Ananya Dance Theatre has built its reputation on illuminating social and environmental injustices through dance.

It’s marking its 10th season with a shift to more-positive themes.

Ananya Dance Theatre
(Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)

Thursday through Saturday, Ananya Dance Theatre presents “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming”at the Cowles Center for Dance in Minneapolis.

Artistic Director Ananya Chatterjea says the concert is the first in a five part-series examining women’s work.

Chatterjea, a native of India, says the word “neel” means “blue” in her native tongue, Bangla. The term “Blutopia,” first coined by Duke Ellington, is meant to suggest a world dreamt from a place of pain and loss.

“This is not sleep dreaming,” explained Chatterjea, “but ‘dreaming’ as in invoking a future in which we can be whole and have access to happiness. This often means that we are cut down at the prime of our lives. [Pakistani activist] Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head, but she also transformed our lives. We die again and again, but our dreams change the world; it shifts something in our universe.”

Future performances will examine love for the land, healing, speaking out, and “world-making.”

Alexandra Eady performs in Ananya Dance Theatre’s “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming”
(Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)

Ananya Dance Theatre has its own distinct style of dance which blends contemporary Indian dance, yoga and martial arts.

The performance does not shy away from examining the source of the “blues,” but unlike previous ADT shows, it spends more time conjuring a world in which women are liberated from systemic violence.

It also presents a world in which women are free to openly love one another.

“In a patriarchal system we are not able to love each other. There’s a necessity to be catty and mean to each other, and it’s all for men’s approval, Chatterjea said. “That’s how patriarchy survives, by pitting women against each other. Finding the self that we can love is very important because that in turn enables us to love others.”

“Neel” includes a guest performance by Shá Cage and vocalizations by Chastity Brown, Mankwe Ndosi and Pooja Goswami. Greg Schutte created the soundscape for the dances.

Renée Copeland in
“Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming”
(Photo by V. Paul Virtucio)

Chatterjea said while the new series deals with some similar topics from the company’s previous work, the tone is more urgent.

“Probably because I’m older, I feel more impatient. So this whole series for me is about an oncoming revolution – I’m inviting it,” she said. “I really feel there is a war on women, and it doesn’t get told. Sexual violence, rape, the erosion of rights, the erosion of women as intellectual partners –they’re all a part of this.”

Performances of “Neel: Blutopias of Radical Dreaming” run Sept. 18-20 at the Cowles Center for Dance in Minneapolis.

An exhibition of new work by Andrea Stanislav combines nature and technology, love and hate, the sacred and the profane all in one glittering, shiny show.


“Someday Never Comes” by Andrea Stanislav
(Photo courtesy of the artist)

“Phase Velocity”  opens tonight at Burnet Gallery in Minneapolis with a reception at 6 p.m.; it runs through Oct. 12.

The show features both sculpture and collages. But as Stanislav points out, the collages are so thick with layers that they, too, are essentially sculpture.

Stanislav is known for her use of glitter and more recently refractive film (commonly used in creating holograms) to create bold pieces that are both beautiful and disturbing. When lit, her works burst with color and change at every angle.

“I’m interested in making art that is experiential in a very physical way. I’m working with that play of light, with the viewer’s experience in mind,” Stanislav said. “I want to give the viewer almost too much to look at, and maybe create a sense of confusion, which is my experience with modern technology and being bombarded by too much information.”

Stanislav’s sculptures juxtapose shiny mirrors and crystals with taxidermy of coyotes, rabbits and birds. The animal spirit world has been mounted and stuffed, presented in a way that reminds one just how far removed the modern world is from nature.

“Broken Column” by Andrea Stanislav
(Photo courtesy of the artist)

Stanislav describes herself as an “obsessive collager” but usually she reserves that process for the studio, when planning projects. For this exhibition the collages play a central role, bringing together everything from decaying Russian sculpture to headless women in lingerie. Compared with past exhibitions, the mood is darker, more foreboding.

“I grew up on a lot of bad Italian horror films,” Stanislav said with a chuckle. “That Gothic nature informs my work. It’s important to have the beauty and the color, but also the dark — the poison and the magic — to create tension in the work.”

Stanislav likes to work from an uncomfortable place, and to push herself.

“I like to set myself on the edge. Glitter and rhinestones, for example. I hated them, so I decided to work with them as this challenge,” Stanislav said. “It’s a cheesy material – can I confront it and bring it to a point where I have to embrace it? Where I can engage with it conceptually?”

“Dispersion / Sympathy for the Devil” by Andrea Stanislav
(Photo courtesy of the artist)

This is the first time Stanislav has incorporated women’s bodies in her work. Typically her work is focused on men and masculinity, and comes across as cold and angular. At the beginning of her career, she sid, many people assumed her work was made by a man.

“In the 80s we were anti-feminists, we didm’t want to be labeled ‘female artists,”‘she  explained. “And at first I thought of it as a badge of honor. I’m completely comfortable with being a female artist now, and I think culturally we’ve moved past that too. And perhaps that’s why the women are showing up in my work now.”

Stanislav said  some viewers might enjoy trying to find the many art history references she’s layered into her collages and sculpture.

“I’m mashing up a lot of ‘isms’ with my work… minimalism, modernism, Dadaism,” she said.. “My work even goes back to the Baroque; I think about Breugel, and other painters who have engaged the viewer, really activated the eye on the plane with lots of activity.”

Have you ever taken a taxi, only to have a surprising and memorable conversation with the driver? Or were you a little shy? A new production at Intermedia Arts allows audiences to sit in the front seat, and learn more about the people behind the wheel.

Leilani Chan and her husband Ova Saopeng compiled  “Global Taxi Driver” from numerous interviews while traveling for work.

“As touring artists we travel for business but we are not your typical business traveler.  We are more like migrant workers carrying costumes and props in our luggage.  We go where the work is, except we go by plane and often end up in taxis where the driver as our guide turns out to be a traveler, or migrant, or refugee as well,” explained Chan.

“From Somalian refugees in Minneapolis, to Cuban women in Alaska, to Nepalese youth in Portland — they are all navigating their way in a new world, facing similar struggles while still maintaining relationships in the country they came from,” Chan said. “We heard stories that echoed the transnational refugee experience from our taxi drivers.”

Global Taxi Driver runs September 11-21, 2014 at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis Photo courtesy of the artist

Chan says taxi driving is a common gateway profession for immigrants around the world, but many of the them don’t identify themselves as taxi drivers.

“It is what they are doing because it gives them the freedom to pursue other dreams,” said Chan, “but some are former farmers, rebel fighters, doctors and lawyers.  Others are specifically driving taxi to support their education or to supplement their income. More than one has given us scripts of their own after talking with us.”

The show includes stories of transformative rides that changed the perspective of either the driver or the rider, or both. Chan says some stories are postive, some negative.

“Overall, I think taxi drivers get a bad rap.  Even people who do not ride taxis regularly have strong opinions one way or the other.  Ultimately, riders think they risk their own safety when they ride a cab, being afraid of drivers.  In reality, being a driver is far more risky than being a rider. Most drivers I have talked to have stories of being robbed or held a gun point.”

Chan hopes the show gives audiences a more humanized view of taxi drivers.

“I long to see how we can break down the barriers of language, occupation and race,” said Chan, “and the human interaction of taking rides and offering rides is an opportunity to interact with someone you might not otherwise meet.”

The show comes at a time when different car-sharing businesses are popping up, creating new competition for taxi drivers.

“With the growth of ridesharing taxi alternatives threatening this occupation for immigrants, these stories become more even more urgent to tell, said Chan. “The conflict between taxis and ride-share drivers and their passengers has increased and consumers have become passionate on one side of the issue or the other. Regardless of your point of view, what does this debate say about the way technology is changing our world and the way we interact with each other.  Are the stories in this play going to be a time capsule for a bygone era? If the share economy is the wave of the future, will immigrant communities be a part of this?”

Global Taxi Driver opens tonight at Intermedia Arts, and runs through Sept. 21.