Best Dance Company - 2012
Founded by Ranee Ramaswamy in 1992, Ragamala Dance has evolved into a company of international stature that performs the immensely complex South Indian dance form bharatanatyam. The company of seven women imbues an ancient art form, originally performed by female acolytes in Hindu temples, with contemporary vigor. The demanding technique takes over a decade to even begin to master. As dancers channel intricate rhythmic strands through slapping feet, pliant torsos, highly articulated hands, arms, even faces (there is a whole vocabulary of gestures for the eyes alone), the body moves in cross-rhythms, with contrasting energies (hard/soft, fierce/fragile). At the same time, these dancers must embody characters in Hindu mythology, animals, scenery, even complete weather systems. Until a few years ago, one went to Ragamala concerts to watch the extraordinary dancing of Ranee and her daughter Aparna Ramaswamy. These days, the rest of the company moves with the precision and clarity of dancers totally immersed in not only a technique but a world. While only three of the dancers are of Indian descent, all of them study the culture of India — from food to history to spiritual practices. And it shows in their dancing. From Tamara Nadel's richly expressive characterizations to Amanda Dlouhy's spirited buoyancy, each dancer makes her own vibrantly individual statement through an ancient grammar and syntax.