September 12, 2013
About "Mohona: Estuaries of Desire"
The word “mohona” means “estuary” in Bengali. Its meaning as the title of this work has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as our creative process brought together influences, insights, and stories from communities and leaders that taught me about the inherent magic of such confluences. When sweet and salt waters converge in an estuary, great richness and diversity of marine life becomes possible. “Mohona” has emerged from and embodies just such an estuary – one where stories of assault and appropriation, violation and devastation, loss and despair, rage and depression mix and alter course with those of cleansing and reclaiming, remembering and rebuilding, revealing and forgiving, hoping and loving – to reflect the emotional life of water and of life dependent upon water.
“Mohona” has taught me that water flows through everything, and we can protect this precious natural resource only when we work together as a community. All of us are implicated in the looming, global water crisis, and all of us must rethink how we live our lives in order to cope with it. The effects of this crisis will be far-reaching, requiring us to reimagine our eco-system with love so we can endure the sacrifices we will be called to make. Art is one way to inspire and remind us of that love, and to reveal the humanity at the heart of situations where conflicting emotions call on our courage, patience, and understanding of the epic nature of our intimate relationship with our natural environment.
We call you to begin shifting our energetic connection to water and join our endeavor in several ways: (a) Write a wish, a prayer, or hope for our waters on the note cards provided to you, and offer them to “the women at the shore” at the orchestra pit near the stage, or pass them down your row when they are collected; (b) Imagine the water inside your body and join us with your breath and gestures at the end of the show; and (c) Join us in the movement at the end with the refrain “Clap, clap, gather your friends, become the water, and let it flow.” Whether you join us from your seats, at the shore, or in the side aisles, water needs you!
“Mohona” marks the culmination of Ananya Dance Theatre’s quartet exploring women’s experiences with and responses to systemic violence. Our four year investigative journey wended its way through four, naturally occurring elements – land (“Kshoy!/Decay!” 2010), gold (“Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass” 2011), oil (“Moreechika: Season of Mirage” 2012), and water – that have been commodified with the inevitable results of assault and violence. We have learned that women, in the midst of stories of devastation and horror, often find courage, conjure hope, summon love, and imagine sustainability.
I thank my collaborators, Mankwe Ndosi, Marcus Young, Greg Schutte, Pooja Goswami Pavan, Annie Rollins, and every dance artist and cultural activist at Ananya Dance Theatre – Chitra Vairavan, Renée Copeland, Hui Wilcox, Orlando Hunter, Brittany Radke, Alexandra Eady, Katie Haynes, Zainab Musa, Timothy Herian, and Josina Manu – for their tremendous work and vision. I feel special gratitude to the inspiring leaders whose research, activism, and thoughts have pushed me in my journey: Sharon Day, Dorene Day, Janice BadMoccasin, Mona Smith, Rose Brewer, Louis Alemayehu, Jigna Desai, and Lisa Park.
Mankwe Ndosi, collaborator, vocalist, has been working in the Twin Cities and Chicago for more than 15 years as a music maker, educator, and culture weaver focused on sound, story, and expanding vocabularies of singing. She collaborates with organizers, musicians, gardeners, farmers, dancers, MC’s, visual artists, theater producers, and educators. Ms. Ndosi received her B.S. in Social Studies from Harvard/Radcliffe, and uses her social science background to inform her art. She seeks to infuse creative practice into the worlds of healing, sustainable economic development, education, and new village community building. She has received foundation support from the American Composer’s Forum/McKnight Foundation, 3Arts, Jerome Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, Hope Community Inc., Columbia College/Center for Black Music Research, and the Jazz Institute of Chicago.
Marcus Young, directorial consultant, was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Iowa. He graduated from Carleton College in music and from the University of Minnesota in theater. His practice attends to the collective experience of our inner, natural, and civic lives, and has included works involving slow-walking and smiling, wishing and flying kites, drawing lines miles long, dancing in public, and community gift-giving. He has been Saint Paul’s City Artist in Residence since 2006. In that role, Young offers his deep desire to belong to a place, accumulated after decades of “living at a distance” and wandering across artist disciplines. His award-winning project, Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk, has begun turning the Capitol City into a book through the re-imagining of Saint Paul’s annual sidewalk maintenance program. Young is a recipient of awards from the Bush and Jerome foundations, Minnesota State Arts Board, Drama League, and Franklin Furnace.
Greg Schutte, composer, is a drummer, producer and sound designer. Over the past 20 years, he has performed nationally and internationally with a wide variety of artists/groups, including The Mickey Hart Band, Chastity Brown Band, Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric, The Hornheads, Jelloslave, Lori Line, Anthony Cox, Empire Brass, Chuchito Valdez, Bernard Allison, Mary Cutrufello, and more. As a touring drummer, Schutte is currently playing with The Mickey Hart Band. He has also performed on B.B. King’s ‘02 U.S. “Summer Blues Fest” with The Shane Henry Group, Ruf Records ’04 European “Blues Caravan” Tour with guitarist Sue Foley, and Cyndi Lauper’s ’06 “Body Acoustic World Tour” with Mpls Reggae Pop group The RULE. In 2010, Schutte toured Iraq and Kuwait, performing for the U.S./Coalition Forces with singer/songwriter Keri Noble. From 2008 to 2010, he toured and recorded with Lorie Line and her Pop Chamber Orchestra. In 2011, he performed for Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric European Tour and additional dates in Mexico. Schutte owns and produces music at The Bathtub Shrine Recording Studio in NE Minneapolis.
Dr. Pooja Goswami Pavan, vocalist, is a Minneapolis-based performer, composer, teacher, and scholar of Hindustani music. She received her early training in Hindustani classical vocal music from her father Sri. Surendra Goswami. Pavan received a Ph.D. in Music from the University of Delhi in 2005, and also is trained in semi-classical music by the eminent vocalist Vidushi Shanti Hiranand. She has performed at the Guthrie Theater, Ordway Center for Performing Arts, The O’Shaughnessy, the India Habitat Center, New Delhi, and Vietnam International Tourism Festival, Hanoi. As a composer, she collaborates frequently with many music, dance, and theater organizations nationally, including the Pangea World Theater, Ananya Dance Theater, and Katha Dance Theater. Pavan has been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota’s School of Music and Macalester College, where she has taught courses in Indian music and culture since 2006.
Mike Wangen, lighting designer, has worked with Ananya Dance Theatre for several years, and recently was named a 2012-13 McKnight Theater Artist Fellow. He has designed lighting for more than 30 years, during which his work has been seen at almost every theater in the Twin Cities. He serves as the lighting director at the Fitzgerald Theater, where he lights “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Annie Katsura Rollins, set and costume designer, has designed for several ADT productions, in addition to those for Black Label Movement, Penumbra Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, Theatre Novi Most, Teatro Del Pueblo, the University of Minnesota, and Zenon Dance Company. She holds a BA degree in Performance from Carnegie Mellon University, an MFA degree in Theater Design from the University of Minnesota, and is pursuing a doctorate in Chinese Shadow Puppetry.