Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine
Inspired by the Seed Sovereignty Movement and farming practices in local communities of color, choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, visual artist Seitu Jones, and behavioral artist Marcus Young have partnered to produce an evening length 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.
“The audience at the National Theater was fully engaged with this social justice-themed dance performance and was cheering after each section of the production.” –Tibebeselassie Tigabu, The Reporter Ethiopia
“Ananya Dance Theatre ventured into exciting new territory over the weekend at the O’Shaughnessy, employing satire.…The dancers looked solid, finding a cohesive, precise movement vocabulary in the group scenes.” –Sheila Regan, Star Tribune
“One of the most anticipated events of the dance season is Ananya Dance Theatre’s Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine at the O’Shaughnessy. This dance company consistently creates a deep interaction with its audience, engaging them in a dialogue—either directly or subtly but strongly—with art and artists, with contemporary issues, and with histories whose impact lingers in present-day spaces. Roktim brings to life the struggles of women from global societies who defend ‘the land and eco-systems with their lives and their continued work from the onslaught of aggressive industrialization’ and ‘honors women’s emotional and blood labor to create a just and sustainable food system.’ Collaboratively created by choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, visual artist Seitu Jones, and behavioral artist Marcus Young, the concert takes forms of Indian dance, yoga, and martial arts to create a vibrant contemporary dance with a conscience. Ananya helps articulate social realities and makes them vivid in our own understanding as we interpret what is happening before our eyes and ears. Ananya Dance Theatre is made up of a group of smart, roundly educated people—mostly women, some men—who are committed to creating critical dialogue about the world in which we live and the barriers above which we can rise to taste the world with a bit more truth than how it is fed to us.” –Clarence White, Saint Paul Almanac
World Premiere: September 18, 2015, The O’Shaughnessy, St. Paul MN
Running Time: 01:48:23, with intermission
Ananya Chatterjea: Concept, Choreography
Marcus Young: Collaborating Director
Greg Schutte: Sound Design, Audio Production and Mixing
Seitu Jones with Lela Pierce: Scenic Design for Acts I & IV
Anne Henly: Scenic Design for Acts II & III
Annie Cady: Costume Design
Kevin A. Jones: Lighting Design
Darren Johnson: Opening film for Act II
Dancers: Leila Awadallah, Ananya Chatterjea, Renée Copeland, Kealoha Ferreira, Jay Galtney, Prakshi Malik, Lela Pierce, Chitra Vairavan, Hui Niu Wilcox, Alessandra Lebea Williams, Magnolia Yang-Sao Yia.
Sound artists: Greg Schutte, Mankwe Ndosi, Pooja Goswami Pavan, Laurie Carlos, Cetanskan Wacinwin, Michelle Kinney, Heid Erdrich, Diane Wilson, Renée Copeland and James Bracken.
Sound artists for Act IV: Voice of Culture
Performers in Act I: Simone Williams, Danielle Renner, Ayana Dubose, Jason Rodney, Lula Saleh, Michelle Schwantes, Kalen Keir, Holo Lue Choy, Holy Yang.
Production Manager: Josina Manu Maltzman • Rehearsal Director: Chitra Vairavan • Stage Manager and Rehearsal Assistant: Emma Marlar
Aaron Rosenblum: Stage Hand • Justin Spooner: Scenic Builder
Artistic Director/Choreographer’s Statement
Roktim emerges from the depths of my memories – the taste of poppy seed paste recipes and my mother’s stories about opium-related devastations, very much part of my Bengali history; women’s histories that were a strong part of my upbringing – the story of the Chipko movements of India, the first one in the 18th century and the most recent one in 1973, where village women spontaneously rose up against government authorities to prevent the cutting down of forests and to defend natural ecosystems with their lives; and my imaginings fired by my research about seed justice movements worldwide – the section “Crossings in Green” in Act III, where I wonder how the environmental leaders Vandana Shiva and Wangari Mathai might exchange ideas about the movements they lead – the Navdanya (nine seeds) farm, and the Green Belt movement – when they met.
Newspaper headlines – about the farmer suicide epidemic in India ultimately traced back to the introduction of GMO seeds, about the death of workers from a late-detected gas leak in Texas, the harvesting of wombs from the global south, murders masquerading as suicides – all found their way into the imagination of this piece. The long research and creative process made sure that we all realized the deep link of seeds, earth, and food to culture, indigenous knowledges, and self-determination of peoples.
My dancers, multi-talented artists each of them, contributed stories from various contexts – the story of the Hawaiian queen Lili’uokalani, who called to her people to plant the garden as resistance; of Palestinian women claiming the land and its vegetation as their resistance; of recipes with seeds and leaves, passed down generations of women. Collaborating artists Heid Erdrich, Diane Wilson, and Cetanskan shared stories from Anishinaabe and Dakota contexts, bringing us all to a wonder-filled respect for seeds, source of life, and our commitment to stand up for seed justice.
I thank Minnesota Food Association’s Big River Farms, Dream of Wild Health Farm, and Frogtown Farms for allowing us to come and spend time with farmers and learn more about crucial issues. The tremendous collaborations that realized Roktim are testament to the power of community intention and offer so much reason to hope in the power of community action and innovative pathways towards justice.
Act 1: Concurrent tours of the facilities of Pronto FeedzAll Corporation
NeoCorn™ Lab: This is part of the company’s “new vegetable” lab, where Pronto FeedzAll solves the problem of vegetables that come in un-palatable colors. As you know, the old corn comes with yellow, brown, and dark blue kernels. But we like it when our food is colorful, don’t we? So why stop at those few colors, which are not even that spectacular? Pronto FeedzAll has created a color palate for vegetables that will please your entire family’s palate. No more arguing with the kids about eating healthy! Our scientists have worked very hard to inject little drops of color into the seeds of the old corn. Their structure is forever changed for the better, bigger, and more colorful! To top it all, this corn is available in large, extra large, and jumbo sizes, because now, everyone will want larger helpings! Isn’t this NeoCorn beautiful? Who would have thought scientists could be artists too?
Squash the Fat Away Lab: Also part of the company’s “new vegetable” lab, PFA’s squash lab attacks the problem faced by so many of us where, no matter what we eat, small or large portions, it all turns up as fat in our bodies. Behold this brainchild of the scientists at Pronto FeedzAll, who after much intensive research, deliver to you Fat-Away Squash™! The seeds of squash have been carefully opened up by our scientists to insert 3.2227 drops of the ground-breaking fat-burning chemical compound: Corrodine Flattinium™, also invented by our scientists. After your first helping of this, you will feel the fat cells corrode and flatten out of sight. Unwanted pudges, curves and bulges be gone! From the seedbeds to the market, these plants squash their shape even as they grow, keeping the integrity of what they were designed to do. And of course, the squash is delicious! No matter what else you’ve eaten, a few bites of Fat-Away Squash will save your conscience. See how it flattens out any unwanted effects of your jumbo sized helping of delicious, nutritious, NeoCorn™ (available here at Pronto FeedzAll.)
Keen-o-Zucchini™ Lab: In this “new vegetable,” PFA ingeniously addresses the problem of “too much to do, too little time!” There are times when we all have to work, or party late into the night and still get up super early the next morning to get a big chunk of work completed. Sometimes it is essential to burn the candle at both ends! Well, for those days, when you need to be extra-productive and intellectually focused no matter what, Pronto FeedzAll brings you the Keen-o-Zucchini! The seeds of this miraculous plant have been crossed by our scientists with highly sophisticated mircobular computer chips at germination. When ingested, this zucchini delivers your brain to a higher-functioning plane, where you are guaranteed 24 hours of uninterrupted, superlative focus! Watch the plant grow: it’s just like seeing your synapses fire! Such electric spurts of energy, as the stalk reaches that light bulb moment, the phase where the bud spurts forth the vegetable that will bring you all the great ideas the world is depending on you to have. Keen-o-Zucchini is a veritable meal…and truly illuminating. This is the promise of Pronto FeedzAll: there is no “filler-food”, all our food is tailored to suit your needs, and will deliver results!
Subject Pioneers: You might be wondering about all of our food products and how we are able to guarantee the results that we’ve been talking about. It is through the services of our remarkable human subjects, who we’ve collected from all different parts of the world. In their own countries, they were starving, and struggling with hunger and malnutrition. But for us, they are pioneers in the new food revolution engineered by Company Pronto FeedzAll, offering invaluable testimony to the canon of our history-making food. For years now, they have only eaten products created by Pronto FeedzAll. They have gained the strength and health and purpose that they never had back where they came from. And entirely on their own, they have volunteered to demonstrate the effectiveness of our products on their well-being by presenting themselves on screen and in live demonstrations. Watch them in these empowering testimonials, for instance!
Trees for Cinema™: Everyone wants to live like a movie star. On and off the screen, their lives seem perfect, don’t they? Well, we guarantee that up close it is a lot of work to keep up those appearances. But not anymore! With Pronto FeedzAll’s new and innovative grafting technology, we give you Trees for Cinema, the moving-picture-perfect life you’ve always dreamed of. Trees for Cinema seeds are germinated in the beautiful hills of Silicon Valley and can be transplanted anywhere. The run-off from top plastic surgery clinics and computer chip labs serve as the perfect breeding ground for these delightful saplings. The seeds gladly take on the waste of these companies and make something better from them. Now that’s good Karma! Everyone is happy! You won’t believe their uncanny abilities. See how these trees blow perfectly in the breeze? Left, then right, and nowhere in between. They refuse to be swayed by Mother Nature’s controlling winds and chaotic follies of storms. No drooping. No surprise movements. No stopping. Consistent, perky beauty. Plant Trees for Cinema outside your house and have timeless classics framing your life. Be the envy of the neighbors and all the washed-up blockbusters of yester-year. Pronto FeedzAll wants you to be the star you are!
WE Garden™: It is well-known that gardening can be a deeply beneficial, physical and spiritual practice. But then there are many factors that block our way to the potentially great experience of gardening. There’s all that dirt, for one, and bugs and worms, which many of us do not like. Then there’s the problem of getting in some kind of physical practice amidst the flurry of the day. And then there’s all stress on the knees, getting up and down constantly. At Pronto FeedzAll we know that most folks don’t have it easy. Most of us want to lead a healthy life, but there’s too much to negotiate to actually realize that intention. So we’ve made it easy for you! Our programmers have collaborated with our seed scientists to develop an easily downloadable, easy-to-purchase, gardening program, where you simply follow online gardening instructions in the quietude of your living room and watch the seeds you plant blossom and grow into beautiful fruits and flowers from your favorite easy chair. None of the old frustrations of the sweat and dirt that used to accompany gardening experience, none of the compulsory waiting for months to witness the results of our work! With Wii/e Garden, your results will be delivered to you pronto–both in terms of your physical and spiritual well-being and in terms of what you will harvest! Witness this model of someone who has downloaded the program and is following the instructions, and having, oh, such a wonderful experience.
Products-of-Edge: Here are some examples of the products developed by Pronto FeedzAll that now mark the cutting-edge of agricultural and lifestyle technologies. Here are some of our new Finish-Off Seeds™: seeds that self-destroy after each harvest, ensuring that farmers no longer need to waste time with the onerous job of saving seeds. We constantly produce fresh batches of pristine quality seeds, available all-year round, so you never have to worry about access to seeds. Next is our highly effective herbicide Toxi-off™, which has a deadly cocktail of chemicals to kill all pests threatening our crops! Farmers can now bring you abundant harvests now all year round! And this is a bottle of Pronto-Grow™, which will ensure the sprouting of all seeds no matter what the weather. Just pre-soak the seeds in a cup of Pronto-grow for 3 days, which will allow the chemicals in the solution to make the seed hardy and ready to battle all that nature may throw its way! Then 5 drops 5 times a day on the ground and behold, the miracle of avocados in winter!
Under earth cover
Blasphemy of poppies++
Kolãhal/ finding voice
Intifada/ resistance shaking++
Crossings in green++
Uluhaimalama/ light comes again++
Kranti/ we become revolution
Together, we remember**
New geographies/where we work together
+ Text by Ananya Chatterjea and Renée Copeland
* Text by Heid Erdrich
** Text by Diane Wilson
++ Text by Ananya Chatterjea in collaboration with dancers, translations by dancers
^^ The score for theses particular pieces were composed and arranged by Aneesh Pradhan, vocals by Shubha Mudgal.
Roktim is supported by a Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Knight Arts Challenge, The McKnight Foundation, and the Seward Community Co-op.
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.