‘Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim’ to feature at American Dance Festival

Ragamala Dance Company’s Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim will be presented on July 6 & 7, 2022 at 7:30 pm at the American Dance Festival, Reynolds Industries Theatre at Duke, Durham, NC. Tickets start at $25 and are available at americandancefestival.org/event/ragamala-dance-company/2022-07-06. This production is commissioned by American Dance Festival.  

Rooted in the expansive South Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam, Ragamala Dance Company manifests a kindred relationship between the ancient and the contemporary. In this evening-length performance, eleven dancers conjure a realm where time is suspended and humans merge with the divine. Award-winning creators Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy imagine a metaphorical crossing place that enters into a ritualistic world of immortality, evoking the birth-death-rebirth continuum in Hindu thought to honor immigrant experiences of life and death in the diaspora. Fires of Varanasi evokes the spiritually electric city, described by mother and daughter in conversation with essayist Pico Iyer as a metaphor for the interconnectedness of life and death. The work features an original, recorded score and the lighting designs of French scenic and lightning designer Willy Cessa. 

Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim was commissioned by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; co-commissioned by the Harris Theater for Music and Dance; co-commissioned by and developed in part at the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College and The Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, Cal State Northridge and Northrop, University of Minnesota; with additional commissioning support from Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center at Auburn University; Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington; American Dance Festival; and The Joyce Theater Foundation’s Stephen and Cathy Weinroth Fund for New Work. 

Ragamala Dance Company is the vision of award-winning mother/daughter artists Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy. Over the last four decades, Ranee and Aparna’s practice in the South Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam has shifted the trajectory of culturally rooted performing arts in the United States to create an exemplary company within the American dance landscape. Through both intimate solos and large-scale theatrical works for the stage, Ranee and Aparna empower the South Asian American experience. By engaging the dynamic tension between ancestral wisdom and creative freedom, they reveal the kindred relationship between ancient and contemporary that is urgently needed in today’s world. 

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