Legendary Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer Alarmél Valli will be traveling to the Twin Cities this weekend to perform at an event at the Cowles Center for Dance & Performing Arts. Valli was a teacher to Ragamala Dance's artistic directors, Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy. On Friday, there will be a documentary screening about Valli by noted Indian filmmaker Lasya Kavya. Saturday's performance features Valli accompanied by a live orchestra.
Valli is known for her individual aesthetic. "It's very poetic," Aparna says. Valli uses the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam as a language, but sees the metaphor within it. According to Aparna, Valli knows how to bring the art form alive onstage. "Her body sings," she says. "When she dances, you hear the dance and see the music."
Photo Courtesy Ragamala Dance
Both Aparna and Ranee have been studying with Valli for over 25 years. "She started coming here in 1983," says Aparna. "We met her here in 1984. I was a very young child."
Aparna, who was only eight years old at the time, impressed Valli. The master teacher invited her to come and study with her in India. Both mother and daughter ended up traveling there to study with her, and have returned year after year since then.
Because the Ramaswamy's have studied with the same teacher, they have a very unified vision and aesthetic. Even though Ranee had studied dance before meeting Valli, she started over with the new teacher. "We believe that even if you are established in your career, your relationship with your teacher is lifelong," Aparna says.
Friday's documentary, The World of Alarmél Valli, premiered last year in India, and is by well known documentary filmmaker Lasya Kavya. "He came to her with this idea for this project," says Aparna. Valli has been very involved with editing and postproduction. The film has had screenings throughout India, and has won the National Award on art and culture. This will be the film's U.S. premiere.
"What is so inspiring about her is the way she takes an ancient art form and makes it completely relevant and contemporary," Aparna says. "Even when Valli is using older poems, they can still resonate with us today."
After Saturday's performance, Valli will be setting a dance for Aparna, who will then travel with Valli for the next month as she gives performances around the U.S. Then in January, Aparna will perform the new piece throughout India.
IF YOU GO:
The World of Alarmél Valli screens 7:30 p.m. Friday, October 19 "Kavya Tarangini: An Evening of Bharatanatyam by Alarmel Valli" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, October 20 $12 Friday; $24 Saturday/$36 for both events