‘Written in Water’: An ancient Indian board game comes to life at NYUAD

The show explores an early form of the classic snakes and ladders game, and a 12th-century Sufi poem

Ragamala Dance Company
Opening Nights performance
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The Ragamala Dance Company is coming back to the Arts Centre at NYU Abu Dhabi next month, bringing its multidisciplinary show Written in Water to the Red Theatre, a co-commission of the Arts Centre. The show, which will take place on March 21 and 22, will also be its Middle East Premiere.

After featuring in the Arts Centre's first season in 2015, the Bharatanatyam company returns with an entrancing show – an exploration of the Indian board game Paramapadam and the 12th-century Sufi poem The Conference of the Birds, which was partially developed in residence at NYUAD. Paramapadam is an early version of the board game snakes and ladders, which will be presented on stage through digital projection.

Conceived and choreographed by artistic co-directors Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy with music by Amir ElSaffar, the show offers a splendid spectacle as dancers navigate large-scale projections of snakes and ladders and original paintings by Chennai-based visual artist Keshav and Minneapolis artist Nathan Christopher.

Leading the musical ensemble is composer Amir ElSaffar – another returning artist to the Arts Centre – who brings a distinct amalgam of Iraqi maqam and South Indian Carnatic music. The show has been well received. The Minneapolis Star Tribune called the work "truly magical", while the Tallahassee Democrat wrote: "Written in Water unfolded like a dream – a feast for the eyes, ears and heart".

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Bill Bragin, executive artistic director at the Arts Centre at NYUAD, said: “When Ragamala performed in our inaugural season as our first dance presentation, it created such a tremendous response we immediately had to add a show to meet the demand. Audiences had a rapturous reaction to Ragamala’s gorgeous combination of deeply rooted classical Bharatanatyam and their contemporary approach to presenting the work.

While at NYUAD, they brought together Written in Water's creative collaborators for the first time to explore the piece in an important early workshop. We're thrilled to welcome the company back to present a piece that has been touring with Abu Dhabi's imprimatur to wide acclaim."

Written in Water by Ragamala Dance Company will perform at the Red Theatre at NYUAD on Wednesday, 21 and Saturday, March 22 at 8pm. For information, go to www.nyuad-artscenter.org