For one night only Ashwini Ramaswamy, a soloist with Ragamala Dance, steps into the spotlight for an evening focusing on her talents as a dancer and choreographer. Ashwini is the daughter of Ranee Ramaswamy and sister of Aparna Ramaswamy, who are co-artistic directors at Ragamala.
Saturday night's show will feature two pieces that Ramaswamy performed this past year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (she was one of the last artists who received Artist Initiative funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board for activities outside of Minnesota). Alarmel Valli, a master teacher who has served as a mentor for the Ramaswamy family, choreographed three of the pieces Ashwini will perform, including the Ediburgh dances. Valli also choreographed the solo piece she will be doing next fall at Northrop Auditorium.
At the Edinburgh Festival, Ramaswamy gave a free performance at St. John's Church, in the heart of Edinburgh, between shows that Ragamala performed. "I got really positive feedback from a lot of people," she says.
In addition to two of the Edinburgh dances, Ramaswamy will perform a third piece, also choreographed by Valli, and a fourth piece that she has choreographed herself. While she previously created pieces in college, this is the first time that she has choreographed a piece in the classical style. "This is my first real serious attempt," she says.
In fact, she wasn't planning on doing her own choreography until a couple of months ago. "There is so much to learn about music and rhythmic structures," she says. She has learned a lot from observing her mom and her sister. "I'm lucky to have that," she says.
The experience is really pushing her in the direction that she wants to go, not only creating but having the time to practice and prepare the live music component. Though it's a co-presentation between Ramaswamy and the Ritz, she says that her mother and sister are completely supportive.
Ashwini, who is six years younger than her sister Aparna, began dancing at the age of six in India. After a couple of years studying, it became too much for her. In subsequent years, she would travel to India with her family, but would stay with her grandparents while her mother and sister studied at the studio.
She eventually returned to dancing, and danced through college, before taking another break. After moving to New York City, she didn't dance at all for a number of years. "I wanted to see if a change of scenery is what I wanted," she says. In 2007, she returned to Minnesota, and "it's been full force since then," she says.
"I have been dancing all my life," Ramaswamy says. "But now it's with more intention and understanding of the breadth of the form. I think it was such a part of me that I didn't take the time to really look. Now it is completely a focused path."
Ramaswamy says the evening of dance she's preparing revolves around the idea of the divine existing in the everyday, as well as the essential truth, which she likens to her own story. "My journey wasn't as clear, and has become more clear," she says. "That's my life's truth and purpose."
IF YOU GO:
8 p.m. Saturday, January 25
The Ritz Theater