Created by Aparna Ramaswamy, Ranee Ramaswamy, and Rudresh Mahanthappa
Intense, richly complicated . . . exhilarating.
—Los Angeles Times
Western jazz fuses with South Indian music and dance to form this thoroughly original, entrancing new work. In Song of the Jasmine, premier jazz saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa joins up with acclaimed dance and music ensemble Ragamala to invoke both the sensual and the spiritual, the temporal and the transcendent.
Ragamala coartistic directors—and mother-daughter team—Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy reframe the classical Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam for the contemporary stage in this experiment with improvisation performed to the live music of Mahanthappa, whose sound merges South Indian and Western forms. Song of the Jasmine is also a wellspring for the choreographers Aparna and Ranee Ramaswamy to revisit the medieval South Indian poet, Andal, who reconceived spirituality apart from established ritual to claim instead a personal relationship to the divine. Together the artists uphold their ancestors’ traditions and interpret them with their own distinct voices.
Song of the Jasmine marks first-time collaborations for both: Mahanthappa with dance, and Ragamala with improvisatory jazz. Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy perform illustriously with three dancers from their company, alongside Mahanthappa who plays with a quintet assembled of versatile jazz and South Indian musicians: Rez Abbasi (electric guitar), Raman Kalyan (South Indian flute), Rajna Swaminathan (mridangam/South Indian percussion), and Anjna Swaminathan (South Indian violin). The staging is completed by a stunning canopy of brass bells and costumes created in Chennai, India.
Running time: 75 minutes
Generous support for Ragamala Dance with Rudresh Mahanthappa: Song of the Jasmine is supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from the Illinois Arts Council and General Mills Foundation.
Generous support for dance works at MCA Stage is provided by David Herro and Jay Franke. Ragamala Dance with Rudresh Mahanthappa: Song of the Jasmine is 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.
Movingly meditative . . . enchantingly beautiful.
Artists Up Close
MCA Studio: Open Doors
THU, APR 9, 2–4 pm
Museum visitors are invited to quietly come and go from the theater to observe the artists working on the production Song of the Jasmine.
MCA Studio: Master Class by Ragamala
SAT, APR 11, 2015, 1–3 pm
Aparna and Ranee Ramaswamy draw on the philosophy, spirituality, and myth of their South Indian heritage as well as their keen experience with improvisation and music.
FRI, APR 10, postshow
Audience members are invited to stay at the end of the performance for a conversation with Aparna and Ranee Ramaswamy, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and musicians, moderated by Yolanda Cesta Cursach.
About the artists
Ragamala Dance is widely recognized as one of the Indian Diaspora's leading dance ensembles in the traditional genre of Bharatanatyam. The troupe is known for deeply emotional work that highlights the freedom and spontaneity in the onstage interplay between dancers and musicians. Coartistic directors Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy draw on the philosophy and spirituality of their South Indian heritage to convey their own voices as contemporary American choreographers. They see the classical form as a living, breathing tradition, believing that ancient art forms can serve a modern consciousness and a twenty-first-century society. Ragamala has toured extensively nationally, including the American Dance Festival and the Kennedy Center, and internationally, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India.
One of the world's foremost jazz saxophonists and composers, Rudresh Mahanthappa creates hybrid sounds bridging progressive jazz with South Indian classical music. He has performed at Carnegie Hall, Royce Hall, and at the jazz festivals of Chicago, Montreal, and elsewhere. A Guggenheim Fellow, he has been awarded New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships and multiple commissions from the Rockefeller Foundation, Chamber Music America, and American Composers Forum. The Jazz Journalists Association named him alto saxophonist of the year for four years in a row. Mahanthappa's work is rooted in the improvisational freedom shared between jazz and the South Indian classical system of raga and tala—the tonal and rhythmic framework for intricate improvisation and composition. Learn more about Ragamala Dance.
Read about the Walker Art Center's thoughts on Song of the Jasmine.
Read the New York Times review of Song of the Jasmine.
Read Minnesota arts journalist Camille LeFevre's review of Song of the Jasmine.
Read the We Heart Music blog piece about Ragamala Dance company.