September 6, 2011

Ananya's Movement Vocabulary

By Camille LeFevre

For years, I had the pleasure of reviewing Ananya Dance Theatre as a dance critic. Today, I have the greater pleasure of being the Director of Public Relations for the company.  Last spring, at Ananya’s insistence (she has a way of saying, “Camille, please, will you do this for me,” that’s so beguiling, I can’t say no), I participated in her Saturday morning warm-up/technique class that she leads for her dancers.

Using the Indian classical-dance form Odissi as her choreographic starting point, Ananya has innovated a movement style that articulates social critique while advancing artistic excellence. Her original choreographic model for practice and performance—generated on the women of color who were ADT’s founding members—transforms the company’s factual research and story sharing into metaphor and movement with the power to changes viewers’ lives—as you’ll witness during “Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass.”

Because it had been years since I’d taken a dance class of any kind, I warned her: Ok, but I’m only going to watch. So when I showed up in yoga pants and a t-shirt, ready to move (I had decided, well why not?), she was pleased. I positioned myself in the back of the room so I could watch the professionals, like Chitra, who embodies Ananya’s technique so thoroughly, and with such tremendous strength and grace, Ananya sometimes has her take over the class. And so, I flailed my way through. And experiencing Ananya’s singular, distinctive movement vocabulary was a revelation.
Understanding this technique or movement vocabulary is essential to a greater understanding of ADT’s work. So what did I learn? The movement was an intriguing combination of yoga, balletic fluidity, powerful transitions, intricate gestures and rigorous footwork! Now I know how, why, and from where these incredible dancers derive their strength and expressiveness, powerful feminity, intensity and truthfulness.