Navatman Dance artistic director Sahasra Sambamoorthi studied bharata natyam with Ramya Ramnarayan for 14 years. Ramnarayan taught her how to showcase her individual strengths.

“She works with the person in front of her. She doesn’t try to make us all the same dancer. There’s a piece she taught me when I was very young that she also taught to another dancer. This person was a little bit better with quick footwork, so she involved a lot more of that in it. I tended to be more flexible, so I had more postures running through my choreography.

See Sambamoorthi performing at the Drive East dance festival August 22–28 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa in New York City.

Photo by Radha Ganesan, courtesy of Sambamoorthi

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In this month’s issue, we got to know the women of Ragamala Dance Company in Minneapolis: Ranee, Aparna and Ashwini Ramaswamy. The mother/daughter team shared their remarkable path to becoming bharata natyam dancers, choreographers and leaders of a thriving company in Minneapolis. Now, the Ragamala dynasty has some exciting performances coming their way.

Aparna Ramaswamy

On March 31 and April 2, Ashwini will premiere her first evening-length work, Nocturne, at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn, NY. Describing the piece, she says, “In this imagined realm the creatures of the daytime represent going with the current, or with society’s norms, and night provides the space for originality, for being authentic and creatively unrestricted.” Nocturne will be staged later in the year at The Red Eye Theater in Minneapolis, June 2–5.

Ashwini Ramaswamy

Ranee and Aparna will premiere their work, Written in Water, at Florida State University in Tallahassee in October. Inspired in part by the Indian board game that Snakes and Ladders is based on, Written in Water will be danced on top of a rendering of the game board projected onto the floor.

Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy standing on a projection of a Snakes and Ladders game board

For more info about upcoming Ragamala events, visit: ragamaladance.org.

Photos from top: by Christopher Pike; by Amanulla; all courtesy of Ragamala Dance Company

Don’t miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

It's a Sunday morning at the Gibney Dance Center in New York City, where Ranee Ramaswamy and her daughters Aparna and Ashwini are preparing for a photo shoot. Chattering and interrupting each other, they flit about as they text, drink coffee and appraise one another's appearance. Ranee proudly shows photos of her grandsons, “Aparna's boys. Twins. Such big eyes!" This could be a friendly group of women, anywhere. But once in front of the camera, the members of Ragamala Dance Company instantly snap into focus—they are consummate performers who take the spotlight with grace and authority.

Ranee and her older daughter Aparna founded the Minneapolis-based Ragamala in 1992 as co-artistic directors, and it's that intergenerational factor that gives the company its unique dynamic. The women perform in the classical South Indian dance form, bharata natyam, that Ranee studied as a child growing up in India. But theirs is not a story about a mother passing on a cultural tradition to her daughters. In fact, it was Aparna who paved the way for her mother to have the kind of career Ranee never dreamed possible.

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Photo by Susie Inverso, Crimson Cat Studios, courtesy of Silk Road Rising

In our December issue, we hear what professional dancers have to say about their go-to teachers.

Puja Mohindra

Bharata natyam dancer formerly with Natya Dance Theatre

Chicago, IL

“It helps to have a teacher who’s really honest about whether you’re in the correct level. Recently, I was in a class where I felt I was too advanced for beginner, but not strong enough to be in that class. The teacher agreed, and I appreciated that candor so that I could adjust.

I also always want someone to assist me. When you dance as an adult, it’s a lot of drop-in classes, and often the teachers don’t correct you with such attention to detail. Over time, you can injure yourself. But I’m still an artist and dancer, and I want my technique to improve, so I find someone who will work with me and offer suggestions versus just ‘giving class.’”

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