Dr. Alessandra Williams, dance artist-scholar-educator, has accepted an appointment as Assistant Professor in the Dance Department, Mason Gross School of the Arts, at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Dr. Williams is a dancer and scholar whose academic interests include dance and performance studies, Asian and African American culture, transnational feminism, queer of color theory, and comparative studies of race and ethnicity. Having joined the Minneapolis-based Ananya Dance Theatre to train in the company’s Yorchhā technique in 2006, she has performed in seven productions: Pipaashaa: Extreme Thirst (2007), Ashesh Barsha: Unending Monsoon (2009), Moreechika: Season of Mirage (2012), Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine (2015), Horidraa: Golden Healing (2016), Shyamali: Sprouting Words (2017), and Shaatranga: Women Weaving Worlds (2018).
Dr. Williams recently worked alongside artistic director Dr. Ananya Chatterjea and founding company member Dr. Hui Wilcox to submit their book manuscript Meditation on Dream, an anthology of poetic and scholarly essays on the relationship between choreography and race, gender, sexuality, and diaspora and indigenous frameworks. In other publications, she has theorized the choreography of David Roussève/REALITY dance company as a form of decolonizing alliances in Talking Black Dance Inside Out/Outside In, edited by Takiyah Nur Amin and Thomas DeFrantz (Conversation Across the Field of Dance Series XXXVI).
As Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellow, Dr. Williams earned a Ph.D. and M.A. in Culture and Performance at UCLA. Through the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, she finished her B.A. with honors in American Studies and Dance at Macalester College. From 2018-2019, she served as Inclusive Excellence Fellow in Women’s and Gender Studies and Theatre and Dance at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she choreographed two original pieces for the spring dance concert, and also served on committees supporting diversity and inclusion efforts. From 2016-7, she taught as Visiting Assistant Professor in the dance program of Carleton College.
Urban Bush Women Choreographic Fellowship Candidate Ananya Chatterjea (Ananya Dance Theatre) speaks with E. Gaynell Sherrod resulting in a “no-holds-barred portrayal of Chatterjea – a transnational feminist, choreographer, performing artist and scholar with exceptional acumen for creating transformational dance-theatre that challenges systemic injustice.”
In this post, the second in a five-part series of articles offering insight into the UBW 2018-2019 co-hort of choreographers redefining the world of dance today; Chatterjea talks with E. Gaynell Sherrod about her origins as choreographer and organizer and her desire to be authentically seen.
Ananya Dance Theatre’s Ananya Chatterjea will participate in the opening keynote of Dance/NYC’s 2019 Symposium at Hunter College, Feb. 22-23. The Symposium will consider the role of New York dance artists and their creativity in a changing United States. It will invite participants to investigate topics of transformative justice, the role of youth in activism and social change, increasing dance education for a thriving workforce, and radical practice, among others, in the context of a changing political climate and following CreateNYC, the City of New York’s first-ever cultural plan.
As the only gathering of its kind for the dance community in the New York metropolitan area, the Symposium aims to share information innovation and to stimulate awareness, interest, and ongoing engagement in dance and dance education. The 2019 Symposium will be hosted campus-style and make use of Hunter College’s expanding dance facilities and performance spaces for panel discussions, case studies, interactive workshops, a networking lunch, and more.
For Symposium overview, agenda, speakers, venues, and sponsors, click here.
When: Friday, February 22, 2019 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 23, 2019 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Where: Hunter College, 695 Park Ave, New York, NY 10065
Ananya Dance Theatre will participate in three dance festivals as part of its first tour to India, November 22-30, 2018: Aavejak Avaaz, New Delhi; Pragjyoti International Dance Festival, Guwahati; and Natya Ballet Dance Festival 2018, New Delhi.
The tour happens on the heels of October performances at the Bethlehem International Performing Arts Festival, Palestine, and Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond.
The festival title, “Aavejak Avaaz,” is a two language title with the first word coming from Hindi and the second from Urdu to reflect the syncretic society that India has been. The festival is presented by the Kri Foundation.
Ananya Dance Theatre’s “In Our Bodies Live Our Stories” (film 60 mins) at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
The preview of this ‘documentary film in the making’ captures excerpts from Ananya Dance Theatre’s visually striking performances over many years, against candid conversations that illuminate their journey and philosophy. It embodies the joy, struggle and resilience of women from global communities of color, articulating social justice through a distinctive language of Contemporary Indian Dance. Present for the Q & A will be Darren Johnson, Director and Filmmaker and the dancers of the Ananya Dance Theatre. (Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre)
The film will be presented in the Gulmohar venue at Habitat World, India Habitat Centre, Lodi Road, New Delhi, Thursday, Nov. 22, 7pm.
For queries: email firstname.lastname@example.org
This film is presented by the Kri Foundation.
Ananya Dance Theatre’s “Shaatranga” at Habitat World, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
This is the capstone choreography of the quintet that explores the Work Women Do. Choreographed by Ananya Chatterjea, Shaatranga (seven colours in Bangla) is specifically inspired by ancient Indian Ocean Trade routes that connected Asia, Africa, and parts of South America. It is also connected with shared practices and different methodologies of indigo dying. Central to this choreography is the question ‘How do we show up for each other?’ (Stein Auditorium, IHC)
Ananya Chatterjea is an internationally known feminist, a social justice warrior with a sharp mind and eloquent voice. Her work is both reflected as academic research and dance practice. She is committed to collaboration and community to take on the challenges facing the world. She dedicates this work, especially her solo section in it, to little Asifa.
Ananya Dance Theatre will present “Shaatranga: Women Weaving Worlds” in Stein Auditorium at the Habitat World India Habitat Centre, Lodi Road, New Delhi, Friday, Nov. 23, 7:30pm. Doors will open at 7:15pm (entry from Gate 3). Free and open to all. For queries: email email@example.com.
“Shaatranga” was commissioned by The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University with support from the Joyce Foundation.
This performance is presented by the Kri Foundation.
Ananya Dance Theatre’s performance is supported by the Ford Foundation.
Pragjyoti International Dance Festival (PIDF), an annual classical dance extravaganza in Guwahati, Assam, India, organized by Kalpa, a Society for Promotion of Literature, Art, Culture and Social Harmony, is celebrating a decade of its cultural journey this year.
On Nov. 25, the curtain raiser of the 10th PIDF will be held at Madhavadev International Auditorium in Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra, Guwahati. The curtain raiser will feature internationally recognized Ananya Dance Theatre, a contemporary Indian dance company based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The group is composed of artists of color who create performances about the lives and dreams of women around the world.
Ananya Dance Theatre will present “Shaatranga: Women Weaving Worlds.” The production was commissioned by The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University with support from the Joyce Foundation.
The Guwahati edition of the Festival will be in collaboration with the Kri Foundation. Ananya Dance Theatre’s performance is supported by the Ford Foundation.
In the second edition of The Natya Ballet Dance Festival, a host of accomplished and distinguished artists will reflect the myriad paths of dance in film, choreography, and experimental theatre, delving into the role of dance in narrative.
Ananya Dance Theatre will present a master class, 10:30am-1:30pm, Friday, November 30, 2018.
The class will be held at the Meghdoot Complex, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Mandi House, New Delhi.
The master class is presented by The Natya Ballet Dance Festival 2018 with Sangeet Natak Akademi.
Dance, Music and Theatre in the Sattras, the Medieval Monasteries of Assam in India: A Quiet Resistance to the Dominant Forces of Inequity of the Times
Shawngram Institute for Performance & Social Justice presents: A talk by Dr. Arshiya Sethi
Sunday, September 30, 3:30pm-5pm | This event is free and open to the public.
Dr. Arshiya Sethi
About 500 years ago, in the northeastern state of Assam in India, a quiet resistance happened to the then socially prevailing ideas of inequity, forced labour, and insecurity of life, via a faith that used dance music and theatre as worship. In the monasteries, the social divisions crumbled, human dignity was prized, and cultural creativity took root. New expressions in literary, plastic, and performative arts changed the face of the region forever. Political constraints have attempted to conscript these crucibles of cultural creativity through history, but never as severely or as successfully as in recent decades. This talk offers an overview of the journey of this creativity supported by an inclusive and humanising faith, and the challenges by political authority.
Independent scholar, Dr. Arshiya Sethi, twice a recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship, writes and speaks on cultural issues, in India and internationally. After three decades as Consultant, building tangible and intangible cultural equities, being dance critic, commentator on Dance and Music on Doordarshan’s archival National programme of Dance and Music for more than three decades, and then advisor on India’s national arts channel, she has established and runs the Kri Foundation, which promotes different ways of looking at the Arts, especially ‘Artivism’- Art directed at Activism. Her doctoral research has been on the dances of the Vaishnav monasteries of Assam called Sattras from which has emerged the eighth classical dance style of India, Sattriya. Her current scholarly research focuses on diasporic constituencies of dance, and through a multi-disciplinary lens, on cultural ecology at the intersection of politics and society, studying the ways in which artistic practices, especially dance, link with governance, gender, environment, cultural rights, identity issues and beyond, and social justice paradigms. She recently concluded a year long Post Doc attachment under the Fulbright fellowship at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Ananya Dance Theatre will present the world premiere of Shaatranga: Women Weaving Worlds, a 90-minute dance without intermission, as part of Women of Substance at The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, September 21-22, 2018. The work is the fifth in the company’s five-year series on the theme “Work Women Do.”
Shaatranga (which means “seven colors” in Bangla and is pronounced “SHA-trong-uh”) 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.
Choreographer Ananya Chatterjea uses two primary metaphors to explore relationships among global south communities linked by Indian Ocean trade routes that pre-existed colonization and slavery: Indigo, an important export/import on these trade routes across Asia and Africa, and blue jeans, whose ubiquitous presence in global commerce falls differently on our skin, mediated through histories of denim and indigo.
Shaatranga is Ananya Dance Theatre’s sixth production and collaboration with The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University. Executive Director Kathleen Spehar and Production Manager Kevin A. Jones are key partners in the detailed planning that leads to the production’s mix of interactive and concert elements. “Work Women Do” concludes with this production exploring women’s work with indigo and cotton, commissioned by The O’Shaughnessy with support from a Joyce Foundation Award.
Chatterjea’s choreography combines metaphor and poetry in Contemporary Indian Dance. Yorchha – the company’s remix of Classical Odissi, Chhau martial art, and Vinyasa Yoga – is a movement practice anchored by social justice as it invokes the spirit of Dakini, traditionally embodied by destruction, chaos, and ultimately transformation. Dakini lives in the possibilities of audiences’ and performers’ discomfort and insists that the role of women’s rage and their spiritual ecstasy be seen in the arc towards equity. This tumult resolves through the choreography that weaves ritualistic performance and dances of the gentle warrior.
ADT’s dancers and collaborators represent a range of ethnic, cultural, immigrant, and of color communities: South, South east, and East Asian, African American, Pacific Islander, Latinx, and mixed race. The ensemble’s composition as “women of color” is crucial, yet nuanced, including queer men of color and trans women of color.
Project collaborators are celebrated artists, including behavioral artist/collaborating director Marcus Young, composer Dameun Strange, scenic designer Chelsea Warren, media designer Darren Johnson, costume designer Annie Cady, lighting designer Kevin A. Jones, and composer/lyricist Queen Drea/Andrea Reynolds.
Tickets for Shaatranga: Women Weaving Worlds are $19-$29. There are discounts for groups, students, seniors, MPR and TPT members, and military. For more information and tickets, contact The O’Shaughnessy Ticket Office at 651-690-6700; summer business hours (through Sept. 1) are Mon.-Fri. 12-4pm; ticket office is located on the main campus of St. Catherine University at 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul. Tickets can be purchased online at theoshaughnessy.com.
Residencies and performances of Shaatranga will be presented at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, Oct. 26-27, 2018; Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersy, Feb. 1-2, 2019; Dance Place, Washington, DC, Mar. 30-31, 2019; John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Apr. 11, 2019; and Kelley-Strayhorn Theatre, Pittsburgh, May 10-11, 2019.
ABOUT ANANYA DANCE THEATRE
Celebrating 14 years of linking dance and social action, Ananya Dance Theatre is a Contemporary Indian Dance company composed of artists of color who create performances about the lives and dreams of women around the world: People Powered Dances of Transformation™ at the intersection of artistic excellence and social justice. Dancers and collaborators represent many cultural communities in Minnesota: South Asian, Chinese, Hmong, African American, Pacific Islander, Latinx, and mixed race. The company premieres one major work annually, and offers touring performances, classes, workshops, and dialogues. In June 2018, ADT took up residence in its new facility, a women of color-centered space of embodied practice, located at 1197 University Ave. W. in Saint Paul.
World Premiere: September 18, 2014, The Cowles Center for Dance, Minneapolis
Neel is about women’s dreams: dreams that unleash tremendous joy; shattered dreams; the imaginative labor that conjures up the most unlikely but exciting dream-visions; and dreams of wholeness and freedom that sound the call for revolution.
World Premiere: September 18, 2015, The O’Shaughnessy, St. Paul
Inspired by the Seed Sovereignty Movement and farming practices in local communities of color, choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, visual artist Seitu Jones, and behavioral artist Marcus Young have partnered to produce an evening length story reflecting and honoring the age-old work of women who cultivate, nurture, and protect land and agriculture with emotional and blood labor to create a just and sustainable food system for our shared future.
World Premiere: September 16, 2016, The O’Shaughnessy, St. Paul
The year: 2053. A patient, dark of skin, has been checked into urgent medical care in a state of collapse. She self-identifies as “the child of many continents.” Follow her journey as she travels into the recesses of memory and imagination to conjure a magical healing experience that invites all into its joy-filled dance. Choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, the dancers of Ananya Dance Theatre, collaborating director Marcus Young, sound artists Greg Schutte, Queen Drea, Pooja Goswami, and Tenzin Ngawang, visual artist Alison Hiltner, and lighting designer Kevin A. Jones create an original dance theater production inspired by the remarkable properties of turmeric, the root ingredient of many cuisines and recipes that heal from within!
World Premiere: September 15, 2017, The O’Shaughnessy, St. Paul
Shyamaliwas inspired by the courage of global women of color who speak up to sustain communities and whose dissent fuels life force. It celebrates women who refuse to be broken and invokes the resilience of grass, which springs up even when trod upon.
ABOUT THE O’SHAUGHNESSY
Located on the scenic main campus of St. Catherine University, The O’Shaughnessy is one of the Twin Cities’ premiere venues for showcasing the arts. Since opening in 1970, The O’Shaughnessy has presented a dazzling array of both local and national performing arts companies, including the Minnesota Orchestra, The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, James Sewell Ballet, TU Dance, The Indigo Girls, Joan Baez and countless others. In addition, the venue hosts public events, student and community performances and features multicultural programming with an emphasis on dance, music and theater. Known for its dedication to artistic development and collaboration, the venue has premiered over 400 new works by local and national artists. The O’Shaughnessy is the home of the Women of Substance series, which showcases the artistry and innovative work of women, both prominent and emerging in their fields, whose voices need to be heard. theoshaughnessy.com
ABOUT WOMEN OF SUBSTANCE
For more than 20 years, the Women of Substance series has showcased women’s ideas, amplified their voices and honored their places on life’s stage. These artists, thinkers and change-makers challenge the status quo, make audiences to look at the world in new ways, and instill a deeper understanding of self, purpose and action. Through art and ideas, the series ignites women’s innate power, consciousness and sense of justice, motivating and inspiring others to take action and lead lives of substance. The Women of Substance Festival magnifies the mission, values and spirit of St. Catherine’s University.
Shaatranga: Women Weaving Worlds Commissioned by The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University
with support from the Joyce Foundation
Choreography: Ananya Chatterjea
Shaatranga is supported by an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Imagine Fund, the Marbrook Foundation, and the Seward Community Co-op. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Metro Regional Arts Council and the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. Generous operating support is provided by McKnight Foundation.
Ananya Dance Theatre, in partnership with Andrea Reynolds aka Queen Drea, is a fiscal 2018 recipient of a Cultural Community Partnership grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ananya Dance Theatre’s Shawngram Institute for Performance & Social Justice is a place of just-dancing. It is a women of color-centered space of embodied practice where dancing engages us in healing. We regularly offer classes and workshops in the aesthetic and working methodology of our company, and share our belief in choreography as a mode of shining light on seldom-seen stories through various activities. “Shawngram” means resistance in Bangla. For us, Shawngram is a philosophy that allows us to stick to the ground even as we resist injustices and aspire toward community, healing, and beauty through art-making.
Mailing Address: P. O. Box 2427, Minneapolis, MN 55402-0427
Street Address: 1197 University Avenue West, Saint Paul, MN 55104
Ananya Dance Theatre and Public Functionary present a two-part convening, in which both organizations will host cross-disciplinary community dialogues with Twin Cities artists and cultural producers to investigate how artists of color participate as unseen members of the avant-garde. We will explore how mainstream structures define understandings of innovation, cultural specificity, community-engaged artistic processes, and what makes work contemporary.
These dialogues will serve as follow-up to past conversations hosted separately by Ananya Dance Theatre and Public Functionary, and will be hosted at their respective art and community spaces in Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
The convening and conversation events are invitational.
PART 1: Artistic Methodology | Sunday, September 23 / 10am – 1pm
What kinds of aesthetic decisions emerge when centering social justice within the creative process? What kinds of different designs are produced? How is this different from thinking of social justice as thematic overlay, or as part of outreach connected to audience development? What are the implications of these choices in reorganizing the broader artistic fields?
This first of a two-part conversation is hosted by Ananya Dance Theatre in partnership with Public Functionary with local and national partners. We will hear from artists and arts organizers so we can understand the particular creative practices that have emerged from social justice methodologies. The conversation, organized as a circle, will make space for multiple voices and perspectives and a range of experiences with social justice art-making methodologies.
Presentations by: Dameun Strange, Chamindika Wanduragala, Marcus Young & Ananya Chatterjea.
PART 2: Curatorial Methodology | Friday, November 9 / 6pm – 9pm
Public Functionary 1400 12th Ave NE, Minneapolis
The second convening hosted by Public Functionary will build on themes and ideas that emerged in September. We will explore how we can conceptualize art as a vehicle for social change in a new, more relevant framework. The format will center around a family style meal, artist presentations and open conversation.
What are our pre-conceptions about art-making and arts organizing as a vehicle for social change? How can these assumptions be challenged, experimented with, or pushed in entirely new directions? How do we advance our ability to distinguish different practices and see the range of work happening from artists working within the bounds of tradition, to artists deconstructing traditional practices and creating newly emergent aesthetics?
Why does cultural specificity deny indigenous and POC artists the visibility to re-imagine their aesthetics and innovate in their own models? How can we experience/present artistic work on its own terms? How can we support a growing awareness for justice and implement equitable models of curation and participation?
Join us from September 22-25, 2018 for ArtChangeUS REMAP: Twin Cities, an extraordinary opportunity to experience, expand, and connect! Immerse in artistic workshops with visionary artists and learn new approaches to cultural equity and community benefits.
REMAP begins with two days of participatory workshop intensives, September 23-24, led by stellar artists who are innovating methodologies at the nexus of art making and social change. Participants will include artists, organizers, educators, change makers and all who would like to add more creative methods to their work. Featured workshop artists are: choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, visual artist Seitu Jones, visual artist Rosalie López, ceramicist Cannupa Hanska Luger, playwright/director Meena Natarajan, theater director Dipankar Mukherjee, vocalist Rebecca Mwase, multidisciplinary artist Junauda Petrus, vocalist Ron Ragin, musician Dameun Strange and performing artist Carlton Turner.
REMAP will culminate in a forum, September 25, on equitable, sustainable arts-driven change, featuring a roundtable and small group conversations based on ArtChangeUS Cultural Community Benefits, introduced by Creative Many Director of Creative Industries Cézanne Charles. The roundtable will feature organizers, artists and grant makers from the Twin Cities and around the US, including: Penumbra Theatre Artistic Director Sarah Bellamy, The Saint Paul & Minnesota Community Foundations Program Officer Sharon DeMark, HRK Foundation Executive Director Kathleen Fluegel, Teatro del Pueblo Artistic Director Alberto Justiniano, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Program Director for the Arts Maurine Knighton, Artspace President Kelley Lindquist, The McKnight Foundation Arts Program Officer & Director of Artist Fellowships Arleta Little, Pangea World Theater Artistic Director Dipankar Mukherjee, Mu Performing Arts Artistic Director Randy Reyes, Jerome Foundation Program Director Eleanor Savage, Bush Foundation Community Creativity Portfolio Director Erik Takeshita, Grantmakers in the Arts President & CEO Eddie Torres, ArtChangeUS Director Roberta Uno, New Native Theater Founder & Artistic Director Rhiana Yazzie and others. Artistic share by visual artist Dyani White Hawk and performance by Ikidowin Youth Theater Ensemble.
ArtChangeUS REMAP: Twin Cities will take place in Minneapolis and St. Paul, two US cities in Mnisota Makoce on Dakota land. Minnesota is transforming: 19% of its residents are people of color, compared to about 1% in 1960. The population of color in the Twin Cities region is expected to be at least 40% by 2040. REMAP was planned in collaboration with Ananya Dance Theater and Pangea World Theater.
ArtChangeUS is committed to creating an inclusive environment. This includes providing accommodations to make our event more accessible. If you need accommodations to fully participate in REMAP: Twin Cities, please include your needs on the registration form or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Content Advisory: Workshops and events at ArtChangeUS REMAP: Twin Cities may include explicit conversations about class- and race-based conflict, the Middle Passage, and substance abuse. Certain workshops will foster a supportive environment for personal story sharing.
We offer a vision and reflection of shared humanity and use art to call audiences into civic dialogue to re-imagine the world and build community.
Our activities are rooted in a commitment to a women-of-color framework that recognizes shared experiences and differences, goals of social justice and equity, and invites communities into artistic work where women of color occupy the center.
This area will be the 24′ x 42′ dance floor in ADT’s new home.
Our non-mainstream dance form and company model reflect “a United Nations of difference” among our artists, project participants, and audiences – different in gender, race, class, sexuality, age, and nationality/background.
Our dancers, artistic collaborators, and audiences represent the ethnic, cultural, immigrant, and of color communities that call Minnesota home: Indigenous, South, Southeast, and East Asian, Pacific Islander, African American, Latinx, Palestinian, Afro-Caribbean, African, and mixed race.
We combine the metaphor and poetry of Contemporary Indian Dance with social justice themes to create original dances that tell stories about the lives and dreams of women around the world and inspire audiences through visual and emotional engagement.