PDF)


A marvel of bouyant agility and sculptural clarity

Dance Magazine


Ramaswamy appears to be inexhaustible, an elegant blaze of energy, capable of throwing her focus with equal intensity to the magnetic poles


Dance Teacher Magazine: An Indian Dance Matriarchy in Minneapolis

Chicago Tribune: Dance Top Ten for 2015: Women had an outsized role on this year’s list



They Rose at Dawn is a full-evening solo performed by classical Bharatanatyam Indian dance Aparna Ramaswamy, accompanied by a stellar Carnatic ensemble of musicians, which examines women as carries of ritual. As humans, we endure and thrive through our transmission of wisdom from one generation to the next. Navigating inner and outer worlds, women are the primordial source of all creation; the compassionate mother; the lover, exuberant and erotic; the embodiment of power and strength. For Ramaswamy, these intergenerational conversations provide a forum to create intricate and complex worlds that convey a sense of reverence, of unfolding mystery, of imagination. They Rose at Dawn premiered at The Joyce Theater Oct 6-9, 2015 and has been awarded a National Dance Project touring subsidy for 16/17.

Sacred Earth explores the interconnectedness between human emotions and the environments that shape 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 co-Artistic Directors Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy’s singular vision of the beautiful, fragile relationship between nature and man.

Written in Water is one hour in length and is performed by 5 dancers with 5 musicians, including the composer, Doris Duke awardee Amir ElSaffar. The performance is inspired by the 2nd century Indian board game, Paramapadam (that later became the ever-popular Snakes & Ladders). The dancers perform on a video-saturated stage space, with their movement choices representing the heights of ecstasy and depths of longing in Hindu and Sufi thought. They seek to connect the human with the transcendent and to reveal mysteries within the self. Forging new artistic paradigms, Ragamala brings together the internationally-celebrated artists: composer ElSaffar leads a musical ensemble with a distinct alchemy of Iraqi Maqam, jazz, and Carnatic music. V.  Keshav’s lush paintings are projected onto the stage to create a mythic, mystical dance landscape.

“Written in Water” Research Sources and Glossary

Full Description of Written in Water

Ashwini Ramaswamy’s dancing “weaves together the human and the divine” – The New York Times

In a new work from Minneapolis-based choreographer/dancer Ashwini Ramaswamy, the Bharatanatyam form is deconstructed and recontextualized, evoking mythography and ancestry to explore how memory and homeland can channel guidance and dislocation. A series of trios and solos by dancers of three distinctly different artistic lineages is set to an original score performed live by a hybrid orchestra of South Indian instruments, electro-acoustic cello, and synthesizers. Let the Crows Come is a genre-twisting evolution of movement and music across cultural and corporeal boundaries.

Click here for a more detailed description.

Rooted in the expansive South Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam, Ragamala Dance Company manifests a kindred relationship between the ancient and the contemporary. In evening-length performance, “Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim,” eleven dancers conjure a realm where time is suspended and humans merge with the divine, framed by a stunning set & lighting design by Willy Cessa. Award-winning creators Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy imagine a metaphorical crossing place that enters into a ritualistic world of immortality, evoking the birth-death-rebirth continuum in Hindu thought to honor immigrant experiences of life and death in the diaspora.

With lead commissioning by The Kennedy Center, “Fires of Varanasi” received its outdoor premiere at The Kennedy Center’s REACH on Sept 11, 2021 and its indoor premiere at co-commissioner Hopkins Center at Dartmouth on Sept 17, 2021 before re-opening co-commissioner The Joyce Theater (from industry covid closures) for a week of shows, Sept 22 -26, 2021. “Fires of Varanasi” has been presented by co-commissioners: The Harris Theater in Chicago; The Northrop in Minneapolis; and The Soraya in Northridge, CA. This summer, it will be presented by co-commissioner the American Dance Festival. In the 22/23 season, it will be presented by co-commissioner Meany Center in Seattle as well as by Performing Arts Houston and the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ.

Click here for a more detailed description.

“‘Fires of Varanasi’ cultivated a sense of shared humanity through their nested narratives of resilience and healing…

– Tatum Lindquist, The Daily
full article (PDF)

Fires of Varanasi, an illustrated guide


Founded in 1992 and acclaimed as one of the Indian Diaspora’s leading dance ensembles, Ragamala Dance Company seamlessly carries the South Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam into the 21st century. Informed by the echoing past and the fleeting present, Artistic Directors Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy’s evocative choreography defies chronology.

Ranee and Aparna — mother and daughter — are protégés of the legendary dancer and choreographer Alarmel Valli, known as one of India’s greatest living masters. They embrace the philosophy, spirituality, myth and mysticism of their heritage to create not works but worlds – visceral, universal experiences that use Indian art forms to express their contemporary point of view. They see the classical form as a dynamic, living tradition with vast potential to convey timeless themes and present-day ideas.

Ragamala Dance Company has toured extensively, highlighted by performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., American Dance Festival in Durham, NC, Music Center in Los Angeles, CA, Getty Center in Los Angeles, CA, Krannert Center in Urbana, IL, Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, Bali Arts Festival in Indonesia, and National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India.

Aparna Ramaswamy (Artistic Director/ Choreographer/ Principal Dancer), was born in India and raised in the United States. She is a protégé of legendary Bharatanatyam artist Alarmél Valli, one of India’s greatest living masters. Described as “a marvel of buoyant agility and sculptural clarity” (Dance Magazine), “thrillingly three-dimensional,” and “an enchantingly beautiful dancer,” (The New York Times), Aparna and has been featured at prestigious venues throughout the United States and abroad, both as a soloist and as principal dancer with Ragamala.

She has been awarded several honors, including two McKnight Artist Fellowships, a Bush Fellowship, an Arts and Religion grant funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, two Jerome Foundation Travel Study Grants, an Artist Exploration Fund grant from Arts International, the Lakshmi Vishwanathan Endowment Prize from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (Chennai, India), and the Sage Award for Best Dancer (Minneapolis). Aparna’s work is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Dance Project, and the Japan Foundation, and has been commissioned by the American Composer’s Forum, the Walker Art Center and the Southern Theater. In 2010, she was the first Bharatanatyam artist to be selected as one of “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine. Aparna and co-Artistic Director Ranee Ramaswamy were recently named the 2011 “Artist of the Year” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Ranee Ramaswamy (Founder, Artistic Director/ Choreographer/ Principal Dancer), has been a master teacher and performer of Bharatanatyam in the U.S. since 1978. Since her first cross-cultural collaboration with poet Robert Bly in 1991, followed by her founding of Ragamala in 1992, she has been a pioneer in the establishment of non-Western dance traditions in Minneapolis and in pushing the boundaries of Indian classical dance on the global scene.

Among her many awards are 14 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Choreography and Interdisciplinary Art, a Bush Fellowship for Choreography, an Artist Exploration Fund grant from Arts International, two Cultural Exchange Fund grants from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and the 2011 McKnight Foundation Distinguished Artist Award. Most recently, Ranee was the recipient of a 2012 United States Artists Fellowship, and was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Council on the Arts.

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