South Indian Dance / Live Music / Digital Projection / Snakes and Ladders

Classical bharatanatyam meets digital projection in Written in Water, which brings the Indian board game, Paramapadam (Snakes & Ladders), to vivid life. With a live score that interweaves maqam with Carnatic music, the choreography unfolds upon large-scale projections of original paintings by Chennai-based visual artist Keshav.

  • Conceived and choreographed by Co-Artistic Directors Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy
  • Music composed and performed live by Amir elSaffar.

Written in Water is an exploration of the Indian board game Paramapadam an early version of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ – and the 12th century Sufi poem The Conference of the Birds. Both the board game and the text reflect an intricate allegory of the way in which a universal paradigm – that of the seeker on a journey to overcome human failings and find ultimate truth – is experienced within these spiritual traditions.

Dancers activate the space by negotiating snakes and ladders to connect the human with the transcendent and reveal mysteries within the self.

Watch the trailer

Composer Amir ElSaffar leads a musical ensemble with a distinct alchemy of Iraqi, jazz, and Carnatic instruments. Large-scale projections of original paintings by Chennai-based visual artist Keshav and Minneapolis artist Nathan Christopher are woven throughout the choreography.

‘Written in Water’ unfolded like a dream — a feast for the eyes, ears and heart.” – Tallahassee Democrat

“The work’s power and the company’s artistry created a lexicon of sound, vision and movement that allowed each audience member to project their own story onto the stage.__“The troupe, led by the mother-daughter team of Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, perform what may be the artistic directors’ most artistically daring creations in its 25-year existence. ‘Written in Water’ is yet another fine example of Ragamala’s ever-evolving artistry.” – Big Dance Town blog

In the piece, ancient Hindu and Persian traditions were woven into a fabric that illuminated their similarities and brought out the beauty of each, with music blending Indian and Iraqi sounds with hints of jazz. The way that the Ramaswamys were able to intertwine abstraction within the tight architecture of the Bharatanatyam form was truly magical.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune