May 22, 2013

Q & A: What is Northern Spark? What is "Dance of A Thousand Water Dreams"? What is "USA Projects"?

Ananya Chatterjea Photo by V. Paul Virtucio

Ananya Chatterjea
Photo by V. Paul Virtucio

Q: What is the Northern Spark festival?

A: Northern Spark is an annual, all-night art festival, created by This year’s festival, the third, will begin at 8:58pm, Saturday, June 8, 2013. It will end at 5:20am, Sunday, June 9. Some Northern Spark activities, including those by Ananya Dance Theatre, will begin earlier and occur at set times throughout the night (keep reading for more information about that).

Q: Where is the Northern Spark festival taking place?

A: Northern Spark will take place in and around St. Paul’s historic Union Depot train station. Union Depot is located at 214 East Fourth Street (between Sibley and Wacouta streets) in downtown St. Paul’s Lowertown district.

Q: What kind of art are we talking about?

A: What kind AREN’T we talking about?! More than 70 artists and organizations will have installations, some of them stationery and fixed in place, and some of them – like Ananya Dance Theatre’s – will move around. View a list of projects here.

Q: Who attends an art festival in the middle of the night?

A: You will be surprised! Last year, 40,000 intrepid souls made the scene – a 60% increase from the year before. You can join them easily because there are no admission fees for anything in the festival – it’s all free. Check the schedule here.

Photo: V. Paul Virtucio

Photo: V. Paul Virtucio

Q: How does Ananya Dance Theatre’s “Dance of A Thousand Water Dreams” fit into the festival?

For four years, Ananya Dance Theatre has examined issues of systemic violence against women of color in the context of converting naturally-occurring elements of land, gold, oil, and water into commodities. We will present the fourth and final, full-length production in this investigation, “Mohona: Estuaries of Desire,” built around water themes, at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul, September 20-21.

As a prelude to that epic conclusion, we will present “Mohona: Dance of A Thousand Water Dreams” in the Northern Spark festival, June 8-9. This free, public performance promises to be epic and is imagined in partnership with leaders from the Indigenous People’s Task Force and many wonderful artists, including Michelle Kinney and Nick Gaudette from the Cherry Spoon Collective, Mankwe Ndosi, Annie Katsura Rollins, and Dorene Day, along with the fabulous dancers from Ananya Dance Theatre, and of course, YOU!

Ananya Dance Theatre's Twitter hashtag for Northern Spark = #sprk17 Photo by V. Paul Virtucio

Ananya Dance Theatre’s
Twitter hashtag for Northern Spark = #nspk17
Photo by V. Paul Virtucio

Our festival “installation” will be a three-part processional performance, inspired by the imagination of water in indigenous cosmologies. (1) Our performance will begin at 7pm with an evening water purification ritual at Lambert’s Landing on the Mississippi River, conducted by Sharon Day and the Indigenous People’s Task Force. It then moves into a processional dance in which the public is invited to participate. The dancing procession, up Sibley Street from the river to the Union Depot plaza, will be led by lanterns of the water goddesses and accompanied by musicians from the Cherry Spoon Collective and poetry by Mankwe Ndosi. (2) A version of this processional dance will recur at 11:40pm, this time with candles. (3) It also will recur at dawn (4:20am), with dancers and audience traveling back to the Lambert’s Landing where we mark a new beginning in our relationship with the Mississippi River. Full schedule here.

Q: You said there are three parts to “Dance of A Thousand Water Dreams,” at 7pm, 11:40pm, and 4:20am. Do I have to attend all of them?

A: Not at all. We hope you will be there for all three and will want to take in the rest of the festival in-between times, but we understand if only one or two segments work for you.

Photo: V. Paul Virtucio

Photo: V. Paul Virtucio

Q: I have heard I should learn the choreography ahead of time. What’s that about?

A: We invite you to participate with us in the four movement segments: “Awakening,” “River Ancestries,” “Water Bodies,” and “Shifting Course.” To help you do that, we have posted a 7-1/2 minute instructional video online that you can practice in the privacy of your home. Or – join us at the Union Depot from 6pm to 8pm on either Wednesday, June 5, or Friday, June 7, and we will help you learn the moves in person.

Along with the movement, there is some simple text that we will recite, printed here to help you memorize it:

Awakening: “Open your eyes / let the tears fall / reach from your heart / and touch your forehead”

River Ancestries: “wave wave wave wave water drop / water sparkle water sparkle open cross”

Water Bodies: “move the water around your head / push the wave and SPLASH!”

Shifting Course: “clap clap / gather your friends / become the river / and let it flow”

Q: What is USA Projects?

A: USA Projects is an online fundraising appeal we are using to raise money for our participation in Northern Spark.

Q: I thought you said the Northern Spark festival is free?

A: The festival activities are free, but it costs us something to put it on. Ananya Dance Theatre needs to raise at least $4,355 by Tuesday, June 11. You can help by donating any amount – from $1, $5, $10, to the whole $4,355! With 20 days left, we are 30% of the way to our goal. Learn more and donate.

Q: What happens if it rains for Northern Spark?

A: Rain or star shine – Northern Spark will happen, although some activities might have to be altered. It is not going to rain.

We thank our institutional sponsors at the University of Minnesota:

Global SpotlightInstitute for Advanced StudyInterdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change