Classical South Indian dance form is being brought back into the twenty-first century on UT's campus tonight.
The Indian American Association and the Cultural Attractions Committee, a committee of the Central Program Council, have arranged for the Minneapolis-based Ragamala Dance group to make a stop at UT during its touring season.
As part of Diversity Week on campus, the dance will give viewers insight into what classical Indian dance and music is like.
"This is the first time the Cultural Attractions Committee has brought Ragamala to the University of Tennessee," Elaina Spiekermann, Chair of the Cultural Attractions Committee and senior in logistics, said. "Every year, the committee votes on which dance or musical acts to pursue, and this year we decided Ragamala fits our mission to bring culturally diverse and talented acts to campus perfectly."
Ragamala, acclaimed as one of the Indian diaspora's leading Bharatanatyam ensembles, is comprised of six dancers, a violinist, a mridangist and a vocalist. The dance company will perform a classical Bharatanatyam dance, tying in the true grace, purity and tenderness of the dance. Bharatanatyam is the oldest and most comprehensive form of Indian dance.
Sarah Kim, Cultural Attraction's Committee Executive Press Secretary, is excited about the performance.
"Artistic Directors Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy celebrate the beauty and traditions of Bharatanatyam while infusing it with their own contemporary ideas," Kim said.
Cultural Attractions Committee chair member James Ballard, sophomore with a pre-professional interest, explained the relevance of Ragamala.
"Our main concern was making an event like this topically accessible to students, but Ragamala solved that problem," Ballard said. "We're using this as an opportunity to bring a culture to Knoxille that is severely underrepresented in the area."
On Ragamala's website, ragamala.net, Ranee and Aparna Remaswamy make a statement about the dance form and their infusions of the dance.
"Our work re-frames the cultural specificity of Bharatanatyam, bringing the eloquence of the form to universal themes in order to move beyond the personal and spark a global conversation," their statement on the site says.
The dance Ragamala is set to perform is called "Sacred Earth." This specific dance incorporates all of the different aspects of Bharatanatyam including the music, theater, poetry, sculpture and literature, which are all tied together to form the dance.
Ragamala trains its dancers to be able to capture the true essence of the dance and bring to life the history of the South Indian dance. Soloist Aparna Ramaswamy is described by Dance Magazine as "both iconic and explosive...infusing the formal rigor of Bharatanatyam with fluid spontaneity and rock star allure" and by The New York Times as "an enchantingly beautiful dancer."
The dance company travels all across the nation and internationally, performing their dance in numerous theaters including the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and CalTech's Beckman Theater in Los Angeles. The company has also performed in the United Kingdom and India.
Ragamala will perform at the Clarence Brown Theatre on October 4 at 7:30 p.m. With a UT ID, students can get into the event for $5. Tickets for UT staff are $20 and general admission is $25. Students and faculty can purchase tickets at the ticket booth outside of Thompson-Boling Arena. The general public can purchase tickets at knoxvilletickets.com.