December 31, 2019

A manifesto for contemporary dance-making in a new decade

10-Cornered Stakes of Contemporary Dance-Making at Times of High Imperatives |  by Ananya Chatterjea, artistic director

• The world in 2020 is a very different place from what it was when Ananya Dance Theatre was birthed 15 years ago.

• I enter 2020 with clarity about the stakes of my Contemporary Dance-Making. 

• My imperative: To make dance move with relevance through the polarized devastation of the current world.

Sutrajāl: Revelations of Gossamer (2019) Photo by V. Paul Virtucio

1. Practice: The body is home. Practice movement with 100% integrity, allowing different intelligences to emerge in consciousness, grounding the kinesthetic, physical, and visceral as modes of making meaning. The physical practices of shared rhythm, non-verbal interaction, moving together in spaces, and asserting presence constitute a core methodology of dance.

2. Low-flying Relevancies: Connect with urgent, age-old currents within communities that emerge in new forms and grassroots movements. As cultural fault lines often precede policy shifts, think dance-making as manifesting the cultural codes within resistance movements on the ground. Dance for life and for justice. #occupydance.

3. Marma/Nerve-root: Old-fashioned as it may sound, dancing is meaningful, activated by and activating sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Hold stories as fragmented, abstract, inter-connected mosaics in the body, in ways that strike the nervous core of our shared humanity as acts of presencing, energetic, sense-drawings of a more just universe.

4. Parābāstab/Hyper-reality: Surrender to the surreal, absurd, and illogical connections, and the uncanny juxtapositions in choreographic structure that were core to Bengali folklore. Simultaneously, divorce daily logic as an organizing principle. This is our roadmap to an ecosystem undergirded by visions of equity.

5. Magic: Claim Maya, the dramatic and passionately magical charge of the universe, ever-shifting, refusing stabilization, forever spirit, forever multiple. And claim Emotion, not as a flat state of being, but as a portal to knowing self-in-community. It might not be entertaining; entertainment is not our goal, shared pleasure is.

6. Ākasmik/Metalogic: Reject conventional meanings and narrative arcs. Invite audiences to reflect on the world when emotions, events, and rhythms can turn on a dime, and indicate the striking possibilities that lie folded within the surface of the stage.

7. Time-Space Juxtapositions: As the dance of the universe is choreographed on multiple planes, reflect simultaneity, resonance and connectivity with winding, looping, and defiant time-space bendings. This is key to illuminating the intersectional, global, feminist space that shapes our contemporary understanding of the world.

8. Indrajāl/Extraordinary Networks: Reiterate the power and flow of feminine, not female, divine energy. Flex the infinitely extensible and tensile Love, Connectivity, and Intimacy. This is the culmination of lessons learned from women across the world who have taken on care-work, caring for entire communities, as modes of resistance.

9. Inquilab Zinabad/Long live the revolution: Riffing off of Freirean ideals, embrace performance, not just as rehearsal for revolution, but as offering vital clues to embody protest via ensemble work that still celebrates different phrase work. Make space for active, choice-filled witnessing, not accidental bystanding, so we can hold stories that do not find their way to the surface. #shawngramchoreographicmethodology

10. Refuse invulnerability: The closing of artistic vulnerability is the success of racism, and the success of the strong-woman-of-color-safety-device. Refuse the inevitable big finish, play with anti-beauty, make space for rage and fury, clear rhythm for grieving. Trace the work that is necessary in the room, in the community, in the world right now.