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 email@example.com
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.
Ananya Dance Theatre hosted Curatorial Conversations: Multiplicitous Contemporary, a convening led by Ananya Chatterjea and Michèle Steinwald, Sunday, September 17, at Open Book in Minneapolis.
Attendees at Multiplicitous Contemporary, Open Book, Minneapolis MN, Sept. 17, 2017. Photo by Toan Thanh Doan
This gathering was designed to engage discussion about the definitions of “contemporary dance” in response to ADT’s production of “Shyamali: Sprouting Words,” bring in perspectives from artists of color, and build a pluralistic, shared understanding of the term and its applications in curatorial practice.
Multiplicitous Contemporary was a focused, exploratory dialogue on curation with invited national leaders in the field of dance and performance, ready to investigate the ways in which racism structures understandings of “innovation,” “tradition,” “cultural specificity,” and community-engaged artistic process.
The discussion explored shared understandings of what constitutes “contemporariness” for artists of color and artists inventing new forms within culturally specific traditions, and interrogated the mismatch between such approaches and knowledge resources in the arts sector.
Multiplicitous Contemporary was supported in part by the McKnight Foundation and The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University. This activity is funded, in part, by an appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature with money from the State’s general fund.
In addition to Chatterjea and Steinwald, attendees included Philip Bither, Senior Curator, Performing Arts, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis MN; Eyenga Bokamba, Executive Director, Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis MN; Moira Brennan, Program Director, Multi-Arts Production Fund, New York NY; Marianne Combs, Arts Reporter, Minnesota Public Radio News, St. Paul MN; Amorette Crespo, Program Associate, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles CA; Shoshona Currier, Director, Bates Dance Festival, Lewiston ME; Thomas DeFrantz, Professor, Department of African and African American Studies, Professor, Program in Dance, and Professor, Theater Studies, Duke University, Durham NC; Colleen Furukawa, Vice President-Programming, Maui Arts & Cultural Center, Kahului HI; Anna Gallagher-Ross, Curator, Fusebox Festival, Austin TX; Melanie George, Audience Education & Dramaturg, Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts, New York NY; Tracie D. Hall, Director, Culture Program, The Joyce Foundation, Chicago IL; Brooke Ellen Horejsi, Assistant Dean/Executive Director, UtahPresents, University of Utah, Salt Lake City UT; Liz Ivkovich, Graduate Research Fellow & Teaching Assistant, and Education, Communication & Research Coordinator, University of Utah Sustainability Office, Salt Lake City UT; Arleta Little, Program Officer & Director of Artists Fellowships, McKnight Foundation, Minneapolis MN; Dayna Martinez, Artistic Director, World Music, Dance and the International Children’s Festival, The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, St. Paul MN; Sara C. Nash, Program Director, Dance, National Dance Project, New England Foundation for the Arts, Boston MA; Wendy Perron, Dancer, Choreographer, Teacher, Writer, Editor & Dance Addict, New York NY; Carla Peterson, Director, The Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, Florida State University School of Dance, Tallahassee FL; Gary Peterson, Managing Director, Ananya Dance Theatre, Minneapolis MN; Shelley Quiala, Vice President, Arts Education & Community Engagement, The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, St. Paul MN; Ramon Rivera Servera, Department Chair, Associate Professor, and Director of Graduate Studies, Performance Studies, Northwestern University, Evanston IL; Eleanor Savage, Program Director, Jerome Foundation, St. Paul MN; Arshiya Sethi, Fulbright-Nehru Postdoctoral Fellow from India, Independent Scholar, Managing Trustee, Kri Foundation; Kathleen Spehar, Director, The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University, St. Paul MN; Carlton Turner, Executive Director, Alternate ROOTS, Atlanta GA; Laurie Uprichard, Senior Curator of Performing Arts, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans LA; Marya Wethers, Dancer and Independent Manager, Producer & Curator; Director of International Initiatives, Movement Research, New York NY; and Marcus Young, Behavioral & Social Practice Artist, Collaborating Director, Ananya Dance Theatre, Minneapolis MN.
Members of Ananya Dance Theatre also joined the conversation: Leila Awadallah, Renée Copeland, Alexandra Eady, Kealoha Ferreira, Julia Gay, Felicia Perry, Hui Niu Wilcox, Alessandra Williams, Lizzette Chapa, and Toan Thanh Doan.
Chatterjea and Steinwald will host a condensed version of Multiplicitous Contemporary at the National Performing Arts / Visual Arts Network annual meeting in San Francisco in December 2017, and in two separate sessions at the APAP Conference in New York in January 2018.
(BOSTON, MA) The New England Foundation for the Arts has awarded $1,795,000 through the National Dance Project (NDP) to support the creation of 20 new dance works that will tour the United States.
Now in its third decade, NDP is widely recognized as one of the country’s major sources of funding for dance. NDP’s signature approach provides funding for both the creation and touring of works. A panel of national dance leaders, including artists and presenters, selected these projects out of 126 competitive applications through a two-round process. The choreographers and companies from around the country include nine U.S. artists who are first-time NDP grant recipients as well as one international collaboration. Each project will receive grants ranging from $40,000 to $45,000 for the creation of the new work, plus $10,000 in unrestricted general operating support for each artist recipient. A total of $665,000 will be awarded to U.S. organizations to present these works when on tour.
“As a result of program and field research, NDP is moving forward with program design changes, including increased professional development, piloting a community engagement fund, and ways to incentivize presenters in areas that have not seen as much dance, and we continue to celebrate the core of the program: creation and touring of new dance work” said NEFA executive director Cathy Edwards.
NDP has invested more than $36 million in funding to artists and organizations to strengthen partnerships and bring dance into communities across the U.S. To date, NDP has supported the creation of over 412 new choreographic works that have toured to all 50 states and Washington, DC, reaching over 2.8 million audience members.
NEFA’s National Dance Project is generously supported with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with funding for special initiatives from the Barr Foundation, the Boston Foundation, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the French American Cultural Exchange, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, The Reva and David Logan Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The 2017 NDP Production grant recipients are:
Ananya Dance Theatre, Minneapolis, MN – Shyamali: Sprouting Words
Cynthia Oliver Co. Dance Theatre/COCo, Urbana, IL – Virago-Man Dem
David Roussève/REALITY, Sherman Oaks, CA – Halfway to Dawn
Eiko Otake, New York, NY – The Duet Project: Distance is Malleable
Ephrat Asherie Dance, New York, NY – Odeon
Everett Company, Providence, RI – Good Grief
Flyaway Productions, San Francisco, CA – The Wait Room
jumatatu poe & donte beacham, Philadelphia, PA – Let ‘im Move You: This Is a Formation
Kimberly Bartosik/daela, Brooklyn, NY – I hunger for you, (working title)
Kinetic Light/Alice Sheppard, Los Altos, CA – DESCENT
LEVYdance, San Francisco, CA – RUSH
Michelle Ellsworth, Boulder, CO – Post-Verbal Social Network
Netta Yerushalmy, New York, NY – Paramodernities
ODC/Dance, San Francisco, CA – Path of Miracles
Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre, Miami, FL – Make Believe
Rosy Simas Danse, Minneapolis, MN – Weave
Sarah Michelson, New York, NY – (Iteration)/\
STREB Extreme Action Company, Brooklyn, NY – Love is Boxing
Union Tanguera/Kate Weare, Lyon, France/New York, NY – In Love I Broke Beyond
Yin Mei Dance, Port Washington, NY – Peony Dreams: On the Other Side of Sleep
The New England Foundation for the Arts invests in the arts to enrich communities in New England and beyond. NEFA accomplishes this by granting funds to artists and cultural organizations; connecting them to each other and their audiences; and analyzing their economic contributions. NEFA serves as a regional partner for the National Endowment for the Arts, New England’s state arts agencies, and private foundations. Learn more at www.nefa.org.
Ananya Dance Theatre will host a Marketplace exhibit booth at the Arts Midwest Conference in Columbus, Ohio, August 28-31.
Gary Peterson, managing director, Ananya Dance Theatre, will meet you in Booth #827 of Battelle Hall, Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Available for touring: “Shyamali: Sprouting Words” • NPN Touring Support Available
Photo by V. Paul Virtucio
Ananya Dance Theatre will present the world premiere of “Shyamali: Sprouting Words” as part of Women of Substance at The O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University, St. Paul, September 15-16, 2017. The work is the fourth in the company’s five year series on the theme “Work Women Do.”
Shyamali is a 90-minute dance that explores how dissent against oppression fuels life force. Inspired by the courage of women around the world to refuse silence and sustain communities against injustice, “Shyamali” means “dark green” in Bengali, and invokes the resilience of grass, which springs up when trod upon.
Shyamali is structured in three acts and questions the audience’s relationship to the stage. Act One invites community members, drawn from workshop participants, on stage to witness as dancers enter from the auditorium. A moment of co-creation with the local community, the interactions with the dancers are spontaneous. A vocalist calls for renewal out of loss, and guides audience members to their seats.
Act Two unearths “moving as grass,” women rising up, fast footwork in protest, female intimacy/love as political action, and reckons with the emotional toll of being in continuous dissent.
The final act draws upon Chatterjea’s time among Standing Rock water protectors, and pays homage to the power and potential of peaceful, ceremonial, and spiritual protest with looping phrases, abstract mudras, and yogic breath work as performers take their stand among the audience.
“Shyamali: Sprouting Words” is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation 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 Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). The Forth Fund is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For more information: www.npnweb.org.
In addition to our home theater, residencies and performances have been confirmed at all four venues, along with a confirmed presentation at UtahPresents! at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
We are creating Shyamali to work artistically with a minimum of eight dancers, though the full 13 performers are available when possible. Our tour ensemble will include eight performers (includes Chatterjea) and a production manager who will direct load-in/load-out and call light and sound cues.
Available for touring: “Shaatranga: At the Edge of New Worlds”
Ananya Chatterjea • Photo by Ryan Stopera
“Shaatranga” will premiere in Fall 2018 at The O’Shaughnessy, St. Paul. This dance will be the capstone of Ananya Chatterjea’s five-year exploration of the theme, “Work Women Do.” As ancient trade routes across Asia, the Indian Ocean, and silk routes map the spread of cotton and indigo through colonial to contemporary times, the production and distribution of blue jeans serves as metaphor for the journeys of women of color throughout history to achieve justice.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org • 612.486.2238.
Carlton Turner is all about creating narratives: true narratives that challenge lazy assumptions about the world and what art and artists are—narratives that confront false limitations on what art can say and how it can change the world. Since 2001, Turner has worked with Alternate ROOTS, a regional arts membership organization based in Atlanta; he is now its executive director. He brings to the job a combination of skills: fundraising, arts administration, experience as a touring artist, community activism, and fostering artists and culture-makers. He keeps an eye on history and society in order to catalyze conversations and progressive ideas. The goal: to create a new narrative about culture. Arleta Little, arts program officer for the McKnight Foundation, says: “For me, Carlton demonstrates the capacity of culture to craft character and to create community.”
Carlton, Ananya Chatterjea, artistic director of Ananya Dance Theatre in the Twin Cities, has said that in addition to being deeply supportive of artists, you are “more than an artist, [you are] a platform builder.” Do you think that description fits?
When she says platform, it fits—in terms of creating platforms for changing age-old conversations. We are talking about shifting policy, equity in the arts; about understanding colonialism and looking at long-term racial disparities and how those things have an impact on arts ecosystems.
Are you a working artist now?
Part of my current role is as a touring and a working artist. Part of my work is to maintain my identity as an artist. It helps me to maintain integrity—what the work is about. The further I get away from that, the more I drift away from being an advocate for artists. That’s why I continue to engage my skills as an artist and pursue the development of things that speak to my soul.
If platform fits, what are some of those platforms? How do they fit in today’s landscape of arts and society?
In the world of yesterday, we were working from a singular narrative, and arts have been, to this point, advanced on that singular narrative. All voices were not honored with the same equity and on the same platform.
Today, the conversations have to be a little more based in analysis—analysis of how capitalism works, how patriarchy works, how government works, and how movements work. What we are dealing with today is based on a continuum of issues and challenges that have never been reconciled. That is evidenced by what happened at Standing Rock, for example—invaded and burned to the ground and people arrested.
You mention Standing Rock and talk a lot about intersectionality. Where do you see the intersections today? Where is the best leverage for change?
Intersectionality is the place where we find strength, find the challenges and interconnectedness. It is where I find that my own challenges [as a person of color] are connected to age, LGBT, gender, and other issues.
Hopefully, intersectionality helps us put an end to the competitive “oppression Olympics.” We are working to associate, understand, and connect the oppression I experience with other peoples’ oppression. This is contrary to the way that capitalism deals with communities and society and helps us realize what democracy means.
We also have to look at the role of philanthropy. Working intersectionally is difficult when the philanthropic sector has siloed issues. Often, they see their work as [finding] solutions to individual issues, working in individual communities, without solving the underlying issues. Doing this is a false promise.
Today, philanthropy is cut off from activist roots. Our work continues to be intersectional and to be a recasting of the narrative of the United States into one that is about imperialism and the occupation of indigenous land. Our work is interconnected in an ecosystem of change in which we are seeing communities that struggle as extensions of ourselves rather than “other.” This is the front line of cultural transformation.
What are you working on today to address this?
What I am most excited about is working with the Intercultural Leadership Institute, in which Alternate ROOTS has joined with the First Peoples Fund, the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, and the PA’I Foundation. It’s a collection of 30 Fellows from around the country, peer experts who are building an intercultural experience that allows us to move into spaces with a more pluralistic understanding of our existence. In our work, we realize that our identity is not complete without the others around us.
The Institute brings together arts leaders from different communities to look at and honor leadership development in ways that are not framed by the dominant culture. We travel to different locations around the country to gain community wisdom that can uplift. We pay a lot of attention to the ways in which a lot of different leadership cultures think of the land, for example.
This is a significant shift in how we see our relationship to our surroundings. If you are building policies around the land, what you get is very different from a policy that values profit over people. Now is the first time communities of color and indigenous peoples are defining leadership on their own terms. This operates from a very different premise: our cultural practices that don’t always get to lead the way.
In the context of this developing and emerging intersectional movement, what purpose do art and culture serve?
Art and culture are informing, framing, and delivering ideas. Art and culture have a transformative ability to change ideas. It is a response to a “white-washed” America that’s produced overkill, in Baltimore, Charleston, Ferguson, and Standing Rock. We have found ourselves backed into a corner like a cornered black panther—out on a limb or out of our minds.
It is about connecting historically relevant events to what is happening today. Acknowledging that history is to confront the fact that, in order for there to be an America, there had to be a resource, slave labor, to secure an economic future. Acknowledging that many of us were slaves until 1865 and didn’t get to vote until 100 years later—and that all of this was backed up with a fictitious narrative of normalcy.
We are responding to the premise of the historical “three-fifths citizenship” allowed to African Americans, [which has been] cemented in our psyche; this concept of a second-class citizenry. Our work is actively demanding that we be seen and heard; it’s saying we are human. It’s about performing in the streets as well as changing the public perception of who gets to perform on stage.
We are challenging the notion of who the arts are for. When I was asked to respond to the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts at NEA in 2009, what I laid out was how the survey was flawed. It looked at opera, symphony, and dance, and how people are consuming art in those venues. In reality, it’s difficult to find a community that does not have artistic practice embedded in its culture. These practices in these broad communities are involved in how we make meaning out of this journey we are on as human beings. But the arts infrastructure only holds up a few selected works or practices as being valid, worthy of the museum show or the big concert hall.
Much of the [philanthropic and arts administration world] has promoted change, but most of it was superficial. It was never intended to change the structure. [It’s like when, in] Mississippi, we were integrating children into a school system that was still run by the white supremacist structure; it didn’t put a dent in segregation, and it affirmed the power structure.
Today’s challenge is that we don’t have enough discourse with each other to come to a collective assessment of how these systems impact our lives. It’s difficult to have conversations with our white neighbors, because they are the recipients of the faulty information created by politics as a form of theater: faux journalism that fixates the public on fear and safety. It’s performance propaganda.
How do we bring about radical change to the systems so as to create ones that are not just a reflection of the times in which they were built? We keep asking ourselves, what is the role of arts? And as Martin Luther King Jr. might ask, what are we risking?
Clarence Whiteis a writer who is also an editor, publicist, and contributor to the Saint Paul Almanac. His publications include “Smart Enough for Ford,” in the anthology Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.