Shaatranga: Women Weaving Worlds

"Shaatranga" (seven colors) asks the question, "How do we show up for each other?" and suggests that global women who engage in world-making are refusing to be seen in only blue/indigo – the pain, sorrow, and defeat that has historically framed them. Instead, they share their multifaceted stories that express not only their pain, but their joys, laughter, and the work they do, that goes largely unrecognized, to create positive force in their communities and the world.

World Premiere: September 21, 2018, The O’Shaughnessy, St. Paul MN

Commissioned by The O’Shaughnessy, with support from the Joyce Foundation

Running Time: 95 minutes, without intermission

Concept, Choreography: Ananya Chatterjea

Stage Director: Marcus Young

Overall Composition & Sound Design: Dameun Strange

Specific Section Compositions: Andrea (Queen Area) Reynolds and Greg Schutte

Vocalists: Andrea (Queen Area) Reynolds, Pooja Goswami Pavan, Tenzin Nawang, Ananya Chatterjea, Leila Awadallah, Laurie Carlos

Poetry: Ananya Chatterjea

Text for Beautiful Reflection written and performed by Laurie Carlos

Costume Design: Annie Cady

Lighting Design: Kevin A. Jones

Scenic Design: Chelsea Warren

Technical Scenic Director: Zeb Hults

Assistant Scenic Designer and Property Manager: Sara Sarvestani

Media Design: Darren Johnson, Northern Dawn Media

Animation: Tim Quinlan

Dancers: Leila Awadallah, Pizzette Chapa, Ananya Chatterjea, Renée Copeland, Alexandra Eady, Kealoha Ferreira, Julia Gay, Felicia Perry, Hui Nui Wilcox, Alessandra Lebea Williams, Laichee Yang

Production Manager: Emma Marlar

Stage Manager: Toan Thanh Doan

 

SHAATRANGA: WOMEN WEAVING WORLDS

A dance in four movements

I

Voyage

Shipwreck

Desolation

II

Golden Deer

Capital’s snare

Anthem

III

My Hands So Blue

Rituals of mourning

Conjurer of memories

Boat peoples

IV

We are the ones we have been waiting for *

Dancing to heal

Our indigo love

*This section is inspired by and pays tribute to celebrated black, queer, feminist poet June Jordan, who presented her poem We are the ones we are waiting for, at the United Nations on August 9, 1978, commemorating the embodied protest of 40,000 South African women and children against the dompass laws of apartheid in 1956.

 

Choreographer’s Notes

Shaatranga (seven colors in Bangla) brings to a culmination our quintet exploring Work Women Do. The subtitle “women weaving worlds” is inspired by what the research these past five years has revealed over and over again: that womxn work painstakingly and innovatively to sustain and transform our worlds, reimagine painful pasts, and materialize hopeful futures. To all the womxn whose work continues to hold us today, we offer our gratitude.

Shaatranga is specifically inspired by ancient Indian Ocean trade routes that connected parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. It is also inspired by shared practices and different methodologies of indigo-dyeing that existed in these communities. The history of indigo is particularly poignant for me: forced to cultivate indigo instead of food crops by British colonizers, farmers in my home state of West Bengal rose up in revolt in 1859. This Indigo Revolt, where may farmers were ultimately put to death after a mock trial, was an early spark for the anti-colonial movement.

Indigo is also connected to the production of blue jeans, now commonly worn all over the world. But the fabric of our blue jeans, woven with our histories, sits differently on our skins. We invite all of you to share your indigo story in our Sari Jeans installation. May the layerings of our different histories enable us to see each other in important ways, and to ask the question at the heart of this project: How do we show up for each other?

Repeatedly, our creative process for this work has been rocked by news of violences and injustices from across the world. We hold this pain, struggle, and devastation in our hearts as we dance Shaatranga. My poem, Anthem, inspired by a collaborative performance with Twin Cities celebrated artist, Douglas Ewart, emerges from the depths of our shared pain: how can we stand for justice, with each other, and in the name of love? I dedicate my dancing of Anthem to Asifa Bano, murdered by hate on January 17, 2018, at  7 years of age.

The Navigation Star we use in the piece is our abstract imagination of a compass that enables us to remain on the path of a complexly woven notion of justice. It is inspired by our visit to the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Hokule’a double-hulled canoe, which docked at Maui the very week we were on tour there. Witnessing the lashings and the precise intersections of ropes and wood pieces used to assess direction in keeping with the star system suggested the value of relationships to time, space, and each other, especially during long and difficult journeys. We believe that the healing of our Navigation Star is the shared vision of a transnational vision of justice and love: work womxn do.

–Ananya Chatterjea