April 30, 2015
Reaction: Ananya Dance Theatre residency & performances at Links Hall in Chicago
Links Hall, a Chicago-based partner of the National Performance Network (NPN), presented Ananya Dance Theatre’s production of “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming” for three performances, April 17-19, 2015. Artistic Director Ananya Chatterjea and company dancers also presented master classes and workshops for members of Chicago’s dance community during a week-long residency.
Soyini Madison, Professor, Performance Studies, Anthropology, African Studies, Northwestern University, April 30, 2015:
“I loved this work for many reasons: the precision of its artistry and technique; the boldness of its politics and truth telling; the brilliance of its multiple layered dance forms and temporalities; the speechless beauty of its staging and theatricality – colors in motion, how the choreography of faces, hands, and feet combined to make the body transcendent – dreams of impeccable horror and radical redemption. …
“I was shaken after the performance. It is true that I might not have known – in exact or specific terms – every symbolic gesture or every moment in ‘Neel’s’ overarching historical/contemporary time and context, but the work of brilliant art does not require or expect that I know it all – only sophomoric, didactic, inexperienced and bad performance does this. Your work does not insult the audience, your work does not insult the craft of dance (or your own intelligence and that of your dancers) by telling us how and what to think. Instead you OPEN the gates of brutal truths – you unleash them from their hiding places – you translate hard truths (unspeakable truths), you give them story and form and motion for us to feel, know, believe – be disturbed and moved by what we must know and will not forget after we leave your company’s performance.
“Those gun shots crossed epics – I hear them in the West Bank, in Afghanistan, in West Africa, in Columbia, in Ferguson, Missouri, in the every where places where life is destroyed at the hands of the spiritless. The tragedy of life lost, hope forgotten, memories unnamed, and the unrelenting desire for belonging is the script of the world and you danced it into our consciousness. The fact that we ARE our dreams and that a woman’s imagination is the life-blood of her soul is a birthing of new paths and futures that only comes out of the wombs of women. This is an existential fact that Ananya Dancers not only showed us, but also reminded us through dream story and through a performance of imaginings enshrined in radical love – love that surpasses time and space to make us strong beyond our means – beyond our own individual history, even our own singular body – the strength of the multitudes that foment revolution. …
“I wept at the end of your show because it ‘revolutionized me’ again. It reminded me of who I am, and what I am here to do, because I forget sometimes. ‘Neel’ reminded me of the power of art to change minds and feelings, to build community, to love, to believe in the possibilities of our dreams and that our strength of belonging is beyond measure. The Revolutionaries throughout history that I have read all seem to have one saying in common: revolutions begin with thoughts and feelings. ‘Neel’ made us think and feel abundantly, intelligently, and beautifully. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.”
Laura Molzahn, chicagotribune.com, April 19, 2015:
“Freely interpreting her trademark blend of Odissi dance, yoga and an Indian martial art through the lens of contemporary choreography, Chatterjea is often ingenious. She shapes Indian dance’s acute angles — sharply articulated knees, wrists, elbows, spines — into intricately entwined puzzles in slow-moving, face-to-face duets. And though the traditional meanings of mudras (hand positions) are generally unknown in the U.S., harshly splayed fingers fanning across a face or flicked fists still convey emotion.
“Also stirring is the pounding of nearly two dozen feet in unison. In contrast to Indian dancers’ usual steely control, these performers can be wild and athletic in the nritta (pure dance) sections, yelling and abandoned.
“Chatterjea herself is a riveting performer, with the kind of authority only years of practice can give. Her abhinaya, or expressive movement of the face, is masterly. She exhibits both steely control and the ability to effect subtle, flickering shifts in emotion. Her solo, mourning paradise lost, is the most affecting moment of ‘Neel.’ … [A]ll the performers do a remarkable job in this challenging choreography.”
Lauren Warnecke, artintercepts.org, April 22, 2015:
“This was the stuff of nightmares. And, at times, it was really difficult to watch. …
“[T]he piece exemplified a balance of passion and pain, further reinforced by a large, diverse cast of women and hints of folklore from a potpourri of cultures. And yet, the dance was choreographed through a rather specific lens of contemporary Indian dance. Ananya’s namesake, Artistic Director Dr. Ananya Chatterjea, created intriguing movement that somehow remains true to her roots in classical Indian dance, and her solo performance mid-way through the first hour was a force to be reckoned with.”
Matt De La Pena, seechicagodance.com, April 21, 2015:
“The final product is probing, if not alternately moody in its tone.”