Ananya Dance Theatre is a company of cultural activists and BIPOC women-and-femme artists who believe in the transformative power of dance. In dancing stories where the lives and dreams of women of color occupy the center, we shift the landscape of mainstream culture, build understanding about arts and social justice, and empower artistic voices.


We create original contemporary dance theater at the intersection of artistic excellence and social justice.

What we do

We create original dance theater, drawing on social justice themes inspired by the lives and dreams of women around the globe. In dancing stories where the lives and dreams of women of color occupy the center, we empower artistic voices, shift the landscape of mainstream culture, build community, and move toward equity and beauty.

At home and on tour, we connect with transnational communities to interweave dance with stories of justice.

Our practice includes (1) concert stage productions; (2) workshops, classes, and dialogues with women and girls from refugee, immigrant, indigenous, Black, and of color communities; and (3) participatory performances that invite people who do not identify as dancers to embody possibilities of moving together, negotiating space, finding rhythm, and sharing humanity with people they do not know. With these three streams, we grow deep local roots with wide-reaching branches.

We have premiered one original work with commissioned score annually since 2005. Each work results from the collaborative efforts of our artistic director, our dancers, and community artists who work in the realms of music and sound composition, spoken word, and lighting, scenic, and costume design.

Since 2013, our performance home has been The O’Shaughnessy Women of Substance series at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. We also have performed at The Cowles Center for Dance and the Southern Theater in Minneapolis, a variety of small indoor and alfresco venues, and were commissioned to create an original, full-length work for the opening of the Ordway Center’s Concert Hall in 2015.

We have performed and conducted residencies on tour in nine states and the District of Columbia. Internationally, we have visited the Harare International Arts Festival, Zimbabwe; National Academy for Performing Arts, Trinidad; Bethlehem International Performing Arts Festival, Palestinian Territories; Aavejak Aavaaz Festival, Pragiyoti International Dance Festival, and Natya Ballet Dance Festival, all in India; Ocean Dance Festival, Bangladesh; and the Crossing Boundaries Festival, Ethiopia, supported by the U.S. State Department.

We began as a community-based ensemble in 2004, when Artistic Director Ananya Chatterjea called together women of color who shared experiences of being on the outside of American concert dance and interests in creating socially relevant art.

In June 2018, we acquired our first facility, located on University Avenue in St. Paul at the confluence of the Rondo, Little Mekong, and Little Africa neighborhoods. We named our facility the Shawngram Institute for Performance & Social Justice. From there, we rehearse, conduct classes and workshops, and host a variety of community activities.


Our artistic work unfolds through Yorchha™, a unique movement aesthetic of contemporary dance that draws on Classical Odissi, the martial art Chhau, and Vinyasa Yoga, to explore feminine energy and celebrate a feminist aesthetic.

This technical base crosses with our foundational philosophy of Shawngram™, or resistance, to create a particular choreographic process and an abstract, metaphoric narrative arc that generates strength and beauty, galvanizes communities, and embodies a philosophy of possibility and liberation in a shared humanity.

Our work invites audiences to participate in our strategy of #occupydance, the movement of dancing as civic action.


Ananya Dance Theatre was founded in 2004 and is celebrating 16 years of making “people powered dances of transformation.”  See more