Shyamali: Sprouting Words

Audré Lorde cautioned: “Your silence will not protect you.” Shyamali: Sprouting Words explores how dissent fuels life force and growth, recognizes the courage of women who speak up and talk back to sustain communities against injustice, and celebrates women who refuse to be broken. Inspired by the courage of women around the world, “Shyamali” means “dark green” in Bengali, and invokes the resilience of grass, which springs up when trod upon.


“A soaring tribute to the global community of women who challenge oppression, often at great risk to their bodies and souls.…’Shyamali’ traces the evolution of belief in one’s personal power. Its three acts represent a journey from subjugation to freedom.…The dancing contained a multitude of emotions, from mourning and tenderness to focused ferocity.” –Caroline Palmer, Star Tribune

“Grounded in the exacting, mesmerizing odissi tradition….Thrilling an audience…Ananya and her dancers could be alluring and mysterious or fierce warriors from one moment to the next in this spellbinding 90-minute work of strength, agility, concentration and exotic beauty that became more compelling as the evening went on.” –Rick Chatenever, The Maui News 

“Sometimes a dance can be greater than the sum of its parts. I came away…feeling this was never truer. …Some truly inspiring dancing, particularly when the group yields to rhythmic patterns emerging from the score, showcase how Chatterjea, more than most contemporary Indian dance choreographers, has completely transformed her genre.” –Lauren Warnecke, Chicago Tribune

“Ananya Dance Theatre radiates energies of warriors, both ancestral and living. Remnants of past struggles experienced by womyn of color inform current constructions of armor and actions against the continued system(s) of oppression/repression. Not all heroes wear capes and not all soldiers wear camo.” –Aaliya Christina, The Dance Center, Columbia College Chicago

“Along with the visceral emotional performance by the dancers, the company’s unique dance technique is significant in communicating the variety of tones on stage. The mixture of three different movement traditions allows for vocabulary that is at once gestural and athletic. … Ananya Dance Theatre’s commitment to addressing issues of social justice through an innovative and multifaceted movement technique gives voice to perspectives that can often be overlooked in the dance world. ‘Shyamali’ demands your attention as an audience member and sends you on both an intellectual and emotional viewing experience that is effectively created by deviating from the norms of typically contemporary dance movement.” –Jordan Kunkel, See Chicago Dance



World Premiere: September 15, 2017, The O’Shaughnessy, St. Paul MN

Running Time: 92 minutes, no intermission

Concept, Choreography: Ananya Chatterjea

Collaborating Director: Marcus Young

Score Composition and Sound Design: Greg Schutte

Costume Design: Annie Cady

Lighting Design: Kevin A. Jones

Scenic Design: Joel Sass

Media Design: Darren Johnson, Northern Dawn Media

Dancers: Leila Awadallah, Lizzette Chapa, Ananya Chatterjea, Renée Copeland, Alexandra Eady, Kealoha Ferreira, Julia Gay, Sophia Hill, Felicia Perry, Jonathan van Arneman, Hui Niu Wilcox, Alessandra Lebea Williams

Goddess of New Dawns: Mankwe Ndosi Instrument of Light & Wind created by Douglas R. Ewart

Instrumental and Vocal Musicians featured in Recorded Score: Negest Alemayehu, Chastity Brown, Laurie Carlos, Renée Copeland, Michelle Kinney, Mankwe Ndosi, Pooja Goswami Pavan We are grateful to have worked with the late, brilliant Laurie Carlos in the past; we remember her with love as we also dance to her voice in this work. 

Production Manager: Emma Marlar

Stage Manager and Rehearsal Assistant: Toan Thanh Doan
















Shyamali is a tribute to all women across the world who have stood up against oppression, despite risk; who have constantly been at the edge of innovation as they have refused to be cowed; whose courage and persistence are historic even when they do not make it into the books of History; whose endless labor in dissent sustains their communities.

Standing in resistance continuously necessitates sacrifice, vigilance, strategy. And even as we celebrate the unwavering labor, ingenuity, and the softness of women across the world who stand up to injustice, we acknowledge the pain, anxiety, and trauma that come with this work.

Dancing Shyamali has taught us that dissent takes many forms, and the energy invested in each act of resistance is particular. Our creative process has brought us repeatedly to values of community, love, and solidarity that are at the heart of every grassroots movement. Our explorations in how to move like grass, soft, green, and forever returning, have brought home to us the magnitude of women’s work in dissent, across time and space.

Specifically, we owe our thanks to the women who have sustained Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, No Dakota Access Pipeline, Fees Must Fall, Hok Kolorob, and many other global resistance movements. Our gratitude to Cannupa Hanska Luger, the indigenous visual artist whose mirror shields, made for the Oceti Sakowin Water

Protectors at Standing Rock, inspired the last movement in Shyamali. To all of these leaders, we offer our greatest thanks and respect.

I thank my collaborators for their tremendous support in bringing this vision to life.

I am humbled by the countless contributions of my dancers without whom this work would be unimaginable.

To our audiences, thanks, and my poem*:

Standing in the scorching sun, we kiss the earth, hold each other sacred. We refuse the narrow lanes of hatred, spineless fear, violence of retribution. the closing of my imagination is outside of power’s reach. No, no, no, no, no. In radical love, I dissent. I affirm. Yes.

– Ananya Chatterjea

*Translated and recited by the dancers in Shyamali



Act I:          Unravelings at razor’s edge

Act II:        From the archives of our bodies

Act III:      Moving as grass




























“Shyamali: Sprouting Words” was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Production residency funded by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

General Operating support was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
















“Shyamali: Sprouting Words” is a National Performance Network/Visual Artists Network (NPN/VAN) Creation and Development Fund Project co-commissioned by the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh, PA, in partnership with the Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia, PA, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, Kahului, HI, the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA, The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN, and NPN. The Creation and Development Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). For more information:

“Shyamali: Sprouting Words” is supported by an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Imagine Fund, and The O’Shaughnessy. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.