Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ragamala Dance to impress its Indian spirit


By SABINA DANA PLASSE
Express Staff Writer

Ragamala Dance will perform at the Community Campus auditorium in Hailey on Friday, Jan. 15, at 7:30 p.m. Photo by

Bringing world culture to the Wood River Valley, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts has planned an intriguing and beautiful dance performance with the Ragamala Dance company as part of its current multidisciplinary exhibition, "Outside In: Indian Art Abroad."

Ragamala Dance will perform at the Community Campus auditorium in Hailey on Friday, Jan. 15, at 7:30 p.m. The company's home base is in Minneapolis, Minn., but it tours the world continuously, displaying its ancient Bharatanatyam dance tradition.

"Bharatanatyam is one of the major Indian dance styles," said Aparna Ramaswamy, Ragamala Dance co-artistic director. "There are five major forms and this dance form is from southeastern India."

The classical dance form emphasizes supple hand gestures and stylized postures. Ragamala Dance is internationally acclaimed for the beauty, elegance and rhythmic complexity of its performances.

"It's very important to us to have a wide audience and for people to find an entry point for what we do," Ramaswamy said. "The basis of the dance is spiritual. People connect to the music and the dance tradition."

Ragamala members come from diverse backgrounds and each has been chosen for rigorous training in the Pandanallur method. This intensive study not only steeps the dancer in the vocabulary, form, line and spirit of Bharatanatyam, but also in the intricacies of southern Indian culture, a vital part of this ancient artistic tradition.

The company was started in 1992 by Ramaswamy's mother, with whom Ramaswamy has been dancing since she was 3. The women return every year to India to receive instruction from Padma Bhushan Alarmel Valli, one of India's greatest living masters of Bharatanatyam.

"We take an ancient dance form and meet it with other art forms around the world," Ramaswamy said. "A piece in the show we will perform in Idaho has Indian dance movement set to a Japanese Taiko drummer."

Ragamala will be joined by special guests the Wadaiko Ensemble Tokara, a Japanese Taiko drum troupe that will perform as well as accompany the dancers. In addition to the twist of Taiko, Ragamala uses unconventional music from the likes of Zap Mama, a Belgian-Congolese singer, for its performances.

Tickets are $25 for center members and $35 for nonmembers. Tickets for those 18 and under are $10. For details and to purchase tickets, visit sunvalleycenter.org, call 726-9491 or visit The Center in Ketchum.

Sabina Dana Plasse: splasse@mtexpress.com




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