Company blends tradition and innovation into captivating performances
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Ragamala Dance performing Sacred Earth
The dancers of Ragamala Dance combine art forms to create Sacred Earth. Photo courtesy of Ragamala Dance

The University of Iowa’s Hancher will present Ragamala Dance on Thursday, March 6 and Friday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Space Place Theater, located on the first floor of North Hall on the University of Iowa campus. It is the company’s first Hancher performance.

Acclaimed as one of the Indian Diaspora’s leading dance ensembles, Ragamala seamlessly carries the South Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam into the 21st century by using it as a dynamic, poetic language with which to convey contemporary ideas. Artistic directors Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy (mother and daughter) are protégés of the legendary dancer and choreographer Alarmel Valli, known as one of India’s greatest living masters.

Founded in Minneapolis, Minn., Ragamala has been challenging assumptions about classical Indian dance for over 20 years. The company has won numerous awards and toured extensively throughout the U.S. and India.

In addition to performing, Ragamala has an extensive education program that includes a school focused on teaching and preserving traditions for the next generation of dancers. Ragamala’s school features rigorous dance training, but also strives to foster cultural awareness in their students, exploring innovation within traditional forms.

Ranee Ramaswamy was recently appointed by President Obama to serve on the National Council of the Arts, the advisory body of the National Endowment for the Arts. This honor highlights Ragamala’s presence in the field of dance and importance to the national arts scene.

Ragamala’s residency centers on two performances of Sacred Earth, an evening-length piece that unifies dance with the ephemeral visual arts of kolam floor design and Warli wall painting, live Indian classical music, projections, and Tamil Sangam literature.

During their time in Iowa City, the members of Ragamala will interact with UI students in a broad array of disciplines, including anthropology, religion, writing, dance, music, and theater.

The residency and performances by Ragamala Dance are supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as by the Hancher Partners and gifts to the Hancher Circle through the UI Foundation.

Tickets are $35 for nonstudents; $31.50 for senior citizens; and $10 for college students and youth from the Hancher Box Office.

The Hancher Box Office, located on the first floor of the south end of the Old Capitol Town Center near the parking ramp, is open for phone (319-335-1160 or 800-HANCHER) or walk-up business from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Tickets may be ordered online at the Hancher website. Any remaining tickets will be available for sale one hour before show time at Space Place Theater.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, contact the Hancher Box Office in advance at 319-335-1158.