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A woman wearing an Indian sari and elaborate headwear and jewelry, her eyes outlined in heavy black kohl, reaches out her arms and gestures with red-tipped fingers while looking in the distance.

Aparna Ramaswamy

Photo: Ed Bock

MCA Studio: Master Class by Ragamala

Copresented with Natya Dance Theatre

Coartistic directors Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy (a mother/daughter team) are reframing the cultural specificity of Bharatanatyam to bring a unique voice to contemporary performance. Their Chicago debut with Song of the Jasmine (MCA Stage, Apr 10–12) is their first collaboration with jazz saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. The first Bharatanatyam artist to be named by Dance/USA one among “25 to Watch,” Aparna recently gave a solo performance at the Music Academy in Chennai—one of India's most prestigious dance venues. Her mother, Ranee, was named a 2012 United States Artists Fellow. Since her first cross-cultural collaboration with the poet Robert Bly, Ranee's path-breaking creations have freely moved between the classical language of Bharatanatyam and a Western aesthetic.

This class by Aparna and Ranee draws on the philosophy, spirituality, and myth of their South Indian heritage as well as their keen experience with improvisation and music.

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, including national appearances at the American Dance Festival and the Kennedy Center, and international appearances including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India.