MINNEAPOLIS COSTCO MEMBER Ranee Ramaswamy
moved to the United States in 1978, but she didn’t
leave her native India behind.
“When I came to this country, the Indian community wanted me to teach this art form to their children,” she says.
The art form is Bharatanatyam, the oldest discipline
in Indian dance, dating back more than 2,000 years.
Ramaswamy studied it as a child and young adult.
“The art form has two different aspects,” she explains.
“One is rhythmic. Indian music
is one of the most complex
rhythmic systems in the world.
So there is this exciting rhythm
where the feet are used and the entire body is used in
rhythm. [There are] 28 single-handed and 24 double-
handed gestures, which become a language along with
facial expressions and emotional interpretation to tell a
story. So the dancer becomes an actress telling stories
and rhythmically using every part of their body—the
eyebrow to the toe.”
Ramaswamy started a company, Ragamala Dance
( www.ragamaladance.org), in 1992. “The art form is
such a beautiful, unique, strong art form that we
decided that it needs to be seen by the general public,
not just the Indian audience,” she says.
The company is a family affair. Ramaswamy runs it
with her daughters, Aparna, who serves as artistic
director, choreographer and principal dancer, and
Ashwini, who handles marketing and grant applications, and also dances in the company.
They see their work as more than entertainment
from another culture. “It’s not about being Indian or
American or Japanese,” says Ramaswamy, who has
been nominated to serve on President Obama’s Council
on the Arts. “It’s about being moved by the music, by
the movement, by this whole universe that we create
on stage.”—Steve Fisher E D
TINY SUPERHEROES, an organization
started by Seattle Costco member Robyn
Rosenberger, empowers children facing
serious or incurable diseases by turning
them into superheroes. Rosenberger and a
small group of volunteers sew mono-grammed capes, which lift kids’ spirits
and encourage them to use “
superpowers” to beat their health conditions.
Rosenberger, mom of a healthy 1-year-
old, was inspired to start Tiny Superheroes
after reading about 1-year-old Brenna, who
had a rare, debilitating skin disease. After
Brenna’s family enthusiastically accepted a
cape, word about Tiny Superheroes spread
through social media and Robyn’s blog
( www.tinysuperheroes.com), where she
features the caped recipients.
Tiny heroes of hope
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“We fully believe that by raising
awareness, their cures will be found.
[Cures are] dependent on funding for
more research. It’s equally important
that they not only get a cape, but also that
we feature them on our blog,” she tells
Many recipients sleep with their capes
or affix them to their wheelchairs. One
10-year-old took his cape to the hospital
while undergoing surgery. While there, he
met a 3-year-old who was also being
treated, and he let the toddler wear his
cape for the duration of his stay. “Even our
tiny superheroes are empowering other
tiny superheroes!” Rosenberger says.
Capes can be purchased through the
blog, or children can be nominated to
receive a cape. Donations fund capes for
nominated children. Since January, the
group has sewn more than 1,000 capes,
including 10 for young victims of the Boston
Marathon bombings.—Hana Medina
Tablet or smartphone?
Scan or click the photo
to the left for clips
of a Ragamala Dance
Tablet or smartphone?
Scan or click the photo to the
right for a video about Tiny
Superheroes. (See page 5 for