Aparna Ramaswamy

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2016

Minneapolis, MN

Described as “rapturous and profound” by The New York Times, Aparna Ramaswamy is known for her insightful choreography and nuanced performance. She serves as co-Artistic Director, Choreographer, and Principal Dancer of Ragamala Dance Company with her mother and creative partner, Ranee Ramaswamy. She is a senior disciple of the iconic dancer/choreographer Alarmél Valli of Chennai, India. Raised in India and the United States, Aparna's cultural hybridity gives her the perspective to create a specific sub-genre of art that marries a contemporary Western aesthetic with an Indian ethos. The Joyce Theater premiered her newest work, They Rose at Dawn, in 2015. Honors include three McKnight Artist Fellowships, a Joyce Award, and support from the National Dance Project, Jerome Foundation, MAP Fund, and USArtists International, among others. Her new work with Ragamala, Written in Water, draws parallels between the psychological and moral complexities of the second century Indian board game Paramapadam and the twelfth century Sufi text The Conference of the Birds.

  • Photo Credit: Ed Bock
    Aparna Ramaswamy
  • Aparna Ramaswamy- Sacred Earth (2011): http://vimeo.com/158980760
    Sacred Earth (2011)
  • Aparna Ramaswamy- They Rose At Dawn (2015): http://vimeo.com/159263859
    They Rose At Dawn (2015)
  • Aparna Ramaswamy- Song of the Jasmine (2014): http://vimeo.com/162763579
    Song of the Jasmine (2014)
  • Photo Credit: Amanulla
    Aparna Ramaswamy
  • Photo Credit: Alice Gebura
    Song of the Jasmine (2014)
  • Photo Credit: Narendra Dangiya
    Aparna Ramaswamy
  • Photo Credit: John Whiting
    Aparna Ramaswamy
  • Photo Credit: Grant Halverson
    Ragamala Dance

Artistically, what do you do and why do you do it?

As a first generation Indian-American, I engage the dynamic tension that exists between the ancestral and the personal. Rooted in Bharatanatyam*, my creative practice is one where lineage is an incubator to absorb lessons learned through past generations and to evolve them into new artistic paradigms. I am committed to circumventing notions that culturally-rooted forms are exotic, historic, and impenetrable, and continue to seek answers about how humans create, codify, preserve, receive, interpret, and re-create. Using suggestive rather than linear narratives, I aim to connect the human, the spiritual, the emotive, and the figurative to reveal the mysteries that resonate within the self.

*Bharatanatyam has a history that reaches back two millennia. Integrating elements of music, movement, theater, philosophy, and psychology, this multi-dimensional art form is part of a dynamic, living tradition. Bharatanatyam has a physical vocabulary, but its essence is in the communication of the narrative, the emotive, and the transcendent.