Ragamala Dance Company - Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim
Leave the day-to-day. Enter into the world of immortality. By Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy. A Hop co-commission and proscenium stage premiere. In a ritual that accepts life and death, embodies the ancient and the contemporary, the stage is transformed into the holy site of Varanasi, India. Ragamala Dance Company evokes elaborate rites imbued with spiritual meaning. Elaborate pathways around the space summon the metaphorical crossing place with its sacred pilgrimage routes, the Ganges River and the patron deity Shiva. Age-old traditions are shared in a new homeland. Time is suspended. Humans merge with the divine. Based in the South Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam, Ragamala Dance Company returns to the Hop as a culminating moment in their multi-year residency. Fires of Varanasi is created by the mother-daughter duo Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy in response to the death of Ranee's father away from his homeland. A devout Hindu, he wished for his ashes to be scattered in the Ganges River in the sacred city of Varanasi, India. In this theatrical reimagining, they expand upon the birth-death-rebirth continuum in Hindu thought to honor immigrant experiences of life and death in the diaspora. French scenic and lighting designer Willy Cessa transforms the stage into a scene of iconic stairways and landings along the river banks. The full-length work features 11 dancers traversing the sacred waterway and completing the ritual ablutions set to an original, recorded score. The transformation of the soul after cremation becomes a powerful reminder of human resilience and the tenacity of people and cultures across time.