Since its inception in 1921, Opening Nights Performing Arts has become a venue for performing artists to dazzle audiences at Florida State University. Thanks, in part, to a creative residency hosted by the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) at FSU, the Tallahassee community was treated to a performance that did just that.
It was a packed house for the world premiere of Written in Water on October 5th, 2016 with an encore performance the following evening on October 6th, 2016. Audiences were treated to an experience that was equal parts as interesting as it was beautiful. The dancers appeared to transition seamlessly between each musical nuance giving it the appearance of one never ending spectacle. Dressed in elegant and eye catching attire, each stood apart from the nearly complete darkness surrounding the stage along with the projections of snakes and incredible artwork. Overall, this performance was a magical experience for all who attended.
In developing Written in Water, we played the game hundreds of times, using the floor as the board and our bodies as the game pieces. The projected images are from original paintings by Chennai-based visual artist Keshay, specially commissioned by Ragamala for this work. Written in Water was developed through an ongoing collaboration in which choreography, music, and visual art constructed simultaneously in a constant artistic dialogue that spanned two years.
-Ranee and Aparna Ramasamy
Featuring an ensemble of accomplished dancers and musicians, Written in Water was performed by the Ragamala Dance Company spearheaded by Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy. In addition, the music was composed by Amir ElSaffar, known for his distinctive alchemy of contemporary jazz trumpet and Iraqi Maqam, and renowned South Indian composer Prema Ramamurthy. Projected on the stage floor was a large-scale projection of a Paramapadam game board— leading inspiration behind Snakes and Ladders— which the dancers navigated throughout the night. By blending choreography, musical arrangement, with lights and shadows the piece served to demonstrate the heights of ecstasy and the depths of longing in Hindu and Sufi thought.
While in residence at MANCC in March 2015, Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy worked on numerous creative and technical aspects of Written in Water. They met with FSU designer Zach Cramer who assisted them in the early conceptualization of the lighting design, and with FSU scholars Associate Professor in Classics, Dr. Svetla Slaveva-Griffin and Dr. Claudia Liebeskind, Associate Professor of History to discuss the text Conference of the Birds and make connections to the Sangam literature of classical South India. Ranee and Aparna Ramasamy invited FSU School of Dance students to participate in the development of the work during the residency through a MANCC class and taught students some traditional dance approaches via a master class sponsored by Opening Nights Performing Arts.