Photo by Ed Bock
Ranee has been a choreographer, performer, and teacher of Bharatanatyam, the classical dance of South India, in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, since 1978. She founded Ragamala Dance Company in 1992 and currently serves as Co-Artistic Director, Choreographer, and Principal Dancer along with her creative partner (and daughter) Aparna Ramaswamy. As dancemakers and performers, their creative vision merges the rich traditions and deep philosophical roots of their Indian heritage with their hybridic perspective as first generation Indian- Americans.
Throughout her career, Ranee’s work has merged the classical language of Bharatanatyam with a contemporary Western aesthetic to create timeless pieces that freely move between the past and the present. Her training in Bharatanatyam under iconic dancer/choreographer Alarmél Valli in Chennai, India, is the bedrock of her creative aesthetic.
Ranee currently serves on the National Council on the Arts, appointed by President Barack Obama. Among her awards and honors are a 2020 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship (Italy), 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship, 2017 Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Research Fellowship (Italy), 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a 2012 United States Artists Fellowship, a 2011 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, a Bush Fellowship for Choreography, and 15 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Choreography and Interdisciplinary Art, among others.
Ranee’s choreographic work has been commissioned by the Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), Lincoln Center (New York), American Dance Festival (Durham, NC), the Harris Theater (Chicago), Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College (New Hampshire), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and the Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), among others, and supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, MAP Fund, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, New Music/USA, USArtists International, and the Japan Foundation. She has developed work in residence at MANCC (the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography), at the Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth, and during an NPN residency at The Yard.
In addition to her creative work, Ranee is committed to inspiring a new generation to think and act innovatively, sparking conversations that articulate new possibilities for cultural hybridity in the 21st century. She has served as guest lecturer at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and abroad, and has been a featured speaker and panelist for such forums as the Dance/USA National Conference, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, and the Body Voices: Reimagining Culture, Community, and Politics conference hosted by NYU Abu Dhabi. In Minneapolis/St. Paul, Ranee has educated hundreds of students in the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam.
Dancing Lab: What Constitutes American Dance? (2023)