March 15, 2016

Dance/NYC's 2016 Symposium

.Christopher Duggan

Ananya Chatterjea in a discussion on cultural equity in dance education, Feb. 28, 2016. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Ananya Chatterjea participated in a discussion on cultural equity in dance education, moderated by Camille A. Brown, at the Dance/NYC 2016 Symposium, February 28.

The 2016 Symposium hosted 500 participants to consider connections between the art form of dance and New York City, and to explore questions of cultural planning, affordability, equity and inclusion, public-private partnerships, and the future of technology. More than 1,200+ dance makers and companies work and operate in the New York metropolitan area.

Copeland and Johnson.Christopher Duggan

Misty Copeland, principal dancer, American Ballet Theatre, and Virginia Johnson, artistic director, Dance Theatre of Harlem. Dance/NYC 2016 Symposium, Feb. 28, 2016. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

The full-day gathering of New York’s dance community, held at the Gibney Dance Center, aimed to share information and innovation and to stimulate awareness, interest, and ongoing engagement in dance. The Symposium made use of multiple studios for panel discussions, case studies, interactive workshops, a networking lunch, and more.

Harwell and Walker.Christopher Duggan

Darren Walker, president, Ford Foundation, and Lane Harwell, executive director, Dance/NYC. Dance/NYC 2016 Symposium, Feb. 28, 2016. Photo by Christopher Duggan.


February 9, 2016

Ananya Dance Theatre at Scripps College: Interventions and Resistance: Raced/ Gendered/ Classed Violence in the USA

Scripps Poster


In fall 2015, the Humanities Institute at Scripps College, Claremont, California, sought to address and confront some of the devastating effects of intersecting forms of violence committed against people of marginalized identities in contemporary United States.

In spring 2016, the Institute welcomed scholars and artists who use their skills, intellects, and talents to further discussions of systemic and overt oppressive violence, to further the work of dismantling systems of inequality and social injustice, and to provide pathways to how activism and social justice can better shape our world.

Ananya Dance Theatre was invited to participate in performance and residency activities, Feb. 5-8, 2016.


February 6
Garrison Theater, Scripps College Performing Arts Center

Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine

Garrison Theater, Scripps College

Garrison Theater, Scripps College

In a performance that celebrates the intersection of classical Indian and folk dance traditions, street theater, and social justice, and that places women artists of color at the center, Ananya Dance Theatre presented Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine at the Garrison Theater.

February 7
Richardson Dance Studio
Community Dialogue: Ananya Chatterjea

Contemporary Artistic/Cultural Production in an Era of Police States, Race Violence, and Corporate Globalization

Ananya Chatterjea, ADT’s artistic director, and the artists in the company identify as cultural activists who create “people powered dances of transformation™.” Ryan Hagan, writing for the San Bernardino Sun, related the discussion of 34 dancers with Chatterjea and her company about the role of dance, social justice, and activism.

February 8
Richardson Dance Studio
Choreographing Identity: Dancing Our Stories

In this workshop, co-sponsored by the Office of Dean of Students, participants worked through games and embodied exercises to create a sense of community and connection, and with improvised movement and text to create choreographies that shared the participants’ stories. This particular exploration was based on the theme of healing at a time of violence.


Back: Renée Copeland, Lela Pierce, Magnolia Yang Sao Yia. Front: Chitra Vairavan, Ananya Chatterjea, Kealoha Ferreira.

ADT Dancers. Back: Renée Copeland, Lela Pierce, Magnolia Yang Sao Yia. Front: Chitra Vairavan, Ananya Chatterjea, Kealoha Ferreira.

The  program of ADT activities was presented in partnership with the Alexa Fullerton Hampton ’42 Endowed Speaker Fund, Scripps College Humanities Institute, the Office of the President and Board of Trustees at Scripps College, Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment, President’s Advisory Committee of Diversity and Inclusion, Scripps College Anthropology Department, Scripps College Hispanic Studies Department, Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities,s Asian American Student Union, Pacific Basin Institute (Pomona College), Asian Studies Program (Pomona College), Office of International Initiatives (Pomona College), and the 7 College Asian American Advisory Board.



February 8, 2016

Connect India gathering at Minnetonka Community Center

"Table 13": Roundtable discussions included representatives from Asha for Education, Ananya Dance Theatre, and Bollywood Dance Scene Twin Cities. Asha raises funds for teachers' salaries, child nutrition, and instructional materials at six schools in India.

“Table 13”: Roundtable discussions included representatives from Asha for Education, Ananya Dance Theatre, and Bollywood Dance Scene Twin Cities. Asha raises funds for teachers’ salaries, child nutrition, and instructional materials at six schools in India.


Nearly 200 people gathered for the 2016 Connect India event held at the Minnetonka Community Center, Feb. 6, 2016. Ananya Dance Theatre’s board chair, Gina Kundan, and managing director, Gary Peterson, stepped out to attend.

Purnima Desari, classical dancer, performed as part of the Connect India festivities. Here, with ADT's Gary Peterson (l) and Gina Kundan (r).

Purnima Desari, classical dancer, performed as part of the Connect India festivities. Here, with ADT’s Gary Peterson (l) and Gina Kundan (r).


Connect India is a platform for all Indian organizations in Minnesota to share missions and goals and to seek ways to cooperate and collaborate. It is sponsored by the 40,000 member India Association of Minnesota.


The evening’s festivities included a keynote address by Minnesota House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, who visited Delhi and Hyderabad with the U.S. State Department in October 2015.




February 6, 2016

Ananya Dance Theatre: "Emerging From Shadows" at IDS Center Crystal Court

ADT ready to dance at IDS. L-R: Jay Galtney, Emma Marlar, Renée Copeland, Chitra Vairavan, Leila Awadallah, Ananya Chatterjea, Prakshi Malik, Lela Pierce; front: Kealoha Ferreira, Magnolia Yang Sao Yia. Photo by Gary Peterson

ADT ready to dance at IDS. L-R: Jay Galtney, Emma Marlar, Renée Copeland, Chitra Vairavan, Leila Awadallah, Ananya Chatterjea, Prakshi Malik, Lela Pierce; front: Kealoha Ferreira, Magnolia Yang Sao Yia. Photo by Gary Peterson

The third in a series of four “Radical Recess” performances in public spaces around downtown Minneapolis included Ananya Dance Theatre, Feb. 5.

Our dancers opened the lunch-time event at the IDS Center Crystal Court, performing “Emerging from Shadows,” stories of people who push through the darkness into which they have been cast to emerge into voice and light.

The site specific works by 10 choreographers in the series are presented by Made Here – A Project of Hennepin Theatre Trust, Anderson Windows & Doors, and City of Minneapolis Great Streets.

April Sellers and Laurie Van Wieren curated the line-up of performances at Mayo Clinic Square, City Center Atrium, IDS Crystal Court, and Loring Park.

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December 14, 2015

Coalition of Asian American Leaders at Metro State University

CAAL in action

Ananya Dance Theatre at Metro State University, Dec. 14, 2015. Coalition of Asian American Leaders

Members of Ananya Dance Theatre performed at CAAL Ignites: Education and Economics, sponsored by the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, at Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, December 14.


CAAL invited Asian American leaders and institutional decision-makers to see, understand, and explore the actions that can be taken to move forward on education and economics with Asian Minnesotans in 2016.



Jay Galtney, Renée Copeland, Ananya Chatterjea, Hui Wilcox at Metro State University, Dec. 14, 2015.

In 2014, CAAL engaged over 300 Asian Minnesotan leaders who informed and prioritized issues that they believed could be worked on together for the good of the whole community. Over 20 issues were identified. Further conversations helped prioritize education and economics as the two issues that are critical for the community’s future prosperity. They then formed two work groups, who have been learning more about the issues, the data, and most importantly, listening to the people behind the numbers.

December 11, 2015

SOUL Food Monologues at Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Soul Food Monologues 11

Ananya Chatterjea, Chitra Vairavan, Prakshi Malik at SOUL Food Monologues

Ananya Dance Theatre performed artistic interludes for the SOUL Food Monologues show at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, December 11.

The performance was part of an evening culmination of the Hope Community Food Listening Project: a two-and-a-half year process involving local organizations and more than 400 people in community conversations about food access and food justice in the Phillips community of Minneapolis and beyond.

 The Feed the Roots Community Food Listening Report provides insights into the experiences and creativity of Phillips community residents, serving as a call to action for organizations, funders, policy makers, and other committed to change rooted in community.


Soul Food Monologues 1

SOUL Food Monologues at Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Dec. 11, 2015

Food Justice Activist and Urban Goddess, LaDonna Redmond, has led several local food leaders through a StoryHealer workshop, designed to uncover and promote the powerful food and justice stories of everyday people working for change. At its core, the SOUL Food Monologues is about authentic expression, creating community, and transforming experiences from grief, trauma, pain, into awareness, insight, wisdom. These elements meld together to create a heart-centered, soul-based opportunity for deep understanding and healing to occur.

December 10, 2015

'Violence, madness, breath' in gallery movement meditation

The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery at St. Catherine University provided the staging area for IN RESPONSE: An Open Rehearsal of Visual Arts shared by members of Ananya Dance Theatre and two visual art installations, Thursday, December 10.

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ADT dancers with David Byrd’s paintings. Photo Petronella Ytsma

ADT’s dancers responded to the work of two artists, David Byrd, “War Is Always With Us,” and Jody Isaacson , “Form and Memory,” with a 50-minute movement meditation on violence, madness, and breath.

On arrival, audience members were invited to light votive candles on the gallery’s entry steps, and all eventually moved with the dancers among Isaacson’s installation of wax pendulums.

Carol Lee Chase, Art/Art History Department Chair and Associate Professor, curated the installations. Her friend, Isaacson, introduced her to Byrd’s paintings.

Dancers and audience move in meditation. Photo Petronella Ytsma

Dancers and audience move in meditation. Photo Petronella Ytsma

“Form and Memory”: Installation artist Jody Isaacson installs more than 160 hand dipped life pendulums from the gallery ceiling. Each wax form represents a person, now passed away, from Isaacson’s life. One dip for each year of an individual life accumulates into a candle pendulum that represents the time spent to remember each individual. Each relationship builds the installation, the artist’s life history currently suspended in the gallery.

“War Is Always With Us”: For 30 years, the late David Byrd worked as a night orderly in the psychiatric ward in a Veterans Administration Medical Hospital in Montrose, NY. The series of paintings illustrate the daily routines and individual personalities of institutionalized veterans. Byrd’s careful compositions reflect the isolation and desperation of mental illness, which few other artists have explored with such empathy and understanding.

Ananya Chatterjea. Photo P. Ytsma

Ananya Chatterjea. Photo P. Ytsma

The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery is located in the Visual Arts Building on the campus of St. Catherine University, 2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul. Gallery hours are M-F 8-8, S-S noon-6. “Form and Memory” and “War Is Always With Us” are open free to the public through December 18, 2015.

December 8, 2015

National Endowment for the Arts awards Challenge America Grant to ADT

National Endowment for the Arts Awards More Than $27.6 Million Across Nation

December 8, 2015 – In its first 50 years, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded more than $5 billion in grants to recipients in every state and U.S. jurisdiction, the only arts funder in the nation to do so. Today, the NEA announced awards totaling more than $27.6 million in its first funding round for fiscal year 2016, including a Challenge America award of $10,000 to Ananya Dance Theatre to support the creation and presentation of “Horidraa: Golden Healing” and related activities in 2016.

The Challenge America category supports projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. Challenge America grants are comparatively small investments that have a big impact in their communities.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like the one from Ananya Dance Theatre offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, go to

October 28, 2015

2015 Minnesota Sage Awards for Dance recognize Ananya Dance Theatre

The Minnesota SAGE Awards for Dance presented its 11th annual awards event at The Cowles Center for Dance in Minneapolis, October 13, 2015.

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.

Related links:

October 10, 2015

Creating a new, contemporary American dance

“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

“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

“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.

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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

“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

“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 • Photo by Alice Gebura

“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.