Ahead of Parivaar, the curatorial team features three artistic families in Minnesota

By Schubert Club

Ragamala Dance Company, Directors: Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, Choreographic Associate: Ashwini Ramaswamy

Footage from Parivaar. Photo credit: Caitlin Hammel | “Lineage,” filmed in Minnesota

Led by Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, Ragamala Dance Company enthralls audiences across the globe. For over 30 years, the Minnesotan company has brought their unique vision of Bharatanatyam to the Lincoln Center (New York), the National Centre for Performing Arts (Mumbai, India), and more. The company was founded by mother Ranee. Today, she is Co-Artistic Director of the company with her older daughter Aparna (Executive Artistic Director) and younger daughter Ashwini (Choreographic Associate and Communications Director). Family is essential to their work. 

“When you grow up in a family, you learn shared values,” says Aparna in an interview with filmmaker Caitlin Hammel. “When you study together, when you come from this place where we believe so deeply in the work we’re doing and care for each other so much, those values really permeate the whole process.” 

“There is a feeling when I’m with my mother and sister. It’s intangible — it’s a high,” says Ashwini Ramaswamy in an interview for NPR with journalist Marianne Combs. “When I watch them onstage from the wings, when I’m onstage and I see them watching me from the wings, when we’re together on the stage — it’s incredible. And I don’t know any other way that I would have that feeling if we didn’t work together.”

Ragamala Dance Company will be appearing on film.

Pangea World Theater, Directors: Meena Natarajan and Dipankar Mukherjee

Lake Street Council, Minneapolis, Minnesota

For more than 25 years, Pangea World Theater has created timely and urgent art-activist theatrical works in Minnesota. Through their multi-disciplinary productions and outreach, Pangea does on-the-ground work to heal and strengthen the community. At the helm of Pangea are spouses Meena Natarajan, Executive/Artistic Director, and Dipankar Mukherjee, Artistic Director.

“Working with family is being in an unconditional creative support system. It also comes with ferocious honesty and affirmation,” says Dipankar. “We are both culturally rooted and also believe fiercely in spaces of solidarity. Our common hunger to search for what we do not know and exploration in the area of our chosen field helps us create a space of listening to each other.”

Meena and Dipankar first connected in their teen years through their shared love of theater.  In a Star Tribune interview with journalist Rohan Preston about becoming this year’s McKnight Distinguished Artist, Dipankar says, “This award is also for Meena, who has been there every step of the way.”

Nirmala Rajasekar, Shruthi Rajasekar, and Naadharasa

Photo credit: Jayasree Balasubramaniam | Como Pavilion, Saint Paul, Minnesota

One of the world’s top Saraswati veena players, Nirmala Rajasekar splits her time between Minnesota and India when not touring elsewhere. She serves as Co-Chair of the American Composers Forum. Nirmala’s organization Naadharasa is a music learning center and a community outreach nonprofit. Her daughter Shruthi, a composer and vocalist, is following in her footsteps.

“I always saw Shruthi’s keen interest in music, but being her mother and her teacher, I felt it important to let her find her passion, artistic voice, and choice of career on her own,” says Nirmala.

“A lot of my learning happened informally,” says Shruthi. “As a child, I would accompany my mother to her rehearsals in town with Ragamala, with Pangea, with Ananya Dance, Katha Dance, Aniccha Arts. I grew up watching a lot of strong women make strong art.” 

Nirmala adds, “Wherever I make music with my family — on stage with Shruthi or at home with my multi-talented son Neeraj — it is pure joy.”

“Performing with my mother today is both thrilling and daunting,” Shruthi says. “She is my guru, after all! What’s very special, though, is getting to watch this person I adore from an up-close vantage point— to sit right next to her and see her enter the zone. Few daughters have the privilege of seeing their mothers in all of their shades: nurturing at home, and powerful at work. I treasure this view immensely.”