By: June Vail

June Vail

How is it that our species has created such lively and varied music and dance traditions, with just the standard equipment—two arms, two legs, a torso and a head? We respond to—and produce—rhythms and movement from profoundly human needs.

While I was teaching courses in dance and cultures in the 1980’s, the video producer JVC put out a thirty volume anthology of world dance.  Before ordering the set, I viewed the company’s thirty minute trailer, a compilation of dance and music performances filmed in their native settings. As one form morphed into the next, moving around the globe, I was transfixed by the gradually changing forms, and finally inspired by clear confirmation of our fundamental human connections, from Alaska to Spain and Cambodia, to Egypt, South Africa, and Brazil.

Although American audiences became acquainted with Indian music decades ago, through the Beatles and Ravi Shankar, classical Indian dance from south India, bharatanatyam, may be unfamiliar. The fifth and final performance in Portland Ovations’ innovative series Seeking Resonance, by the Ragmala Dance Company of Minneapolis, is titled Sacred Earth. Performing to live music, the dancers conjure interconnectedness among peoples, and harmony between mankind and nature. The company explains that the dancers, “create a sacred space, to honor the divinity in the natural world and the sustenance we derive from it.”

Usually a solo form, and historically related to temple sculptures and Hindu rite, bharatanatyam here is danced by the six member Ragmala Company. Two of the dancers, mother and daughter Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy, direct the troupe. An hour long, Sacred Earth is visually rich with costumes and sets, and musically fascinating. Translated from temple to stage, the performance ritual combines contagious energy with timeless technique, and secular and spiritual themes that resonate with contemporary audiences.

Looking forward to finding inspiration again, in the spectacular finale Seeking Resonance!

Ragamala Dance Company: Sacred Earth • Thursday, April 13, 2017 • 7:30 PM • Westbrook Performing Arts Center

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Tickets will be available at the door at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center

June Vail is professor emerita of dance at Bowdoin College.

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