One of the foremost traditional Indian dance companies returns for a world premiere of their new work co-commissioned by The Soraya and the Kennedy Center. For millennia, the ancient Indian city of Varanasi has symbolized the crossing place between this world and the next in Hindu culture. In this exquisite piece, Ragamala illuminates the life-and-death cycle in a universal way that is as beautiful as it is profound. Founded in 1992 by Ranee Ramaswamy, the Ragamala Dance Company is directed today by Ranee and her daughter Aparna Ramaswamy. As Indian-American artists, they explore myth and spirituality through the South Indian form of Bharatanatyam. Aparna made a guest appearance at The Soraya with Silkroad Ensemble in 2019.
STORY: Accessing the Eternal Through Dance
When Martha Graham premiered a new, full-company work with a poetic title, “Canticle for Innocent Comedians,” it was the Spring of 1952. John Martin, dance critic for the New York Times and Graham’s great champion, urged readers to attend. “Of course [“Canticle” is] the principal event of the week,” he wrote. Graham did not disappoint. She unveiled a work of unusual lyricism, as a quasi-mystical homage to the elements of nature—sun, moon, wind, Earth, water and fire—all cycling through death and rebirth. The work was a revelation. Martin called it “beautifully made” and “a tender kind of ritual.” Dance critic Anna Kisselgoff, reacting to a 1987 re-staging, called it Graham’s “great hymn to nature” and a work of “luminous strangeness.” The young Paul Taylor, seeing “Canticle,” said it was the reason he became a choreographer.