Written in Water is a large-scale multi-disciplinary work in which dance, music, text, and painting provide a layered approach to artmaking and improvisatory live performance that aims to provoke emotional and visceral responses from the performers and audiences alike. It uses the 2nd century Indian board game Paramapadam (which was the original inspiration for the more familiar game Snakes and Ladders), as a fertile environment on which the work unfolds.

Drawing parallels between the psychological/moral complexity of the game, the rich Persian epic Conference of the Birds, and Sangam poetry of south India, Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy will bridge past and present to create a world formed by Indian and Sufi philosophy, spirituality, and thought, driven by the element of chance.

An original score interweaves South Indian Carnatic music composed by Prema Ramamurthy with composer Amir ElSaffar’s distinctive alchemy of Western music and Iraqi Maqam. Ranee and Aparna envision this collage of intricate narratives, music, and dance unfolding upon a large physical rendering of a Paramapadam game board that will be projected on the stage floor/back wall. Chennai-based visual artist Keshav Venkataraghavan will create the board.


Written in Water is commissioned by the Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (Lead Commissioner) and Opening Nights Performing Arts at Florida State University, and is made possible, in part, by a 2016 Joyce Award from the Joyce Foundation, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New Music/USA (made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Baisley Powell Elebash Fund, Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation), and the Carolyn Foundation.
The creation of Written in Water is supported in part by choreographic and production residencies at The Yard in Martha’s Vineyard, the Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi, the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, and the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts in Minneapolis, MN.