SAGE panelists recognized Ananya Chatterjea, artistic director of Ananya Dance Theatre, as Outstanding Dance Educator, and Chitra Vairavan, dancer and rehearsal assistant, as one of two Outstanding Performers.
Ananya Dance Theatre also had been nominated for Outstanding Ensemble for its 2014 production of “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming,” staged at The Cowles Center, and its 2015 commissioned production of “Aahvaan: Invoking the Cities,” presented at The Ordway Center.
We extend congratulations to all of the 2015 nominees and awardees.
“My works … are infused with a spirit of resilience where dancers fail, suffer losses, fall to the ground again and again, are repeatedly reborn, and re-commit to life-forces, building energy and rumblings of change.”
– By Ananya Chatterjea, artistic director
The dynamic intersections of auto-rickshaws, pedestrians, and overflowing public buses on Kolkata streets/ high-energy drumming during the festival of goddess Durga/ long lines of political processions obstructing traffic for hours/ the fragrance of jasmine flowers tangled in hair after rehearsal/ heated political arguments inside coffeeshops, shape my work, bringing tension and angularity to my practice of flow.
“Kshoy! / Decay!” 2010
Like those streets, where a multinational bank stands beside a small, broken-down shrine and women’s groups perform street theater at the bus stop outside my guru’s classical dance studio, my urban aesthetic is imbued with spiritual possibilities, and my work is in dialogue with the secular and the political. My commitment to choreographing women’s stories and themes of social justice took form as I walked the protest-rich streets of Kolkata, hearing, in memory, my mother’s songs about the dreams she longed to have fulfilled.
This dense landscape, whose rhythms and quick turns of events contest each other, where one’s journeys are filled with sweat, resignation, and grit, is my experience of urbanity. This way of knowing the world, typical of the postcolonial global south, is embedded in my consciousness, and fractures the classical rhythms and idealized harmony in which I was trained. And so, in some ways, my current work is very different from my beginnings as a classical dancer, an exponent of Odissi. From a different perspective, my work today is integrally connected to the core philosophy of those traditional practices.
“Ashesh Barsha: Unending Monsoon” 2009
Caught between the beauty of the classical dance and the urgency of street theater of which I was part, I left my path as Odissi dancer in search of dance that could speak to my realities. But my experiences had crafted my consciousness in important ways: I became an unwavering teller of women’s stories. One day, in rehearsal for a classical piece about the divine lovers, Radha and Krishna, we were waiting for one of the lead dancers. When she finally stumbled into rehearsal, she was black and blue, assaulted by a husband jealous of the publicity she was receiving. Stunned, I asked Guruji how she could dance about romantic love when she had just experienced its failure. Guruji’s response was non-committal: In the classical world, we dance the ideal. Since then, and through time, my commitment has been to telling the stories of everyday women in their daily lives, stories of struggle, resilience, and courage.
Yet, as I crafted Yorchha™, my new language of contemporary Indian dance, I realized that while I wanted to move away from a classical worldview, static notions of tradition, and depictions of women as goddesses, mothers, or lovers, my classical training offered a powerful beginning for creating a contemporary dance vocabulary that located the movement aesthetic in my specific cultural context. Yorchha™ is marked by an interweaving of the upper body spirals and curvilinear balances of the Odissi, the breath flow and spinal extensions of vinyasa yoga, and the hip shifts and pelvic floor extensions of Chhau. The remix and dialogue of these movement principles creates a contemporary dance language rooted in indigenous concepts of the body, feminist and feminine at the same time.
Training in Indian dance generally does not include overt instruction in choreography; thus, I spent many years identifying the principles that had been used to create traditional repertoire. Researching the way my guru’s guru created and taught new pieces as part of the 1960’s revival of Odissi, I realized that a core principle is the invocation of a layered emotional landscape. My work reimagines and extends the choreographic methodology of such expressive abhinaya pieces, juxtaposing multiple metaphoric non-linear narratives to suggest the complexity of human experience.
Marked by emotional landscapes unfolding through rhythmic structures, my choreography riffs off of classical time cycles to hit jagged beats and unevenly juxtaposed time signatures. The interrupted phrasings that organize my choreography, through footwork, breath, and internal vibration, articulate an urban contemporary landscape and the philosophy of Shawngram™, struggle and resistance as an active daily force, at the core of my work.
In the dances I make, Shawngram™ articulates confrontation, devastation, and trauma in stories about the fight for justice. It leads me to search for moments of ensemble work, women dancing together, emanating power through their footwork. Shawngram™ infuses my work with a spirit of determination, where women from global communities of color battle barriers in their lives with courage. Yorchha™ embodies this aspiration and struggle, refusing idealized beauty, refracting traditional vocabularies, and intersecting their movement principles in unusual ways to create complex expressive possibilities.
The intersection of the technique of Yorchha™ with the philosophy of Shawngram™ creates dancing that is infused with desire for beauty and justice. This I describe as Aanch, heat. Heat flows in the directed energy of dancing to audiences, calling them into the work. This call to action, Daak, is always part of my choreography, where audiences are invited to move with the dancers in structured participatory experiences. Such moments, where different bodies with different histories share dancing and negotiate their paths amid strangers, affirm my belief in dance’s power to move hearts and build community.
“Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming” 2014
Leading audiences into making movement meaningful and connected to their lives is my practice of #occupydance. In concert experiences, I invite audiences to join the performers at specific moments, with simple gestural language, in the hope that it remains within the muscle memory of audiences, sparking questions later on. Differently, my “performance installations” are built on the premise of audience interaction. The space is choreographed very particularly, audiences are given clear directions, which they might interpret in different ways, and my dancers must improvise within the movement aesthetic and intention, while responding to audiences. This work has been more difficult to document because of media permissions and the interruptions that happen when cameras enter the thick of people dancing.
“Mohona: Estuaries of Desire” 2013
My evening-length works are built through the exploration of a social justice theme. The creative process is initiated by research and conversations with leaders from global women of color communities, which creates space for sharing stories and movement. These #Spinespin conversations spark the choreographic process and build alliances with the broader community of women who I invite into my work.
My work often juxtaposes contesting narratives to unravel themes. These stories are partly remembered, partly researched, and mostly imagined. I define my dancers as cultural activists and encourage them to develop ownership of the stories, perform them with power, and see themselves as crucial agents of research and community engagement. The creative process includes dialogues, workshops and rigorous rehearsal, quickening the relationships among dancers. Dancing together while celebrating our differences is vital and nuanced labor and reminds us of our shared beliefs and the real possibility of transformation.
“Aahvaan: Invoking the Cities” 2015 • Some members of cast & production team preparing a commissioned work for The Ordway Center • Photo by Alice Gebura
Because my dances tell stories of an ensemble of women who come from “everywhere and nowhere at the same time,” and are as much about individual as community experiences, ensemble work embedded with individual voices is vital in my choreography. Dancing together and performing unison choreography are important values in the work, as are respect for different approaches to the material, different body types, and different backgrounds of the dancers. This difference-in-togetherness principle also supports the multiple narratives that often run parallel, merge, or comment upon each other in the choreography.
My works seldom reside in a settled sense of happiness or beauty. Rather, their structures are infused with a spirit of resilience where dancers fail, suffer losses, fall to the ground again and again, are repeatedly reborn, and re-commit to life-forces, building energy and rumblings of change. This spirit leads me to multi-year works, where I invest in understanding the multiple aspects of an issue over time. This sustained, embodied investigation is my way of celebrating and archiving little known histories of women of color.
“Ananya Dance Theatre traveled thousands of miles to Addis Ababa to celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations between the US and Ethiopia. I can’t imagine a more fitting representative of my district than ADT, and I’m so proud that their hard work has given them the opportunity to share their craft with people all over the world.” –Keith Ellison, Member of Congress, MN-5, September 28, 2015
Ananya Dance Theatre at U.S. Embassy Reception, Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa. Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by U.S. Embassy
Ananya Dance Theatre performed at a reception for alumni of educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and Ethiopia, at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Thursday, September 24, 2015.
The reception was hosted by the U.S. Embassy as part of a month-long series of activities celebrating 75 years of U.S.–Ethiopia educational and cultural exchanges.
David Kennedy, the embassy’s Public Affairs Officer, introduced Ambassador Patricia Haslach, who delivered welcoming remarks.
ADT at Crossing Boundaries Festival opening ceremony, Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by Crossing Boundaries Ethiopia
Burnsville, Minnesota, native Learned Dees, the embassy’s Cultural Affairs Officer, introduced Ananya Dance Theatre and its 15-minute performance.
The performance included a sung poem linking the Mississippi and Nile rivers, and dancers circulating throughout the ballroom inviting attendees to “Dance with us!” Many, including Ambassador Haslach, did so.
Reception attendees included Mulatu Astatke, the “godfather of Ethiopian jazz.”
ADT members with Mulatu Astatke, “godfather of Ethiopian jazz.” Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by James Davies
Following the reception, Artistic Director Ananya Chatterjea and the company appeared at the opening ceremonies of the Crossing Boundaries Festival & Conference, held at the Ethiopian National Theatre.
Ananya Dance Theatre presented the festival’s keynote performance, “Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine,” at National Theatre, Friday, September 25. “Roktim” received its world premiere just a week earlier at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul, September 19.
Amin Abdulkadir, Ethiopia’s Minister of Culture & Tourism, attended ADT’s performance and hosted all festival performers afterward at a dinner at Totot Traditional Restaurant.
Learned Dees, Burnsville, MN, native and Cultural Affairs Director, U.S. Embassy Ethiopia, and Ananya Chatterjea. Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by James Davies
The ADT company arrived in Addis Ababa, Monday, September 21, and conducted a variety of workshops throughout the week. The visit was sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
ADT workshop with Destino Dance Company, Sept. 22, 2015. Photo by Gary Peterson
Tuesday, at the U.S. Embassy, dancers engaged in hours-long conversation and movement dialogue with 14 women, all law students from Addis Ababa University and members of the Yellow Movement, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of, and to change attitudes and behaviors that result in violence against women.
ADT workshop with faculty and students at Addis Ababa University graduate theater program. Sept. 23, 2015. Photo by Gary Peterson
The company also conducted a joint workshop at the Addis Ababa Theater and Culture Hall with members of the Destino Dance Company, an Ethiopian ensemble established to help underprivileged young people develop their potential through dance.
On Wednesday, dancers conducted a workshop with faculty and students from the graduate theater program at the Cultural Arts Center of Addis Ababa University.
Members of ADT and the Yellow Movement with staff of ASWAD, a shelter for women and children. Sept. 28, 2015. Photo by Blen Sahilu
On Saturday, September 26, the company attended conference plenary sessions at the Goethe Institute of Addis Ababa University. Chatterjea participated in a roundtable discussion, “Movement, Ideas and Bodies,” with Elizabeth Wolde Giorgis, Ph.D., Director of AAU’s Gebre Kristos Desta Center, and Mshaï Mwangola, Ph.D., Research and Communications Officer, The African Peacebuilding Network Hub (APN-Hub).
Saturday evening activities included a Food Art Performance by Konjit Siyoum at the Asni Gallery.
Dancing at ASWAD, a shelter for women and children. Sept. 28, 2015. Photo by Blen Sahilu
On Monday, September 28, members of the Yellow Movement took the company to visit the women and girls of ASWAD, a shelter for women and child survivors of gender based violence.
The company returned to the U.S. on September 29.
The Crossing Boundaries Festival & Conference was organized by the Ethiopian Theatre Professionals Association, Addis Ababa University College of Performing & Visual Arts, and Sundance Institute East Africa Theater Program Alumni.
Ananya Dance Theatre will present the keynote performance at the Crossing Boundaries Festival & Conference, September 25, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The company will present “Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine,” its new production that premieres at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul, September 18-19, at the Ethiopian National Theatre.
At the invitation of the U.S. Embassy, the ensemble also will perform in celebrations of 75 years of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Ethiopia, and will present workshops and build relationships with local women’s groups in performance. The Embassy was particularly interested in the way ADT uses the arts to build community.
The Crossing Boundaries Festival is organized by Ethiopian Theater Professionals Association (ETPA) with the collaboration of Addis Ababa University (AAU) College of Performing and Visual Arts, Ethiopian National Theater, and Sundance Institute’s East African Theater Program Ethiopian Alumni.
Crossing Boundaries Festival Ethiopia is part of 15 festivals held all over the world by Performance Studies International (PSI). “Performances won’t just be entertainment but opportunities to think, and explore thoughts of Pan-Africanism” said Surafel Wondimu, international relations coordinator of the event.
‘’We used to wait for westerners to come and conduct such events and when they go we don’t keep them up, but now we believe we can do it independently and responsibly,” said Azeb Worku, artistic director of the festival.
Performers from 10 different countries will perform. There will be 19 performances, 12 from abroad and the rest by local artists. Meaza Worku, program director, said that the festival and conference will include a variety of events such as photograph exhibitions, food art performance, visual art, traditional Ethiopian dance, and poetic Jazz. In addition, there will be presentations and discussion on various topics related to art in the region.
Nebiyu Baye from Addis Ababa University said that the Festival and conference will help students see theater from a new perspective and learn about theatrical arts beyond the confines of the classroom.
Ananya Dance Theatre departs Minneapolis-St. Paul on Sunday, September 20, and returns on Tuesday, September 29.
The O’Shaughnessy opens its 2015-16 Season with the world premiere of “Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine,” a full-length dance concert performed by Ananya Dance Theatre and collaboratively created by choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, visual artist Seitu Jones and behavioral artist Marcus Young. A Women of Substance event, “Roktim” will begin outside The O’Shaughnessy at 7pm, Friday-Saturday, September 18-19 – rain or shine. The production will also end outdoors on The O’Shaughnessy plaza. Both beginning and ending sections involve audience participation.
Ananya Chatterjea • Photo V. Paul Virtucio • Design Randy Karels
Related to the performance, there will be a “Roktim” Audience Empowerment Workshop, 6:30pm-8pm, Tuesday, August 18. The free, open rehearsal takes place at the Frey Theater at St. Catherine University, next to The O’Shaughnessy, 2004 Randolph Avenue, Saint Paul.
Inspired by the Seed Sovereignty Movement and farming practices in local communities of color, the three extraordinary artists from different cultures (South Asian, African-American, and Chinese) have engaged in combining art with community organizing, weaving together artistic process and social justice. They are partnering with Frogtown Farm, Dream of Wild Health, and Big River Farms to produce a dance theater piece reflecting the age-old work of women who cultivate and protect land and sustainable agricultural practices.
To prepare for “Roktim,” ADT has worked alongside farmers and the farmers have participated in movement improvisations, shared stories about their relationship to the land, and inspired movement that Chatterjea is shaping into choreography.
“Roktim,” meaning “blood red” in Artistic Director Chatterjea’s native Bengali language, honors women’s emotional and blood labor to create a just and sustainable food system.
Using forms of Indian dance, yoga and martial arts, “Roktim” will be a vibrant contemporary dance with a conscience. The new piece is part of a multi-year series of full-length dances by ADT exploring the kinds of work that women around the world do to nurture and support their communities.
Young helped direct Ananya Dance Theatre’s three most recent productions, “Aahvaan: Invoking the Cities” (2015), “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming” (2014) and “Mohona: Estuaries of Desire” (2013). Chatterjea recently collaborated with Jones on “Create: The Community Meal,” a multi-media public artwork that included an outdoor civic dinner served to 2,000 people on a half-mile long table (2014). Earlier, Jones designed the sets for “Duurbaar: Journeys Into Horizon” (2006). He is designing “Roktim’s” huge epic set in collaboration with artist Anne Henly and ADT dancer Lela Pierce.
“Roktim” will also include original poems written and recorded by Heid Erdrich and Diane Wilson, and a new sound-and-music score by Greg Schutte, Chatterjea’s longtime collaborator.
This production will begin and conclude outside The O’Shaughnessy on the front patio.
For more information and tickets, contact The O’Shaughnessy Ticket Office at 651.690.6700; ticket office is located on the main campus of St. Catherine University at 2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul. Tickets can be purchased online at oshag.stkate.edu.
Tier 1 $27
Tier 2 $22
Tier 3 $17
Seniors and Students receive $4 off tickets; MPR, Military, TPT members, and St. Kate’s Community (faculty, staff, alumnae) receive $2 off tickets.
Groups of 10+ save 15% off tickets. *Prices include $2 restoration fee.
The O’Shaughnessy offers large print programs, seating for individuals in wheelchairs, along with accompanying companion seating located in the same area, and holds seating for patrons who are hard of hearing or visually disabled. If you have an accessibility request, please explain it to the ticket office.
“Roktim” is supported by a Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
This activity is funded, in part, by an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the State’s general fund. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
“Roktim” is supported by a grant from the Seward Co-op Community Fund.
To occupy dance is to fill dance with the materiality of unlikely bodies.
It is to remember that dance is a legacy of the commons, shared by us all, and entrance to dance and the joys and transformations the practice offers is not dependent on passports and visas.
To occupy dance is to fill it in unusual ways so it cannot be hijacked for a narrow understanding that is predicated upon exclusions.
To occupy dance is to fill (a) professional dance with bodies of color who embody an alternative dance practice and non-normative ideas of beauty and line, and who often find themselves on the outside, looking in; and (b) a general practice of dance with the unlikely bodies of audiences, witnesses, passers-by who are invited to let the dance touch their bodies.
#OccupyDance is based on the yogic idea of the sacredness of the body and the weight of every thing: anything that goes in the body impacts it in some way.
If a movement is embodied by audiences, in community with performers, we believe that it stays in their muscle memories, in their kinesthetic frames, returning later to provoke questions, and ripple through their consciousness, inflecting their daily life practices.
If we have danced together, shared movement, space, and rhythm; if we have woven our bodies around and through each other without treading on each other’s toes, or bumping into each other; if we have linked arms and danced together even for a moment, how can we not care about each other?
In this way, #occupydance is at the root of our social justice practice.
Staff of Dream of Wild Health farm, Hugo MN, visit with ADT dancers Kealoha Ferreira, Magnolia Yang Sao Yia, and Prakshi Malik
The dancers of Ananya Dance Theatre visited the Dream of Wild Health, a 10-acre organic farm in Hugo, Minnesota, July 10, as part of their research for the creation of Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine. Hugo is a commuter town 14 miles north of downtown Saint Paul in Washington County.
Surrounded by plants and medicines grown from the seeds of ancestors, “the Dream” is to help American Indian people reclaim their physical, spiritual, and mental health, teaching old ways of growing food and living healthy lives.
ADT dancer Jay Galtney at Dream of Wild Health farm, Hugo MN
“Roktim,” a full-length work of dance theater, will premiere at The O’Shaughnessy, Sept. 18-19.
Inspired by the Seed Sovereignty Movement and farming practices in local communities of color, choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, Jones, and behavioral artist Marcus Young are partnering with Frogtown Farm, Afro Eco, and the Indigenous Peoples’ Task Force to produce a 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.
Seeking professional female actor/singer of indigenous origin, preferably Dakota, of any adult age, fluent in indigenous language, for paid engagement, rehearsals starting immediately – about 10 rehearsals in July/August and more frequently in September. Performances are September 17-19. Show is about honoring women’s labor in food production. Reply with interest or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The O’Shaughnessy, one of the Twin Cities’ premiere venues for showcasing the arts, has announced its 2015-16 Season, an exciting mix of music, dance and theater, and the 19th year of the esteemed Women of Substance series.
“Roktim” opens The O’Shaughnessy’s season, Sept. 18-19 • Photo V. Paul Virtucio
The season opens on September 18-19 with a Women of Substance event as Ananya Dance Theatre returns to The O’Shaughnessy with the world premiere of ROKTIM: NURTURE INCARNADINE, a full-length dance concert collaboratively created by choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, visual artist Seitu Jones and behavioral artist Marcus Young.
Inspired by the Seed Sovereignty Movement and farming practices in local communities of color, they are partnering with Frogtown Farm, Afro Eco and the Indigenous Peoples’ Task Force to produce a shared event 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.
On October 9, Rhythmic Circus, a home-grown troupe of internationally-renowned artists – and currently, America’s Got Talent contestants – brings its joyous parade of genre-hopping music, hard-hitting percussive dance, funky costumes and a big brass band to The O’Shaughnessy stage for the first time. Its FEET DON’T FAIL ME NOW! show’s brilliance has been marked by rave reviews, sold-out engagements and numerous awards, including two SAGE Awards for Outstanding Ensemble and Performance, a Spirit of the Fringe Award (Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s top theatrical award), two Upper Midwest Emmy’s and being named “Best Dance Performance” by Minneapolis’ City Pages.
Katha DanceTheatre comes back to The O’Shaughnessy October 23-24 for the world premiere of POURUSH – THE MASCULINE, a story of an unconventional princess who struggles to embrace her feminine and masculine natures. New Delhi choreographer Maitreyee Pahari and Katha Dance Theatre’s Founder/Artistic Director Rita Mustaphi have crafted a beautiful fusion of fierce Chhau and mesmerizing Kathak choreography. Joined by international Chhau professionals Rakesh Babu and Rajesh Babu, the local Kathak professionals of Katha Dance Theatre Company bring this tale of psychological and sociological struggle to life.
On October 25, The O’Shaughnessy and the Dakota co-present veteran singer/songwriter Arlo Guthrie as he celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the event that inspired his seminal song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” The show’s highlights will include the rarely performed treasured classic, many other favorites from Guthrie’s catalog, as well as a special multi-media presentation featuring previously unseen images from the Guthrie archives. THE ALICE’S RESTAURANT 50TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR band includes Terry Hall (drums), Bobby Sweet (guitar, vocals), Darren Todd (guitar), and Arlo’s son, Abe Guthrie (keyboards).
Maureen Fleming offers a regional dance premiere, Nov. 7
Internationally-acclaimed transcendent dancer-choreographer-performance artist Maureen Fleming offers a regional dance premiere on November 7. In B. MADONNA, Fleming invents surreal movement poetry that transforms thoughts of the human body. In a world beyond rationality and nationality, she brings her contemporary unveiling of the myth of Persephone to the stage, featuring text by David Henry Hwang and music by Philip Glass, performed live by pianist Bruce Brubaker. This beautiful, multimedia meditation on ‘miracles’ juxtaposes Fleming’s new and repertory works with three-dimensional video projections designed by longtime collaborator Christopher Odo.
In tandem with Fleming’s performance at The O’Shaughnessy, Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality will present the O Black Madonna installation from October 26-November 8. There will be a reception on November 4, with a gallery talk at 7pm at the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Carondelet Center.
TU Dance, the acclaimed Minnesota-based dance company led by Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands, returns to The O’Shaughnessy November 20-22 as part of its 12th annual performance season. The concerts feature a world premiere work by Italian Canadian choreographer and 2015 McKnight International Artist Gioconda Barbuto as well as selections from the rich TU Dance repertory.
The O’Shaughnessy’s annual holiday tradition has Katie McMahon returning to the stage with CELTIC CHRISTMAS on December 11 with special guest, fiddle-mandolin player extraordinaire Peter Oustroshko. Dubbed Minnesota’s own “Celtic Woman,” McMahon is best known as the original voice of Riverdance. Her ode to the holidays, Celtic Christmas celebrates the season with a family-friendly program of traditional Christmas carols, stories and lively Irish dance. Her program will feature some new selections from France, Italy, Spain, and Germany.
“Women of Will” deconstructs and conjures Shakespeare’s most famous female characters, Feb. 4. Photo Kevin Sprague
On February 4, WOMEN OF WILL makes a stop at The O’Shaughnessy. A true tour-de-force performance, the masterful summation is Shakespeare & Company’s Founding Artistic Director Tina Packer’s 40-plus years spent investigating all things Shakespeare. Part masterclass, part performance: Funny, fierce, deep and accessible, Women of Will is the bonus content to Shakespeare’s plays. Packer deconstructs and conjures William Shakespeare’s most famous female characters. Ace actor Nigel Gore plays the Romeo to her Juliet, the Petruchio to her Kate. Together Packer and Gore’s stage alchemy creates the Shakespeare experience that The New York Times called “Marvelous!” and the Associated Press hailed as “Boundless and irresistible!
A singular evening of classical music, A NIGHT IN ANCIENT AND NEW CHINA, comes to The O’Shaughnessy on February 20. Wu Man and the Shanghai Quartet explore the great music of China in a program that features a new multimedia work by the eminent Chinese composer, Zhao Jiping, in collaboration with his son, Zhao Lin, performing some of some of his most famous scores of Chinese cinema – Raise the Red Lantern, To Live and Farewell My Concubine, among others. The program also includes a suite of traditional Chinese folk songs arranged by second violinist Yi-Wen Jiang, as well as solo pipa works by Wu Man. Looking back to their roots, but with a contemporary vision, these artists meld sounds of China with western string quartet and pipa in an unforgettable evening of grand music. Other ensemble members include Weigang Li (violin), Honggang Li (viola) and Nicholas Tzavaras (cello).
Known for its Afro-Brazilian contemporary dance fusion, highly physical movement, energetic dancing and invigorating theatrical experiences, Contempo Physical Dance debuts a new work by Senegalese and French choreographer Patrick AcognyFebruary 26-27, as part of the company’s first international choreography residency and commissioning program. Inspired by the work of his mother, Germaine Acogny – the Artistic Director of the renowned Jant-Bi and L’Ecole des Sables – Patrick explores identity and ideas of place with Contempo Physical Dance’s diverse cast of Minnesota-based dancers. Led by Artistic Director Marciano Silva dos Santos, the creator of an “original” dance language, Contempo Physical Dance is dedicated to movement research, experimentation and expanding the field of contemporary dance by focusing on movement of the African Diaspora.
Shaun Hopper visits Saint Paul for the first time on March 18. This virtuoso musician’s fingerstyle acoustic guitar is infused with a percussive element that creates not only a unique sound but an unmatched visual performance. Hopper’s original compositions and arrangements of pop tunes are infused with all the cutting edge techniques and flavorings embraced by the new breed of You-Tube sensations. Yet, it is his traditional and schooled approach to music that keeps him unquestionably steeped in and inspired by the greats. Dazzling with his fiery originals and covering everything from Chet Atkins to Andre Segovia, from The Beatles to Queen, Hopper never fails to mesmerize an audience. He has made his mark opening for acts like “The John Jorgenson Quintet” (Elton John), the California Guitar Trio, G. Love and Switchfoot. He has toured with Tim Reynolds & TR3 from the Dave Matthews Band, and has cowritten songs with Tommy Emmauel.
Together On Stage: Patty Griffin joins forces with Sara Watkins and Anaïs Mitchell, Mar. 28
On March 28, three supremely gifted singer-songwriters share The O’Shaughnessy stage, singing with and supporting each other in music that seeks the heart’s core. In a highly anticipated national tour, Grammy Award-winner Patty Griffin joins forces with Sara Watkins and Anaïs Mitchell in a celebration of American songwriting and performance. More than just a three-act show, TOGETHER ON STAGE is a special “singers-in-the-round” showcase featuring all three artists accompanying each other for the entire evening.
Grammy winner Patty Griffin “digs deep into introspective lyrics…[using] the silence between notes to create shimmering music you won’t soon forget” (American Songwriter); Nickel Creek co-founder Sara Watkins creates “a sound that’s gritty and determined to avoid clichés” (BBC Music); and Anaïs Mitchell is “writing material that stands comparison with the great singer-songwriters,” including Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen (Daily Telegraph).
The season concludes with a very special Walker Art Center co-presentation: Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble performing THE SOUL’S MESSENGER, Celebrating 50 Years of New Music on April 15 at The O’Shaughnessy. Theater director-choreographer-filmmaker and interdisciplinary artist Meredith Monk is also one of most revered figures in contemporary American music and performance. Her groundbreaking exploration of the voice as an instrument expands the boundaries of musical composition, creating landscapes of sound that unearth feelings, energies and memories for which there are no words. Monk and her acclaimed Vocal Quartet will showcase her range as a composer and her engagement with performance as a vehicle for spiritual transformation. This concert marks the fourth Meredith Monk co-presentation by the Walker and The O’Shaughnessy.
A related event, Meredith Monk in Conversation with Philip Bither, will be held on April 14, at Walker Art Center. Meredith Monk joins the Walker’s Senior Performing Arts Curator Philip Bither for a convivial and insightful conversation about her life and art. Monk’s seminal film 16 Millimeter Earrings will also be on view in the Walker galleries.
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.
The full-length work of dance theater will premiere at The O’Shaughnessy, Sept. 18-19.
Members of Ananya Dance Theatre at Frogtown Farm in St. Paul, May 30, 2015
Earlier in the day, the dancers visited the St. Paul studios of Seitu Jones, master artist, community organizer, and one of the company’s collaborators in creating “Roktim.”
Inspired by the Seed Sovereignty Movement and farming practices in local communities of color, choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, Jones, and behavioral artist Marcus Young are partnering with Frogtown Farm, Afro Eco, and the Indigenous Peoples’ Task Force to produce a 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.
Frogtown Farm will be a hub for a healthy food system that fills gaps in food production, storage, manufacturing, and distribution. With spokes that reach beyond its acreage and the Frogtown neighborhood, Frogtown Farm will be recognized as a destination for those seeking learning, innovation, reflection, celebration, and authentic community.
Frogtown Farm, St. Paul
Rooted in values of social equity, justice, and inter-connectedness, this urban farm on the hill will serve as a model for multi-cultural community and a catalyst for economic development, wealth creation, community pride, and sustainability.
Frogtown Farm is the vision of longtime Frogtown residents. For the past year, Frogtown Farm has worked in concert with members of the community, The Trust for Public Land, the City of St. Paul, and the Wilder Foundation to acquire a 12.7 acre parcel of land for a public park and farm, of which 4.4 acres will be developed as an urban farm.
Ananya Dance Theatre was honored to perform “Shelter” for Aeon‘s annual Beyond Bricks & Mortar fundraising breakfast at the Hilton Minneapolis, May 20. Nearly 800 people from all parts of our community attended.
Home is a basic necessity. Not only four walls and a roof, but home. More than 14,000 people are experiencing homelessness in our community right now, and many more on the verge. For 29 years, Aeon’s mission has been to create and sustain quality affordable homes that strengthen lives and communities.www.aeonmn.org
Liz Ivkovich has received a full, Graduate Research Fellowship from the University of Utah to continue her study of Ananya Dance Theatre’s work during 2015-2016. Ivkovich is a teaching assistant at the University of Utah’s Department of Modern Dance MFA Program. The focus of her academic research is Dance and Environmental Justice. She previously studied with ADT during the company’s development of “Mohona: Estuaries of Desire” in 2013. Ivkovich holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a double major in Sustainable Business and International Studies. Her fellowship will also allow her to continue research with dance artist A’Keitha Carey.
Chatterjea’s work interweaves the biographies and histories of women of color, the environment and performance in various global contexts, and physicalizes politics, choreographing identities and relationships in multiple arenas. She also questions and challenges tradition, artistic beliefs and practices, gender politics, and how we discuss and perceive modernity.
Residency activities included three talks, “Contestations in the History of Odissi,” “Thoughts on Contemporary Dance,” and “Socially Engaged Dance & Performance: Aligning Dance and Social Justice.” Chatterjea also presented a live performance at the Marriott Center for Dance and taught two master classes.
The residency was organized by Visiting Assistant Professor A’Keitha Carey, whose own doctoral research explores dance as an agent for societal change. She became interested in Chatterjea’s work while an undergraduate student.
“As a student, I read her work and become even more familiar with her in my doctoral program,” Carey said. “She is truly a wonderful model, illustrating how theory and practice coalesce producing educational, transformative, and transgressive works that express her theme of a call to action. We are both interested in this idea of dialogue and how these conversations do in fact provide opportunities for people to ‘stand together in difference.’”
Carey reflected about the residency in an open letter to Chatterjea:
The “shared heat” and “shared humanity” that was imparted upon the university is something that I can only equate to the phenomenal teachings of Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldùa. Anzaldùa introduced the term nepantla which is “a Nahuatl word meaning ‘in-between space’” (Keating 2006). This liminal space is a place where one is able to disidentify from the mythology of white supremacy, allowing oneself to see oneself not as inferior but as an equal, a whole being. This theory allows for transcendence and a subversive consciousness that fractures and ruptures identity politics that often subscribe to the belief system that increasingly fictionalizes the superiority of the white race, subjugating people of color (Keating 2006).
Those of us who mediate and facilitate this process are called nepantleras. Nepantleras are “the supreme border crossers. They act as intermediaries between cultures and their various versions of reality . . . They serve as agents of awakening, inspire and challenge others to deeper awareness, greater concocimiento, serve as reminders of each other’s search for wholeness of being” (“Speaking Across the Divide” 20).
Ananya, you are a Nepantlera! Your entrance in this space was exactly what was needed – not a week before – or a moment after – right now – at this time. Lives have been touched, some women have found their voice, and you provided a snap shot into MY reality of what this journey can and should be as a nepantlera. Your power and presence are sublime, evoking a sense of desire that includes social change, clarity in one’s ideas and philosophies about life, purpose, and practice and specifically how one can be a change maker simply by listening and retelling the stories that we hear.
I want to offer words of encouragement to you and the warrior women known as Ananya Dance Theatre. The journey that you are on is one that will disrupt the cultural and social norms, one that is “painful [during] dimensions of this world-traveling [and border crossing]” (Keating 9). Your defiance of the expectations placed upon you, the themes that are discussed in your work, and the POWER that you present and evoke are threatening to the insecure and weak (in mind and spirit) resulting in “rejection, ostracism, and other forms of isolation” (Keating 9) but I am writing to applaud, restore, and embolden you for your work, passion, and the voice that you provide for many.
You stated “there is a way of knowing that comes from knowing your body.” The freedom from “knowing my body” allows me to communicate with a clarity that includes embracing my gifts, loving my body, and accepting and exploring the sensual imparted by the divine. Because of this “knowing” I can share my “bodily truths,” encouraging other women to share their stories. This sentiment was reified during your visit. You also mentioned “some stories need to be told over and over again.” You and your company provide the foremost example of how to occupy space, thoughts, and personhood so that these stories can be projected for what they are, “beauty and truth.”
In closing … you mentioned that a part of your purpose is to “remind young women of their power.” I felt this reclamation of my own power (through your presence) which I have purposely been (re)negotiating out of fear of the aftermath. But I am “ready to do the work.” Your presence here at the University of Utah will long be remembered. You have left your DNA in the building, in the soil, and the souls of many. Because of you, I walk bolder into the fire, I can fight another day because of what you have deposited into my spirit.
I/we find my/our voice through the roar of the Lioness… shine on and shout with the power and pleasure of knowing that across the nation, we hear you, we see you, and we stand in love, light, and in support of the freedom, transformation, and strength that Ananya Dance Theatre provides for many…
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5) with several members of Ananya Dance Theatre before the 2015 May Day Parade. Photo by Gary Peterson
Members of Ananya Dance Theatre danced their way down Bloomington Avenue in the 41st annual May Day Parade in south Minneapolis, May 3, 2015.
Every spring, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre sponsors the May Day Parade on Bloomington Avenue in South Minneapolis as a prelude to a ceremony and festival in Powderhorn Park. The parade features around 2,000 participants and the festival attracts upwards of 50,000 people.
The 2015 parade was the first time that Ananya Dance Theatre participated as an organization in May Day activities.
Following the two-mile parade, RARE Productions, an organization that uses arts to engage LGBTQ artists of color and their allies, invited dancers to perform on the festival’s Lake Stage.
Links Hall, a Chicago-based partner of the National Performance Network (NPN), presented Ananya Dance Theatre’s production of “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming” for three performances, April 17-19, 2015. Artistic Director Ananya Chatterjea and company dancers also presented master classes and workshops for members of Chicago’s dance community during a week-long residency.
“Ananya Chatterjea and Chitra Vairavan and everyone in ‘Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming’ is truly doing otherworldly work.” –Ladan Osman, Somali Poet, Facebook, 4/18/15 • Photo by Ladan Osman
Soyini Madison, Professor, Performance Studies, Anthropology, African Studies, Northwestern University, April 30, 2015:
“I loved this work for many reasons: the precision of its artistry and technique; the boldness of its politics and truth telling; the brilliance of its multiple layered dance forms and temporalities; the speechless beauty of its staging and theatricality – colors in motion, how the choreography of faces, hands, and feet combined to make the body transcendent – dreams of impeccable horror and radical redemption. …
“I was shaken after the performance. It is true that I might not have known – in exact or specific terms – every symbolic gesture or every moment in ‘Neel’s’ overarching historical/contemporary time and context, but the work of brilliant art does not require or expect that I know it all – only sophomoric, didactic, inexperienced and bad performance does this. Your work does not insult the audience, your work does not insult the craft of dance (or your own intelligence and that of your dancers) by telling us how and what to think. Instead you OPEN the gates of brutal truths – you unleash them from their hiding places – you translate hard truths (unspeakable truths), you give them story and form and motion for us to feel, know, believe – be disturbed and moved by what we must know and will not forget after we leave your company’s performance.
“Those gun shots crossed epics – I hear them in the West Bank, in Afghanistan, in West Africa, in Columbia, in Ferguson, Missouri, in the every where places where life is destroyed at the hands of the spiritless. The tragedy of life lost, hope forgotten, memories unnamed, and the unrelenting desire for belonging is the script of the world and you danced it into our consciousness. The fact that we ARE our dreams and that a woman’s imagination is the life-blood of her soul is a birthing of new paths and futures that only comes out of the wombs of women. This is an existential fact that Ananya Dancers not only showed us, but also reminded us through dream story and through a performance of imaginings enshrined in radical love – love that surpasses time and space to make us strong beyond our means – beyond our own individual history, even our own singular body – the strength of the multitudes that foment revolution. …
“I wept at the end of your show because it ‘revolutionized me’ again. It reminded me of who I am, and what I am here to do, because I forget sometimes. ‘Neel’ reminded me of the power of art to change minds and feelings, to build community, to love, to believe in the possibilities of our dreams and that our strength of belonging is beyond measure. The Revolutionaries throughout history that I have read all seem to have one saying in common: revolutions begin with thoughts and feelings. ‘Neel’ made us think and feel abundantly, intelligently, and beautifully. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.”
Ananya Dance Theatre dancers and master class participants at Links Hall. “My body feels stirred alive with heat & stomping passions. Thank you.” –@anjalchande, Twitter, 4/15/15
Laura Molzahn, chicagotribune.com, April 19, 2015:
“Freely interpreting her trademark blend of Odissi dance, yoga and an Indian martial art through the lens of contemporary choreography, Chatterjea is often ingenious. She shapes Indian dance’s acute angles — sharply articulated knees, wrists, elbows, spines — into intricately entwined puzzles in slow-moving, face-to-face duets. And though the traditional meanings of mudras (hand positions) are generally unknown in the U.S., harshly splayed fingers fanning across a face or flicked fists still convey emotion.
“Also stirring is the pounding of nearly two dozen feet in unison. In contrast to Indian dancers’ usual steely control, these performers can be wild and athletic in the nritta (pure dance) sections, yelling and abandoned.
“Chatterjea herself is a riveting performer, with the kind of authority only years of practice can give. Her abhinaya, or expressive movement of the face, is masterly. She exhibits both steely control and the ability to effect subtle, flickering shifts in emotion. Her solo, mourning paradise lost, is the most affecting moment of ‘Neel.’ … [A]ll the performers do a remarkable job in this challenging choreography.”
“A nonverbal spiritual awakening.” –Audience member, @LinksHall, Twitter, 4/19/15 Photo by Jennifer Grob
Lauren Warnecke, artintercepts.org, April 22, 2015:
“This was the stuff of nightmares. And, at times, it was really difficult to watch. …
“[T]he piece exemplified a balance of passion and pain, further reinforced by a large, diverse cast of women and hints of folklore from a potpourri of cultures. And yet, the dance was choreographed through a rather specific lens of contemporary Indian dance. Ananya’s namesake, Artistic Director Dr. Ananya Chatterjea, created intriguing movement that somehow remains true to her roots in classical Indian dance, and her solo performance mid-way through the first hour was a force to be reckoned with.”
“Infinitely jaw dropping and fascinating.” –@LinksHall, Twitter, 4/19/15 Photo by Jennifer Grob
Matt De La Pena, seechicagodance.com, April 21, 2015:
“The final product is probing, if not alternately moody in its tone.”
“I knew in the first 5 minutes that it would be a performance that would stay with me for a very long time.” –@LinksHall, Twitter, 4/19/15 Photo by Jennifer Grob
Ananya Dance mixes social activism with performance.
Photo by V. Paul Virtucio
Article by: SHEILA REGAN, Special to the Star Tribune
March 12, 2015 – 8:52 PM
“The evening was both celebratory and subversive, with performances taking place inside the theater and around the lobby.…it was a way to shake up the idea of performance, allowing audiences to experience dance by participating in it.”
“Well, that was different,” I overheard one of the audience members say after yesterday’s performance by Ananya Dance Theatre. I smiled to myself. What she was really saying in Minnesotan speak was, “I’m not entirely sure what to think of this nontraditional thing I just witnessed–and I don’t want to offend anyone–so I’m going to make as neutral an assessment as possible.”
Yes, last night’s performance was “different.” It wasn’t the opera; it wasn’t the symphony. Yes, it was challenging (some of the dancing was evocative of death and dying; some evoked sex). Yes, it brought up issues we don’t necessarily like to think about (i.e. the hardships and tragedies of modern, urban life). But it was important. And beautiful. And I applaud the Ordway for commissioning such a provocative, meaningful performance.
So, what made some people squirm last night? What challenged our pleasant, theatre-going selves?
It started with a map.
When my guest, Cindy, and I walked into the theatre, a friendly usher handed us a map, examined our tickets, and told us we would be starting on the third floor at the “Wishing Well.” The Wishing Well was one of five different interactive sets spread across the Ordway. The idea was to merge audience and performers, spectators and dancers. Each set had a unique theme and a distinct message revolving around social justice, human rights, and the meaning of humanity. There was The Empress of Whimsy and Fortunes, Life Force, Wishing Well, Longest Day’s Journey, and Veins. My favorite set was Wishing Well, in which we were each invited to jot down a wish on a piece of rice paper, hand the paper to a young girl seated in front of a basin of water, and watch as she swirled the wish into the water and it disintegrated into muddy flecks. The effect was fantastic. The image of a bowl full of wishes, swirling and melding together, is pure magic.
After Part One, we all filed into the new concert hall (with members of Ananya Dance Theatre bending and twisting around us) and found our seats. Then, Part Two began.
Although Part Two took place on stage, I wouldn’t call it traditional. The members of Ananya (all dressed in vivid colors) explored what the human body can do with elaborate twists, foot stomps, yoga-like poses, and both subtle and grandiose movements. As I watched, I could feel a narrative unfold. I could see birth, death, agony, chaos, sex, community. It was incredibly expressive and, at times, hard to watch.
The dance entitled Our Bodies Hold Struggle was particularly challenging. Amid minor-key music and wailing that made me think of demons, the dancers spasmed on the stage or flopped like dying fish. I could feel the misery and despair. I wanted it to stop. And then I realized…
That’s the point.
Life is not always neat and comfortable. Sometimes it’s painful and tragic. Sometimes it’s hard to watch. But it’s important that we do watch; it’s important that we recognize the illness in the world and attempt to cure it.
That said, the entire performance was not so serious. Some dances celebrated life, community, togetherness. Some mimicked water (the lifeblood of our cities). The bright colors and gorgeous movements left a kind of lingering hope.
As I exited the theatre, I couldn’t help feeling that I had just witnessed something important. And I wanted others to witness it too. My sincere hope is that Ananya Dance Theatre gets the recognition it deserves for the role it plays in our community. It brings color, vibrancy, and consciousness to the Twin Cities.
Aahvaan is conceived and created by choreographer Ananya Chatterjea with collaborating director, behavioral and social practice artist Marcus Young, and the dancers of the company. Recorded scores are composed and arranged by Greg Schutte in collaboration with Mankwe Ndosi, Laurie Carlos, Pooja Goswami Pavan, Dorene Waubanewquay Day, and Michelle Kinney. Click for tickets.
Scenography: Anne Henly with Annie Katsura Rollins; Lela Pierce
Costume Design: Annie Katsura Rollins with Annie Cady
Production Management: Josina Manu Maltzman; assistance: Emma Marlar
Commissioned for the grand opening of the Ordway Concert Hall, Aahvaan: Invoking the Cities is structured uniquely in two major acts. Supported by layers of recorded and live music, this epic, full-length dance theater piece weaves together images inspired by the rich history of indigenous communities on this land, the diversity of communities who now call the Twin Cities home, our rich legacy of water, the vicissitudes of urban life, and artistic innovation.
Act 1 begins when audience members walk into the Ordway and are invited to participate in five simultaneous performance installations inspired by histories, stories, and energies of communities in the Twin Cities and Minnesota.
EMPRESS OF WHIMSY AND FORTUNES
Hui Niu Wilcox
SCORE: Greg Schutte
Camille Horstmann, Lydia Jones, Nakita Kirchner, Suzette Gilreath, Aemoni Dancy, Fiona Steen, Totianna Howard (young dancers from Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists) with Brittany Radke
The Kri Foundation has granted a fellowship to Ananya Chatterjea, ADT’s artistic director, to take part in an Intensive Artistic Residency in the Mayurbhanj style of Chhau, the martial art form that is part of Ananya Dance Theatre’s Yorchha technique.
Chatterjea will study for 10 days with Guru Sadashiv Pradhan, senior guru and lecturer at Utkal University in Bhubaneshwar.