Ragamala Dance Company seamlessly carries the South Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam into the 21st century.
2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the company for Artistic Director Ranee and Aparna — mother and daughter. Both are protégés of the legendary dancer and choreographer Alarmel Valli, known as one of India’s greatest living masters. They embrace the philosophy, spirituality, myth and mysticism of their heritage to create not works but worlds – visceral, universal experiences that use Indian art forms to express their contemporary point of view. They see the classical form as a dynamic, living tradition with vast potential to convey timeless themes and present-day ideas.
Before seeing Written in Water, you may want to brush up on some of Ragamala Dance Company's inspiration and its roots in Indian culture...
Glossary of terms
The second century Paramapadam game takes players on an allegorical journey along which they encounter 12 vices and 5 virtues on a search for ultimate wisdom. On the 100-square grid of the gameboard, virtues are depicted as ladders that carry a player forward, and vices as snakes that slide him or her backward. Historically, the game was used as a way to explore deep spiritual, philosophical and moral questions of human existence. (It was later adapted by the British, who stripped it of its moral content and named it Snakes & Ladders.)
The Conference of the Birds
Composed in the twelfth century in north-eastern Iran, Fard Ud-Din Attar's great mystical poem is among the most significant of all works of Persian literature. An allegorical rendering of the Islamic doctrine of Sufism - an esoteric system concerned with the search for truth through God - it describes the consequences of the conference of the birds of the world when they meet to begin the search for their ideal king, the Simorgh bird. When they hear that to find him they must undertake an arduous journey, the birds soon express their reservations to their leader, the hoopoe. With eloquence and insight, however, the hoopoe calms their fears, using a series of riddling parables to provide guidance in the search for spiritual truth.
Maqam is the urban classical vocal tradition of Iraq. In Iraq, the term maqam refers to highly- structured, semi-improvised, compositions that take years of disciplined study under a master to learn fully. Often rhythmically free and meditative, they are sung to classical Arabic and colloquial Iraqi poetry, and are followed by light-hearted, rhythmic songs, known as pestaat. Found primarily in the cities of Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk, and Basra, the maqam repertoire draws upon musical styles of the many populations in Iraq, such as the Bedouins, rural Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen as well as neighboring Persians, Turks, and other populations that have had extensive contact with Iraq throughout history.
Carnatic music is a system of music commonly associated with the southern part of the Indian subcontinent, with its area roughly confined to five modern states of India: Andhra
Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Although there are stylistic differences, the basic elements of śruti (the relative musical pitch), swara (the musical sound of a single note), rāga (the mode or melodic formulæ), and tala (the rhythmic cycles) form the foundation of improvisation and composition in Carnatic music. Carnatic instrumentation usually consists of a principal performer (usually a vocalist), a melodic accompaniment (usually a violin), a rhythm accompaniment (usually a mridangam), and a tambura, which acts as a drone throughout the performance.
The Tamil Sangam poets (300 B.C.E. – 300 C.E.) of South India saw divinity in the physical world. Recognizing that human activities are interwoven with all of creation, they drew parallels between inner landscape and outer landscape and used the natural world as a metaphor to examine the intricacies of human emotion. The tinais thus become more than geographical realms. Each region’s particular qualities—flora and fauna, climate and seasons, music and culture, people and daily life—are interwoven with the area’s emotional tones to create a distinct portrait of mood and setting. Characters in Sangam literature are never named, rather they represent ideals—paradigms of the human condition.
Written in Water
Sunday, Oct. 14 at 7:30 pm
*Part of Walton Arts Center's 10x10 Arts Series
Set to an original score of Iraqi Maqam, jazz and South Indian Carnatic music, this production communicates universal experiences through traditional Indian art forms and “provides some of the most transcendent experiences that dance has to offer.” -The New York Times