Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass

Tushaanal choreographs stories of the systemic violence associated with the mining control, and distribution of gold. Here, gold signifies itself specifically, and also invokes the “conflict minerals,” tungsten, tatalum, tin, and gold, mining for which has caused a trail of destruction in many communities, including mass rapes in Congo, the forced eviction by police of families in Papua, New Guinea, and the continued violence of apartheid in South Africa. Gold is also currency, a status symbol that leads to unnecessary dowry deaths in South Asia. Tushaanal, “fires of dry grass” that are difficult to put out and, metaphorically, fires of an inconsolable affliction, brings these different stories together and asks audiences and performers to rethink the value they place on such elements and critique the practices that surround their production.


“A full-evening piece that alternately shimmers and scorches with fervent intensity. …Chatterjea’s choreography initially radiates beauty and extravagance. …But greed is a destructive force, and it gradually infects the proceedings. The performers pursue the shiny objects around them until the gold becomes more burden than blessing. …While the dancers struggle to find something of worth untainted by blood or money, Carlos offers a final observation: Glitter is ‘the beautiful replacement of fear.'” – “All that glitters: Themes of gold and fire fuel powerful new work by Ananya Dance Theatre,” September 9, 2011, Caroline Palmer, Star Tribune


World Premiere: September 8-11, 2011, The Southern Theater, Minneapolis, MN

Running Time: 90 minutes, without intermission

Conception & Choreography: Ananya Chatterjea

Co-Created: Laurie Carlos

Composer: Greg Schutte

Musicians/Vocalists: Laurie Carlos, Mankwe Ndosi, Pooja Goswami Pavan, Michelle Kinney

Scenic & Costume Design: Annie Katsura Rollins

Lighting Design: Mike Wangen

Dancers: Sarah Beck-Esmay, Ananya Chatterjea, Renée Copeland, Kenna Cottman, Alex Eady, Gina Kundan, Lela Pierce, Brittany Radke, Mette Rowley, Chitra Vairavan, Hui Niu Wilcox, Nagest Woldeamanuale

Production & Stage Managers: Michala Cornell, Jessica Elhert, MacKenzie Beck-Esmay

Sound Technician: John Marks

Some of Us Have Lives as Women: Laurie Carlos

Rising: Chitra Vairavan, Renée Copeland, Hui Niu Wilcox, Kenna Cottman, Sarah Beck-Esmay, Lela Pierce, Ananya Chatterjea, Gina Kundan, Mette Towley, Brittany Radke

Death by Glitter: Chitra Vairavan, Newest Woldeamanuale, Lela Pierce, Renée Copeland, Brittany Radke

Gold-flecked: Kenna Cottman, Ananya Chatterjea

Mining: Chitra Vairavan, Renée Copeland, Hui Niu Wilcox, Kenna Cottman, Sarah Beck-Esmay, Lela Pierce, Ananya Chatterjea, Gina Kundan, Negest Woldeamanuale, Mette Towley, Alex Eady

Street Shimmer: Company

Golden Empress: Hui Niu Wilcox, Renée Copeland, Brittany Radke

Filigree: Lela Pierce, Renée Copeland, Ananya Chatterjea

Flames on Silk: Ananya Chatterjea, Laurie Carlos

Motif: Company

Golden Moonbeams: Sarah Beck-Esmay, Chitra Vairavan, Lela Pierce

Tides of Coin: Brittany Radke, Mette Rowley, Gina Kundan, Newest Woldeamanuale, Laurie Carlos, Kenna Cottman, Hui Niu Wilcox

The Beautiful Reflection: Lela Pierce, Chitra Vairavan, Ananya Chatterjea

All the Girls in France: Laurie Carlos

Fire burn: Company

Artistic Director’s Note: By Ananya Chatterjea

Thank you for coming to witness Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass. As we have progressed through this artistic journey, it has become so clear that the fires are both real and metaphoric. Indeed, Tushaanal is also the fire of a terrible affliction,  a tremendous sadness at the deaths of so many women over greed, over the endless desire for gold.

In 2010, Ananya Dance Theatre launched a quartet of works exploring the multiple ways in which women in global communities of color experience and resist violence. Specifically, we wanted to dance about the systemic recurrence of violence that rend our shared histories as women. The four evening-length pieces that are part of this series explore violence through the paradigms of mud, gold, oil, and water, naturally occurring elements and resources, all of which have been mined and harnessed in ways that have directly or indirectly lead to horrific histories of violence.

Tushaanal juxtaposes stories of the “discovery,” mining, and industry of gold from across the world. Here, stories of the beauty of gold in several cultures intersect with stories of the apartheid regime of South Africa, of dowry deaths across South Asia, of the murder of anti-mining activists in Guatemala, and of mercury poisoning resulting from artisanal gold mining in Chile and Nigeria. There are also stories of women’s intimacies and friendships; of sex workers who work around mining sites, watching out for each other as they try to survive; of women’s hearts trapped by jealousies sparked by gold; of the cruelty of empresses; and of love.

Projects of this scope are inevitably the combined endeavors of many dedicated individuals. I want to thank the dancers in this project for their powerful work and tremendous generosity: their work, memories, thoughts, commitment have provided me invaluable support in this complex creative journey. To them, and to my brilliant collaborators, in particular to Laurie Carlos, I owe deep gratitude. It is also a joy to introduce to our audiences the visual artist and poet Nimo Farah, who we invited to create the exhibit in the lobby, exploring the themes with which we have been working.

As we perform Tushaanal, we remember Deb Torraine, an artist and activist in our local community, a performer with ADT, and, always, a great supporter of this company and our work. Deb, we remember you with love.

Director’s Note: By Laurie Carlos

In this we look with eyes half shut and in the fullness of our own stories …we look …peek …our bodies mingled in the dust of myth…in the crush of market …in the howl of dancer. …a silhouette mandated in flames …we speak …past the terms of the deal …our power measure of the dream.