POSTED BY CAROLINE PALMER
Alarmél Valli (pictured) is an internationally celebrated Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer from Chennai, India but she has a special place in her heart for Minneapolis. It is, after all, the home of Ranee Ramaswamy and her daughter Aparna Ramaswamy, co-artistic directors of Ragamala Dance. Valli is ther guru, and on Saturday night at The Cowles Center she presented her solo concert, “Kavya Tarangini,” for a nearly sold-out house, with the Ramaswamys and members of Ragamala seated in a row close to the stage, bobbing their heads admiringly with each virtuosic moment (and there were many).
That night Valli spoke often from the stage, eloquently explaining the poetry, history, contemporary perspective and rich emotional journeys behind each of the four works she showed over the course of nearly two-and-a-half hours. “See the music, hear the dance,” she said, referring to the rhythms generated by her small “orchestra” made up of Nandini Sharma Anand (vocals), Shaktivel Muruganantham (percussion), Natarajan Sigamani (violin) and C.K. Vasudevan (cymbals and vocals). The artist’s hands, so delicate and expressive while she performed, continued their intricate motions even as she spoke.
Valli also recalled her first teaching visit some 30 years ago to Minneapolis. Aparna was just 9 at the time but even then the best in the class, Valli said of her longtime student, who was named one of “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine in 2010 and a 2011 Star Tribune Artist of the Year together with Ranee. During this current visit, Valli will choreograph a new work for Aparna.
After the program the diminutive Valli, wrapped in a shawl, came into the lobby and was immediately surrounded by fans, many of them tween girls, wanting her autograph and a photo. She obliged each request with a generous smile, her star power in full radiance. Outside the Cowles the street was teeming with tweens leaving the Justin Bieber concert at the Target Center. What different cultural experiences, just a block apart from each other.