May 1, 2016

Ananya Dance Theatre dances May Day Parade route in Minneapolis

ADT pre parade Photo by Gary Peterson

Pre-parade gathering, May 1, 2016. Photo by Gary Peterson

For a second consecutive year, members of Ananya Dance Theatre danced the length of the annual May Day Parade in South Minneapolis, May 1, 2016. The parade is organized and sponsored by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre.

This year, the ADT dancers were joined by 33 members of the Jumping Jets Drill Team & Drum Squad, based in Saint Paul.

 

Jets and ADT 3 Photo by Almeda Harvey Childs

Jumping Jets Drill Team & Drum Squad. Photo by Almeda Harvey Childs

The May Day Parade route follows Bloomington Avenue in Minneapolis and is followed by a festival in Powderhorn Park. Approximately 50,000 people attend the parade and festival.

 

April 15, 2016

"Best choreographer: Ananya Chatterjea" Star Tribune

http://www.startribune.com/best-of-minnesota-2016-arts/373102581/

April 14, 2016

Engaging with Leadership Twin Cities

Performing for Leadership Twin Cities in The Ordway's Drake Room.

Performing for Leadership Twin Cities in The Ordway’s Drake Room.

Members of Ananya Dance Theatre performed for the Leadership Twin Cities annual Arts Day, held at The Ordway Center in St. Paul, April 14.

Leadership Twin Cities is a nine-month series that informs people about the critical issues facing our community. Its focus is to inform and inspire future leaders – and challenge them to make a difference through personal commitment and involvement.

"Warming up" in St. Paul's Rice Park, across the street from The Ordway Center.

“Warming up” in St. Paul’s Rice Park, across the street from The Ordway Center.

The program is for individuals seeking to learn about community issues and to discuss solutions to the problems. The program selects approximately 50 people each year from the public, private and non-profit sectors who share a commitment to improving our community.

Leadership Twin Cities also creates opportunities for participants to form relationships with classmates, making it a lasting experience.

 

April 7, 2016

Video Documentary: Crossing Boundaries Festival & Conference in Ethiopia [22:38]

Ananya Dance Theatre participated in the first Crossing Boundaries Festival and Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in September 2015. The company presented the keynote performance, “Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine.”

The Ethiopian Theater Professionals Association, organizers of the festival, created a video documentary of the four days of activity, September 24-27. Other organizers included the Addis Ababa University College of Performing & Visual Arts, Ethiopian National Theatre, Sundance Institute East African Theater Program Ethiopian Alumni, and Performance Studies International.

Artists from 11 countries attended Crossing Boundaries: Tanzania, South Sudan, Egypt, Rwanda, United States, Burundi, Ethiopia, Israel, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan.

March 30, 2016

A day of cultural activism in Saint Paul, Minnesota

Members of Ananya Dance Theatre performed at Saint Paul College, part of a day-long rally against violence, March 30. The day was sponsored by Mending the Sacred Hoop, Men as Peacemakers, Minnesota Alliance on Crime, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition.

ADT at St. Paul College by J Davies

ADT at Saint Paul College. March 30, 2016. Photo by James Davies

Oncoming march by G Peterson

Marchers from Saint Paul College to the Capitol Lower Mall, St. Paul MN, part of a day-long rally against violence. March 30, 2016. Photo by Gary Peterson

Ananya Speaking by J Davies

Ananya Chatterjea speaks against violence. The Capitol Lower Mall, St. Paul. At far left: MC Patti Larsen, Mending the Sacred Hoop, Duluth MN. March 30, 2016. Photo by James Davies

Woman with sign by J Davies

The Capitol Lower Mall, St. Paul. March 30, 2016. Photo by James Davies

Drum Circle by A Chatterjea

Rally ended with a Round Dance, sponsored by Native Lives Matter. March 30, 2016. Photo by Ananya Chatterjea

March 15, 2016

Summer Intensive with Ananya Dance Theatre, Black Label Movement, and Shapiro & Smith Dance

The University of Minnesota Dance Program presents a three-week Summer Dance Intensive, June 20-July 9, 2016.

This intensive offers a first ever experience for its participants: one week each with Twin Cities dance companies Ananya Dance Theatre, Black Label Movement, and Shapiro & Smith Dance, and their respective artistic leaders, Ananya Chatterjea, Carl Flink, and Joanie Smith. Each company will tailor its residency week to the unique qualities and aesthetics of each organization.

There are two sections for the intensive, SYMBIOSIS: Dance That Moves & Thinks:  Section 1 (2 credits) is for University of Minnesota dance majors and will provide 1 performance credit toward their degree. Section 2 is open to anyone 16 years of age and older, no audition required.

Ananya Dance Theatre: June 20-24, Monday-Friday

TAD-Ananya Flow from a yogic half-moon balance into flexed feet grounded jumps into footwork marked by asymmetric rhythms. Experience Yorchha™, ADT’s unique contemporary Indian dance technique that brings together movement principles from Odissi, the classical Indian dance technique, Chhau, the East Indian martial art, and Vinyasa yoga. ADT artists will lead participants through a rigorous technique class (9:30am-11am), share the company’s choreographic process that intersects dance with social justice goals, and teach sections from ADT’s repertory (11:15am-1pm). There will be an informal showing on Friday June 24, 1pm.

Black Label Movement: June 27-July 1, Monday-Friday

TAD-BLMLearn and move with BLM Artistic Directors Carl Flink and Emilie Plauche Flink and their ballistic movers during a rigorous daily schedule that will challenge your physical and creative limits. Each day begins with a contemporary movement technique class, followed by a short partnering laboratory, and ends with a focused, two-hour repertory rehearsal. Flink will give a presentation on his dynamic collaborations with scientists and creation of TED Talks during the week.

Schedule for the BLM week: 9:30 – 10:45 a.m. Contemporary Technique; 10:45 – 11:00 a.m. Partnering Laboratory; 11:15 – 1 p.m. BLM Repertory; June 29 at 1 p.m. BLM Presentation on Bodystorming and Unique Collaborations with Scientists; July 1 at 1 p.m. public repertory showing.

Shapiro & Smith Dance: July 5-9, Tuesday – Saturday

TAD-ShapiroShapiro & Smith Dance performs tales of beauty and biting wit that run the gamut from searingly provocative to absurdly hilarious. Dancing with breathtaking physicality and emotional depth, SSD has earned an international reputation for virtuosity, substance, craft, and pure abandonment. Classes in contemporary technique and repertory will be led by Laura Selle Virtucio, Scott Mettille, and Joanie Smith. The intensive week will re-stage “Hands,” a work that examines the power and beauty of people’s hands.

Schedule for the SSD week: 9:30am-10:30am Contemporary Technique; 10:30am-1:00pm SSD Repertory; July 9 at 12pm public showing.

 

 

Tuition, registration, and housing information: https://theatre.umn.edu/dance/summer; 612.624.5060; umndance@umn.edu.

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.

http://dancemagazine.com/views/dancenyc-symposium-gets-down/

http://www.theartistsforum.org/reviews/Entries/2016/3/11_EVENT_REVIEW__DANCE_NYC_2016_SYMPOSIUM.html

 

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.

IDS 3-minIDS 4-minIDS 5-minIDS 6-minIDS 7-minIDS 8-min

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.

 

CAAL

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.

lela aless anan chit war david

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 arts.gov

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:

http://www.startribune.com/twin-cities-dancers-choreographers-and-teachers-honored-at-11th-annual-sage-awards/332592142/

http://www.twincities.com/entertainment/ci_28965499/9-honored-at-11th-annual-minnesota-sage-awards

http://www.sageawards.org/

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.

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 12.45.21 PM

Yorchha™

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.

Shawngram

Shawngram™

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.

October 2, 2015

Ananya Dance Theatre in Ethiopia

“Ananya Dance Theatre traveled thousands of miles to Addis Ababa to celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations between the US and Ethiopia. I can’t imagine a more fitting representative of my district than ADT, and I’m so proud that their hard work has given them the opportunity to share their craft with people all over the world.” –Keith Ellison, Member of Congress, MN-5, September 28, 2015

 

Ananya Dance Theatre at U.S. Embassy Reception, Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa. Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by U.S. Embassy

Ananya Dance Theatre at U.S. Embassy Reception, Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa. Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by U.S. Embassy

Ananya Dance Theatre performed at a reception for alumni of educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and Ethiopia, at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Thursday, September 24, 2015.

The reception was hosted by the U.S. Embassy as part of a month-long series of activities celebrating 75 years of U.S.–Ethiopia educational and cultural exchanges.

David Kennedy, the embassy’s Public Affairs Officer, introduced Ambassador Patricia Haslach, who delivered welcoming remarks.

ADT at Crossing Boundaries Festival opening ceremony, Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by Crossing Boundaries Ethiopia

ADT at Crossing Boundaries Festival opening ceremony, Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by Crossing Boundaries Ethiopia

Burnsville, Minnesota, native Learned Dees, the embassy’s Cultural Affairs Officer, introduced Ananya Dance Theatre and its 15-minute performance.

The performance included a sung poem linking the Mississippi and Nile rivers, and dancers circulating throughout the ballroom inviting attendees to “Dance with us!” Many, including Ambassador Haslach, did so.

Reception attendees included Mulatu Astatke, the “godfather of Ethiopian jazz.”

ADT members with Mulatu Astatke, "godfather of Ethiopian jazz." Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by James Davies

ADT members with Mulatu Astatke, “godfather of Ethiopian jazz.” Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by James Davies

Following the reception, Artistic Director Ananya Chatterjea and the company appeared at the opening ceremonies of the Crossing Boundaries Festival & Conference, held at the Ethiopian National Theatre.

Ananya Dance Theatre presented the festival’s keynote performance, “Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine,” at National Theatre, Friday, September 25. “Roktim” received its world premiere just a week earlier at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul, September 19.

Amin Abdulkadir, Ethiopia’s Minister of Culture & Tourism, attended ADT’s performance and hosted all festival performers afterward at a dinner at Totot Traditional Restaurant.

Learned Dees, Burnsville, MN, native and Cultural Affairs Director, U.S. Embassy Ethiopia, and Ananya Chatterjea. Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by James Davies

Learned Dees, Burnsville, MN, native and Cultural Affairs Director, U.S. Embassy Ethiopia, and Ananya Chatterjea. Sept. 24, 2015. Photo by James Davies

The ADT company arrived in Addis Ababa, Monday, September 21, and conducted a variety of workshops throughout the week. The visit was sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

ADT workshop with Destino Dance Company, Sept. 22, 2015. Photo by Gary Peterson

ADT workshop with Destino Dance Company, Sept. 22, 2015. Photo by Gary Peterson

Tuesday, at the U.S. Embassy, dancers engaged in hours-long conversation and movement dialogue with 14 women, all law students from Addis Ababa University and members of the Yellow Movement, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of, and to change attitudes and behaviors that result in violence against women.

ADT workshop with faculty and students at Addis Ababa University graduate theater program. Sept. 23, 2015. Photo by Gary Peterson

ADT workshop with faculty and students at Addis Ababa University graduate theater program. Sept. 23, 2015. Photo by Gary Peterson

The company also conducted a joint workshop at the Addis Ababa Theater and Culture Hall with members of the Destino Dance Company, an Ethiopian ensemble established to help underprivileged young people develop their potential through dance.

On Wednesday, dancers conducted a workshop with faculty and students from the graduate theater program at the Cultural Arts Center of Addis Ababa University.

Members of ADT and the Yellow Movement with staff of ASWAD, a shelter for women and children. Sept. 28, 2015. Photo by Blen Sahilu

Members of ADT and the Yellow Movement with staff of ASWAD, a shelter for women and children. Sept. 28, 2015. Photo by Blen Sahilu

On Saturday, September 26, the company attended conference plenary sessions at the Goethe Institute of Addis Ababa University. Chatterjea participated in a roundtable discussion, “Movement, Ideas and Bodies,” with Elizabeth Wolde Giorgis, Ph.D., Director of AAU’s Gebre Kristos Desta Center, and Mshaï Mwangola, Ph.D., Research and Communications Officer, The African Peacebuilding Network Hub (APN-Hub).

Saturday evening activities included a Food Art Performance by Konjit Siyoum at the Asni Gallery.

Dancing at ASWAD, a shelter for women and children. Sept. 28, 2015. Photo by Blen Sahilu

Dancing at ASWAD, a shelter for women and children. Sept. 28, 2015. Photo by Blen Sahilu

On Monday, September 28, members of the Yellow Movement took the company to visit the women and girls of ASWAD, a shelter for women and child survivors of gender based violence.

The company returned to the U.S. on September 29.

The Crossing Boundaries Festival & Conference was organized by the Ethiopian Theatre Professionals Association, Addis Ababa University College of Performing & Visual Arts, and Sundance Institute East Africa Theater Program Alumni.

News article: Asian American Press, September 26, 2015.

News article: The Reporter, October 4, 2015.

September 10, 2015

Ananya Dance Theatre performing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 

Crossing Boundaries Profile PhotoAnanya Dance Theatre will present the keynote performance at the Crossing Boundaries Festival & Conference, September 25, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The company will present “Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine,” its new production that premieres at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul, September 18-19, at the Ethiopian National Theatre.

At the invitation of the U.S. Embassy, the ensemble also will perform in celebrations of 75 years of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Ethiopia, and will present workshops and build relationships with local women’s groups in performance. The Embassy was particularly interested in the way ADT uses the arts to build community.

The Crossing Boundaries Festival is organized by Ethiopian Theater Professionals Association (ETPA) with the collaboration of Addis Ababa University (AAU) College of Performing and Visual Arts, Ethiopian National Theater, and Sundance Institute’s East African Theater Program Ethiopian Alumni. 

Crossing Boundaries Festival Ethiopia is part of 15 festivals held all over the world by Performance Studies International (PSI). “Performances won’t just be entertainment but opportunities to think, and explore thoughts of Pan-Africanism” said Surafel Wondimu, international relations coordinator of the event.

‘’We used to wait for westerners to come and conduct such events and when they go we don’t keep them up, but now we believe we can do it independently and responsibly,” said Azeb Worku, artistic director of the festival.

Performers from 10 different countries will perform. There will be 19 performances, 12 from abroad and the rest by local artists. Meaza Worku, program director, said that the festival and conference will include a variety of events such as photograph exhibitions, food art performance, visual art, traditional Ethiopian dance, and poetic Jazz. In addition, there will be presentations and discussion on various topics related to art in the region. 

Nebiyu Baye from Addis Ababa University said that the Festival and conference will help students see theater from a new perspective and learn about theatrical arts beyond the confines of the classroom.

Ananya Dance Theatre departs Minneapolis-St. Paul on Sunday, September 20, and returns on Tuesday, September 29.

August 3, 2015

Ananya Dance Theatre's world premiere: Women's roles in global food system

The O’Shaughnessy opens its 2015-16 Season with the world premiere of “Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine,” a full-length dance concert performed by Ananya Dance Theatre and collaboratively created by choreographer Ananya Chatterjea, visual artist Seitu Jones and behavioral artist Marcus Young. A Women of Substance event, “Roktim” will begin outside The O’Shaughnessy at 7pm, Friday-Saturday, September 18-19 – rain or shine. The production will also end outdoors on The O’Shaughnessy plaza. Both beginning and ending sections involve audience participation.

Ananya Chatterjea

Ananya Chatterjea • Photo V. Paul Virtucio • Design Randy Karels

Related to the performance, there will be a “Roktim” Audience Empowerment Workshop, 6:30pm-8pm, Tuesday, August 18. The free, open rehearsal takes place at the Frey Theater at St. Catherine University, next to The O’Shaughnessy, 2004 Randolph Avenue, Saint Paul.

Inspired by the Seed Sovereignty Movement and farming practices in local communities of color, the three extraordinary artists from different cultures (South Asian, African-American, and Chinese) have engaged in combining art with community organizing, weaving together artistic process and social justice. They are partnering with Frogtown FarmDream of Wild Health, and Big River Farms to produce a dance theater piece reflecting the age-old work of women who cultivate and protect land and sustainable agricultural practices.

To prepare for “Roktim,” ADT has worked alongside farmers and the farmers have participated in movement improvisations, shared stories about their relationship to the land, and inspired movement that Chatterjea is shaping into choreography.

“Roktim,” meaning “blood red” in Artistic Director Chatterjea’s native Bengali language, honors women’s emotional and blood labor to create a just and sustainable food system.

Using forms of Indian dance, yoga and martial arts, “Roktim” will be a vibrant contemporary dance with a conscience. The new piece is part of a multi-year series of full-length dances by ADT exploring the kinds of work that women around the world do to nurture and support their communities.

Young helped direct Ananya Dance Theatre’s three most recent productions, “Aahvaan: Invoking the Cities” (2015), “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming” (2014) and “Mohona: Estuaries of Desire” (2013). Chatterjea recently collaborated with Jones on “Create: The Community Meal,” a multi-media public artwork that included an outdoor civic dinner served to 2,000 people on a half-mile long table (2014). Earlier, Jones designed the sets for “Duurbaar: Journeys Into Horizon” (2006). He is designing “Roktim’s” huge epic set in collaboration with artist Anne Henly and ADT dancer Lela Pierce.

“Roktim” will also include original poems written and recorded by Heid Erdrich and Diane Wilson, and a new sound-and-music score by Greg Schutte, Chatterjea’s longtime collaborator.

This production will begin and conclude outside The O’Shaughnessy on the front patio.

For more information and tickets, contact The O’Shaughnessy Ticket Office at 651.690.6700; ticket office is located on the main campus of St. Catherine University at 2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul. Tickets can be purchased online at oshag.stkate.edu.

Tier 1 $27
Tier 2 $22
Tier 3 $17
Seniors and Students receive $4 off tickets; MPR, Military, TPT members, and St. Kate’s Community (faculty, staff, alumnae) receive $2 off tickets.
Groups of 10+ save 15% off tickets. *Prices include $2 restoration fee.

The O’Shaughnessy offers large print programs, seating for individuals in wheelchairs, along with accompanying companion seating located in the same area, and holds seating for patrons who are hard of hearing or visually disabled. If you have an accessibility request, please explain it to the ticket office.

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“Roktim” is supported by a Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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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.

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“Roktim” is supported by a grant from the Seward Co-op Community Fund.

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July 23, 2015

#OccupyDance

 

– By Ananya Chatterjea, artistic director

To occupy dance is to fill dance with the materiality of unlikely bodies.

It is to remember that dance is a legacy of the commons, shared by us all, and entrance to dance and the joys and transformations the practice offers is not dependent on passports and visas.

Ananya Chatterjea

Ananya Chatterjea

To occupy dance is to fill it in unusual ways so it cannot be hijacked for a narrow understanding that is predicated upon exclusions.

To occupy dance is to fill (a) professional dance with bodies of color who embody an alternative dance practice and non-normative ideas of beauty and line, and who often find themselves on the outside, looking in; and (b) a general practice of dance with the unlikely bodies of audiences, witnesses, passers-by who are invited to let the dance touch their bodies.

#OccupyDance is based on the yogic idea of the sacredness of the body and the weight of every thing: anything that goes in the body impacts it in some way.

If a movement is embodied by audiences, in community with performers, we believe that it stays in their muscle memories, in their kinesthetic frames, returning later to provoke questions, and ripple through their consciousness, inflecting their daily life practices.

If we have danced together, shared movement, space, and rhythm; if we have woven our bodies around and through each other without treading on each other’s toes, or bumping into each other; if we have linked arms and danced together even for a moment, how can we not care about each other?

In this way, #occupydance is at the root of our social justice practice.