Last weekend, the Liquid Music Series packed the Lab Theater for its latest amalgamation of performing artists of different disciplines and traditions, coming together in the spirit of collaboration and play.
The series has been a provocative and popular addition to the Twin Cities since 2013. It sadly ends its partnership with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra at the end of this year, and while curator Kate Nordstrum has said the program will live on, though what that will look like remains uncertain.
The core of "Let the Crows Come" was a solo created and performed by Ashwini Ramaswamy, a founding company member with Ragamala Dance Company. Like the work of Ragamala, Ramaswamy's solo, created independently for this Liquid Music project, was rooted in the gestural storytelling of Bharatanatyam dance. With precise hand movements and graceful articulations of the body, Ramaswamy's use of imagery and narrative was accompanied by the soaring voice of Carnatic singer Roopa Mahadevan and two other classical Indian musicians, percussionist Rohan Krishnamurthy and violinist Arun Ramamurthy, performing Prema Ramamurthy's original score. Additionally, Brent Arnold joined in with a subtle cello addition.
Ramaswamy's solo was followed by two others by Alanna Morris-Van Tassel and Berit Ahlgren, respectively. Their movements were drawn from Ramaswamy's, so you saw certain gestures repeated, elongated, morphed and transformed as the other dancers interpreted them and made them their own.
There were some wonderful moments throughout the evening. These moments evolved slowly at times or they'd come back as a quick recall. For instance, at one point Morris-Van Tassel recreated a fast-moving flapping hand gesture that Ramaswamy initiated early on in the piece. Morris-Van Tassel's interpretation altered the move considerably, and yet its source was clearly recognizable.
The riffing of the Indian classical music, too, provided some wonderful results when Arnold and DJ/composer Jace Clayton took the reins. Arnold's melancholy cello melodies, accompanied by the Indian musical ensemble, provided a ravishing accompaniment to Morris Van-Tassel's grounded fluidity. Clayton, in turn, looped melodies created earlier in the evening and mixed them up with pop music and electronic sounds to bring the score into new terrain for Ahlgren's solo.
The most compelling sections were when the three dancers performed together, because the transference of impulse was so clearly evident, rippling from one body to the next. This collaboration will live on as the artists perform at future engagements. No doubt the initial premise and exchange will deepen and grow as the artists continue to perform together.